Global Roundup: Feminist fights for migrant domestic workers and for girls around the world

Compiled and written by Sahra

Migrant workers move to Lebanon seeking employment as a way to escape endemic poverty. [Getty] via The New Arab

In Lebanon the ministry of labour has adopted a new contract for migrant domestic workers aimed at abolishing an abusive system that has long been criticized for inhumane, slave-like conditions. Activists who have long called for abolishing the old Kafala system remain cynical at the implementation of the new law. The new contract seeks to dismantle the Kafala system by giving domestic workers the ability to terminate their contract without the permission of the employer, as well as keep a hold of their own passports, two major aspects of the prior contract that facilitated absolute control over domestic workers.

There are at least 250,000 migrant workers, mostly women from Africa and Asia, who work in Lebanon as housekeepers, carers or nannies. The country’s economic crisis, the COVID19 pandemic, and the Beirut Port explosion have all compounded the already hellish conditions for them. Many women were dumped at their embassy door by their employers, left to sleep on the sidewalk and seek help from activists to get tickets to fly home.

The new contract is aimed at helping migrant workers through a limit on working hours, overtime pay, sick pay, rest day and a new national minimum wage. But activists say its success depends on its enforcement.

The majority of employers do not comply with the old contract and we can safely predict that even fewer employers will comply with the new one - Zeina Ammar, migrant rights group Anti-Racism Movement.

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The Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia, is seen in February 2018 via CNN

Mexican officials have identified two women who may have been subjected to non-consensual surgeries while being held in an ICE detention center in the United States. Among the two women one of them got a “surgical intervention” that she did not agree to. Additionally, she did not receive any after-care nor did she receive care for a hernia. The second woman is alleged to have undergone gynecological surgery to which she did not consent. She also did not receive any form of explanation in Spanish detailing the surgery. These findings are part of Mexico’s investigation of accusations about the treatment of women in ICE detention centers which started soon after a former employee filed a complaint about a concerning number of hysterectomies and medical neglect.

So far 20 women have been interviewed by Mexican officials in the ongoing investigation. The ICE medical director as well as the company that operated the detention center in Georgia have both denied the allegations. The Mexican consulate in Georgia is working with a lawyer for a possible lawsuit with the participation of the alleged victims to legally address the violation of their human rights. 

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Masoumeh Ebtekar criticised the government on child marriage [Wikipedia] via The New Arab

Iranian Deputy President for Women and Family Affairs Masoumeh Ebtekar has criticized the government for not doing enough to protect girls from forced underage marriage. According to Ebtekar, at least 30,000 young girls under the age of 14 are forced into marriages in Iran every year.

A government bill to ban child marriages was denied by the Judiciary Commission of the Islamic Consultative Assembly. Religious heads claim that “it is Islamically permissible for underage girls to wed once in puberty, as long as their father blesses the marriage.” But many scholars disagree with that viewpoint saying that according to Islamic principles a marriage is only valid upon the approval of a bride. Which begs the question: how can a child bride under the age of maturity consent to marriage?

In our view, reaching 'intellectual maturity' is enough for marriage…an under-13-year-old person is truly a child, and if married, would suffer many physical and psychological consequences - Deputy President for Women and Family Affairs Masoumeh Ebtekar

Forced underage marriage is a global problem and affects girls and boys across the world. Activists have warned of the increased risk of abuse in such marriages.

Married girls and young women between the ages of 15 and 19 with low levels of education are at a much greater risk of domestic and sexual violence from their spouses than older and more educated women - Human Rights Watch

Young girls cannot consent to marriage and therefore cannot consent to sex. Which is another point of issue that is difficult to challenge as many countries are yet to criminalize marital rape. 

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Bowinn Ma, MLA - North Vancouver-Lonsdale. PHOTO BY FRANCIS GEORGIAN /PNG via Vancouver Sun

Bowinn Ma, a Canadian politician from the NDP and a representative of the North Vancouver-Lonsdale district in British Columbia, has warned that “casual sexism” could deter women from considering careers in politics. Ma was recently sexualized by Liberal candidate Jane Thornthwaite during a virtual retirement roast that was recorded in which Thornthwaite tells a story about Ma to other colleagues. She refers to Ma as “a very pretty lady” saying that “she knows she’s got it and she knows how to get Ralph going”.

If we want more young women and people of colour to run for politics, we need to be creating an environment to attract them. These comments did the exact opposite - Bowinn Ma 

The video was sent to a podcaster in the region who later took it to Twitter to ask women to join in and share their thoughts on the video.

This resulted in a wider criticism of the role of white women in upholding the patriarchy. By weaponizing sexism and racism - through sexualization of women of colour for example - white women aim for approval from their male colleagues and and protection for themselves from white supremacist patriarchy.

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Image via Feminism in India

Children’s bedtime stories are among the many things that are in need of a feminist revolution. Sneha Banerjee explains that it is time to change the narratives about princes saving young women. Young girls deserve better and more!

We have unknowingly been exposed to narratives that have positioned women to be dainty, soured the image of a stepmother/sisters and clouded our minds about flawed perceptions of beauty and vanity.

These stories not only limit the psyche of girls but are also a great disservice to the multitude of realistic, inspiring and motivational stories we can tell girls. Storytelling is a powerful medium and we must put it to better use in the fight against patriarchy.

A cause for optimism lies in emerging new media for children that highlight a different kind of fairy-tale for girls and children by telling the stories of feminist leaders, important figures and their history, as well as a range of topics necessary for dismantling the patriarchy. 

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Sahra is currently pursuing her undergrad in Sociology, Feminism and Gender studies. She plans to redefine the terms of life to suit her needs and those around her by challenging the patriarchy and other oppressive systems that shape our world. She loves to paint, laugh and spend time with her loved ones.