Global Roundup: Fighting back against victim-blaming in Peru, corruption in Burkina Faso, and gender binaries in fashion and makeup

Compiled and written by Miriam Batal

Protesters wearing red underwear around their knees demonstrate against a rape ruling by a court in Peru. Photo: @ica.feminista/Newsflash

CW: This article contains sexual violence against women and victim blaming.  This can be upsetting or triggering since folks might have directly or indirectly been affected. If ever you feel the need to reach out, please do and know that you are strong. 

A court in Peru has thrown out a rape case saying that the alleged victim wore “lacy red underwear” to a party and that was a clear sign that she intended to have sex that night and so could not have been raped. YES, YOU READ THAT CORRECTLY! IT IS FUCKING DISGUSTING AND OUTRAGEOUS! 

The supposed personality represented by her [the victim] (shy) does not relate to the undergarment she used on the day of the incident as this type of women's underwear is normally used on special occasions leading to moments of intimacy, which gives the impression that the woman prepared or willing to have sexual relations with the accused. 

THIS WAS SAID IN COURT BY A FUCKING JUDGE! To add insult to injury two out of three of the judges were women – Judges Ronald Anayhuaman Andia, Diana Jurado Espino and Lucy Castro Chacaltana.  The decision taken in the city of Ica on October 29th, sparked uproar in Peru, where women, some with red underwear around their legs, took to the streets in protest. Some held banners bearing messages including “Listen up, judges. Don't use my underwear to justify rape.”

The eradication and punishment of violence against women can only be possible with an impartial Judicial Power that is aware of its fundamental role in order to eradicate rape and discrimination based on gender – Peru's Ministry of Women

On October 30th, the day after the court's ruling – the Peruvian Public Ministry released a statement stating that they had demanded that it be nullified and that a new trial be held in another court. 

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PHOTO: MATTEO DE MAYDA via VICE.com

A million protesters marched on the streets of Ouagadougou on October 27, 2014, demanding that President Blaise Compaoré resign after 27 years in office. Many women brandished brooms, spatulas and pestles among the crowds, items that symbolized the need to exterminate Burkina Faso's corruption. The nation is planning for a new round of elections on November 22, but not everything has turned out as the protesters had hoped.

A year after the protests, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré was elected president. The new administration, with mixed results, has dedicated itself to tackling gender-related issues. While the constitution of Burkina Faso clearly enforces gender equality, women are still by far the country’s most vulnerable. According to Oxfam, more than a million women and girls in Burkina Faso are facing increased sexual violence, hunger and water shortage as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, on top of the existing conflict.

In more rural areas, just like in 2014, a number of women are coming together to form community planning groups that may be crucial in the future to ensuring that women in these regions are encouraged to fight for reform.

In 2016, a law was passed that grants free healthcare for pregnant women and children under five, but only under certain conditions. On the other hand, the new penal code improved the judiciary process for gender-related crimes. As an example, the final verdict for a rape case used to take up to ten years, now it’ll take only three to five months – Kabré Habibou, a member of the Association de Femme Juristes du Burkina 

The government also reviewed a provision on female quotas in elections last January. In a country where women make up less than 10% of the national assembly, any party joining the race is now expected to have at least 30% of its candidates made up of women. The problem is that complying parties receive a financial bonus to use on their campaign, but there are no sanctions for those who don’t apply the female quotas. We will see who gets elected and what he or she’ll do for the women of this country, says Habibou.

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Dr. James Makokis will serve as the first medical director for Shkaabe Makwa, and Renee Linklater is the senior director. (CAMH) via CBC.com

The first hospital-based centre in Canada focusing on the mental health of Indigenous people through research, training and healing models that bring together traditional knowledge and contemporary medicine has opened in Toronto. The Shkaabe Makwa Center for First Nations, Inuit and Métis Wellbeing was opened by the Centre for Alcohol and Mental Health (CAMH). In Anishinaabemowin, Shkaabe Makwa translates to "Spirit Bear Helper."

We offer another lens to look at mental health and addiction from a positive viewpoint and from the viewpoint of building on the resiliency of all of our people who come through the system. Shkaabe Makwa is based on culture, language and it's based on the world view of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people Diane Longboat, the elder and senior project manager guiding directions implementation at CAMH.

Although the cause for substance abuse and or mental health varies from community to community, some main contributing factors are very much present. Some include colonialism and assimilation, institutional oppression and bigotry, infant anxiety, dispossession of land, loss of history, language and culture, residential school heritage and intergenerational trauma and their consequences. These problems are still happening day in and day out throughout Canada – settler colonialism is embedded in the Canadian system (laws, policies, policing and politics) and its population.

CAMH is the largest teaching hospital for mental health and addiction in Canada and is globally known for its programmes and studies in the field. The centre will provide treatment for mental health and addiction, where people will opt to either use a traditional/cultural approach, a new therapeutic approach, or a combination of the two.

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TYLER MITCHELL/VOGUE

For the first time in its 127-year history, Vogue magazine has a solo male on its cover: Harry Styles, who is sporting a jacket and dress by Gucci. Tyler Mitchell, who also made history when he became the first Black photographer for Vogue to shoot a cover in 2018, photographed the singer for the December edition of the magazine.

Clothes are there to have fun with and experiment with and play with. What’s really exciting is that all of these lines are just kind of crumbling away. When you take away ‘There’s clothes for men and there’s clothes for women,’ once you remove any barriers, obviously you open up the arena in which you can play – Harry Styles

In the magazine’s profile of the 26-year-old singer, Styles opens up about questioning conventional gender roles and expressing himself through fashion.

Though it is great for a fashion giant like Vogue to take such a big step when it comes to removing the gender binary, there is something that we must consider: it is vital to remember that this is possible only because of the resistance and activism of trans women and trans femmes of colour. We've been imprisoned by cross-dressing laws for decades and in some countries this is a death sentence even to this day! Harry Styles is not the first person to use “womxn’s” clothing during a photoshoot (perhaps for a fashion magazine cover, yes) but back in 2016, Jaden Smith wore a dress for Vogue Korea. And as this tweet would point out – “Jaden did it first.”

And as author, performer and public speaker Alok reminds us, in one of the photographs Harry Styles is outfitted by gender fluid designer Harris Reed. Alok insists that we do not forget that transmisogyny, racism and bigoted systems are the reasons that those who came before Harry Styles and who made this moment possible have not been as celebrated.

Do I think this is a sign of progress of society’s evolution away from binary gender? Yes. Do I think that white men should be upheld as the face of gender neutral fashion? No. It’s a curious thing this: holding space for joy, while also insisting on a more expansive form of freedom. We can both acknowledge this unprecedented moment while also remembering that it could only happen because of the resistance of trans femmes of color - Alok

Read Alok’s Instagram post below for the necessary complication that we must always take into account whenever we celebrate “firsts.”

A post shared by ALOK (they/them) (@alokvmenon)

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Photo via them.com

With her transfeminine fans in mind, Nikkie de Jager, best known as YouTuber and beauty influencer NikkieTutorials, has released a makeup tutorial. She said she had received several requests for an in-depth breakdown on how to "feminize" the face in the introduction of the latest 25-minute video, named "Feminizing Makeup Hacks," after she came out as transgender in January. But she stopped to give a disclaimer before she went into the techniques.

I think it is disgusting that we live in a world where only if you look ‘cis,’ where you look like a biological woman, you get to 'pass' as a trans person. That is unacceptable and I'm still fighting for that every single day – Nikkie de Jager 

She went on to explain that the video “wasn’t for society” or to “please others.”

It can also be said that many trans women express a complex relationship with appearance in general, and others have said that they would feel safer by using makeup to "pass." She made a point during the tutorial to stress that everyone's face is different, so the placement and strategies she demonstrated may not necessarily apply to the needs of everyone. Fans filled the replies with supportive messages after posting a link to the YouTube video on Twitter, with many trans and non-binary people expressing their appreciation for the tutorial. 

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Miriam Batal (she/they) is a completing their fourth-year undergraduate bachelor’s degree with a major in World Cinemas and minor in Feminist and Gender studies at the University of Ottawa. They are out and proud queer Lebanese – Canadian, they are abled-bodied, a settler of colour, intersectional feminist, body positivity, sex-positive, pro-sex worker, fully bilingual (French and English) person who lives on Turtle Island (Canada). She currently sits on the uOPride Executive team.

They are passionate about human rights, social justice and accessible mental health services and treatments. They are tired of cis white heterosexual men running politics and making decisions on their body and sexuality. They would like one day to make a positive change to this heteronormative world. When they are not protesting, or reading on queer theory/literature, Miriam enjoys spending time with their friends, going to the museum, attending drag shows, queer art exhibit, cinema and the theatre (pre-pandemic nonetheless) and video games.

They firmly believe that with education whether it be in academia or through lived experiences and conversation we are able to defeat ignorance, the patriarchy, colonialism and injustices.