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Global Roundup: Hungary Tightens Abortion Access, Denmark Hijab Ban Protests, Pakistan Women Choose Divorce, Incarcerated Trans Woman Painter, Return of Afropunk
Curated by FG contributor Samiha Hossain
Anti-abortion rhetoric and advertisements have been on the rise in Hungary in recent years. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
Starting this Thursday, those in Hungary seeking an abortion will be forced to “listen to the fetal heartbeat” before they can access the procedure, according to a new decree issued by the government of the far-right prime minister, Viktor Orbán.
Since Orbán came to power in 2010, his government has pushed “traditional family values” and introduced a series of measures aimed at boosting the country’s falling birthrate. However, it had not previously attempted to amend Hungary’s relatively liberal abortion laws. Similar legislation has been introduced in many southern US states, such as Texas and Kentucky, requiring women to hear the “fetal heartbeat” before accessing abortion as part of “informed consent,” despite doctors saying the use of the term “fetal heartbeat” is medically inaccurate.
Currently in Hungary, terminations can be carried out in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy on medical or social grounds. In cases where the fetus is not viable, it can be performed at any point in the pregnancy. However, a woman seeking an abortion needs a letter from a gynecologist confirming the pregnancy and has to visit family services twice, at least three days apart, where she is given counselling on adoption and state benefits for mothers. Only then can she access a referral for an abortion at a hospital.
The new legislation is an extension of the government’s anti-abortion policies, aimed at boosting the birthrate, said Noá Nógradí from Patent, a Hungarian women’s rights organization. She also says that legal abortions have become increasingly difficult as the compulsory counselling sessions are becoming more aggressive and difficult to schedule.
You can readily observe in the government’s communication that it has become more hardline in terms of assigning women the role of birth-givers and care providers. -Noá Nógradí
Even in a country where abortions are permitted, those who can become pregnant are not trusted on knowing what is best for their bodies. The government’s new measures will only make abortions harder to access in Hungary.
On August 26, people took to the streets to protest a proposed hijab ban in Danish elementary schools [Courtesy of Lasse Son Nørby Olsen]
A new recommendation to ban the hijab in Danish elementary schools has been met with backlash, including protests, in Denmark. The recommendation was made by The Danish Commission for the Forgotten Women’s Struggle – a body set up by Denmark’s ruling Social Democratic Party.
The proposal is one of nine recommendations with the stated aim of preventing “honour-related social control” of girls from minority backgrounds. The other recommendations propose providing Danish language courses, promoting “modern child upbringing practices” in ethnic minority families, and strengthening sexual education in elementary schools.
Iram Khawaja, an associate professor at the Danish School of Education at Aarhus University, has been outspoken against the proposal. Her research focuses on how children from religious and ethnic minorities navigate Danish society, and she is co-founder of the Professional Psychology Network Against Discrimination. Khawaja does not believe a ban will solve any of the issues faced by girls who are subject to social control.
On the contrary, a ban can add to bigger issues. The girls who are already being exposed to negative social control will be put under increasing pressure. It is problematic to equate wearing the hijab with negative social control – there are also girls who do not wear the hijab who are exposed to negative social control. -Iram Khawaja
On August 26, several thousand people took to the streets of Copenhagen to protest the ban proposal. Midwife and activist Lamia Ibnhsain, 37, organized the event, titled “Hands off our hijabs.” Ibnhsain said she has had “a lot of difficult feelings” following the ban proposal. She has felt “othered”, placed under suspicion as a mother, and she fears a ban might add to some girls feeling “wrong” compared to others.
I realized that our voices are invisible in society. The initial intention with the demonstration was to go to the streets and make our voices heard…Muslim women wearing the hijab are everywhere in Danish society. They are doctors, psychologists, bus drivers, and artists. They are a part of Denmark. -Lamia Ibnhsain
Although the commission presented the recommendations unanimously on August 24, two members later on retracted their support for a hijab ban following the debate, which led to one of them withdrawing completely from the commission, stating that she could not support the proposal of a ban.
This ban proposal is yet another example of the need for Muslim girls to have an active role in policies that affect them. Though social control of Muslim girls remains an important issue, it is clear that many Muslim women and girls believe hijab bans are simply another way for the state to control them and fuel discrimination and othering.
Rahmat Gul/ASSOCIATED PRESS/picture alliance
More women in Pakistan are choosing to leave their marriages, despite divorce remaining a complicated social taboo in the country’s conservative culture. Women’s rights activists attribute this trend to women becoming more empowered and less willing to settle for abusive marriages.
In Pakistan, divorce is not monitored by any dedicated agency and rules are dictated by Sharia or Islamic law. A woman cannot “file for divorce” but rather has the right to dissolve a marriage under Sharia without the consent of her husband. This is called a “khula” and is arbitrated by a family court.
Atika Hassan Raza, an attorney at the Human Rights Protection Center, a Lahore-based human rights non-profit, says that more women are seeking a khula. Cases of formal divorce in Pakistan must be initiated by the husband, unlike a khula. Raza added that there are more family courts being established that cater to family law, khula and guardianship issues. She says more women are aware that they can leave marriages for reasons other than physical abuse, including psychological abuse or simply “not getting anything” out of a marriage.
Women know about their rights and are more independent. -Atika Hassan Raza
Shazia (name changed) is a mother of two who left her abusive marriage last year. She is able to support herself on what she earns, however, it is very difficult to give her sons the lifestyle she wants for them. Although Islamic law is very clear about women’s right to alimony, the reality is that many women like Shazia do not receive anything from an ex-husband.
I didn’t have much of an education or work experience, but I had my cooking skills. Once my cooking business took off a bit and I felt I could become financially independent, I became emotionally independent enough to finally leave my marriage. -Shazia
Hania (name changed) comes from a working-class family in Islamabad, and managed to earn a bachelors’ degree, and aspires to get a high-paying job. She had been arranged to marry her cousin, but did not want to, despite her parents wishes, so the 23-year-old ran away. As a contract had already been signed for the marriage, Hania filed for a khula. Due to the massive taboo and shame surrounding divorce in rural Pakistan, Hania was disowned by her family and says her life may be in danger if she returns to the village. Now, Hania has married for “love” and is living with her husband and his family.
Jamie Diaz's painting "In the Realm of Mortal Existence."Jamie Diaz / Daniel Cooney Fine Art
Jamie Diaz, a Mexican American transgender woman, has been incarcerated at a men’s prison in Texas for the last 27 years and has been creating watercolor paintings that celebrate queer and trans people. Nearly a decade of her work, dating back to 2013, debuts this week at Daniel Cooney Fine Art in New York.
The exhibit, “Even Flowers Bleed,” is Diaz’s first solo art show, and it is named for a series of still-life paintings of flowers in vases. On the flowers’ thorns, there are drops of blood.
Everything bleeds, everything feels pain. We’re not the only ones...even flowers can hurt. That’s just part of nature. -Jamie Diaz
Diaz has been creating art since she was a child and as a young adult she worked in a Texas tattoo shop. The exhibit will be a pivotal moment for Diaz, according to Gabriel Joffe, co-curator of the exhibit and Diaz’s friend. They said they started writing letters to Diaz in 2013 while volunteering for Black and Pink, a group that advocates for prison abolition.
Joffe said they hope the show will help demonstrate that Diaz has a support network and that she would continue to contribute to the community if granted parole in 2025. In addition to being Diaz’s first solo show, “Even Flowers Bleed” also marks the first time her queer art will be shown to the public. It is another step in her greater goal to create the largest queer art collection in the world, Joffe said.
It feels like an important moment for her work and for her process of hopeful re-entry. A story like Jamie’s could very easily be told through a lens of trauma, but there’s so much joy here, and there’s so much joy in her work. -Gabriel Joffe
Many of Diaz’s paintings feature queer people or queer themes and motifs. In one, titled “May Our Queer Spirits Forever Soar,” a faceless figure stands with its arms outstretched on a three-dimensional pink triangle — a symbol that was used by Nazis to identify people who were imprisoned because they were suspected of being gay and that has since been reclaimed as a symbol of queer pride. A white dove flies above the figure in the painting, leaving a rainbow trail behind it — a motif that Diaz said represents the queer spirit.
Queer spirit means love, beauty, and joy, to be proud and happy that we’re queer people. It’s like a symbol of happiness and acceptance. I’m trying to make a powerful statement that the queer spirit has just as much recognition or honor as the human spirit. -Jamie Diaz
More than 1 in 5 transgender women (21%) reported that they spent time in prison or jail — a rate four times greater than that of all U.S. adults, at 5% — according to a 2016 report by the Movement Advancement Project, an LGBTQ think tank, and the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. Joffe says there is a direct connection between trans people’s disproportionate incarceration and the hundreds of bills filed by Republican state representatives over the last two years that seek to restrict trans people’s rights. Through her art, Diaz hopes to shed light on the inequality LGBTQ people face, as well as their “integrity, courage, beauty, and love.”
Friends Leah King, Anthony Grant and Shantel Thompson strike a pose ahead of Afropunk Brooklyn 2022. LAYLAH AMATULLAH BARRAYN FOR HUFFPOST
For the first time in three years, the music festival Afropunk has returned to Brooklyn to celebrate community and unapologetic Black expression. A breeding ground for creativity, Afropunk has a simple policy: No sexism, no racism, no ableism, no ageism, no homophobia, no fatphobia, no transphobia and no hatefulness.
One thing that comes to mind is that song ‘Power’ from ‘Black Is King,’ when Tierra Whack says, ‘Refer to me as a goddess. I’m tired of being modest.’ That’s what I think of when I think of this space. No modesty, just be your true self and celebrate your culture. -Isadora Lopez
For nonbinary content creator Shahem Mclaurin, aka Dr. Durag online and a 28-year-old therapist and social worker, Afropunk presents an opportunity to connect with other pro-Black creatives.
I feel so safe, and I think having more spaces where we can openly be our loud, creative, very queer, very Black selves, it’s just necessary. I’ve been to other music festivals, and this is the only place where I feel like I can be very Black and queer as fuck and without having to apologize for it. -Shahem Mclaurin
Dontaiz, a cosplayer from Atlanta, said the festival serves as an opportunity for him to connect with other cosplayers and members of the “alt-Black community.” The first Afropunk Music Festival he attended was in 2018, and that, he said, was a learning experience.
I only know so many different types of Black people across the diaspora. That was the first time I ever heard of Afrobeats, reggaeton, and other music besides ‘No Holding Back’ by Wayne Wonder. I’m so glad Afropunk Brooklyn is back, and I’m most excited to see Burna Boy. -Dontaiz
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.