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Global Roundup: Iranian Women Protest Hijab Rules, Cook Islands Decriminalizes Homosexuality, Pakistani Woman SRHR Activism, Black Women’s Art Exhibition, Abortion Device in the US
Curated by Inaara Merani
Photo via Iran Wire
After months of uprising and protest against the mandatory hijab rule in Iran, the government announced that it would be reimplementing its strict dress codes, and anyone who violates the law will be prosecuted. Over the weekend, thousands of businesses and drivers were texted with a reminder that women will be required to wear a head covering once again. The government also announced that anyone encouraging women not to wear the hijab would be prosecuted.
The Islamic State’s attempt to assert more control has sparked outrage across the nation. For months, Iranian women have been protesting the mandatory hijab and have been going about their days without head coverings, as many have pointed out that wearing the hijab is voluntary.
The hijab is a voluntary matter. The person herself has to decide whether they want to have this scarf around them or not. I think forcing this will yield the opposite result. – Nasiri, resident of Tehran
At Tehran University, women students from the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences staged a sit-in on April 16 to protest the reinstated mandatory hijab rules and the school security’s pressure to enforce wearing the hijab on campus. Protesters held signs, chanted, and voiced their disagreement with the government’s ruling. Iranian women also continue to post pictures without the hijab on social media.
Despite the police force’s threat to start using CCTV footage and smart systems to identify women without the hijab, and then prosecute them, Iranian women have remained defiant of the state and fearless in their protest.
The Cook Islands have become the latest country to decriminalise homosexuality. (Facebook)
On Friday, April 14, the Cook Islands’ parliament voted to decriminalize homosexuality, ending a decades-long era of homophobia in the country. Under the 1969 Crimes Act, this law saw anyone convicted face a prison sentence of up to 10 years. Although the law was never enforced, it created dangerous situations for queer people throughout the Cook Islands.
The new law is part of the new Crime Amendment Bill, which will come into effect on June 1. The bill will protect the LGBTQ+ community, as well as victims of sexual assault and other crimes. It comes after a number of Cook Island’s major political parties agreed that the law needed to be updated to reflect the nation’s view on LGBTQ+ rights.
We are so grateful for all the people and all the organisations throughout our community who have been working tirelessly to make this happen. I think the message that we want to tell people is – hug your friend, hug your neighbour, hug your niece, hug your daughter, because now we are truly equal. – Karla Eggelton, president of Pride Cook Island
The original draft of the bill was introduced in 2017 but faced several roadblocks from politicians. After several years of advocacy, protest, and criticism, the Cook Islands’ parliament eventually passed the bill through parliament. The decriminalization of homosexuality in the Cook Islands is a huge win for the LGBTQ+ community and sends an important message to the rest of the world about the nation’s stance on queer rights. Currently, 66 countries around the world still criminalize private and consensual same-sex relations, and 11 of these countries use the death penalty as punishment.
Photo via Population Matters
Laraib Abis is a women’s rights activist in Pakistan who is educating women and girls across the country about access to their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Abis was motivated to support women across the nation, no matter their socioeconomic status, to learn about their SRHR and family planning services.
She created a mobile and web application, Bridge the GAP (Giving Access to Planning) to share information and eradicate the stigmas and taboos surrounding SRHR and family planning in Pakistan, and empower women to be aware of their body and health rights. The app has several comprehensive sections on SRHR, STDs/HIV, skills training for personal and social development, geo-tags for all family planning clinics (specifically in the Punjab province of Pakistan), contraceptives for men and women, and resources to connect with a psychologist for oneself, or for a couple.
Bridge the GAP is also accessible for individuals who are visually impaired, who Abis feels is a group which is often ignored in many aspects of society. She developed an audio feature to support visually impaired women who want access to this service. On the app, women and community members can also buy contraceptives, menstrual products, and other hygienic products.
Aside from her activism and her Bridge the GAP application, Abis also started MASHAL, a project which engages women and youth in the community, as well as open-mic sessions and social media outreach programs to spread awareness about women’s SRHR. Through sustainable measures, she hopes to continue to empower women in Pakistan to take control of their SRHR.
Women are the backbone of any society, and without our women coming to the forefront, our nation’s progress will keep slackening. That is exactly why I hope to make an impact on the community and create a peaceful environment for women by empowering them through my project, and help combat the climate and SRHR challenges through sustainable measures. – Lairab Abis
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Photo: Luke Andrew Walker and FF Projects
Manifold is a group art exhibition that features the work of 15 Black women artists, inspired by the power of people and things coming together. Curated by Faridah Folawiyo, Manifold showcases the work of 15 young and emerging artists working in sculpture, painting, photography, and collage, with roots in western Africa.
The past, the present, and the future are all very intertwined…And so I was just thinking about these ideas of layers and multiplicity and artists that work in that manner. – Farida Folawiyo
Folawiyo curated this exhibition as a way to showcase the experiences of Black women in London, a city that rarely showcases Black contemporary art. The different mediums tell stories about the artists’ varying yet similar experiences as Black women.
Obviously I have a personal bias as a Black woman, but it just became this thing…What does it mean to have all these works in conversation with each other? That’s where the name ‘Manifold’ came from as well. It’s about celebrating the variety of talent amongst this community and giving them the space to experiment and to express themselves and to be as free within their practices as possible. – Farida Folawiyo
The opening of Manifold 001 was received with an overwhelmingly positive response from the public. It created a sense of awareness about the experiences of women from western Africa and the diaspora and emphasized the importance of representation. The show is currently in its second iteration featuring a new cohort of artists.
Dr. Fleischman in her New York office. Photograph: Sarah Blesener/The Guardian
Joan Fleischman is a doctor from the U.S. who provides care to individuals seeking an abortion. She provides abortions through manual uterine aspiration, in which she uses a small, handheld device to remove pregnancy tissue. The device is very gentle so the tissue comes out almost completely intact. Her procedure is quick and discreet, and patients can be in and out in under one hour.
A study in 2020 found that more than 73 percent of primary-care physicians believe that abortion care is within the scope of their practice, but only 10 percent actually provide it. Dr. Fleischman wants to shrink this gap by educating physicians and clinicians practicing the manual uterine aspiration technique to perform abortions.
The latest attack on abortion rights in the U.S. is by anti-abortion groups seeking to overturn the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, an abortion pill that is used in more than half of the abortions in the US. Dr. Fleischman wants to enable general physicians to be able to perform abortions within their own practices to ensure that individuals can still receive abortions, even if there is no medication available.
In states where abortion is legal, abortions can be integrated into mainstream medical practices, rather than only at abortion care facilities, which would see many more individuals helped at a faster rate and in a safer environment that is not under constant threat (as many abortion clinics today are).
It’s done in a couple of minutes. When it’s done, you know that it’s done. There’s very few bleeding issues. You walk into an office, and an hour later, it’s resolved. I have people flying in and out from Dubai for this procedure. They schedule the appointment, they come in, and they depart that afternoon. There’s absolutely no reason this shouldn’t just be part of regular medicine. – Dr. Joan Fleischman
Dr. Fleischman is training doctors and clinicians to perform manual uterine aspiration for an abortion, and she is hopeful that she will be able to streamline her training to reach doctors across the country to provide as many abortions as possible, where possible.
Inaara Merani (she/her) recently completed her Masters degree at the University of Western Ontario, studying Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies with a specialization in Transitional Justice. In the upcoming years, she hopes to attend law school, focusing her career in human rights law.
Inaara is deeply passionate about dismantling patriarchal institutions to ensure women and other marginalized populations have safe and equal access to their rights. She believes in the power of knowledge and learning from others, and hopes to continue to learn from others throughout her career.