Global Roundup: March Honours Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, Trans and Two Spirit People in Canada, New Zealand Finally Bans Conversion Therapy, Rise of Feminist Theatre in India
Curated by FG intern Jana Kortam
Women hold up red dresses to raise awareness of the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada [File: Christinne Muschi/Reuters] via al Jazeera
Marches and virtual events were held across Canada on February 14 to honour Indigenous women, girls, trans and two spirit people who were murdered or disappeared over the past decades across the country, and demand concrete action to address the problem.
The first march was held in 1992 after the brutal murder of a Coast Salish woman on Powell Street in Vancouver. Ever since 1992, thousands have come every year to commemorate the lives of the countless indigenous women and trans, gender diverse or two spirit people who have been murdered or gone missing.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police recorded 1,200 Indigenous women had been murdered or gone missing between 1980 and 2012. However, the real number is much higher than that. Many hold the RCMP responsible for some of those murders.
The Canadian government in 2016 launched a National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls which concluded in 2019 that the violence “amounts to a race-based genocide of Indigenous Peoples” that especially targets women, girls and members of the LGBTQ2S+ community. “This genocide has been empowered by colonial structures … leading directly to the current increased rates of violence, death, and suicide in Indigenous populations,” it said.
Canada has a systemic track record responsible for the missing women as well as the lack of action being taken to find them.
Indigenous women in Canada today are seven times more likely than non-Indigenous women to be a victim of murder and three times more likely to be violently or sexually assaulted. - Native Women’s Association of Canada.
The association’s report last year outlined 65 concrete steps it wants to see taken, including funding a programme to prevent human trafficking, addressing economic marginalisation of Indigenous women, and developing a government compensation fund for survivors and affected families.
‘Queer rights are human rights,’ campaigners have said, welcoming New Zealand’s ban on conversion practices. Photograph: Lazyllama/Alamy via The Guardian
Up until February 15, 2022, conversion therapy was, shockingly, still legal in New Zealand. On that day, the country finally passed a bill which criminalizes any practices meant to forcibly change one’s sexuality or gender identity. It was almost unanimously agreed upon in legislation. It broke records with the highest public submissions of 107,000.
The new bill bans any sort of conversion therapy on anyone under the age of 18 or unable to provide consent, and is punishable by up to 3 years imprisonment. It also bans any sort of conversion therapy that causes serious harm, regardless of age, and is punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
Member of parliament Kiri Allan shared her own revolting experience with conversion therapy as a 16-year-old.
I went through conversion therapy (it wasn’t called that, but that’s what it was) through my church. I desperately tried to ‘pray the gay’ away – to be accepted by my family, community and church.My ‘illness’ & ‘weakness’ to temptation was etched as sin into my skin. It took a long time to shake that shame and trauma. Tonight our Parliament will ensure this practice is banned in our country for good. For our next generation of babies, I am so incredibly relieved. Thank you to everyone that championed this change. - Kiri Allan
Grant Robertson, New Zealand’s first gay deputy prime minister said the law would right some of the wrongs caused by conversion practices.
To all those who have been affected by conversion practices or attempts at them, we want to say, this legislation is for you. We cannot bring you back, we cannot undo all of the hurt, but we can make sure that for the generations to come, we provide the support and love you did not get and protect you from the harm of those who seek to try to stop you from being who you are. - Grant Robertson
Research shows that some of these harms Robertson mentioned include, loss of self-esteem, anxiety, depression, social isolation, intimacy issues, shame and guilt, sexual dysfunction, suicidal thoughts and attempts and post-traumatic stress disorder. Other 2019 research has found that 79% of trans and non-binary New Zealanders had contemplated suicide and two-fifths had self-harmed in the past 12 months.
The ban on conversion therapy is a win for humanity, not just the queer community. Queer rights are human rights. Queer people do not need to be tolerated or accepted, we need to be liberated. - Shaneel Lal, founder of the Conversion Therapy Action
Art has been used as a form of resistance and activism for as long as history can show. India in particular has used theatre to resist colonialism and British ideologies and narratives. Simultaneously it also portrayed the struggles faced by colonialism and the challenges of marginalized communities.
Feminist theatre is a unique form of resistance and activism through art. It interrupts society’s standards and deconstructs binaries. Plays in feminist theatre are usually written, produced, and played by women, giving women the power to smash patriarchal standards.
Journalist Anil de Silva pushed for women’s involvement in theatre leading to the creation of the unified group Indian People’s Theatre Association. Although IPTA attempted to better the conditions of women, the goal of this group shifted to promote more national interests such as Indian Freedom from British rule and the cultural awakening among Indian people, leaving women’s issues unattended. However, after a brief pause, this oversight has been redressed, thanks to the efforts of a number of organisations interested in bringing the women's agenda and problems to the public's attention through street theatre.
Street theatre started as a medium for women to portray their struggles and connect with each other but it evolved as a tool used to evoke and diversify women’s perspectives. In the 70s, feminist theatre narratives spread across India as a result of male-focused rural theatre. Hence, Indian feminist theatre is defined by its division from male-dominated narratives and emphasizes the female narrative and other marginalized identities.
Feminist theatre discussed domestic issues such as abuse and dowries and more public issues such as class, intersectionality, and privilege.
Today, feminist theatre is formally acknowledged as a distinct form of theatre in India. This growth in female story-telling gives a more insightful depiction of women’s day-to-day lives, sexualities, desires, and more.
Jana Kortam (she/they) is a sociology and feminist and gender studies student at the University of Ottawa. They are experienced at advocating against gender-based inequality especially in the SWANA community. They are actively engaging with intersectional feminist ideologies in order to radically smash the patriarchal supremacist society.
She believes that in order to be able to achieve justice, we must offer a microphone for minority voices unheard rather than narrate their stories for them.