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Global Roundup: Menstrual Products for Pakistan Flood Victims, Feminist Lens on Libya’s History, Argentina Trans Survivor of Dictatorship, India Students vs Misogyny, Disability Activists on Sex Toys
Curated by FG contributor Samiha Hossain
Volunteers for the Mahwari campaign pack sanitary products for women to be distributed to victims of the Pakistan floods AFP | Arif ALI
A group of women in Pakistan are providing menstrual hygiene products to those affected by the catastrophic floods. Over 30 million people have been affected by floods that cover a third of the country following record monsoon rains, with hundreds of thousands made homeless.
Periods do not stop during floods. Women need this assistance. -Bushra Mahnoor
Bushra Mahnoor, a university student in eastern Lahore, founded the Mahwari Justice campaign to provide help. Mahnoor recalled her experience with floods that hit Pakistan in 2010 when she saw a young girl with period stains on her clothes. She learned that women were using leaves to manage their periods, so she decided to take action. Calls to the manufacturers of period products went unanswered, so Mahnoor haggles with wholesalers in Lahore's bazaars to get the lowest possible rates for the kits.
Mahwari – which means "period" in Urdu – has already sent thousands of kits to some of the worst-hit areas, but their reach is set to get even bigger. After a social media appeal, dozens of girls and women volunteered to help pack the kits. Similar meet-ups are happening in other cities – including Multan, where the transgender community has taken the lead in the local effort.
Manhoor says she experiences a lot of pushback from men in talking about menstruation so openly. On social media, the campaign has been accused of pursuing a "liberal agenda," taking away funds from more worthwhile causes such as food and medicine. Even her own family has tried to stop her from being so public and her mother tells her she is a “shameless woman.” The concept of shame continues to be used to silence women but Manhoor remains determined to support menstruators in Pakistan.
Maryem Salama and a copy of one of her books [Courtesy of Maryem Salama] via Al Jazeera
A growing number of women writers are retelling Libya’s history through a feminist lens and giving more room to a gendered point of view in literature. By building complex female characters, a growing number of Libyan writers are quietly introducing their ideas of gender equality.
Traditionally Libyan literature was dominated by male authors, who used their own archetypes to describe historical crossroads and to understand their current reality. In the early years of Gaddafi’s rule in the 1970s, the new government set up a single publishing house. All authors were required to write in support of the authorities, and those who refused to do so were imprisoned, forced to emigrate, or had to quit writing altogether.
Safa Elnaili, an assistant professor in the Arabic department at the University of Alabama, spotted this trend of women authors revisiting Libya’s history from the 1900s onwards, from the point of view of female characters, while researching short stories published on a popular Libyan website called, Almostakbal. She was struck by the central presence of women in these narratives, something new to the Libyan literary canon.
In 2013, two years after the start of the revolution that overthrew Gaddafi, Tripolitanian novelist and poet Maryem Salama wrote a poem using the image of kindling a piece of firework. Deprived of a structured publishing industry, she published it on her Facebook page. A few hours later, a friend commented, “Thank you. I still cry burning joy in a dead home.” This image stayed with Salama, who has since used the allegory of a phoenix to refer to her country.
Libya is still being created. It is not yet that great bird rising from the ashes. Libya, the land, is waiting for the Libyan people to take responsibility for becoming the great people of the great land. They must read, they must know, and they must act. -Maryem Salama
Tripoli-based writer Kawther Eljehmi is part of a generation of writers that emerged thanks to the internet. She has been blogging since 2016. After three years, she deleted her first blog, called Normal Lady, and reposted all her articles and stories on the popular Facebook page Fasila dedicated to Libyan writers. Through the internet, she gained traction and gathered a following, even before publishing her first novel, Aidoun, two years ago. The instability of the country is the most serious issue that comes into play when she writes. Eljehmi is now working on a new novel, which revolves around the issue of children born to Libyan women married to foreign nationals. These children are not entitled to free education and healthcare because they are not considered Libyans.
There is an inheritance of historical fiction in Libya, which is natural, given the depth of Libya’s presence in the history of [the] Mediterranean, and the diversity of the peoples who inhabited or colonised it through different times. -Kawther Eljehmi
Picture No Tan Distintes via World Crunch
Karina Pintarelli is the first recognized trans survivor of Argentina’s dictatorship. Now 64, the transgender poet and activist suffered police torture under the military dictatorship of the 1970s and 1980s. After a long legal fight, In July she became the first trans victim of the regime to be granted monetary reparations by the Argentine Justice Ministry for persecution inflicted because of her gender identity.
I can tell my story while I’m still alive. This is a recognition of what we had to live through, what we experienced and what we still experience. To my companions in activism, I want to tell them to keep fighting, through persevering you can achieve things. -Karina Pintarelli
Pintarelli was a sex worker at 22 years. She lived and worked for three years at the Frida center, which aids women and LGBTQ+ homeless. She also wrote poems that portray her experiences, which she brought together in the book Me quedé en Karina — I stayed in Karina. She is currently one of the few trans people alive to recount their experiences during the dictatorial period from 1976-1983. Pintarelli went from prison to prison.
I lived in prison. I was inside for 30 days, then they released me for a few days, then arrested me again (and held me) for another 30 days. It was because of my identity. -Karina Pintarelli
In 2018 Pintarelli decided she could do something with her memories. While she was using her 30 minutes of computer time at the Frida center, she read the news about a trans woman from the province of Santa Fe recognized by the provincial government as a survivor of the dictatorship. It was within the framework of Provincial Law 13,298, which establishes the payment of a monthly pension to people who prove they have been "deprived of their liberty for political, or student union reasons,” between March 24, 1976 and December 10, 1983.
The Gender Observatory in Justice of the city of Buenos Aires, NTD and Lawyers for Sexual Rights (AboSex) began to accompany Karina in her fight. The first action they had to carry out, and the most difficult, was to collect the evidence.
Karina's file is surprising and not pleasant because it is the living proof of the systematic nature of arrests due to the application of police edicts. This basically proves the violence and the criminalization of gender identities. -Florencia Montes Páez, political scientist and member since its inception of the organization No Tan Distintes-Not So Distinct (NTD), which founded the Frida Center
With what was gathered and the awakening of memories, Karina put together a multifaceted work called “Time in my hands.” It was composed of the book of poems I stayed in Karina, which the collective Serigrafistas Queer used to make a visual proposal. Also, for an audiovisual installation curated by Mariela Scafati and Daiana Rose called Prontuario (criminal record), where they showed part of the file. Pintarelli today is calm, happy and, above all, at rest. She shares her days with three of her trans friends.
BY RIJAS SIDDHIK AND AUSTIN J/INSTAGRAM via The News Minute
A group of women students in Kerala, India have started a photo series to tackle misogyny that places the blame on women’s clothing for sexual harassment. The Instagram page of Women in Campus (WINCA), a student initiative to celebrate womanhood and address the issues that women face on campus, also features the photos of four students, confidently flaunting shorts, crop tops and sheer fabric. The photos are part of a series titled ‘Not Asking For It.’
The photo series questions the regressive logic that links clothing with sexual harassment.
In our society, women are blamed for wearing revealing clothes, but men are not taught to stop sexualising them. Women are asked to cover themselves from head to toe, but men are not taught to respect women’s consent. - a post on WINCA’s Instagram
The first installment of the series is titled ‘On the Streets’ and was shot on a busy market and at a bus stop. The coming installments will be shot within their campus and in other public spaces. The protest was born out of their outrage at a remark made by a Sessions court judge in Kozhikode, while granting bail to writer Civic Chandran in an alleged case of sexual harassment. The judge had said that the sexual harassment accusation will not stand as the complainant was dressed in a sexually provocative manner.
When we started the shoot outside our college, a person approached us and asked whether we don't have parents and said that we were tainting Indian culture. Even in the market some people were staring at us, including women. There were a lot of comments questioning our culture and upbringing. -Fiona Joseph
Picture via POPSUGAR
When so much writing and coverage around disability comes from a medical, ableist, and nondisabled perspective, that simple truth that disabled people deserve and have great sex can get lost in stigma and a sea of statistics on how "joyless" living with a disability is. Even in a wave of sex positivity and stigma-free educational media in the US, disabled people are too often sidelined. POPSUGAR spoke with three disability activists about sex, their favorite sex toys, and how they cultivate pleasure in their own lives.
Roxy Murray is a London-based disability rights advocate, speaker, model, and founder of the Sick and Sickening podcast, where she shares candid stories from the disability communities. Roxy has lived with multiple sclerosis (MS) for 16 years. After an initial misdiagnosis, Roxy turned to activism, speaking about sex, fashion, and disability. Murray says you can tell just how sparse sex resources are for disabled people by how sex toys are advertised and how physically inaccessible brick-and-mortar sex shops tend to be. Sexual wellness is part of Murray's overall wellness — and it's a priority for them to discuss it with their neurologist and other providers when receiving treatment.
I'm quite a loud and proud individual. I am usually the first person to bring up the conversation of sex in a room. I do that to normalize it and open the topic up . . .[Disabled people] absolutely deserve pleasure. To experience joy. Do not let anyone convince you that keeping you alive is the only thing that counts as a disabled individual. We deserve to be seen and heard: it's OK to ask for more than the bare minimum. -Roxy Murray
Andrew Gurza is an award-winning disability awareness consultant and the chief disability officer and cofounder of Bump'n, a sexual wellness company made for disabled folks. In addition to working as a disability consultant since 2012, he also hosts their own podcast, Disability After Dark.
A Bump'n survey found that over 50 percent of physically disabled people surveyed struggle to achieve sexual pleasure on their own, "and shockingly, no products have been designed with them in mind, despite over 90 percent of those surveyed telling us they wanted one," says Gurza.
I think one of the most important considerations when designing sex toys, or any product, really, is having disabled people on the journey with you, so that you can discover what is and isn't accessible. -Andrew Gurza
Gurza says a unique challenge disabled people face is the internalized ableism surrounding their own right to pleasure. Repeatedly society has told disabled people that "their sexuality is nonexistent and is not as valuable." But, as defined by the World Health Organization, pleasure is a fundamental human right — and everyone deserves it.
Evan Sweeny is the founder of the Cripping Up Sex platform, where they host online classes and private consultations, review sex toys, and offer books like "How to Talk to Your Doctor About Your Sexual Health," "How to Find Cool Sex-Posi Queer-Friendly Aides," and "Dating For Disabled Youth." He also hosts a podcast and interviews sex educators, disability consultants, and dating experts.
For Sweeney, a career in sex education and advocacy was born out of necessity — they couldn't find any helpful information about sex and disability, so they decided to write their own handbook "Queers on Wheels" and began traveling around the country to teach workshops.
Sex toys, in Sweeney's view, aren't actually toys at all — they're assistive technology, "just like a wheelchair or a hearing aid." When picking out tech that's best for you, he recommends considering where and how you want to use a toy.
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.