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Global Roundup: India Abortion Ruling, Slovakia Vigil, UK Black Queer Podcast, Indigenous Clothing Bank, Disability Rights Activist Memoir
Curated by FG Contributor Samiha Hossain
Two women in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India | Contributor: Travel Wild / Alamy Stock Photo via Open Democracy
CW: sexual assault
In September, India’s Supreme Court extended the right to safe and legal abortion to all women, including unmarried women, up to 24 weeks – while many see it as “historic” and “progressive,” other women say class inequality and prejudice against women still present the biggest barriers to accessing equal reproductive rights in the country. The court also ruled that rape within marriage should be classed as rape under existing abortion legislation – the 1971 Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act.
Unsafe abortions is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality in India, according to the 2022 world population report from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The report found that “close to eight women die each day due to causes related to unsafe abortion.” But some women who have had abortions struck a cautious tone about the changes.
Sneha was a student living away from home when she was sexually assaulted. She was worried about being humiliated by the people around her. Although a home test ruled out pregnancy, she was worried that she might have contracted an STD. She decided to get a vaginal swab at a gynaecologist’s clinic. Her experience there was so traumatising that she did not visit a gynaecologist for ten years.
This abortion ruling will do nothing to change the rot in our society – that is, the humiliation they put victims through. -Sneha
Ananya is a 30-year-old journalist in Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore). On discovering she was pregnant, she made an appointment with a gynaecologist to arrange an abortion. She feared her single status might be a problem – a friend had even advised her to lie about her marital status. Luckily, she had a positive healthcare experience. Ananya said that class, caste and privilege have a significant impact on how safe abortions are for Indian women. She believes the Supreme Court’s judgment will have little impact unless healthcare improves on the ground for women from all backgrounds.
It doesn't escape me that my experience is a result of my privilege – social, cultural, environmental and financial (something that is overlooked in many narratives). The entire thing – transport, scans, clinic visits, medicines – cost me about 10,000 rupees [about $120]. It's quite painful to think that only people of a certain class and caste can afford [safe] abortions. -Ananya
Mourners place candles and flowers at a makeshift memorial in downtown Bratislava. (Getty) via Pink News
Thousands of LGBTQ+ activists and allies attended a vigil to honour the victims of a recent shooting in Slovakia. Two men were killed and a woman was injured after a gunman opened fire on Wednesday evening in front of a Bratislava LGBTQ+ bar named Tepláreň. Police identified the two victims on Friday as 23-year-old Matus H, and 26-year-old Juraj V. Radoslava T is currently recovering in the hospital after her leg was injured.
The Inakosť Institute – which organised the vigil – estimated that at least 20,000 people attended to mourn the deaths and stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community.
The 19-year-old suspected attacker had written a lengthy homophobic and anti-Semitic manifesto on Twitter prior to the attack, including hashtags with phrases such as “hate crime” and “gay bar.” He was reportedly the son of a former candidate for a far-right political party. His body was found during a brief manhunt.
Prime minister Eduard Heger condemned the attacks on Twitter, saying: “No form of white supremacy, racism, and extremism against communities, incl. LGBTI, can be tolerated.” However, several members of the public were angry at the hypocrisy by the prime minister, whose party had advocated for the banning of Pride flags on public buildings in June.
A coalition of Slovak LGBTQ+ nonprofits came together to condemn the attacks in a statement posted to Facebook shortly after news of the attack had broken:
A heinous act of a radicalised individual can happen at any time, but it is a testament to the time and society who he chooses to target his attack. The fact that he has chosen LGBTI people is the result of a long and systemic campaign against them by state officials, churches, and extremist groups.
The podcast artwork was done by Kemi Oloyede. As part of the series, activist Fopé Ajanaku spoke to Femi Otitoju to find out more about Black LGBTQIA+ history and activism, such as the Black Lesbian and Gay Centre march against Section 28 . (Picture: Black and Gay, Back in the Day)
Activist and podcaster Marc Thompson joined forces with with journalist and writer Jason Okundaye to create Black and Gay, Back in the Day, a digital community archive of Black queer history curated by the pair. Their aim was to challenge the dominant narratives of both Black and LGBT+ history by documenting the stories over the decades of queer Black Britain through photos submitted by the community.
During Black History month, the stories amplified usually focus on straight people, while, when it comes to LGBT+ history, those accounts tend to come from those who are often white. Which means there is little space left for stories about Black queer people.
Launched in February 2021, Instagram became the perfect space for the conversation to begin, and the account was an instant success. Many young Black people were able to really engage with the people, places and stories coming through in the photos. It also impacted the older generation who were able to memorialise lost friends, reminisce and reconnect with others and share their stories.
Now, in an exciting next step, the photos are being brought to life in a different way through an ambitious podcast series. Allowing the images to be explored in more depth, the podcast “gives us an opportunity to delve deeper into a lot of the stories and to think a bit more deeply about the scenes,” explains Thompson.
Each episode will reflect on an image from the archive, featuring an intergenerational conversation, exploring what it was like to be Black and gay in the UK during the time the picture was taken. Comparing and contrasting the past and the present and exploring themes such as love, community and activism.
We delve deep into the individual’s lives, and people get to know these older people on a really personal level. -Marc Thompson
Season one of Black and Gay, Back in the Day features loads of thought provoking conversations from a variety of members from the Black British queer community, including multidisciplinary artist Jacob V Joyce, artist, curator, archivist and activist Ajamu X. Lesbian activist and founder of Challenge Consultancy Femi Otitoju, Asexuality activist and influencer Yasmin Benoit, and Chantelle Ayanna a DJ and music producer.
To Thompson, the episodes feel like the older generation passing the baton to a younger one, in a bid to carry on their work. One key piece of advice that he wants to give to Black queer people today is to “Archive, archive, archive!”
I hope that [the podcast] sparks people’s curiosity, to go and learn more about the individuals featured, but also to discover more about the really rich tapestry that has gone before and to hopefully continue to add to it for future generations. -Marc Thompson
Miranda Gould of We'koqma'q First Nation displays some of the ribbon skirts and shirts that she created for the community's first ribbon skirt bank. (Submitted by Cassandra Googoo) via CBC
A We'koqma'q First nation clothing designer has outfitted a new clothing bank in her home community to help other people connect with their Mi'kmaw culture. Miranda Gould began creating ribbon skirts almost 30 years ago, after attending ceremonies with women who were wearing them. The 49-year-old said her early creations were limited to a specific design, but now she creates all kinds of patterns on the floor-length garments adorned with brightly coloured bands of ribbon.
It's what makes you happy. Everyone carries an aura, or an energy, and colours that make them happy. -Miranda Gould
Ribbon skirts date back to North America's colonial past when Indigenous women used ribbons brought from Europe to decorate their clothing, usually around the hemline. The skirts are often worn at powwows, weddings, graduations and other special events and ceremonies. Gould, who showcased many of her designs at a recent Indigenous fashion show in Membertou, said many people are now wearing ribbon skirts as everyday clothing. She said traditional teachings help explain why so many Indigenous women started wearing skirts as a garment of choice.
The We'koqma'q band council created the clothing bank after hearing from people who did not have the right clothing for the ceremonies.
We even had some people that needed a ribbon shirt for a funeral and they didn't have one. It's a beautiful, beautiful initiative. -Chief Annie Bernard-Daisley
Bernard-Daisley said it is touching to see the tradition return after it was almost quashed by the impacts of colonization and Canada's residential school system. She said there is a growing trend of people taking part in traditions such as pipe ceremonies, sweat lodges or grandmother moon rituals.
In total, 25 ribbon skirts and three shirts were finished last week for the We'koqma'q clothing bank program. Gould spent a whole month on her creations and is proud that they will connect her people to their culture.
Via AsAm News
When I wrote my memoir, Year of the Tiger: An Activist’s Life, I wanted to comfort, encourage, and welcome Asian American women and girls who are still finding their way, struggling with their identities, and told all kinds of bullshit from their communities. -Alice Wong
“Year of the Tiger” is divided into seven sections: Origins, Activism, Access, Culture, Storytelling, Pandemic and Future. The memoir captures Wong’s origins before embracing her identity and her advocacy work as an activist.
Wong was initially “unsettled” to be in a genre involving disabilities because of certain stigmas surrounding it. “I will not excavate my innermost secrets and traumas for your consumption,” she wrote in the memoir. However, the pandemic caused her to reconsider.
Her willingness to speak truth to power, her ability to cut through the noise and remind people of what’s really important — I have no problem calling her the empress of the internet. Rebecca Cokley, U.S. disability rights program officer
Wong was appointed to the National Council on Disability by former President Obama in 2013. The council advises the government on policies, programs and practices that affect people with disabilities. In 2014, she became the founder and director of the Disability Visibility Project, an online community that brings awareness to disability media and culture.
One of the things that really gives me joy is the fact that there are so many amazing, brilliant, creative disabled people out there. But part of my rage — and it’s a very real rage — is that most people don’t really know about them. -Alice Wong
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.