Global Roundup: Iran Women Protest Morality Police, Serbia LGBTQ+ Marchers vs Violence, Bolivia Indigenous Women Mountaineers, India Artivist Trans Woman, Survivors Reclaim Agency Through Clothes
Curated by FG contributor Samiha Hossain
MAHSA AMINI FAMILY via BBC
Protests have broken out at the funeral of a woman who died after being arrested by Iran's morality police. Some women at the ceremony reportedly removed their headscarves in protest at the compulsory wearing of hijabs. Mourners chanted "death to the dictator,” with videos showing police later firing on a crowd.
Mahsa Amini, 22, died on Friday, days after eyewitnesses said she was beaten in a police van in Tehran. Amini was arrested on Tuesday by the morality police for allegedly not complying with the strict dress code on head coverings. According to eyewitnesses, she was beaten while inside a police van and slipped into a coma later.
The anger and controversy over her death is now widening into a dispute not just about the enforcement of the hijab in cities, but the accountability of the morality police, as well as mistrust towards government denials of wrongdoing.
Locals gathered very early in the morning to prevent Iranian security forces rushing through the burial in secret to avoid protests. Reports suggested that some angry protesters marched toward the local governor's office to protest about the death. There were also reports of injuries and arrests. In videos published on Twitter, security forces can be seen guarding the governor's office and arresting protesters trying to get close to the building.
Since the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, women have been legally required to wear modest "Islamic" clothing. In practice, this means women must wear a chador, a full-body cloak, or a headscarf and a manteau (overcoat) that covers their arms. In recent years, Iran has seen several campaigns against the compulsory hijab, but a crackdown by Iran's morality police on women accused of not complying with the dress code has caused opponents of the policy to call for action.
Matija Stefanovic, 24-year-old LGBTQ+ activist at the European LGBTQ pride march in Belgrade, Serbia, September 17, 2022. Marijana Lacalandra/Handout via Thomson Reuters Foundation
LGBTQ+ marchers in Serbia’s first EruoPride remain hopeful, despite anti-gay protestors attempting to disrupt the event. Several thousand people marched through Belgrade on Saturday to mark the end of EuroPride week, an event staged in a different European city each year.
Clashes between religious and right-wing groups and the police marred the start of the march. Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, Serbia’s first openly lesbian prime minister, said 10 police officers were slightly injured, five police cars damaged, and 64 protesters arrested. Police in full riot gear lined the streets as the marchers braved driving rain and noisy protests from religious groups chanting biblical verses and holding crucifixes.
However, LGBTQ+ people at EuroPride said they hoped change was underway in Serbia, a deeply conservative country that outlaws same-sex marriages and adoption by gay couples.
I think this Pride can definitely change a lot. We always stand for peace, and I think that this could change things for the better if (those in power) would just listen to us. We have been fighting for basic rights for a long time, but we will not give up. -Milica Vukmir, 19-year-old student
In recent weeks, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Belgrade in protest at EuroPride, leading the government to initially ban the march. But faced with calls by European Union officials and human rights activists, it allowed a shortened route.
I think that this is a victory bearing in mind the other side’s intentions. This isn’t just about the divide between activists and the government, but it’s also between those of us who think that we should live freely and those who do not. - Andrej Nosov, 39-year-old theatre director
Aymara indigenous women members of the Climbing Cholitas of Bolivia Warmis eat a traditional feast before starting their ascent of the 6.088-metre Huayna Potosi mountain. — AFP pic
The Climbing Cholitas of Bolivia Warmis is a group dedicated to campaigning for the rights of Indigenous women through mountaineering. The indigenous Aymara women have climbed nearly a dozen peaks in Bolivia, Peru and Argentina in their traditional dress as a statement of their emancipation.
Cecilia Llusco, 36, is the daughter of a mountain guide and dreamt since she was young of climbing the snow-capped Huayna Potosi that rises over 6,000 meters above sea level. However, for many years she limited herself to cooking for other mountaineers and packing their backpacks. That was until she and several other rural women, including some of her sisters, decided to change their destiny.
We wanted to show that women are strong and brave, that we can do it with our clothing. -Cecilia Llusco
There are 14 members and every time they climb they share an ‘aptapi’ – a banquet in which every person brings some food to share. After resting for a couple of hours in a refuge, the Cholitas get up and start dressing in their traditional coloured pleated skirts, called polleras. Instead of a backpack, they carry their equipment in a traditional cloth sack slung over their shoulders and tied around the neck.
Llusco says there has been a lot of discrimination against the “pollera women,” pointing to the femicide rate in Bolivia being the highest in South America, according to international organizations.
Having already scaled South America’s highest peak in 2019 – the Aconcagua in Argentina – the Cholitas now dream of tackling Mount Everest.
We women have broken down several barriers ... and we want to go further, always carrying high the Aymara culture. -Cecilia Llusco
Bold & beautiful, Artwork by Kalki Subramaniam titled The Shades Within
As a teenager, Kalki Subramaniam recalls her struggle while coming out to her parents. But the celebrated trans woman “artivist” from Pollachi, Tamil Nadu, considers herself “lucky,” because unlike many from the queer community, she was not banished from home and allowed to complete her education.
Trans activism is growing every day, but we have to figure out why the needs of the trans community are not reaching those at the top. It could be because education does not reach our community and our people are not taken seriously. -Kalki Subramaniam
In her book, “We Are Not The Others,” a collection of poems, art and articles, which is the reflection of an “artivist,” Subramaniam resorts to artistic activism to talk about the victims of “age-old propaganda” that makes a trans-identified person feel like a “misfit within the norms of a society.”
In August, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment (MoSJE) signed a MoU to provide an inclusive and composite health package for trans people. Under the scheme, more hospitals will be empanelled to provide sex reassignment surgeries. Subramaniam says that in 2008, Tamil Nadu became the first state government to provide free sex reassignment surgeries to trans people. However, she says there are no doctors qualified in such operations. Subramaniam’s own surgery was a “disaster” according to her and she recalls feeling as if the doctors were merely experimenting on her body.
In 2009, when a popular matrimonial website rejected Subramaniam’s profile, overnight she started Thirunangai Transgender Matrimonial website for trans women. However, she says all the men wanted a “secret marriage.”
If this and this
is what strictly defines me as a woman,
then I am not one.
I shall remain half a woman.’
—Half A Woman, We Are Not The Others
Amanda Nguyen (L), CEO and founder of the Rise at the 2022 Survivor Fashion Show. | Chance Yeh/ Getty Images for Rise via Global Citizen
Amanda Nguyen, CEO and founder of the nonprofit organization Rise, is behind the second annual Survivor Fashion Show that took place September 9th, as part of New York Fashion Week. Astronauts Hayley Arceneaux and Sirisha Bandla modeled alongside activists and allies in donated clothes from ready-to-wear designers like Dior and Diane Von Furstenberg to celebrate sexual assault survivors who advocate for survivors’ rights globally.
Often, rape survivors are expected to be put on this glass pedestal, on this glass box, acting out their trauma forever in this kind of voyeurism where everyone can look into it. And we are not able to grow. I wanted the space to have people be empowered. -Amanda Nguyen
Nguyen founded Rise after experiencing how the legal system fails survivors firsthand. Raped as an undergrad on Harvard University’s campus, where she wanted to study to become an astronaut, she was disappointed to learn how arduous and expensive taking legal action can be. Under Massachusetts law at the time, her rape kit would be destroyed after six months if she did not request an extension, drawing out the emotionally taxing process.
Feeling betrayed by the criminal justice system, Nguyen decided to help change it. She lobbied for the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act to overhaul the processing of rape kits within the US and create a bill of rights for victims. The bill passed unanimously in Congress before President Barack Obama signed it into law in 2016.
Rise then pivoted to champion a United Nations Resolution introduced by Sierra Leone that would enshrine survivors' rights as fundamental human rights. Under the resolution, countries are urged to take effective measures to help enable victims and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence to access justice, solutions, and assistance. The historic law passed unanimously on September 2nd, giving the organization another feat to celebrate in the Survivor Fashion Show.
The news of the landmark win broke days after Rise completed its “What Were You Wearing?” exhibit, in partnership with the Spotlight Initiative, at the UN headquarters in New York. What started with a display of five mannequins, dressed in outfits survivors wore when they were sexually assaulted to represent each of the UN Regional Groups in December 2021, expanded to 103 outfits to symbolize the 1.3 billion survivors of sexual violence across the globe. The exhibit now includes submissions from a network of 600 survivors who volunteered to share their stories.
The issue with violence against women and girls, though, is awareness is not enough. Turning that awareness into action seems to be the challenge because it's so baked into culture. The world has gotten less safe for women, full stop, which is a shame. And a lot of the progress that has been made on prevention wasn't sticky enough. -Koye Adeboye, communications lead at the Spotlight Initiative
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.