Global Roundup: Lesbian Couple’s Murder Sparks Protest in Mexico, Sex Workers on New UK Bill, Poland Bans “Gay Propaganda”, Pakistan Women-led Livestock Market, Vulva-casting Promotes Body Positivity
Curated by FG Contributor Samiha Hossain
Via La Verdad
TW: violence against women, homophobia
After the dismembered remains of a lesbian couple were found along a highway outside Juárez, Mexico, feminist and LGBTQ+ groups took to the streets to protest the rampant violence against women. The couple’s murder brings to 11 the number of women who have already been killed in Juárez so far this year.
Forty people gathered outside the State Attorney General's office, some wearing pink face masks and purple handkerchiefs associated with the feminist movement in Mexico. Others carried rainbow flags and signs in support of LGBTQ+ rights. A loudspeaker played music in honour of the murdered women. They also marched from the office to the Centro de Justicia para las Mujeres (Center for Women's Justice, CEJUM), chanting “No nos maten por ser diferentes," (Don't kill us for being different) and “No nos maten por ser disidentes” (Don't kill us for being dissident).
The protestors called for a full investigation, including how gender and sexual orientation were factors in the murders of Nohemí M.M. and Tania M.H.
People are asking whether they were killed for being lesbians, or whether they were in the middle of the ongoing war that's going on. That's for the authorities to determine. But there are documented cases and patterns of violence against LGBTQ people ... We think that their sexual identity could be a part of it. We are going to keep marching and demanding justice because this is a historical debt that our state and our federal government have with us. - Miguel Angel Jacob, participant of the march
Attorney General Roberto Javier Fierro Duarte said the investigation is advancing and while they are following special protocols, he at this point does not consider the murders a hate crime. Protesters believe that despite Juárez being a site of extreme violence against women for years, authorities still do not follow the necessary protocols to investigate these horrific crimes.
Illustration: Inge Snip via Open Democracy
Survivors of online sexual abuse and rights activists are saying that a new UK bill to tackle digital abuse will not protect women or sex workers from harm.
The UK government is attempting to tackle digital abuse with its new landmark Online Safety Bill. This introduces a “duty of care” for tech platforms that allow users to post content, including social networks such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and video-sharing sites such as YouTube, OnlyFans and Pornhub. They would have to prevent the distribution of material promoting racism, terrorism and child abuse, while also protecting children from viewing “harmful” material and adults from “legal but harmful” content.
However, rights groups note that the bill fails to mention violence against women and girls or make specific recommendations to ban online abuse against women and girls. Women are 27 times more likely than men to be abused online. One in five women polled by Amnesty International experienced online harassment or abuse, with Black women targeted most.
Madison Elliott, an online sex worker, discovered her private sessions had been secretly recorded and uploaded to underground video-sharing porn sites without her consent. She was unable to remove the videos herself and many sites ignored her requests to remove them. The clips also went viral on WhatsApp in her tiny Welsh hometown. She reported the case to the police but said they were unable to help her. Elliott’s physical and mental health suffered significantly.
I felt powerless. I’m under no illusion. I’m an online sex worker and I’m doing these things for money. But if you do something [and it’s used without your consent] you’re still being violated of your consent. - Madison Elliott
Elena Michael, co-founder of anti-image-based sexual abuse campaign #NotYourPorn, believes that the proposed bill could help people like Elliott if it specifically identifies online violence against women. Campaigners recommend that the bill lists all forms of image-based sexual abuse as harmful, with commercial tube sites specifically addressed, motivation requirements removed and automatic anonymity for victims.
The new bill should force platforms to be more responsive to complaints and remove non-consensual content immediately… [Currently] it’s up to survivors to find where images are and where they’re hosted. When there are takedowns, they often crop up elsewhere. - Rebecca Hitchen, head of policy and campaigns at End Violence Against Women (EVAW)
Adult content creators, who face the non-consensual reuploading of their material as well as adult content bans at the whim of tech platforms, are also concerned. It is important that the bill does not invite censorship and push sex work underground and validate stigma against sex workers and sexual content.
While the bill seems to have potential, it is clear that the government needs to listen to the voices of survivors of abuse and sex workers to ensure that it prevents harm for those that are the most marginalized and vulnerable.
An officer stands in front of a street painted with a rainbow in front of Warsaw University in a demonstration for LGBTQ+ rights in 2020. Credit: Photo/Czarek Sokolowski via Xtra
A law allowing schools to ban LGBTQ+ education and extracurricular activities was passed in Poland’s lower house of parliament this month. With a 227-214 vote, it now moves on to the Senate, where a final decision is likely to be made.
If passed, the legislation would give school administrators and superintendents the power to ban LGBTQ+-affirming lessons, clubs and reading materials. Its censorship implications mirror Russia’s “gay propaganda” laws, which prohibit depictions of homosexuality in media aimed at children under the rationale that they contradict so-called “family values.” Hungary also passed similar legislation banning the promotion of LGBTQ+ material to minors in schools and the media last year.
Non-profit advocacy groups, teachers’ unions and local authorities have criticized the bill for attempting to further right-wing influence over schools.
Since 2019, Poland has seen a continued spread of “LGBT-free zones,” with more than 100 municipalities and five provinces declaring themselves unwelcoming of alleged LGBTQ+ “ideology.” These largely symbolic ordinances are usually passed with the purpose of banning LGBTQ+ events such as Pride marches and so-called “homosexual propaganda,” according to a 2020 report from the Council of Europe.
Last September, the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union (EU), threatened to withhold critical funding from Polish regions if they did not abandon their “free zone” policies. With Poland refusing to comply, the EU has since blocked funding to the country and a 42 billion euro payment from the COVID-19-recovery fund, prompting four of the country’s five provinces to revoke their discriminatory measures.
Despite the EU blowback, Polish President Andrzej Duda ran much of his 2020 re-election campaign on the promise of more anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. Duda could sign off on the measure even if the Senate rejects it. It is important that local and international advocates continue to sustain the pressure to ensure the harmful legislation is not passed.
Rozina Ghulam Mustafa sells her goats for the first time at the women-led Marui livestock market in Sindh, Pakistan. Photograph: Khaula Jamil/The Guardian
Hundreds of women were seen trading animals at Marui livestock market – believed to be Pakistan’s first women-led livestock market. It was organized by the Tando Allahyar district government and local NGO the Research and Development Foundation (RDF) to encourage more women into the livestock sector.
Women in rural Pakistan have always reared animals, taking care of nutrition, milking and vaccinations and keeping their barns and sheds clean. However, they are excluded from selling them. Taking the animals to market is considered a man’s job.
…it’s my first time and I will learn how to trade. For the first time I felt free, I could make the decision of buying and selling myself. - Rozina Ghulam Mustafa
Mustafa’s 65-year-old mother, Rehmat, who accompanied her to the market with Mustafa’s brother, says that when she was younger “it was unthinkable for a woman to come to the market and sell; it was a man’s job”.
I think this change is in the right direction. If women can rear, women can buy and sell, like men. What is so complicated about it? - Rehmat
Dr Mazhar Ali Rind, deputy director of the government’s livestock department, hopes similar markets will be organized across the country. He notes that many women-led households are dependent on village men with business experience to negotiate with strangers, costing them up to 2,000 PKR for each animal sold. If women can learn the process themselves, they can remove the middleman’s role and take more control over their livelihood.
Now that these women are familiar with this place, getting here will be easier for them; many can now come on their own or in groups and will not need men to accompany them…Now we need to bring in buyers from cities like Karachi and Hyderabad. - Ashfaque Soomro, chief executive at RDF
Vulva-casting is a process in which plaster is applied to your genitals in order to create a piece of artwork – the idea is to celebrate all kinds of vulvas.
At the forefront of the vulva-casting trend is Lydia Reeves, an artist who specializes in casting vulvas – as well as breasts, baby bumps and bums. In addition to managing a successful body casting business, Lydia has released a photography book, My Vulva and I, which explores different people's relationships with their vulvas, and has over 60k followers on Instagram, where she shares her artwork and promotes body acceptance.
How it started for me was because I had booked labiaplasty for myself – I didn't go through with it – but that's where I was at. [Vulva-casting] has changed my mindset about my vulva so much. You don't get to see your vulva properly every day – there's quite a build-up if you want to look at your vulva. - Lydia Reeves
Many people with vulvas are insecure or self-conscious about the appearance of them, as their vulvas don’t fit into the narrow beauty standard. Dr Alexis Parcells, at Parcells Plastic Surgery, has seen a rise in people wanting labiaplasty, a surgical operation to reduce the size of the labia minora.
Coming across Lydia’s profile where she shares her castings causes many people to change their minds about wanting a labiaplasty. One person said choosing to have her vulva cast was part of her journey in recovering from sexual violence.
To hear other people who were where I was [in terms of wanting labiaplasty] say that because of my work, they've realized how beautiful, unique and normal they are, is incredible. - Lydia Reeves
Another one of Lydia's clients, Hanna (not her real name), said she did not have a healthy relationship with her vulva and thought it was “ugly” and “not normal” and wanted a “tidy vulva.”
After seeing Lydia’s work and the stories behind the casts I realized that actually I was incredibly normal and that everyone is different. I booked a casting session for myself to make peace with my feelings about my vulva and to learn to love and appreciate just how amazing it is! – Hanna
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.