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Global Roundup: Abortion Rights in El Salvador, First Saudi Arabian Women Astronaut, Lebanese Women Protest Dress Codes, Trans Prom Youth, Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage in Romania
Curated by FG Contributor Inaara Merani
cw: sexual assault
Teodora Vásquez meets her parents after being released from jail on 15 February 2018 | AFP / Courtesy CRR. Photo via Open Democracy
Teodora Vásquez was 22 years old when she began to feel labour pains while working as a cleaner in a school. She only had time to call an ambulance before she collapsed. When she woke up, the baby was dead and the doctors had denounced her. She was sentenced to 30 years for murder.
El Salvador has some of the world’s harshest anti-abortion laws. Not only is abortion prohibited in all circumstances, including in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the pregnant person is at risk, it is also severely punished – with up to eight years in prison.
But women who suffer an obstetric complication, such as a miscarriage or stillbirth, are punished even more harshly: they can be prosecuted for murder or aggravated murder and face up to 50 years inside.Between 2000 and 2019, 181 women were prosecuted for obstetric emergencies, and most of them live in poverty.
While in jail, Vásquez met Ena Munguía Alvarado, who was also imprisoned for an obstetric emergency. The two founded the non-profit organization Mujeres Libres El Salvador. The organization provides training and support for women who have been deprived of their liberty, helping them to reintegrate into society. The training is rooted in personal growth and covers legal issues, human rights, gender, and sexual and reproductive health.
Mujeres Libres El Salvador also has created a radio show (Entre Muros), a documentary film about Vásquez’s transition from prison to activism (Fly So Far), and a play which runs art workshops for ex-prisoners (Tiempos Nuevos Teatro). Vásquez and Alvarado now live together with two others in Casa Encuentro, a rented house and shelter in San Salvador that is paid for in donations. The house has space for up to 12 women who are out of prison, but who have no help otherwise from their families or the state.
We want to work to overcome the trauma of prison, and make sure that no one else goes to prison after suffering obstetric emergencies. – Teodora Vásquez
[Source photo: Axiom Space/Twitter | Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East].
For the first time in Saudi Arabian history, a woman astronaut has embarked on her journey to space. On Monday, Rayyanah Barnawi left aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, to journey to the International Space Station, alongside colleagues Ali Al Qarni, Peggy Whitson, and John Shoffner.
Barnawi is a stem cell breast cancer researcher who will assist in a six-month science mission aboard the International Space Station. The astronauts that are part of this mission have been assigned to conduct 14 experiments in the unique microgravity environment. Amidst this mission and subsequent testing and research, Barnawi will continue her research on stem cells and breast cancer.
The mission will last up to 10 days as the scientists carry out their research.
I never thought that I would ever be going to space, but at the same time, it feels like a dream come true. It’s an overwhelming feeling…It honestly feels like I am representing all Saudis’ ambitions, all females and all researchers as well. It’s a big honor to be able to go to space and at the same time do the things that you love the most. – Rayyanah Barnawi
Mayssa Hanouni Yaafouri, centre, protests on the Sidon beach that she was forced to leave for wearing a one-piece swimsuit with a sign that reads, 'You have your own freedom and I have mine' [Courtesy of Diana Moukalled/Al Jazeera]
On Sunday, May 14, Mayssa Hanouni Yaafouri went to Saida Public Beach in Sidon, Lebanon as she has many times over the past five years. However, she was approached by two men who called themselves Muslim sheikhs and who demanded that Yaafouri and her husband leave because of the one-piece swimsuit that Yaafouri was wearing. At that beach, “decent attire” is required, but Yaafouri had never encountered any issues with her swimsuit until a few weeks ago.
Yaafouri refused to leave and told the men she could wear whatever she wanted at a public beach, but the men returned 10 minutes later with a dozen other individuals. They began to kick a ball around, surrounding Yaafouri and her husband and kicking sand in their direction. A man intervened stating that it is not part of the Islamic faith to attack women, and then advised the couple to leave for their safety.
We’re just asking for our rights. My problem as a woman after what happened, after my incident, is only about my rights. It’s not political. It’s not religion. – Mayssa Hanouni Yaafouri
This past Sunday, over 70 individuals showed up at Saida Public Beach to support Yaafouri and protest what had happened to her. Several politicians also publicly expressed their support for her, condemning this sort of policing against women in Lebanon. Despite this massive showing of support, over 100 counter-protestors showed up at the same beach to advocate for modest dressing for women.
With the collapse of the state of Lebanon, there has been an increased amount of instances where women are being harassed and intimidated. Many public spaces are segregated by beliefs and political parties, making it very difficult for women to co-exist in these spaces. This protest was to support all women’s rights to wear whatever they want at the beach, as well as to reclaim all public spaces for women in Lebanon.
As we [were] protesting, men were on the beach swimming and enjoying the right to have free access to the beach when women were not allowed to…It’s not acceptable. – Diana Moukalled, feminist journalist who helped organize the protest
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Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images. Photo via them
A group of trans youth organized a prom in front of the US Capitol in Washington, DC for trans youth across the US. The event acted as both a celebration of trans joy and a protest and had over 200 attendees coming from 17 states across the US.
Trans Prom was organized by four trans teens: Libby Gonzales (13 years old), Daniel Trujillo (15 years old), Grayson McFerrin (12 years old), and Hobbes Chukumba (16 years old). The four teens came together in February and created their idea after feeling frustrated and angry about the anti-trans legislation that has been implemented over the last few years.
We want to be clear that no one made us trans or nonbinary. Not our parents, not our schools, not the internet, not our friends. We don’t want to make other people like us, but we do want to find community and grow and learn from other kids that are like us. – Libby Gonzales, co-founder of Trans Prom
Attendees were greeted by a “Tunnel of Love”, which had cheering crowds holding positive and affirming signs such as “Trans youth are powerful” and “Trans kids have always existed”. Drag performer Stormie Daie emceed the event; the organizers of Trans Prom and their parents gave speeches; Trujillo sang a cover of “Warrior” by Demi Lovato; McFerrin performed in drag; and 20-year-old trans activist and DJ Nico Craig performed. It was an event that celebrated love, inclusivity, and acceptance.
We’re done going and saying the same thing to legislators over and over and spending our childhoods just begging to be seen even in the most minimally human way. – Chase Strangio, ACLU lawyer
Supporters and activists of the LGBT movement take part in Bucharest Pride 2019, in Bucharest, Romania, June 22 2019. Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea via REUTERS
Twenty-one same-sex couples took Romania to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), arguing the lack of legal recognition of their relationships "deprived them of their dignity as spouses".
On Tuesday, the ECHR found that Romania had violated Article 8 of the European Convention, which creates protections for the right to respect one’s family life.
Although same-sex relationships have been legal in Romania for a few decades, queer couples were unable to protect themselves and their partners in legal matters. Under the current laws in Romania, same-sex couples are unable to benefit from mortgage programmes, spousal bereavement leave, or joint health insurance.
After a three-month period, the ruling will become legally binding and both sides will have the right to appeal to a higher court within the ECHR. If no appeals are filed, the ruling will stand and Romania will create legislation to introduce same-sex civil unions.
For too long we, the LGBTQ+ people in Romania, have been treated as second-class citizens and it is time for a change. – Vlad Viski, Executive Director of MozaiQ LGBT Association
Inaara Merani (she/her) recently completed her Masters degree at the University of Western Ontario, studying Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies with a specialization in Transitional Justice. In the upcoming years, she hopes to attend law school, focusing her career in human rights law.
Inaara is deeply passionate about dismantling patriarchal institutions to ensure women and other marginalized populations have safe and equal access to their rights. She believes in the power of knowledge and learning from others, and hopes to continue to learn from others throughout her career.