Global Roundup: Aid for Pregnant Women Impacted by Türkiye & Syria Earthquakes, V-Day Activists, Sri Lanka LGBTQ+ Rights, South Korea Gender Policy Reversal, Indigenous Singer-Songwriter
Curated by FG Contributor Samiha Hossain
Women near rescue efforts in Andiyaman, Türkiye, following the devastating earthquakes that struck on 6 February. © UNFPA Türkiye/Eren Korkmaz
Among the estimated 15 million people affected by the earthquakes in Türkiye are over 214,000 pregnant women – of whom almost 24,000 are due to give birth in the next month. Tens of thousands of people have lost their homes and belongings, exposing particularly women, girls and newborns to severe risks of illness and violence. The earthquakes ravaged the lives of people who often were already deeply vulnerable, including refugees from the war in Syria who were living in southern Türkiye and many internally displaced in northwest Syria.
We were too scared. We left our houses immediately and couldn’t take anything for the birth, not a single baby cloth. There was no one to communicate with and no place to stay. We felt helpless. - Buseyna, who fled her home in Adıyaman, one of the cities worst hit by the February 6 earthquakes.
Busenya travelled over 100 kilometres with her mother to Şanlıurfa, seeking help from a UNFPA-supported women and girls’ safe space: It was there that she gave birth to a baby girl, Meha.
Thousands of pregnant women in Syria will need urgent access to maternal health support, including emergency obstetric care and caesarean sections – operations that could turn life-threatening if health centres are not fully functioning – in many cases not even standing.
For 22-year-old Hatice from Şanlıurfa, the fear and shock of the quake caused her to go into early labour. She reached a nearby health facility in time to give birth safely, but quickly realized she did not have any supplies for her newborn: All her belongings were trapped in the debris of her former home. After receiving a UNFPA maternal health kit and postnatal counselling, she said she is still scared to go out of the hospital.
With essential medical supplies wiped out across the two countries and hundreds of health centres, maternity facilities and safe spaces damaged, health-care providers are struggling to manage even life-threatening conditions. UNFPA is on the ground across affected areas in both Türkiye and Syria and remains dedicated to re-establishing services critical to the well-being and protection of millions of vulnerable, traumatized women and girls in urgent need of care and support.
Célia Xakriabá: ‘We are occupying spaces with our voices.’ Photograph: Edgar Kanayko Xakriaba via The Guardian
V-day is a global activist movement to end violence against all women and girls, founded in 1998 by V (formerly Eve Ensler), activist and author of the The Vagina Monologues. V and V-Day activists wrote in the Guardian about the work they have been doing in their communities.
Although we may not have ended violence against all women, trans and non-binary people, we have made a mark. We have disrupted the normal, been instrumental in changing laws and traditions, and deepened the understanding that we cannot end the violence without looking at all the intersecting violences: racism, capitalism, climate catastrophe, imperialism. -V
Dana Levinson on stage in 2017. Photograph: D Dipasupil/Getty Images
Dana Aliya Levinson is a writer, actor and transgender media consultant. Levinson took part in the Vagina Monologues that toured incarceration facilities around New York City in 2016. As a trans woman who had begun to medically transition just a few years ago, it meant a lot to Levinson to feel so welcomed and a part of the group of women.
I performed the monologue that V had woven together from the experiences of multiple trans women, and through it, I felt seen. Because fundamentally, the monologue recognizes the experiences of trans women, no matter the era of our lives, as female experiences. It shifted hearts and minds through art. -Dana Aliya Levinson
Célia Xakriabá is an Indigenous activist and politician in Brazil. She wrote about the importance of an international spotlight on Brazil now, especially because of the humanitarian crisis under way in Yanomami territories which includes deforestation, the invasion of Indigenous territories by wildcat miners, and the rape of Indigenous girls.
In 2019, Xakriabá and other activists launched the Not One More Drop of Indigenous Blood moving protest, which took them to 20 European cities in 12 countries over a 35-day period, and culminated in them denouncing the Bolsonaro government before the international criminal court at the Hague.
V-Day’s importance in our lives lies in its collective nature, and it helped support events on Earth Day and another organized by the Ancestral Indigenous Warrior Women group…. -Célia Xakriabá
Now, as a congresswoman, Xakriabá will be assuming the role of coordinator of the congressional investigation into the socio-environmental, socio-economic and socio-territorial crimes committed by the previous administration. She emphasizes the vital contributions of Indigenous communities: while they account for 5% of the world population, they protect over 80% of its biodiversity.
Agnes Pareyio, anti-FGM activist, member of Kenyan parliament and founder of the Tasaru Ntomonok Initiative and V-Day Safe House for the Girls. She mentions how V had asked her what she needed to do her work and then supported her accordingly. Now, 20 years later, hundreds of girls have lived in the safe house and avoided mutilation and early childhood marriage, gotten their education, jobs and independence. They have gone to universities and they have become role models to their siblings, and are now influential women in their communities.
Lu Pin is the chief editor of Feminist Voices in China. She recalls hearing about the V-Day movement for the first time in 2001 when an American woman came to a monthly reading group that she and some friends had started and brought a video of Harvard students performing The Vagina Monologues.
In 2011, Lu Pin and her colleagues began hosting a civic activism center in Beijing and were able to bring together some passionate young feminists. Inspired by Turkish women activists, they staged a short protest in the downtown area of Beijing, dressed in bloodied white wedding gowns and wearing scar-like makeup.
In a country where protest is illegal, feminism is taboo and gender violence has long been normalized, this unprecedented public action by young feminists was significant. The action, known as the Bloody Wedding Gown or Wounded Bride, was one of the earliest public advocacy campaigns by young Chinese feminists. -Lu Pin
Last week, the Sri Lankan government expressed support for a bill which would see same-sex relationships decriminalised. However, the government’s minister of foreign affairs Ali Sabry has said that they will not be legalising same-sex marriages.
Under the country’s penal code, which harks back to British colonial rule of Ceylon, article 365 currently criminalises “carnal intercourse against the order of nature any man, woman, or animal” with a penalty of up to ten years in prison. The more than 135 year old British law was previously ruled unenforceable by Sri Lankan’s Supreme Court but remains on the books.
We are very optimistic, but cautiously so. It’s been more than 19 years that our organization has been advocating for decriminalization and it’s good to see the work bearing fruit, finally. But it’s still a long road ahead. -Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, executive director of EQUAL GROUND
Support for the bill comes as several other ex-British colonies have decriminalised archaic anti-LGBTQ+ laws in recent months. Lawmakers in Singapore repealed the country’s colonial-era sodomy law in November, while judges in 2022 also struck down criminalisation statutes in St. Kitts and Nevis and Antigua and Barbuda. Across the world, 67 countries still criminalise private, consensual, same-sex sexual activity.
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Chung Eun-jung, 55, and her daughter Park Young-seo, 27 said the parking spaces had made them feel more safe via BBC
South Korea's capital Seoul is removing women-only parking spaces, 14 years after they were introduced as a protection for women.
The women-only spots had been put in place after a spate of violent crimes in basement car parks, but city officials now say such spaces are not necessary anymore and will be converted to family parking spots. Critics say their removal is just the latest example of anti-feminist policies in South Korea.
I feel safer when I use them, that there are not so many dangerous people close by. When I get in the car, I always lock the door immediately. -Chung Eun-jung, 55
In Seoul, which is South Korea's largest city, car parks with more than 30 spaces were required to allocate 10% to women – just under 2,000 of the 16,640 public parking spaces were reserved for women. The women-only spots tended to be near building entrances so women would not have to walk through basements in the dark. Government figures in 2021 showed more than two-thirds of violent crimes committed in the city's car parks were sexual crimes: rape, sexual assault and harassment.
Such a move feeds into what critics say is a culture of anti-feminism that has characterised South Korean politics over the past few years. Men in South Korea increasingly argue that policies designed to advantage women are discriminatory. The current government has removed the term "gender equality" from its school ethics curriculum and is trying to close its gender equality ministry. Oh Kyung-jin from the Korean Women's Association is disappointed the spaces are being removed but is more concerned about the wider trend.
The government is trying to push ahead with anti-feminist policies, and now we can see these regressive policies feeding through into local governments. -Oh Kyung-jin
Photo by Nate Lemuel via them.us
Ahead of her album release, Indigenous artist KP spoke with Them about the solitary process of songwriting, the vulnerability of opening up to collaboration, and how her queerness informs her creative practice. The grounding that KP finds in nature is a core theme of Black Belt Eagle Scout’s new album, The Land, The Water, The Sky, out now on Saddle Creek Records.
KP speaks about how she has become more comfortable with vulnerability, which shows itself in how she has collaborated with others for the first time ever. She has various vocalists on the latest record including her dad who is a powwow Coast Salish drum singer, as well as her mom who she says has a beautiful voice.
KP is the only Indigenous artist signed to her label and she does not see a lot of other Indigenous artists signed to very many major indie labels. She has a tenuous relationship with representation, as she says it has been “weird” being asked what it is like to be Native American.
I think it’s important to have representation within entertainment. I’m supportive of that. But also I think it’s important to recognize that, without entertainment, you still are able to find representation and inspiration within your own communities for those of us who have that connection to community. -KP
KP says she is still trying to figure out her queer identity. When she recently moved back home, she got together with a couple of other tribal members, and they created a Pride day on her reservation for the first time ever. She had to go to the Senate’s meeting and tell people why it would be important – an “emotional, hard thing” for her to do. Growing up, she did not know there were queer people in her tribe, although she now knows they did exist.
We created this slogan: ‘Be who you are, love who you are.’ I’ve had a really beautiful time having that here every June so that’s something that I feel proud of, living here and of being back home. -KP
Samiha Hossain (she/her) is a student at the University of Ottawa. She has experience working with survivors of sexual violence in her community, as well as conducting research on gender-based violence. A lot of her time is spent learning about and critically engaging with intersectional feminism, transformative justice and disability justice.
Samiha firmly believes in the power of connecting with people and listening to their stories to create solidarity and heal as a community. She refuses to let anyone thwart her imagination when it comes to envisioning a radically different future full of care webs, nurturance and collective liberation.