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Global Roundup: Afghan Women’s Protest, Tokyo Pride Returns, Standing Up Against GBV in Tajikistan, London Protests Against Uganda’s Anti-LGBTQ Bil, Portland Women’s Sports Bar
Curated by FG Contributor Inaara Merani
In an image shared with CBS News, Afghan women stage a protest in Kabul, Afghanistan, April 29, 2023, calling on the U.N. to deny the country's Taliban rulers any formal recognition ahead of a U.N.-hosted conference in Doha, Qatar, on how the international community should "engage" with the group. Photo via CBS News.
On Monday, the UN began discussions in Doha, Qatar to find ways for the international community to engage with the Taliban without further endangering the lives of Afghan people throughout the country, yet the discussions lacked representation from Afghan women who have been the targets of much of the Taliban’s brutal rule. A group of Afghan women protested in the streets of Kabul over the weekend, demanding that women’s rights to work and education be reinstated, and criticizing the UN for not including women in the meeting and for possibly giving the Taliban a legitimizing platform.
How will they implement decisions while we are not part of it? Issues can be solved through pragmatic approach, not one-sided decisions. – Suhail Shaheen
The protesters in Kabul were joined by women around the world (Pakistan, United States, European nations) who also protested these UN discussions and the lack of transformation of women’s rights in Afghanistan. A clip of one protester in Kabul addressing UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has surfaced, in which the individual says, “Antonio Guterres, stop supporting the Taliban. The Doha meeting is a repeated mistake. Recognizing the Taliban is equal to murdering women in Afghanistan.”
According to a statement made by the UN on Sunday, the meeting was meant to find a common, global understanding on how to engage with the Taliban on human rights, women’s rights, inclusive governance, countering terrorism, and drug trafficking. The UN plans to keep running humanitarian relief operations in Afghanistan, if possible, but there is a serious lack of funding from the international community.
For the first time in four years, Tokyo’s Rainbow Pride Parade returned, celebrating the LGBTQ+ community in Japan. Around 10,000 people gathered in the downtown Shibuya district on April 23, calling on the Japanese government to prioritize LGBTQ+ rights.
Change is slow in Japan, which hosts a summit this month of the Group of Seven industrial powers as the only member of the G7 that does not recognise same-sex unions.
Japan is really far behind…We will fight until the entire country has same-sex marriage. I think the government is both pretending to see us and pretending not to, but that change will really start happening from here on in. – Himama, participant/protester at the Tokyo Rainbow Pride Parade
Events celebrating the LGBTQ+ community in Japan will continue on in Tokyo until May 7. The fight for LGBTQ+ rights in Japan has remained an uphill battle. Since the last pre-pandemic Pride parade in 2019, the number of Japanese municipalities allowing same-sex couples to enter partnership agreements has surged from 26 to around 300, covering some 65% of the population. These do not allow partners to inherit each other's assets and deny them parental rights to each other's children. Hospital visits are not guaranteed.
In December 2022, a court in Tokyo upheld the ban on same-sex marriage, but admitted that an absence of a legal system to protect queer people in Japan is an infringement on their human rights.
In Tajikistan, domestic violence affects countless women’s lives. Although international donors have offered up initiatives to support women’s economic independence and access to their rights, the social norms and attitudes in Tajikistan that legitimize Gender-Based Violence are rarely discussed in these forums.
In recognition of the lack of programs aimed at changing the culture around GBV in Tajikistan, two friends Elena Nazhmetdinova and Farzona Saidzoda founded “Tell Me Sister”, an Instagram page that encourages youth that are active on social media to share their experiences of physical and verbal harassment. People’s experiences are published anonymously, with the purpose of creating a safe space for women to talk about their experiences.
Because of societal norms, the first thing that people say to you is that you’re guilty because you must have been wearing a short skirt, or you were probably walking on the street in darkness. – Elena Nazhmetdinova
Tell Me Sister also wanted to create a platform to raise awareness about the scale of harassment that women in Tajikistan face. The Instagram account is dedicated to the individuals who insist that GBV does not exist in the country, or that it is not widespread. When the page launched in 2020, within two days, almost 200 women shared their testimonies.
Tell Me Sister is a platform that represents accountability and awareness, and a willingness in the Tajik community to change the societal norms that erase women’s experiences of GBV and victim-blame. It is not a space to argue and debate, but to empower and heal one another.
We want to support women. If you want to blame the victims, keep your opinion to yourself. – Elena Nazhmetdinova
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Photo via Gay Times.
A handful of protesters gathered outside the Uganda House in Trafalgar Square, London on April 25 to protest the newest addition to the nation’s law: a bill which criminalizes homosexuality. LGBTQ+ activists and groups showed up and participated in a demonstration which criticized the Ugandan government and called for pressure from the international community.
The anti-homosexuality bill has been in the works for the last several months, despite outcries from the LGBTQ+ community, groups and advocates in Uganda, and international entities. The bill threatens the death penalty and up to 20 years in prison for engaging in same-sex partnerships. It has been rumored that President Museveni sent the bill back to Parliament, demanding that the bill be made even harsher.
We need this bill to be killed. Ugandan LGBTQI people are living in fear, they are being persecuted. This bill needs to go. – Moud Goba, Chair of the Board of Trustees at UK Black Pride & National Manager at Micro Rainbow
A number of British LGBTQ+ organizations showed up to the protest, and gave speeches outside Uganda’s embassy. Dan Yomi, founder and director of Living Free UK and director at House of Rainbow, said that these groups are sending a message to President Museveni to stop this homophobia and stand up for one of Uganda’s most marginalized communities. This constant battle in Uganda has caused uncertainty and created fear in the LGBTQ+ community, but activists are nowhere near done amplifying the voices of the queer Ugandan community.
Jenny Nguyen, 43, is the founder and owner of The Sports Bra in Portland, Oregon.Source: The Sports Bra. Photo via CNBC.
Jenny Nguyen used her life savings to open a first-of-its-kind establishment in Portland, Oregon last year: a bar that only plays women’s sports. In the eight months it was open in 2022, the bar brought in almost $1 million. Now, a year into the business, Nguyen reflects on her flourishing business.
When she first created her dream bar, The Sports Bra, Nguyen was not convinced that the bar would stay open for more than a few months. To her surprise, the bar has been extremely successful and continues to prosper everyday.
It turns out, it’s pretty universal — that feeling of being a women’s sports fan and going into a public place, like a sports bar, and having a difficult time finding a place to show a [women’s] game, especially when there are other men’s sports playing. – Jenny Nguyen
Nguyen is a lifelong basketball fan, and even played college basketball in Vancouver, Washington until she tore her ACL. In 2018, Nguyen went out with a group of friends and they wanted to watch the NCAA women’s basketball championship game; they went to an empty sports bar and had to plead with the bartender to switch one of the bar’s smallest TV’s from a men’s sport to the women’s championship game, which played without sound.
Nguyen is no longer alone. Another bar specializing in women’s sports has opened in nearby Seattle, and Nguyen says she’s in touch with a handful of other prospective entrepreneurs asking her for advice on opening similar visions in other cities.
I would love to have as many people experience the feeling people experience when they walk through these doors…It feels very selfish to keep it to this one building that holds 40 people at a time. - Jenny Nguyen
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.