Global Roundup: Lebanon Migrant Women Embassy Sit-ins, Turkey Witches vs Rising Cost of Sanitary Products, 1st Non-binary Winter Olympian, Red Lipstick for Every Skin Colour, NZ Church Queer Makeover
Curated by FG Contributor Samiha Hossain
Dozens of Kenyan domestic workers in Beirut who have been squatting in their consulate to demand their right to be repatriated [João Sousa/Al Jazeera]
Dozens of Kenyan domestic workers have been squatting in their consulate to demand their right to be repatriated. The women came to Lebanon for work under the country’s kafala system, which is often compared to modern-day slavery. After months of abuse or non-payment, they left their employers in hopes of returning to Kenya. During Lebanon’s devastating economic crisis, many employers have been unable to pay the workers.
They told me I would travel on January 26, but they lie every day. Before I see the flight [tickets] I won’t believe it. – Sarah, migrant woman in Lebanon
In 2020, several groups of domestic workers from Ethiopia, the Philippines and Sudan also held sit-ins in their embassies after being abandoned by their employers.
The cruelties of the kafala system include sponsors keeping the workers’ passports, avoiding their legal obligation to pay for the workers’ return tickets, and even accusing the workers of stealing or other crimes to avoid responsibility.
Sarah, 40, has been waiting for months with no answer from relevant authorities. She arrived in Lebanon in February 2021 and was abused by her employer. She was banned from using the bathroom or shower, and the employer’s children were told to call her “caca” or “gorilla”. When her father fell in September 2021 and she needed an advance from her pay to cover the medical expenses, she was not given the money and her father died. Sarah then ran away from her sponsor’s house and went to the police, who took her to a shelter in Beirut run by the Catholic non-profit organization Caritas.
The shelter protects victims of human trafficking and race-based victims, according to Caritas. However, many activists and migrant workers, including Sarah, know the shelter as a “detention centre”. She and five other women protesting at the Kenyan consulate stayed there for several months without access to a phone, little information about their repatriation case, and they say they were not allowed to leave.
If you want to go inside of Caritas you have to stay there. When you’re inside, they don’t have their phone… It’s like detention, that you are inside a jail. This is the number one complaint I’ve heard from a lot of women. – Anonymous member of a migrants’ rights group
The kafala system has been long criticized. Migrant women are vulnerable to horrific racialized and gendered abuse including beatings and sexual assault. These women are demanding for their rights. Activists must listen to their voices and push for justice and accountability and to abolish the kafala system.
The "Campus Witches" demand free sanitary products via DW
Members of the "Campus Witches”, a movement that campaigns for the rights of girls and women in Turkey, mainly in universities and other establishments of higher education, protested the rising cost of sanitary products earlier this month.
About 20 students protested in front of the Finance Ministry in the western Turkish port city of Izmir. They held up two sets of oversized women's underpants with red stains and chanted "We cannot buy sanitary pads anymore, we cannot even afford two meals a day." Protesters were wearing the pink and purple witch's hats that have become Campus Witches’ trademark.
The group has been campaigning against the drastic rise of the cost of sanitary products and called for the 18% tax on such items to be abolished. They say that since menstruation is natural, sanitary products are not a luxury but essential – thus, sanitary products should be provided for free by the State. In the meantime, they have stepped up initiatives such as solidarity boxes in women's toilets and other public spaces where people can donate tampons and pads for those who cannot afford them.
Students like Leylanur Mavili and Zeynep Kurt from the University of Ankara said that they can barely afford the cheapest sanitary products. Kurt noted that sanitary products were hidden in black bags, as if women had to be ashamed of having their period and they were not available everywhere.
The ongoing Turkish lira crisis has caused many everyday products to rise in cost. According to the Turkish Statistical Institute, sanitary pads price has risen by 50% in the past year. Turkish NGO Deep Poverty Network said that 82% of people could not afford sanitary products.
Irmak Sarac, a gynecologist and honorary member of the Turkish Medical Association, also believes the State should provide sanitary products for free. She notes the difficult condition for female seasonal agricultural laborers in particular:
We are hearing that women are taking leaves and putting clean earth on them to absorb their menstrual blood. - Irmak Sarac
It is not easy to talk openly about menstruation when it remains such a taboo subject in Turkey. Yet, students are not backing down and adamant that sanitary products should be accessible to everyone.
We are not responsible for the economic crisis. We do not want to bear the consequences. Pads and tampons are not a luxury, they are essential. – Campus Witches
Figure Skating - World Figure Skating Championships - Globe Arena, Stockholm, Sweden - March 24, 2021 Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy Leduc of the U.S. in action during the pairs short programme TT News Agency via REUTERS/Anders Wiklund
Timothy LeDuc will be the first openly non-binary Winter Olympian. The figure skater aims to challenge gender stereotypes and pave the way beyond the gender binary for other athletes. They want to nix traditional notions that all skating duos tell "Romeo and Juliet" stories, and instead present a show of equality and strength with Olympic partner Ashley Cain-Gribble.
My hope is now being openly non-binary and being outspoken about this, maybe it will make a path for other non-binary and queer athletes that come into pairs in ice dance. - Timothy LeDuc
A record number of openly LGBT+ athletes will compete at the Winter Olympics in Beijing following the record set at 2021's Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
I hope that, you know, me being open and authentic helps to move that conversation forward and help people understand more that people can ... be amazing athletes and still exist outside of the binary. - Timothy LeDuc
LeDuc and their partner Gribble are not looking to subscribe to “a standard masculinity-femininity narrative on the ice.” In one routine, Cain-Gribble wears an all-in-one leotard with legs, unusual for a female figure skater. Cain-Gribble was body-shamed and written off as a future winner for being taller than most women skaters. LeDuc was told to keep quiet about being gay and rejected as weak by a potential partner.
The duo has been ranked seventh in the world behind Russian, Chinese and Canadian athletes. They are hoping for a top-five finish in Beijing.
Image via The Philadephia Citizen
Camille Bell launched Pound Cake, a Philly-based cosmetic company that offers a true red, liquid vegan lipstick for every skin color. Her lipstick line—called Cake Batter—features six shades of red lip color, each designed to complement different skin and lip tones.
Bell was inspired by her difficulties in college finding makeup that looked good on her or even showed up on her skin. Lipstick in particular is sold in so-called “universal shades”, even though the colors show up differently for someone who has pink lips versus someone with deep brown lips.
Growing up, Bell also noticed that Black and Brown women who wore bright red lipstick were perceived as tacky or overtly sexual, and that racist caricatures of Black women often featured exaggerated red lips—whereas white women who donned the shade were seen as powerful.
There’s unfortunately a stigma in the Black and Brown community that shames darker-skinned folks for wanting to wear a full color such as red. – Camille Bell
The business takes inspiration for its name from the Pan-Cake makeup that was developed in the 1930s for film stars. To Bell, Pan-Cake represents a time when thin, white women were the standard bearers for the beauty industry. The company’s website proudly proclaims it’s “pro-Black, pro-fat, pro-queer” approach to cosmetics.
During a time like the 1900s, the beauty industry was queer phobic, fat phobic, [and] it upheld a lot of White supremacist views. We want to disrupt that. We want to “pound” that. We want to break that. - Camille Bell
This year, Bell plans to launch the brand in retail stores, with plans to eventually expand beyond lipstick into other products. She wants to have an entire makeup collection with every product tailored for every skin tone. In keeping with their values, Pound Cake also plans to host community events dedicated to tackling some of the harmful stigmas that persist in the beauty industry.
Gloria in the New Zealand town of Greymouth, was formerly St. Peter’s Anglican church. Photograph Sam Duckor-Jones via The Guardian
Gloria, built in 1939, was formerly the St Peter’s Anglican Church in Greymouth, a town of roughly 14,000 people.
Poet and artist Sam Duckor-Jones struggled to find an affordable home when he was ready to move out two years ago. He searched the internet for “the cheapest house in New Zealand” and the church, which had been unused since 2000, popped up. Duckor-Jones promptly fell in love with it.
I didn’t grow up in the church, I grew up in a Jewish household, but mostly I grew up making things, and in recent years I’ve become more and more excited about queer celebration. - Sam Duckor-Jones
Duckor-Jones immediately set out to convert it into a “queer place of worship”, a sculpture (“not a renovation”) with 50 larger-than-life papier-mache congregation members. He will live there until the sculpture is finished, which he anticipates will take five years. His priority is creating a place for rural queerness. He is not concerned about what people choose to worship or how the space will be used. The space is a campy pink wonderland with tinsel curtains and a neon “Gloria” sign.
I’ve always really enjoyed pink. Also, I like pushing a little bit of pink on the world. It’s not subtle – it says, ‘look at me’. It’s got its whole history with queerness, pride, gay liberation and gender. It is really powerful that people have strong feelings about pink, like they have about no other colour. - Sam Duckor-Jones
Since embarking on the project, local residents have been popping by, offering tools and relaying local history. Duckor-Jones continues the long history of the reclamation of traditional spaces and practices by queer communities.
I wanted Gloria to belong to the community, because I thought, at some point someone will do something stupid, like tag it or burn it down, and I want the community to be as outraged as well. - Sam Duckor-Jones
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.