Global Roundup: Albanian Lesbian Couple Fight For Parental Rights, Black Trans Playwright, Chinese Woman’s Fertility Rights Case, Indonesian Islamic Centre For Trans Women, Taiwan Same-Sex Adoption
Curated by FG Contributor Inaara Merani
Edlira Mara (left) and her partner Alba Ahmetaj (right) pose for a photo during an interview in the Albanian capital's main square, in Tirana, Albania, April 8, 2023. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Enrique Anarte
A lesbian couple from Albania is fighting for the right to be recognized as joint parents of their twin daughters. Under Albanian law, Alba Ahmetaj and Edlira Mara cannot both register as parents of their children, and the couple refuses to list Mara – the biological parent – as a single parent. Ahmetaj and Mara have said that they will take their case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) if Albania’s highest courts rule against them.
We are not treated like every citizen, we are second-class citizens. – Alba Ahmetaj
Ahmetaj and Mara already took the government to court, but lost, which prompted them to file a lawsuit at the Supreme Court. The ruling is expected later this month. The couple is not very optimistic about winning in the Supreme Court, so they are prepared to take their case to the ECHR and other Albanian and European courts.
Same-sex relations are still illegal in Albania, and LGBTQ+ people have limited rights as such. In 2020, the nation banned conversion therapy and this summer, the Pride march is said to be the largest ever. Albania, like many other Balkan countries, is aiming to become part of the European Union, but it must demonstrate its willingness to protect human rights.
Without any legal recognition, the couple’s daughters do not have ID numbers, and therefore they cannot access healthcare services or any other social services offered by the state. Ahmetaj and Mara are determined to win their battle to provide the best life possible for their children.
Our babies don't exist for the state. It's difficult to see that your children may not have a future in your country. – Alba Ahmetaj
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Travis Alabanza. (Supplied). Photo via Pink News.
A new playwright in the UK is telling the stories of five Black trans writers. When All Is Said is a collection of five short plays that tell the stories of Black trans lives. Audience members purchase a ticket, enter their phone number, and then listen in real time as trans actors share secrets about their lives with complete strangers.
The project was curated by Travis Alabanza. When All Is Said is written by, and tells the stories of, Travis Alabanza, Feliz Mufti-Wright, Octavia Nyombi, Ebun Sodipo, and Campbell X.
For audiences, I hope to share with them the gift of queer joy. Whether as an ally getting a glimpse of our secrets, or as someone from our community uplifting and celebrating our queer joy together. – Octavia Nyombi
The scripts were all written by trans writers for trans performers so the stories could be held in trans hands for audiences and for all round inclusivity. The show celebrates queer joy at a time when trans people are being attacked by legislation in countries all around the world. They aren't autobiographical plays - while they may include some truthful, personal elements, they are works of fiction meant to draw attention to the experiences of black trans people.
Often, but not always, queer spaces in the UK can be very white spaces. Yet often, but not always, Black spaces can be very cis-het. Whenever I go to one of these spaces, I feel I have to tone down one side of my identity to fit in. I feel the judgement of having to ‘pick’ an identity to join a space, when in reality what makes us unique, exciting and fun to be around is our whole self. – Octavia Nyombi
Teresa Xu, 35, holds her cellphone during an interview with Reuters about her lawsuit against a hospital for refusing to freeze her eggs because she is unmarried, in Beijing, China May 10, 2023. Photo via REUTERS/Florence Lo.
A woman in Beijing, China is at the centre of a reproductive rights debate after she was denied an egg-freezing treatment for being unmarried. Teresa Xu began this battle five years ago when she tried to have the procedure done, but she was denied as single women in China are barred from freezing their eggs. Currently, reproductive technologies are only available to married women experiencing fertility issues.
Xu’s complaint against the Beijing Obstetrics and Gynaecology Hospital in 2018 has become a landmark case in China about reproductive rights for all women. During her 20s and 30s, like many other women, Xu focused her time on career and personal development – and was constantly reminded by others about her declining fertility with age – but did not want to raise a child until she felt fully capable and confident.
I felt strongly torn because I don’t have the confidence to invest my energies into raising a child when I haven’t become the best version of myself. – Teresa Xu
Xu wants to change the negative depictions of single mothers that are often found in Chinese pop culture and literature. Childbirth out of wedlock is quite rare in China, mostly due to the social stigma that comes with it.
However, historically low birth rates in China have forced policymakers to rethink their population strategy. For the first time in 60 years, however, in the midst of record low birth and marriage rates, Chinese government policy advisors proposed in March that egg freezing and IVF treatments should be available to unmarried women as well.
I hope that all single women can achieve bodily autonomy and reproductive autonomy, and that everyone is allowed to have the space for making independent choices. – Teresa Xu
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Shinta Ratri was a renowned transgender rights activist in Indonesia, leading the centre from 2014 until her death in February 2023. Photo via BBC.
Yogyakarta, Indonesia, is home to the nation’s only Islamic community centre for trans women. There, 63 women regularly attend the Al-Fatah community centre, which provides women with the opportunity to pray, learn the Quran or other skills, or simply socialize without judgement from others.
The centre was started by Shinta Ratri in 2014, a trans activist who collaborated on many other projects in Indonesia to support trans rights. Ratri died this past March, leaving the Al-Fatah community in shock and struggling to keep their centre open. After Ratri’s death, the government informed the community that it would not be able to support the centre, which has left a challenge ahead.
According to the Islamic centre’s secretary, YS Albuchory, the centre has received some support from friends and human rights organizations in Indonesia and beyond. However, the centre is still struggling to stay afloat and needs more support to remain open. The community is in the midst of finding a new venue and the money to fund it, and it also must be located in a community that is accepting and welcoming of trans people.
The centre has had success in Yogyakarta, but acceptance of the trans community in the predominantly Muslim country is limited. There are few people who support the plight of trans people, and for 9 years, this centre has given Indonesian trans people the opportunity to study their religion.
After joining the school and getting to know God again, life becomes a little more organised. And the community becomes a second family…I still need God. I cannot go on without praying. I'm sure other transgender friends have their own reasons. – YS Albuchory, secretary for the centre
Taiwan approves adoption rights for same-sex couples (Jameson Wu/AFP via Getty Images). Photo via Pink News
The Taiwanese government officially passed a law which will grant same-sex couples full adoption rights. In 2019, Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage and has now amended the existing law to include adoption for queer couples as well.
This monumental act comes after years of a fierce battle between LGBTQ+ activists and the Taiwanese government. As an extension to the Same-Sex Marriage Act, same-sex couples will be able to jointly adopt a child, to whom they have no biological connections, which was a right that was previously only afforded to straight people.
I am very excited that we granted joint adoption rights to same-sex couples today. Legally, we have finally returned same-sex couples to their children… parental love is the same, and only through joint adoption can we protect the rights and interests of each other by law. – Fan Yun, a lawmaker from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)
Taiwan’s queer community had a glimmer of hope in December 2021 when a gay man was granted the right to adopt his husband’s child, and it has now flourished into a law which will legally grant the same right to countless other couples. Taiwan also recently held its first Pride celebration after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The parade attracted more than 12,000 people to the capital city, Taipei.
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.