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Global Roundup: Gaza on ‘Queering the Map’, Bolivia Sexual Violence, Philippines Drag Artist Arrest, Indigenous Women in Malaysia vs Double Discrimination, Film on Caribbean Masculine-Presenting Women
Curated by FG Contributor Samiha Hossain
A screenshot of the interactive website where users can post anonymous, geotagged messages. Via Queering the Map
Amid the ongoing Israeli genocide of the people of Palestine, we can see a small glimpse of the queer communty’s experience on ‘Queering the Map’. Queering the Map is a moderated platform founded in 2017 by Lucas LaRochelle in Montreal, Canada. It allows LGBT-identifying users to make anonymous geotagged posts. The pink-colored atlas of community-sourced anecdotes, ranging from the raunchy to the heart-rending, has charted experiences across the world, in at least 28 languages.
There are no timestamps on the messages, making it difficult to know when they were posted. A post written in Arabic, geotagged in Central Gaza, reads:
The only thing that keeps me patient in Gaza is the sea and you.
Another, posted at the edge of a pier, reads:
A place [where] I kissed my first [crush]. Being gay in Gaza is hard but somehow it was fun. I made out with a lot of boys in my neighborhood. I thought everyone is gay to some level.
Another post from the southern city of Khan Younis, where hundreds of thousands of Gazans fled to after Israeli evacuation orders in the north and which has also been bombarded by air raids, reads:
Pls know despite what the media says there are gay Palestinians. We are here, we are queer. Free Palestine.
There was a post tagged in the northern city of Jabalia, where a series of Israeli missiles last week destroyed a refugee camp, killing dozens of people:
I’ve always imagined you and me sitting out in the sun, hand and hand, free at last. We spoke of all the places we would go if we could. Yet you are gone now. If I had known that bombs raining down on us would take you from me, I would have gladly told the world how I adored you more than anything. I’m sorry I was a coward.
Israel declared its latest war and launched its most punishing airstrikes on Gaza after the Hamas militant group launched an attack on October 7 on southern Israel that killed 1,200 people. Israeli bombradment of Gaza has so far killed more than 5,000 people. Israel has cut off Gaza’s water and fuel supplies, worsening already dire conditions there that have led human rights groups to call the Gaza Strip an “open air prison.”
A sign reads 'Justice cannot wait' as women participate in a protest calling for parliament to approve laws against sexual crimes in La Paz, Bolivia, this month. Photograph: Luis Gandarillas/EPA
CW: rape, sexual violence
The ombudsman’s office in Bolivia has condemned threats against a 10-year-old rape victim and her family after teachers and school staff tried to prevent the arrest of the alleged rapist, a 39-year-old headmaster. Videos posted on social media show the group gathered outside the police station, trying to pressure the prosecutor and judge to release the alleged perpetrator. Demonstrators also accused the girl of provoking her rapist.
Roxana Choque, the state public prosecutor for Potosí, reported the defendant had been charged with rape pending an investigation. She said the girl had become pregnant as a result of the assault.
This case is part of a wider trend of sexual violence against minors and impunity for rapists in Bolivia. The country has one of the highest rates of sexual violence in Latin America and some of the region’s lowest reporting rates for these crimes. One in three girls experiences sexual violence before the age of 18 in Bolivia, according to the international women’s rights organisation Equality Now.
This case highlights the disturbingly high tolerance for violence against girls in our country. While the justice system has, in this case, responded appropriately, we hope it will send a resounding message to other victims. -Mónica Bayá, Comunidad de Derechos Humanos Bolivia, technical secretary
Advocates strongly condemn this pattern of wrongly placing blame on victims, especially children. They urge the government to protect the privacy of the girl in this case. Despite the pervasive culture of sexual violence, Bolivia has seen some recent victories, including a historic verdict, where the inter-American court of human rights found the Bolivian government to be “internationally responsible” for violating Brisa De Angulo’s rights to justice when, aged 15, she was repeatedly raped over a period of months by a relative.
Credit: X/Pura Luka Vega
Earlier this month, Pura Luka Vega was arrested over their performance as Jesus Christ singing a rock rendition of the Lord’s Prayer in July. The 33-year-old performer, whose real name is Amadeus Fernando Pagente, had shared a video of their performance in a now-deleted post on X, formerly known as Twitter. The post went viral, prompting several Catholic groups across the country to lodge complaints against Pagente for “desecrating their religious faith and patron.” As the controversy surrounding Pagente grew, several clubs chose to cancel scheduled performances by the artist.
Pagente was arrested under Article 201 of the Philippine Revised Penal Code, which imposes imprisonment and a fine for “immoral doctrines, obscene publications and exhibitions, and indecent shows,” with paragraph 2(b) extending these punishments to performances deemed to “offend any race of religion.” Many are critical of this clause as it can be used to suppress artistic and political expression.
In response to Pagente’s arrest, the country’s LGBTQ community quickly came together to campaign for their release and raise funds to help them post bail. Fellow drag queen Naia Black, winner of the first season of the Philippines’ “Drag Den” reality show, is one of the main figures behind the movement supporting Pagente and their artistic freedom as a queer performer. Within a few days, a fundraiser by Black had raised over 890,000 Philippine pesos ($15,668), which has been used to help the performer post bail, and cover legal expenses and living expenses following cancellations of future performances.
“While we’re grateful for all the vendors, attendees, and donors who showed up to support Luka, our fight is not over,” Black said in a post on X, adding that the emergency event in support of Pagente “is just the start of our battle against anti-rights forces whose sole mission is to discriminate, oppress, and silence queer people.”
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Members of the Apa Kata Wanita Orang Asli at the Freedom Film Fest in September 2022 in Malaysia. Photo from Facebook
In Malaysia, a group of Orang Asli (First Peoples) women have been advocating to strengthen their representation in Malaysian society through documentaries and workshops. Orang Asli women face multiple layers of challenges and obstacles while advocating for their cause, and often, these barriers are entangled with their identities as women and Indigenous people. As a minority group in Malaysia, they have had their ancestral lands stolen and encroached upon, have had less access to health services, and have faced diminishing livelihoods, political and social exclusion, economic and education disparities.
Yana is a 30-year-old Semelai woman from Kampung Batu Peti, Rompin, Negeri Sembilan. She says they were accused of undermining the role of the Tok Batin (the village chief) in their work.
We were still in the middle of shooting [our documentary] when this accusation was posted and became viral on Facebook. We haven’t even begun the process of editing our film “Selai Kayu Yek” (Roots of My Land), but there were people who were already discrediting us and saying we are doing wrong things. -Yana
Getting support and blessings from their family members was the biggest obstacle when the women first began, as the project was perceived as challenging the role of male leaders in the family. When Eliana, a 22-year-old Jakun woman who hails from Kuala Rompin, Pahang, and her friends began creating a film discussing Orang Asli rights and issues, she said they faced significant objections from their families.
As women, especially young women, we are often questioned about our capabilities. -Eliana
Despite the challenges, the young women of Apa Kata Wanita Orang Asli, a collective of young Orang Asli women activists that Yana and Eliana are a part of, have completed a number of successful projects. After sharing about the impact they had made through their films, the women gained the respect of their families and communities.
The women first produced the book “Kami Pun Ada Hak Bersekolah: Wanita Orang Asli Bersuara” (launched in Kuala Lumpur in February 2019), an anthology of women and girls’ narratives from Orang Asli communities on their educational journeys, obstacles they’ve overcome, and hopes for the future. They have since then moved on to producing short films. To date, they have completed three: “Selai Kayu Yek” (Roots of My Land), “Klinik Ku Hutan” (The Forest, My Clinic), and “Rahsia Rimba” (Secrets of the Forest Guardian). These three films exposed the growing marginalization of the Orang Asli on their own land. To further introduce the Orang Asli identity to a wider audience, the group has also created a YouTube channel, Apa Kata Wanita Orang Asli.
Yana felt empowered when she observed the impact of the films on the audience, including moving them to tears. She feels driven to encourage other young people to stand up for the rights of the Orang Asli communities. Both Yana and Eliana hope more women will speak up.
I hope that all Orang Asli, regardless of age, will start actively using media. Even if it is an ordinary day, just record it (on video) and post to social media so that more people outside of the communities will be aware of the identity and culture of Orang Asli in Malaysia. -Eliana
Safiyah Chiniere, the visionary director behind the highly anticipated short film 'You Don't Have to Like Me,' delves into the profound insecurities and vulnerabilities experienced by Caribbean masculine-presenting women. The film mirrors Chiniere's own journey of self-discovery – through her lens, Chiniere unveils the inner softness and divine femininity concealed by a masculine exterior, illuminating the multifaceted nature of womanhood.
This film is a reminder that there is immense value in embracing and celebrating the diverse manifestations of womanhood. It's a testament to the resilience, beauty, and strength of those who defy societal expectations in a world that so often attempts to define and confine us. -Safiyah Chiniere
Chiniere's ultimate intention for the film is clear: to reach out to young individuals facing similar insecurities, offering them a sense of community and belonging. She hopes to convey that there are many people in the world who love and support them, even in ways they may not yet comprehend. The film's message transcends boundaries, aiming to touch the hearts of those who are open to different perspectives.
For Chiniere, the most enjoyable part of the production was being surrounded by fellow creatives who shared her passion for bringing her vision to life. Guiding a team to create a project that is both impactful and heartwarming resonated deeply with her, emphasizing that even the smallest voice can lead to something extraordinary.
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.