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Global Roundup: El Salvador Historic Court Hearing on Abortion, Women in Azerbaijan, Namibia Drag Night, Indigenous & Queer Documentary, Memoir on Racialized Fatphobia
Curated by FG Contributor Samiha Hossain
Feminist groups stage a vigil outside the headquarters of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in San José, Costa Rica.CARLOS HERRERA
Human rights activists in Latin America hope that a historic court hearing over the case of a Salvadoran woman who died after she was denied an abortion despite her high-risk pregnancy could open the way for El Salvador to decriminalize abortions. Last week, The inter-American court of human rights (IACHR) considered the case of Beatriz, who was prohibited from having an abortion in 2013, even though she was seriously ill and the foetus she was carrying would not have survived outside the uterus.
In El Salvador, abortion is fully criminalized in all circumstances, and can be punished by up to 8 years in prison. Pregnant people can also be charged with aggravated homicide, which holds a 30- to 50-year prison sentence. In addition, medical professionals can receive up to 12 years’ jail if they are found to have supported a pregnant person to have an abortion. Beatriz’s case has been taken up by feminist organizations in El Salvador and across the region who hope it could create legal changes in access to sexual and reproductive rights, including abortion, in Latin America.
Anabel Recinos, a lawyer with the Citizens’ Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion, one of the groups representing Beatriz’s family, described the hearing as “a historic moment.” During the audience, held in San José, Costa Rica, the seven judges heard from Beatriz’s family, as well as from two doctors involved in her case.
Catalina Martínez Coral, director of the Center for Reproductive Rights’ Latin America and Caribbean office, said she hoped the court would rule that the criminalization of abortion went against the American convention on human rights and violated a wide range of human rights.
It would mean that all countries that penalize abortion will have to update their legislation in accordance with the Inter-American court’s decision, which means they will have to end their criminalization. -Catalina Martínez Coral
Martínez Coral worried, however, that the court’s decision might rely on “perceptions of risk” to life and health. She says that decriminalizing abortion based on exceptions would leave pregnant people subject to the interpretation of medical practitioners. After the two-day hearing, the court is expected to take a month to write their arguments and a final decision is expected by the end of the year.
Image by Ulviyya Ali, via Global Voices
Regardless of age, profession, or status, a woman’s life is narrowed down to her body, its worth, and its shape. Her dignity and privacy are disrespected and Azerbaijan’s patriarchal, macho mentality supports this. -Arzu Geybullayeva
Geybullayeva mentions how the government uses women as a tool and cites the example of when the government used political leader Jamil Hasanli’s daughter, Gunel Hasanli, in order to intimidate him. Intimate videos of Gunel were filmed in secret at her home and threatened to be disseminated.
Azerbaijan’s legislation does not contain any punitive measures for physical or online abuse and harassment against women. In March 2021, multiple Telegram groups shared sex tapes and nude photographs of Azerbaijani women, among them journalists, like Fatima Movlamli, and civic activists, like Narmin Shahmarzade. In a recent interview, Shahmarzade explained how women’s underwear has been a useful tool during elections – referring to a common election fraud mechanism where election commission representatives stuff pre-registered ballots into their bras or under their clothes, which they then use to stuff the ballot boxes.
In every house, a woman manages the household economics. She is the one who decides how the salary the husband brings home should be spent. And when she fails, she often faces violence. And so, poverty affects women. - Gulnara Mehdiyeva, feminist activist
In addition to poverty, there is also a significant gap in employment opportunities. According to a recent report by the Anti-Discrimination Center Memorial, Azerbaijan is the leader on the “list of restrictions on women’s labor in the region since 1999 – 678 types of work in 38 industries are prohibited there.” Despite a ban from local authorities and the heavy police presence, the feminist movement collective went ahead with the annual International Women’s Day march under the banner “We want to live.” The collective and the participants of the march wanted to shed light on the daily challenges women face in Azerbaijan as well as the violence. This was reflected in their statement: in February 2023 alone, at least 11 women were killed as a result of violence and abuse. The government of Azerbaijan, however, refutes any claims that the country lacks gender equality, and argues that women's rights are protected. Geybullayeva reflects on the continuous activism of women.
All of this leaves me thinking about what authority men have over women, not just in Azerbaijan and all over the world, where women are often silenced, sidelined, and left to their own devices when faced with inequality and other problems? I have not yet found the answer. But I am in awe of all the women out there, fighting despite it all, and forcing others to start changing their perceptions of women, their role and place in society. -Arzu Geybullayeva
Photography © Chris de Beer-Procter
Amid a growing LGBTQ+ civil rights movement and multiple Supreme Court hearings that represent a crucial moment for equality in Namibia, Drag Night Namibia provides a space for queer joy and solidarity. The diverse crowd ranges broadly over age, race, sexual and gender expression and many prominent activists attend as well.
In its essence, drag is a political statement. It’s very satirical at times, but also most of our performers take this so seriously. It is a political statement every single time they step on stage or step out in drag. -Rodelio Lewis, founder and CEO of Drag Night Namibia
On March 3rd, the Supreme Court heard a challenge to the state’s refusal to recognise same-sex marriages concluded in other countries, thus disqualifying families with foreign-born spouses of queer Namibians from claiming domicile to live and work. Days later, on March 6th, the Supreme Court heard a case regarding the parental rights of same-sex families. The outcome of these cases will have monumental implications for queer Namibians and their families for generations to come. The country’s small but dedicated civil rights movement, which is largely spearheaded by young people, has not only rallied around these legal challenges, but also around spaces like Drag Night that cater to other sides of the queer experience – that of joy, community and celebration.
With all the painful stuff that’s going on in the fight, it’s good to be in a safe space with our people. I broke down a few times, because it’s so special. I feel like we deserve that, that bit of happiness. -Daniel Digashu, litigant in marriage recognition case
Centuries into its legacy, drag still provides a vessel for the LGBTQ+ community to experiment with and express their gender, while also mobilising for the ever-present need to fight for civil rights in Namibia and all over the world.
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An Indigenous storyteller in Canada living at the intersection of both Indigeneity and queerness explores the past, present and future to help better understand her own queer identity in a new documentary. “VeraCity: Indigiqueer” follows Sarain Fox who seeks out the stories from other queer Indigenous figures on how they have navigated their lives.
I was just so tired of only seeing content that only shares trauma … this real sort of focus on trauma and traumatic histories and that’s a part of who we are as Indigenous people as Indigenous queer people. But we’re so much more than that. -Sarain Fox
The main story follows Fox’s young family friend, Banaise Henry, as she comes out to some of her family and friends. Fox said each story told in the documentary is unique yet “intricately connected.” Fox also mentions how it was inspiring for her to see the power that sharing stories can have on young people coming out as well as elders telling their story out loud for the first time.
Illona Verly, who identifies as two-spirit, made history when she appeared on Canada’s Drag Race. Fox said she and others who are taking up this space are changing the world for other young Indigenous queer people.
You need to be able to see yourself to dream yourself into the world and I think colonization has really affected how indigenous communities are holding space for indigenous queer folk for trans people. And so I think it’s vital for change makers, warriors like Ilana taking up space to be that visual representation…-Sarain Fox
When asked what a viewer of this documentary should take away, Fox said she hopes that people just take the opportunity to listen. She remains optimistic that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel and an impact of sharing these important stories.
I think one of the things that happens is that we can get lost amid all of the work that needs to be done, all of the darkness ahead of us but we have to be able to see the light…-Sarain Fox
Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Cheyenne Ewulu
Clarkisha Kent is a disabled, fat, queer, Nigerian American and in the cultural critic’s debut memoir, Fat Off, Fat On: A Big Bitch Manifesto, she recounts her journey to overcome the demons — Christianity and purity culture, an abusive childhood home, racialized fatphobia, ableism — that pushed her to hate every layer of her identity. The Cut Interviewed Kent about her memoir.
Kent wrote in her book, “The origins of fatphobia do not belong to us. Nor is it ours to hold.” She explains that in the book Fearing the Black Body by Sabrina Strings, the origins of fatphobia are traced back toward that split that happened between Europeans and Africans right before slavery.
The line of demarcation was drawn between these two groups, which resulted in essentially the invention of “fatphobia.” Fat was used to separate the groups; Africans were fat, corpulent, unintelligent, dimwitted, and if you’re European, you’re thin, enlightened, that kind of thing. When I was writing my story, I was thinking about that book and how the root of many oppressions go right back to racism and anti-Blackness. - Clarkisha Kent
Not only does the memoir tell the story of Kent’s life but it also helped her to come home to her body.
Coming home to your body means appreciating it for what it is. That doesn’t mean you are happy with it 24/7. I’m not happy about my body 24/7. But the point is my body is doing its absolute best to protect me, so I’m not helping my body at all by deriding it. - Clarkisha Kent
Ultimately, Kent’s aim with the book was to inform readers about how sinister fatphobia is and how it originated with racism and anti-Blackness. She points to examples of airline seats, bar stools and clothing stores not carrying larger sizes.
These things, unconnected, seem very innocuous, but when you put them together, it’s a very sinister and coordinated effort to push fat people out of society, even if it’s not being said overtly. Racism and racist structures in this country don’t openly say what they’re doing or how they’re harming. You just have to be paying attention. That was really my intention. I used my stories as a vehicle to deliver those messages so that people could see the context of what I was talking about. -Clarkisha Kent
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.