Global Roundup: Gendered Homelessness in Australia, Sex Worker Activists at Risk, #MeToo Resurgence in China, Muslim-American Athletes, India’s First All-Trans Soccer Team
Compiled by Samiha Hossain
Naomi is an Indigenous survivor of domestic violence. She says more needs to be done to tackle the issue within her community. Indigenous women are 35 times more likely to experience domestic violence than non-Indigenous women [Ali MC/Al Jazeera]
Domestic and family violence is the primary cause of homelessness in Australia and as such, women make up nearly half of all people experiencing homelessness. However, women who experience homelessness are often invisibilized because they are less likely to sleep rough, as they are often accompanied by children. Women seek safer options such as staying at friend’s houses, in rooming homes and boarding houses and even in the back of a car.
A lack of social housing and unaffordable private rentals makes it difficult for women to find suitable and safe accommodations. Many women also bear the responsibility of raising children after a relationship ends, which creates financial pressure. In addition, women face inequality in the workplace. All these stressors inevitably exacerbate mental illness.
Once women are entrenched in homelessness it’s so much harder for them to access safe suitable housing, And the flow-on impacts for them and for kids is so massive. - Sam Sowerwine, principal lawyer for Justice Connect’s homelessness response team
Naomi is a 47-year Indigenous woman – in a phone call with Al Jazeera, she speaks about how domestic violence was normalized for her growing up. Although she did not know it at the time, her mother was part of the “Stolen Generations”, which are Indigenous children who were forcibly taken from their families. She grew up in a mission run by non-Indigenous nuns. The “Stolen Generations” have experienced family separation, dislocation from culture and heritage, trauma, and abuse, which has led to increased alcohol and drug use, domestic violence, and homelessness. At 14, Naomi first experienced homelessness after her parents split up.
Today, Naomi works in the community legal sector and is passionate about healing the trauma of women who have experienced violence. She believes there should be programs where women who have been victims of domestic violence are given the opportunity to tell their stories to perpetrators in prison.
[Perpetrators] are all part of our community so we can’t lock them up and throw away the key. They are going to come home eventually – and then what? And what part do we as Aboriginal women have in that process? Wouldn’t it be better if these men – our men – heard it straight from the woman, from the one that is being hurt. Like – ‘this is how you made me feel, this is what happens. You’re hurting not just us, you’re hurting our children, you’re hurting our community.’ – Naomi
Colectiva Venus campaigners in El Salvador. They feel increasingly vulnerable after the president called NGOs a front for the opposition. Photograph: Front Line Defenders via The Guardian
A four-year investigation published this week by Front Line Defenders found that sex worker activists are among the most at risk human rights defenders in the world. They face multiple threats and violent attacks and their visibility within their communities makes them more vulnerable to abuse. Sex worker activists from Tanzania, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar and El Salvador shared their experiences with the Guardian.
Clara Devis is an openly transgender woman and human rights defender in Tanzania. She is often targeted by the government and society because they think she is working to promote homosexuality in the community and “turn straight people gay.” After a violent incident took place in her home, the police did not open an investigation.
Sometimes I get demoralised and demotivated and want to quit. But then I remember that I’m part of this community and the rights I’m fighting for are mine too. Everyone has the right to equality and to be protected. - Clara Devis
Cherry Maung (not her real name) works in a small city in Myanmar defending the rights of cis and trans sex workers. Sex work in illegal in the country and police often sexually harass her and her staff members, asking them for sexual favours. The police also frequently go undercover as trans or sex workers in an attempt to arrest Maung.
Sabina Bermet (not her real name) has been defending sex workers rights for over two decades in Kyrgyzstan. Years ago, she and her colleagues sent a report to the prosecutor’s office on a former government department set up to combat human trafficking that forced sex workers to do HIV and STI testing. The department’s employees threatened Bermet and her daughter afterwards. Police have also harassed and humiliated Bermet on several occasions.
Reina Espinoza discusses how ever since President Bukele of El Salvador said on television during lockdown that human rights organizations were covering for the enemies of the government, things have gotten worse for feminists and sex workers. The president is essentially encouraging police and armed forces to be violent towards them.
Due to the economic crisis in El Salvador, there are more women starting to do sex work now. They are in a more vulnerable position. They don’t know what rights they have as sex workers or how to proceed whenever they experience violence. We know there is a sector of society that will not listen to us because we are women. If we’re sex workers on top of being women, a bigger part of society will not listen to us. The only way to be heard is to keep doing this work ourselves. - Reina Espinoza
Across the globe, sex workers - particularly those with other marginalized identities, such as trans sex workers – face several struggles simply for defending their communities. Nonetheless, they continue the work and continue to demand for better.
The logo of Alibaba Group is seen lit up at its office building in Beijing, China August 9, 2021. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang
Extensive coverage in China of sexual assault cases involving the company Alibaba and celebrity Kris Wu have resulted in a resurgence of the #MeToo discussion in the country, which in the past has been largely censored.
Sexual harassment was rarely publicly discussed in China until the #MeToo movement gained traction in 2018. But shortly after, it faced online censorship and many activists were arrested.
However, earlier this week, exchanges on the Weibo social media platform on sexual harassment faced by women in the workplace, or during drinking sessions with work colleagues, were among the most discussed topics, with more than 500 million views. Some of the top trending topics included "Who will protect working women from the ugly alcohol drinking culture?" and "How should women in the workplace guard against sexual harassment?"
When state broadcaster CCTV published a video on what steps women could take to gather evidence if they are sexually assaulted, social media users responded that the onus should be on men’s actions.
China has a history of putting pressure on feminist groups, who have seen their online channels or platforms shut down in recent months. It is not clear why the Alibaba or Kris Wu case have not been censored, but some say the cases emerged at a time when authorities have discouraged excessive celebrity worship and Alibaba has emerged as a top target in a campaign to rein in China's tech giants after years of a largely hands-off approach.
Still, #MeToo activists said they were heartened that the furore over the Wu and Alibaba cases was fuelling new awareness. A detailed account on Weibo where a woman said she had been assaulted during a working dinner while employed with ride hailing giant Didi Global, also went viral with more than 3 million views and thousands of comments.
It will definitely have a positive impact. It expands the pool of support for feminist rights and also drives discussion of sexual assault from a position of power. - Zhou Xiaoxuan, who in 2018 fuelled the movement by publicly accusing television personality Zhu Jun at state broadcaster CCTV of groping and forcibly kissing her, allegations he denies.
Subreen Dari is a 33-year-old Palestinian-American weightlifter who aspires to compete in future Olympic Games Eman Mohammed for NPR
Eman Mohammed, a Muslim-American photographer, started a long-term portraiture project featuring Muslim-American women. The focus is on sports and what Muslim-American women's roles look like in that field. She was prompted to start the project by the realization that she knew very little about other Muslim-American women and their accomplishments. Her hope is to inspire other Muslim-American women and girls through representation of their own communities.
The project isn't aiming to break stereotypes because these women already did the work and shattered it. My goal is to highlight these women as they do it. - Eman Mohammed
One of the athletes featured in the project is Subreen Dari, a 33-year-old Palestinian-American weightlifter living in Ohio. She became passionate about locally competing at weightlifting contests over the years. She is currently training for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
I feel so empowered, doing what I love and being good at it while remaining true to myself. It makes me proud as a mom; It humbles me to know I'm setting a positive example for my daughter Rihana, so when she imagines the future, she knows she can be anything she wants. - Subreen Dari
Another athlete is Aprar Hassan, a 19-year-old, Muslim-American Karate athlete with a Sandan, (third-degree black belt). She says her journey as a young Muslim Hijabi karate athlete has come with challenges because of others’ perception of Muslim women. She was blindsided at the World Karate Championships in Scotland, where there was a possibility of her being disqualified because the referee objected to her headscarf.
Sara Yogi is a 23-year-old Nepali-American skateboarder living in California. What started as a hobby 3 years ago, turned into a career.
As a woman of color and Muslim Hijabi, I feel welcomed and accepted within the skater community here. The competition is friendly and very focused on spreading the knowledge and passion about the fun of the sport. It's just a very positive and impactful community. - Sara Yogi
This is an inspiring and empowering project by Eman Mohammed that captures the diversity of Muslim-American women athletes. It will surely go a long way in inspiring the next generation of girls to pursue whatever their passion is.
Photo from Ya-All via them.us
Sadam Hanjabam, the founder of Ya-All, an organization that strives to address the stigma around mental health, has put together India’s first all-trans soccer team exclusively from the Manipuri region. This northeast region experiences floods and a debilitating refugee crisis that the country’s mainstream media ignores. Its people are also often the target of racial slurs when they move to metro areas, as they don’t “look Indian.”
Within the three years the soccer team has been running, it has seen great success including getting featured on Oprah and Prince Harry’s new mental health show, being invited to the prestigious Gay Games (the Olympics for queer people), and having their local game (the fourth edition of their annual Queer Games) inaugurated by the U.S. Consulate General.
We are not professional players. We all come from different backgrounds, united simply by our love for soccer. The fact that we’re all also trans men is most certainly a cherry on the pie. We can now see that the people who used to pass snarky remarks at us are now cheering for us when we hit it out of the park. - Miller Khuman, 26, the team’s captain
Hanjabam started the trans soccer team as a reaction to the exclusionary nature of a local annual five-day sports carnival where only cis men and women are allowed to actively compete, while trans people are relegated to dancing and entertainment events.
In a conservative state like Manipur, you can’t have pride marches because you run the risk of quite literally getting stoned on the streets. But who can argue with a bunch of agile players hitting it out of the park? There are no rallies there, no flags. And yet it is supremely political. You simply can’t put a price to how immensely satisfying that experience is. - Sadam Hanjabam
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.