Global Roundup: India Abortion of Girls, Italy LGBTIQ+ Community vs Far-Right Gov’t, Syria Violence Against Women, Feminist Highlights Disruptors, Indigenous Two-Spirit Community Gathering
Curated by FG contributor Samiha Hossain
Ritu, who suffered two miscarriages over the last year in an attempt to have a son, washes clothes in her village home in Hisar, India, July 31, 2022. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Annie Banerji
Women in India are increasingly standing up against the abortion of girls.
Weak and traumatized after two miscarriages and weeks of painful bleeding, Ritu decided to stop trying for a son, in defiance of her traditional Indian family who wanted a male heir. Instead, the 32-year-old, who was married at the age of 19 to a man chosen by her parents, decided to educate their four daughters to become "as capable as a son.”
They will finish school, go to college and then become pilots or engineers. But they have to get out of here. Otherwise they will do nothing ... like me. -Ritu
The preference for sons in India – seen as breadwinners who will carry on the family name and perform the last rites for their parents – has led to the illegal abortion of millions of female foetuses, particularly in conservative northern states like Haryana. However, the latest government data and anecdotal evidence from women and health experts suggests that trend is changing due to education, the success of high-profile Indian women in business and sport and a crackdown on clinics that illegally abort girls.
But the U.N. sexual and reproductive health agency, UNFPA, estimates that India lost about 590,000 girl children to pre-natal sex selection every year between 2015 and 2020 and that about 46 million women and girls were missing in India in 2020.
Manasi Mishra, an expert on gender discrimination, has spent three decades speaking out against female foeticide in Haryana and explaining how it fuels bride trafficking, rape and "wife-sharing" as men outnumber women. Through programmes like “Sports for Girls” and female leadership training, and by encouraging parents to educate their daughters, Mishra has sought to boost the status of women in the community.
But dozens of women in Haryana – who described how they had been trafficked into marriage, confined to their homes and were beaten by their husbands if they did not wear veils in the presence of other men – said there was a long way to go.
My son will succeed just by the virtue of being a boy. But my daughter needs my support. I will not let her be treated like an animal. -Singh
Of course, girls should be treated with dignity because of their humanity and regardless of their “economic return.” That is why it is vital to fight the patriarchy at its roots like many of these women in India are doing.
Elections in Italy 2022: campaign posters in Palermo, Sicily. Antonio Melita / Pacific Press via ZUMA Press Wire via OpenDemocracy
With the latest polls indicating that the right-wing coalition is most likely to win the Italian general election on September 25th, Italy’s LGBTIQ+ community is fearing the consequences of a far-Right government. Virginia, a 33-year-old bisexual woman, told openDemocracy that she is “profoundly scared” that a far-Right government would legitimize “phobic behaviour.”
I fear it will become culturally acceptable to perpetrate violence against the community, and beyond. -Virginia
The coalition is made up of two far-Right populist parties – Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy and Matteo Salvini’s League – as well as Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right party, Forward Italy, and some smaller centrist allies. Brothers of Italy is currently expected to win the most votes (24%), just ahead of the centre-Left Democratic Party.
Italy’s right-wing parties have “cleared the way for violence against the LGBTIQ+ community and indeed have instigated it”, said Porpora Marcasciano, head of trans rights organization Movimento Identità Trans, and also a city councillor and president of the equal opportunities commission in Bologna.
The patriarchal culture in which we live is always trying to take from us what we have conquered. That is why we must keep fighting to reclaim our rights, spaces, dignity. -Porpora Marcasciano
Last year, Brothers of Italy and the League blocked ratification of the so-called Zan bill (named after Alessandro Zan, the politician and gay rights activist who proposed it). The bill would have made violence against the LGBTIQ+ community a hate crime. The proposed bill was amended several times and LGBTIQ+ activists described the latest version as sugar-coated, but the two parties still opposed it, saying the bill was unnecessary, would have created ‘thought crime’ and killed freedom of expression.
Brothers of Italy and League are closely associated with other far-Right parties in Europe and beyond. This includes the US-based World Congress of Families (WCF), an anti-abortion and anti-LGBTIQ+ group that believes in the idea of “natural family,” based on the marriage between a man and a woman and their biological children. Therefore, many now fear that a government led by them would endanger LGBTIQ+, reproductive and equality rights in Italy.
Two women walk past Idlib's Palace of Justice [Hadia Al Mansour] via New Arab
In recent months a series of femicides in broad daylight in several Arab countries have prompted waves of outrage at a crime all too common in the region. However, in Syria, escalating femicide cases are largely being ignored. In Syria, violent crimes against women within the family home are recurring on a near daily basis, but for the most part, remain shrouded in secrecy.
In our communities, hardly does one horrendous crime against a woman happen before we learn of another, even worse and more distressing. -Amal Zaatour, social researcher
The crimes resemble each other in many ways: all of them are premeditated, whether their final implementation occurs in secret or in public. All of them point to an obsession with control. All the perpetrators are men, who did not accept the victims' rebellion against their wishes, a rejection of a relationship with them, or decision to end a relationship with them, or occurred under the pretext of so-called "honour crimes.”
Violations against women and girls are linked to a culture of domestic violence and impunity, which is exacerbated within the context of relentless war and the void in security and absence of societal monitoring, which in more normal circumstances can act to limit such crimes. Cultural, social and economic conditions have all played their role in creating a multi-faceted system of violence which has turned women into permanent victims, stuck in the midst of patriarchal communities.
These crimes are essentially an example of a phenomenon which has become endemic in societies where backward customs reign and patriarchal ideas have run rampant. As a result, many women in our communities live of violence and violations against their rights, and suffer oppression and injustice, amid a terrifying silence by the de-facto authorities and civil society organizations which are supposed to specialize in women's affairs. -Amal Zaatour
Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ) published a report in May 2021, which stated that between January 2020 and February 2021, 16 women were killed by their relatives for reasons relating to "honour,” and 6 other women were killed for reasons that were not verified. The report also documented multiple cases of domestic violence against women during the same period and pointed out that the security vacuum, widespread lawlessness, and the proliferation of weapons – a legacy of 11 years of war – were all factors in the increasing number of honour killings in various Syrian regions.
At the beginning of 2022, the "Syrian Feminist Lobby" published a statement in which it placed the responsibility for criminal violence against women on "the perpetrator, society, the law, the judicial police, the media, the regime and the de-facto forces" and that everyone had taken part in the "blood and ruin.”
Sophia Ukor via Global Citizen
Sophia Ukor is the founder of Violet Simon, a media-tech company providing women and girls with a platform to share their stories, access information and insight, and change the narrative. Ukor’s latest venture, a magazine-book series entitled “Disruptors” is all about amplifying the voices of women from diverse backgrounds using authentic storytelling. So far, it has shone a light on 35 women challenging the status quo in pursuit of positive societal impact for themselves, women, young girls, underrepresented communities, and more. Global Citizen talked to Ukor about why storytelling matters, white feminism and what it takes to be a disruptor.
“Disruptors” often have a negative connotation…I wanted something that depicted women who are breaking barriers, refusing to be kept in a box, and challenging institutions, thoughts, and systems that no longer serve us. It is a way of reclaiming the word as something of good for women…-Sophia Ukor
Ukor shares how as a young girl, she dreamt of pursuing a career in fashion and big media, but people told her it was impossible for a Black woman to dream that high. When she looked for stories of women who had gone before her in the media, she did not find many Black women in the spotlight. She hopes to grow Violet Simon into a safe space for women to connect and be inspired by the stories of other women.
Ukor says she takes diversity seriously and with “Disruptors” she asked herself: would a Black woman be drawn to this?
Maybe it is a response to white feminism. When we talk about feminism, we must not forget women from underrepresented communities. Not just underrepresented communities in the western world but women in the Global South whose stories are not being told. -Sophia Ukor
Ukor believes that telling stories is an act of resistance for women. She lists tenacity, fear, support, leadership, and authentic unwavering commitment as key ingredients to being a disruptor. Although she acknowledges there are fears, disruptors feel the fear and push through anyway. Often, they have a support network of people to lean on and ask for help.
You do not have to be a high-powered celebrity, a Fortune 500 CEO, or some esoteric inventor to be a disruptor. Most of the women I have met and some of whose stories we have featured in the series are disrupting the status quo in their personal and professional lives for the benefit of themselves, their families, and others. -Sophia Ukor
John R. Sylliboy, executive director of the Wabanaki Two-Spirit Alliance, says many people who are two-spirit use the Indigenous pronoun nek'm. (Tony Davis/CBC)
35 members of Canada's Indigenous two-spirit community gathered in the province of P.E.I. this weekend to celebrate their identities. They came together for workshops, discussions and cultural activities, but one of the main reasons was discussing what it means to be two-spirit.
John Sylliboy, the executive director of the Wabanaki Two-Spirit Alliance, says many people who are two-spirit use an Indigenous pronoun.
In Mi'kmaq, we don't have a pronoun for he, she necessarily. We just have the one pronoun, which is nek'm and nek'm or nek'mow in the plural sense that really gives us an identity marker about the fluid nature and the acceptance of who we are, without having to necessarily tie our identity only to one thing, because our one thing is about being Indigenous. -John Sylliboy
Sylliboy has had meetings on P.E.I. before with two-spirit community members, but this was the first formal gathering on the Island for the alliance. Sylliboy said while many understand terms like gay, lesbian and bisexual, the meaning of the term two-spirit is not as well understood. Two-spirit individuals haven't always been accepted in their own communities. In fact, years ago it was hard to get drummers to come to these events because of the stigma. That is why Sylliboy says it's important to be able to identify in their own language.
We want to make sure that people are, you know, being themselves, their true selves, their best selves, their best selves here. So that's the idea. -John Sylliboy
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.