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Global Roundup: IPV China Survivor Speaks Out, Malta Activists vs Abortion Ban, Detention of Trans Immigrants, Syrian LGBTQ+ Organization, “Hysterical” Feminist Exhibition
Curated by FG contributor Samiha Hossain
CW: gender-based violence
Tang Ping on 3 August, 2019. She was previously told by the police her injuries were ‘not serious’, therefore they could not intervene. Via The Guardian
Survivors of intimate partner violence in China face many barriers, especially as Chinese cyberspace is filled with videos showing violence against women – activists say only real social change will stop the abuse. Tang Ping, 31, a mother-of-two, says in 2014 her husband began routinely beating her. At the time, she felt hurt but also ashamed, blaming herself for not being a good enough wife. Five years ago, after another round of violence, she finally summoned the courage to report her husband to the police. The police told her they could not intervene because her “injuries were not serious.” Last year, after repeated complaints and with evidence of her injuries, the police finally accepted Tang’s case. This week she prepares to legally dissolve the marriage.
Domestic violence is like a plague. Once it happens, it will happen again – and again – until you stand up to defend yourself. - Tang Ping
Activists say the dismantling of civil society in recent years has made awareness-raising campaigns a lot harder in China. Just last week, there was a vicious attack against nine women at a restaurant in the northern Chinese city of Tangshan.
Women should speak up against domestic violence, and the public should understand, like in the case in Tangshan, that women are often at the receiving end of gender-based violence. - Tang Ping
Lü Pin, a New York-based feminist activist who left China in 2015 after the arrests of the “feminist five,” believes that the systemic problems in the country must be tackled in order to “fundamentally change the situation” However, activists and grassroots civil society organizers are now considered by the authorities to be in opposition to the government. Activists like Lü worry that incidents like the one in Tangshan could happen again. For years, online comments and videos showing violence against women have flooded China’s cyberspace. Tang herself was blamed for “irritating her husband in the first place” when she talked about her case online.
Chinese feminist Xiao Meili blames internet companies for not doing enough to stop the spread of misogynistic messages online. But there are signs authorities may be taking action against Chinese internet companies. For instance, after the Tangshan incident, Chinese state media blamed social media companies for allowing the spread of violent behaviour. Nonetheless, survivors and activists are persistent that true change will require much more action.
Activists outside the Maltese law courts in Valletta, Malta, Wednesday, June 15, 2022. AP Photo/Kevin Schembri Orland
Abortion rights activists have filed a legal protest in Malta’s courts this week demanding the legalization of abortion in the only European Union member where the procedure is criminalized. Toting banners reading “I decide,” “Abortion is a woman’s right” and “Abortion is health care, not a crime,” the activists protested on the steps of Valletta’s legal courts after filing the complaint.
The petition by the Women's Rights Foundation names the Maltese health minister, parliament’s secretary for equality and reforms and the state advocate in asserting that the country's absolute ban on abortion violates the fundamental human rights of Maltese women of child-bearing age. The filing doesn’t automatically lead to a court case, but the Women's Rights Foundation filed a judicial protest six years ago as part of an ultimately successful campaign to legalize emergency contraception. If there is no response to their initial judicial protest, the activists are ready to launch a court case and take the matter to the European Court of Human Rights.
We hope we will have a response from the respective ministries and the state. - Lara Dimitrijevic, founder and director of the Women’s Rights Foundation
Activists in Malta filed the petition on behalf of 188 people who support abortion rights, including women who have had abortions abroad, been forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term or could get pregnant in the future and want the right to be able to terminate a pregnancy. At the protests, people shared how the prohibition impacts the quality of their lives.
Among us there are persons who were raped or sexually abused, and were terrified that a pregnancy would result from that abuse, knowing full well that instead of finding support they would find condemnation if they had an abortion. - Activist
Immigration activist Jennicet Gutiérrez via Xtra
Instead of privately turning down the invitation Jennicet Gutiérrez received to the White House’s Pride celebrations, she used it as an opportunity to raise awareness of the abuse and mistreatment of LGBTQ2S+ immigrants. This week, she published an open letter to President Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, calling attention to the migrants and asylum seekers currently held in detention by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – often in centres that do not align with their gender identity.
Based on what’s happening to the undocumented LGBTQ2S+ community across the nation, I had to make a really conscious decision to not attend and celebrate that. If I stayed quiet, I feel like I would be complicit in that violence, right? - Jennicet Gutiérrez
In the letter, Gutiérrez wrote that “there should be no White House celebration” when the Biden administration was detaining and harming LGBTQ2S+ people. In particular, she criticized the administration’s use of Title 42, a Trump-era regulation that has allowed the U.S. government to deport people for COVID-related reasons, even as travel restrictions were relaxed. LGBTQ2S+ people face unique problems in detention centres, she said, and detaining immigrants is never the answer. A 2018 report found that LGBTQ2S+ migrants were 97 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than other detainees while in ICE custody.
Trans people are harassed when their IDs don’t match their presentation; there’s homophobia, transphobia, neglect. Trans women are put in male prisons. We don’t need to detain people. There’s space for everyone, and there are organizations willing to help people meet their basic needs once they come here. - Jennicet Gutiérrez
Gutiérrez, who is the co-executive director of Familia: TQLM, said that the LGBTQ2S+ immigration advocacy group is mobilizing in states like Arizona, North Carolina, Florida, California to draw attention to the ongoing abuse LGBTQ2S+ immigrants face. She emphasized that the letter wasn’t about her but about drawing attention to the fact that countless LGBTQ2S+ people are still being detained. Many will stay confined for months to years at a time, threatening their health and potentially their lives. Johana Medina, a 25-year-old migrant from El Salvador, reportedly passed away after ICE officials refused her medical treatment after she fell ill in a Texas detention centre, where she was held for six weeks.
Johana should still be with us and fighting for their dreams and living a beautiful life. She died in June 2019—the first day of Pride Month that year. - Jennicet Gutiérrez
Guardians of Equality Movement (GEM) is a rare Syrian NGO that is helping address Syrian LGBTQ+ issues by dedicating itself to improving the lives of people who experience discrimination and abuse due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. The founder of GEM goes by the name “Locked” and says he faced a lack of safety, discrimination and violence in Syria prior to fleeing to Turkey.
We as an organization are trying to increase the engagement of the Syrian LGBTQ+ community, whilst providing holistic solutions, mental support and in some cases financial support. - Locked
Across the global Syrian diaspora, there are other advocates who are fighting to protect the rights, lives, and freedoms of the Syrian LGBTQ+ people. There is a lack of social acceptance for the LGBTQ+ Syrian community codified by Article 520 in the Syrian Penal code which criminalizes homosexuality and punishes any “unnatural” sexual intercourse with a penalty of up to three years in prison. The homophobia and discrimination is in addition to the affliction and hardship already being endured by those in Syria due to the conflict, which began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by President Bashar al-Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms during the Arab Spring wave of uprisings, triggering an armed rebellion fuelled by mass defections from the Syrian army. The result has been hundreds of thousands of civilians killed in the war and millions displaced both inside and outside of Syria. For now, GEM’s priority is to provide protection and safety to the community. For instance, the organization had managed to help members of the LGBTQ+ community in Syria escape from one area to another by covering transport and accommodation costs.
In addition to providing its services to victims of hate and discrimination, GEM aims to influence policymakers through its intensive research programmes that focus on the Syrian LGBTQ+ community whilst monitoring and documenting the situation of affected members.
We've received extremely positive feedback from people who are supporting our cause, there are also some people who are secretly supporting us but avoiding doing so publicly, and there are of course people who are expressing their hate and discrimination against us through our social media platforms. - Locked
A photograph entitled 'Florence' from the "Hysterical" exhibition that showed in London, March 24 2022 to April 3 2022. | Eliza Hatch/Cheer Up Luv via Global Citizen
The “Hysterical” exhibition celebrated work centered on community, activism, and taking up space. Running from March 24 to April 3 2022 at the no format Gallery in Deptford, London, the show featured work by up-and-coming photographers, designers, filmmakers, and illustrators — each bringing a unique perspective on feminism, queerness, mental health, race, climate change, and more through their art. By amplifying the work of artists and activists using their voices for change, “Hysterical” showed how young creatives are responding to the world around them and using art as a tool for advocacy.
The exhibition was organized by photographer and gender rights activist, Eliza Hatch and queer illustrator and multidisciplinary creative Bee Illustrates. Hatch was inspired by her experiences of being cat-called – she took the “cheer up” catcall and turned it into a powerful platform, “Cheer Up Luv,” that aims to give power back to people who have experienced sexual and street harassment by documenting them in the settings where they were harassed or cat-called. Bee Illustrates posts their artwork on Instagram, which includes distinctive, quirky illustrations paired with short educational essays on a range of important topics such as feminism, mental health, and queerness. Global Citizen spoke with the two organizers.
All forms of gendered violence are linked. I am often asked why I focus on and profile stories that feature “less serious” forms of sexual violence. To this, I say that in order to tackle the “serious” stuff we need to examine the behaviour people deem as “not that bad”. It’s all part of the problem = misogyny. - Eliza Hatch
Bee Illustrates says that they and Hatch met for the first time at an event where they quickly birthed the idea for “Hysterical.”
The experience of being labelled melodramatic, hysterical, or overly emotional when talking about issues we face is one that is almost universal amongst those of us who are women or other marginalized genders. - Bee Illustrates
The exhibition had approximately 400 people attend and they received positive feedback wanting another exhibition in the future. Hatch wants people to recognize that sexual misconduct has always been normalized in the UK parliament and remained unchallenged. Bee Illustrates notes that many people do not realize that trans and gender nonconforming people are also affeceted by street harassment at an “alarming rate.” Despite all the work that is left to be done to tackle these issues, Hatch and Bee Illustrates are optimistic that community organizing and a politically engaged younger generation will help to create positive change.
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.