Global Roundup: Argentina Women’s Rights, Nigeria Trans Woman’s Case, South Africa Tackling Femicide, England Trans Boxer, Queer & Feminist Arab Histories
Curated by FG Contributor Samiha Hossain
A woman at a protest in Buenos Aires in January 2024 holds a sign up saying: ‘I am looking for my rights, has anyone seen them?’ Photograph: Natacha Pisarenko/AP
After Javier Milei was elected president in Argentina, threats to her safety forced author, journalist and activist Luciana Peker into exile. Peker writes in the Guardian about how she fears the rise of anti-feminist extremism.
Peker begins with the femicide of 14-year-old Chiara Paez in 2015 which led to the first Ni Una Menos (Not One Less) women’s march against femicide. She believes the march awakened a new global awareness in the fight against gender violence. The Ni Una Menos movement was replicated in Peru, Uruguay, Italy and Germany, among other places. In Brazil and Mexico, protests and the hashtag #MiPrimerAcoso (“my first harassment”) took off. However, ever since Milei took office, Peker says the country has suffered a misogynistic setback.
The power of feminism lies in its ability to transform the political landscape of a world drowning in resignation. It is not just about what is achieved, but showing that collective action does achieve things. Feminism transforms, unifies and revitalises. Feminism is hope – and that makes it the enemy of neo-fascism, which divides, individualises and crushes. - Luciana Peker
Less than a month after taking power, Milei’s government closed the ministry of women, gender and diversity, seemingly reducing policies against gender violence to mere bureaucratic decoration, and has put at risk the right to legal, safe and free abortion, which was won in 2020. Milei has spoken out against feminism, and has been verbally abusive to women, to the point that one journalist walked off a live TV programme after he said: “I could take a 9mm [gun] and put it to your head.”
Pecker was forced to leave her country after threats, censorship, silencing and the suffocation of her work and income by Milei’s supporters. Someone commented “You deserve to be next,” on her Instagram post, when she shared her article on the need to control weapons as a way to reduce femicide. Pecker says she will not be silenced and will continue to write – she offers advice on how to show solidarity with women in Argentina.
Women in Latin America need women in the west to work with us to put an end to this violent oppression. Read the work of Latin authors, activists, writers and journalists, follow them on social media, share their content and support our women’s words, so that violence does not silence us and economic suffocation does not steal our voices again. Our freedom cannot be pushed back. Neither can our words. -Luciana Peker
The Statue of Lady Justice is pictured at the premises of the Federal High Court in Lagos, Nigeria, March 3, 2020. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja
Chizelu Emejulu is a human rights lawyer focusing on LGBTQ+ issues in Nigeria, and the Executive Director of Minority Watch. He writes about how one trans woman has renewed his hope.
In a case last year, Emejulu expected Abeni (not her real name) to ignore his advice to be honest about her gender identity during her testimony in order to protect herself from possible blowback from those in the courtroom. He says it wasn’t an irrational fear – since the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act was passed in 2014, there has been a growing climate of hate against LGBTQ+ Nigerians, permeating the police, judiciary and everyday citizens. However, Abeni was bolder than Emejulu imagined. Lawyers and litigants alike silently looked on in astonishment as she not only introduced herself as a transgender woman, but also testified against a man she said she met on a dating app who lured her to his home, then beat and robbed her.
In a country where LGBTQ+ people are routinely harassed with arrests, criminal charges and subjected to extreme physical violence, Abeni made it clear that she was not afraid to publicly exercise her constitutional right to seek justice from the Nigerian courts. -Chizelu Emejulu
Abeni brought the case to the police in August 2023, leading to the 27-year-old man she accused to be charged with assault and theft. Emejulu says cases like this rarely make it to court. According to him, it marked significant progress for LGBTQ+ Nigerians in two ways. Abeni was treated with respect in a Nigerian courtroom and her identity was not weaponised against her. Moreover, it is not common to prosecute what is known as a “kito” in Nigeria, an assailant who lures an LGBTQ+ person to a location through a dating app to assault, rob and blackmail them.
Part of why these cases don’t make it to court, Emejulu says, is because of a well-founded fear by LGBTQ+ victims that police will ignore them at best, or revictimise them at worst. He adds that it’s become a catch-22: victims are too scared to speak out, and lawyers like him rarely have cases that can assure them coming forward is worthwhile.
While the case hasn’t provided a legal precedent, it has set a personal precedent: a fresh approach to the way I do my work. It has renewed my hope to be able to use the Nigerian judicial system to protect LGBTQ+ people. -Chizelu Emejulu
Ncazelo Ncube-Mlilo, Zimbabwean psychologist and founder of Phola who devised the Tree of Life psychotherapeutic method, now used in 40 countries
This shipping container-turned group therapy office is one part of a pioneering project that uses creative therapeutic approaches to help women, families and entire communities to overcome gender-based violence. Phola – which means to “heal” or “cool down” in southern Africa’s Nguni languages – was founded by Zimbabwean psychologist Ncazelo Ncube-Mlilo, and is rooted in the belief that people affected by adversity, abuse and trauma possess the knowledge and skills to overcome their problems.
Using a travelling caravan or permanent shipping containers fitted as therapy rooms, the charity aims to make therapy accessible for all. They host drive-throughs and popup events for women, men’s groups that tackle the root causes of violence and abuse, and school programmes that work to break the cycle of trauma for the next generation.
When the project began in 2016, it started with Ncube-Mlilo and her colourful caravan parking up in the heart of the communities that needed her most. These days, Phola has a staff of 22 and Ncube-Mlilo spends much of her time training international professionals in her methods that are now used in 40 countries. For many, these sessions are the only time they feel able to discuss their feelings in an environment that’s safe – both physically and emotionally.
When Ncube-Mlilo first started out as a psychologist trained in Australia, she soon realized that much of what she had learned did not translate to a rural African context. For one thing, talking about grief and hardship was frowned upon; children were not expected to be part of a conversation about such matters.
Much of the gender-based violence in our communities is a legacy of apartheid, I believe, and the unresolved trauma that is reproduced in our young people. We work to address this in multiple ways. Through our workshops with men, by supporting schools to be trauma informed, and through our caravans. By giving the women who come an opportunity to connect with their hopes, dreams and values, we help them reclaim their lives and be less dependent on their abusers. -Ncazelo Ncube-Mlilo
A priority for Phola in the year ahead is to raise enough money to build a shelter for women who have escaped abusive relationships. In particular, their children will also be allowed to stay with them – a rarity in most shelters.
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Trans boxers are banned from licensed fights in England, so Jill Leflour is working to end trans exclusion in the sport. Directed by Declan Kelly and Grace Phillips, Jill is a tender documentary portrait of Jill and his journey in boxing. Shot on a combination of VHS tape and digital, the film rises above the toxic debate around trans issues.
I was already boxing when I figured myself out and already had a fight against a girl. My boxing club of the time is the only place I stayed closeted. I told myself I enjoyed their women-only sessions more than their mixed sessions but the reality is that I wasn’t on testosterone and even though I generally passed as male, I was worried something would out me and I’d be treated differently afterwards. -Jill Leflour
Jill transitioned in summer 2020 which complicated his rise in boxing. Eventually, Jill discovered Bender Defenders, a queer and trans martial arts community which confronts rising hate crime by teaching martial arts to queer and trans people and running self defence classes. But now he trains at Knockout LGBTQ+ Boxing Club, which became the first LGBTQ+ boxing club to affiliate with England Boxing. Founded in 2016, Knockout is an inclusive non-profit which creates space for all genders, sexualities and abilities to explore boxing.
England Boxing oversees more than 1,000 amateur clubs, yet Knockout is the first in its 143-year history to cater specifically for queer boxers. Since a rule was quietly introduced in the 2019 England Boxing rulebook, boxers are only permitted to fight against boxers of their birth gender. Jill hopes to get England Boxing to amend their anti-trans rules.
I’m hoping the film will make more people realise that trans male athletes exist. Trans men suffer from invisibility – I know plenty of allies who don’t know that a lot of trans sports bans affect us too. Mainstream awareness is the first step to affecting change and this can’t happen if we keep flying under the radar. -Jill Leflour
Jill is hoping to use his story – and his example – to bring more queer people into the ring. His message is that the ring is a place where everyone can be themselves – and it can be a place of joy and community.
“Neo Nahda” is a coming-of-age story about Mona (Eman Alali), a young woman in London who finds archived photographs of Arab women cross-dressing in the 1920s. Ziadé herself found the images via the Arab Image Foundation in 2017, “at a time where these photos were very, very difficult to find,” she says. The film asks, “how the archives can be a portal for the imagination and the realm of inner projections.”
These images appear throughout Neo Nahda: Marie el-Khazen’s images from Zghorta, Lebanon in 1927; a woman named Marguerite dressed up as a man in Jerusalem, Palestine from 1935; a young woman from the Mardem Bey family dressed up as a man. They appear alongside other queer-coded photographs such as Hashem el Madani’s now-iconic image of Najm and Asmar at Studio Shehrazade, Saida, Lebanon in the 1950s.
We wanted to get as many Arab women involved, as many queer people, female and non-binary people involved, as we could [in the film]. -May Ziadé
Ziadé worked with an almost entirely Arab film crew, many of whom were queer too. Ziadé and her editor, Chiara Bellesia, embarked on 15 days of editing “which is huge for 10 minutes [of footage]”, she says, but careful editing was a crucial part of the final product since the film takes on multiple forms, including elements of photo essay. She believes that archives could go some way to creating space for imaginative powers, for world-building, to encourage imaginations and project hope for the future, a sentiment that she will carry into new experimental film and video projects in the new year.
I think archives are extremely important, as a way to connect with history, as a way to reaffirm histories that have been erased, purposefully, through patriarchal and colonial processes. -May Ziadé
Samiha Hossain (she/her) is an aspiring urban planner studying at Toronto Metropolitan University. Throughout the years, she has worked in nonprofits with survivors of sexual violence and youth. Samiha firmly believes in the power of connecting with people and listening to their stories to create solidarity and heal as a community. She loves learning about the diverse forms of feminist resistance around the world.