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Global Roundup: Kuwait #MeToo, LGBTQ Rights in Angola, War Sex Crimes on Trial, Trans Rights in Brazil, Fighting Misogyny in Japan
Compiled by Inaara Menari
Kuwaiti fashion blogger Ascia Al Faraj, who has more than 2.5 million social media followers, sparked the campaign [Screengrab/Youtube] via Al Jazeera
Kuwaiti fashion blogger and influencer Ascia Al Faraj has sparked a #MeToo movement in Kuwait. Lan Asket, which translates to ‘I will not be silent’ in Arabic, is a movement taking place on social media in which Kuwaiti women are speaking out against harassment for the first time, in an attempt to defy the prevailing conservative norms.
In an Instagram video posted on February 4, Ascia spoke about the problem of harassment in Kuwait.
Every time I go out, there is someone who harasses me or harasses another woman in the street...Do you have no shame? We have a problem of harassment in this country, and I have had enough - Ascia Al Faraj
In the video, Ascia also spoke about the lack of services currently in place for victims of harassment. She added that there needs to be a system in which victims can come forward and seek appropriate help. Since posting the video, many women have come forward and publicly shared their stories, whereas other women’s stories have been shared anonymously on the Instagram account @lan.asket.
Girls don’t speak up over fears of being stigmatised, but we will not stop until we overcome this cancer in society - Lulu Al-Aslawi, a Kuwaiti influencer
While there has been an enormous outpouring of support, the movement has also faced backlash from conservative voices. Ayb, or shame, is a frequented word when talking about harassment. Women are victim-blamed for an atrocity perpetrated by assholes who find pleasure in harassing women. However, regardless of the stigma surrounding harassment, Kuwaiti women are continuing to share their stories in an attempt to be heard by the rest of their nation, and the world.
A new law decriminalizing same-sex sexual relations has gone into effect today in Angola. The new law overturned a colonial-era “vice against nature” provision that was seen as a ban on homosexual relations. The changes were passed in January of 2019 by Angola’s parliament, but was not signed into law by the country’s president until November 2020. The new law also prohibits discrimination based upon a person’s sexual orientation.
Activist Jean-Luc Romero-Michel tweeted the move was “a great step forward” in the fight against state-sponsored discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community.
As a former Portuguese colony, Angola inherited a law which banned same-sex relationships. The newly implemented law was welcomed by human rights activists and LGBTQ2+ organizations around the world. In Kenya, for example, many LGBTQ2+ groups have demonstrated their support for Angola, with hopes that the Kenyan government will also decriminalize same-sex marriage.
Today, there are at least 69 countries which still have laws criminalizing same-sex relationships, and at least 9 countries which criminalize forms of gender expression, mainly targeting the trans and gender nonconforming communities. These laws are unacceptable and outdated.
This news is huge, not only for the LGBTQ2+ community in Angola, but for the rest of the world. The laws implemented during the colonial era are reflective of the white supremacist’s attempt to assimilate individuals of other cultures and races, in order to create the perfect ‘western’ world. Well, fuck colonialism, and fuck white supremacy. Colonizers have no place in our world today. This is a great step forward for Angola and hopefully, other African countries will begin to follow suit.
Women in Lukodi, Uganda, celebrate after hearing on a radio that the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, found Dominic Ongwen guilty of war crimes, including a massacre in their village back in 2004. Sumy Sadurni /AFP via Getty Images via NPR
cw: sexual violence, war crimes
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has officially recognized forced pregnancy and forced marriage as war crimes. In doing so, the world can begin to understand how sexual and gender-based violence are commonly used as tactics in war. This decision comes after a landmark case in which former child soldier, and current rebel leader Dominic Ongwen was convicted of war crimes at the ICC.
Ongwen was convicted on 61 of 70 counts of war crimes, and many of these charges included: forced pregnancy, forced marriage, rape, and sexual slavery. At his trial, seven brave women came forward and spoke about their abductions and abuse. Forced marriage and forced pregnancy were used as critical tactics by the LRA; however, they were not alone on this front. Throughout history and even today, local women are sexually assaulted, abused, and forced to marry and/or give birth, at the hands of military forces.
In the history of the ICC, Ongwen has only been the third individual to have been convicted of sexual and gender-based crimes. None of Ongwen’s fellow LRA members have been prosecuted, nor have any other individuals in the past. How does that make sense? Although the ICC has set a precedent for other international courts to follow, the survivors of the LRA’s crimes have said that this is not enough. Survivors have difficulty reintegrating into society, face social stigma and resentment from their communities, and many often return HIV-positive or with scars or disabilities.
By expanding the scope of war crimes to be inclusive of sexual and gender-based crimes, the ICC will now be able to attempt to hold perpetrators accountable for their abuses. Although many will not be convicted, this is a step in the right direction. Other legal authorities should strive to be more inclusive of sexual and gender-based crimes so that women and girls worldwide are afforded the justice they deserve.
Sumy Sadruni/Getty Images via them.us
cw: transphobia, anti-trans violence
Brazil is known to be one of the most dangerous places in the world to be transgender. Although the nation has some of the most progressive laws for the LGBTQ2+ community worldwide, it also leads the world in anti-trans homicides. The Transrespect Versus Transphobia Worldwide project estimated that out of the 350 transgender, non-binary and gender nonconforming people killed last year, 152 individuals were killed in Brazil, which is three times as many as the next ‘deadliest’ country. Another report found that at least one queer or transgender person is murdered every day in Brazil.
In late January, legislation was tabled by Alexandre Padilha, a member of the opposition left-wing Workers’ Party, which would require Brazilian companies, which employ more than 100 people, to allocate 3% of all jobs for transgender workers. This bill is intended to help the transgender community find greater stability and security, as many do not attend school and are unable to find a job, causing a ripple effect. If passed, this legislation would require employers to respect trans people’s chosen names, clothing, and choice of bathroom.
Last year, Argentina passed a law which reserves 1% of public sector jobs for trans workers. Padilha’s proposed legislation would apply to private and public sector jobs. While this quota would greatly benefit the trans community, President Bolsonaro is notorious for his far-right and anti-LGBTQ2+ views, and it is likely that this bill will face opposition. In the years since he was elected into office, Brazil has seen a spike in crimes against the LGBTQ2+ community. Although the opposition party can expect an appeal from the President, it will not stop them from fighting for trans rights, and creating more trans-inclusive spaces.
Dozens of women in Japan danced in Tokyo on February 14, 2021, inspired by the global One Billion Rising campaign, a mass action to end violence against women. The performance came days after the president of the Tokyo Olympics organising committee Yoshiro Mori announced he was set to step down over sexist remarks he made that women talked too much via South China Morning Post
Japanese women took to the streets on February 14 to peacefully protest against sexism, days after Tokyo Olympics organizing committee President Yoshiro Mori stepped down after sexist remarks he made about women talking too much in meetings, Women participated in a mass dance, inspired by the One Billion Rising campaign to end violence against women and girls. They were joined by Yumi Ishikawa, who started the ongoing #KuToo movement as a rebellion against high-heel mandates for Japanese women in their workplaces.
The women in attendance spoke to the significance of Mori’s comments, adding that many people do not realize why his remarks were discriminatory.
When you try to assert yourself, you have to risk being treated negatively afterwards - Chikako Hama, event organizer
Women are often afraid to speak up in meetings, and when they do, they are met with misogynistic backlash. Misogynistic values prevail in professional settings, and women suffer as a result.
To add further insult to misogynist injury, Japan’s governing party said this week it has decided to invite women to attend key meetings - as long as they do not speak.
The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) proposed allowing five female lawmakers to observe its all-male board meetings.
They cannot talk during the meeting - only submit opinions afterwards. Two women currently sit on the 12-person board of the LDP, which has been in power almost continuously since 1955.
Japan ranked 121 in a list of 153 countries on the World Economic Forum's 2020 Global Gender Gap Index.
Through their beautiful dancing, women in Japan have been able to creatively and freely protest against the prevalent sexism in their nation.
Inaara Merani (she/her) is a recent graduate from the University of Ottawa where she studied International Development and Globalization with a minor in Women’s Studies. She is an Ismaili Muslim Canadian who is deeply passionate about human rights, social justice and feminism, and in turn, dismantling the patriarchy and ensuring that all women have safe and equal access to all their rights. She hopes to pursue a career in law so that she can continue to fight for the rights of women and other marginalized groups everywhere. She also enjoys reading, travelling and spending time with her beautiful cat.