Global Roundup: Mexico Women in Journalism, Kenya Women Lead Peace Efforts, Turkey LGBTQ Community, Book on Black Health & Activism, Taiwan LGBT Pride
Curated by FG Contributor Samiha Hossain
Adela Navarro Bello, director of Mexico's investigative news outlet Zeta, Photo by Tomada de Milenio
Zeta, Navarro’s celebrated investigative news magazine, had just published an article on alleged illicit business dealings by high-level officials in Mexico's Baja California state. When a journalist asked Amador Rodriguez Lozano, the state's then secretary-general of government, about the allegations surrounding members of his administration at a town hall meeting, he sought to discredit Navarro and her publication and brought up her private life. Angered, Navarro filed a complaint with the Baja California Human Rights Commission, prompting Rodriguez to issue a public apology.
Mexico is regularly cited as one of the most dangerous countries for journalists. Nationwide, threats directed at the media are increasing. In the first six months of 2022, London-based rights and free expression group Article 19 recorded 331 attacks, including physical aggression and online violence, in Mexico. Of those, the state was said to be responsible in 128 cases. And when it comes to the digital sphere, threats are more commonly directed at women journalists, studies by Article 19 and other groups have shown.
We see many acts of intimidation, threats, smear campaigns that also have a particularly strong impact on women journalists, because [women] also have a very, very strong social burden. -Itzia Miravete Veraza, Mexico City-based lawyer who works for Article 19
The online attacks against women are often sexualized or focused on a journalist's appearance and work to further undermine their public role, Miravete said. Still, women such as Navarro are proving themselves as newsroom leaders even as others try to diminish their work.
They want to kill your credibility and morale to end your career, and for your readers to lose trust in the news magazine. That is what they are trying to accomplish with these defamation campaigns. -Adela Navarro Bello
A sense of solidarity has developed among women journalists, who are creating networks and spaces to connect, said Denisse Martinez Bucio, spokesperson for Chicas Poderosa, or "Powerful Girls." Groups like Martinez Bucio's provide training and security advice and promote reporting on gender-based stories.
Mary Mariach and Christine Lemuya come from two tribes that have been involved in continual clashes in Kenya's ASAL (Arid and Semi-Arid Lands) regions where resources are scarce. Photo: UN Women/Luke Horswell
Across Kenya, local conflicts driven by diverse factors are increasingly being mediated by women. Women are stepping up to end longstanding strife through local dialogues and outreach, approaches male-dominated leadership has not always been willing to take. However, these women receive little support from the state and their communities.
In the country’s western region, longstanding tensions are driving new security risks in the neighbouring counties of Kisumu and Nandi. Their predominant ethnicities mirror the tribal background of the two leading presidential candidates in this year’s election, and the border region has been identified as a hotspot for elections-related violence. Low employment, little cash flow in addition to political factors and historical disagreements over land also fuel the conflict.
In Kisumu and Nandi, community action—particularly from the community’s women—has been crucial in negotiating peace. Community dialogues, called barazas, have been effective platforms for discussing concerns. A recent meeting between the two communities was joined by voices young, old, male and female, with state security actors and religious leaders also in attendance. One of those voices was Maureen Omwiti, single mother of three and bar owner in Muhoroni. Ethnic tensions have been the source of intense trauma for Maureen and many others, but she is committed to showing her community that vengeance is not the answer.
As an ambassador of peace, it starts with yourself. The community see me, and they know that I was once a victim. It makes them think, reflect, and that has an impact. -Maureen Omwiti
In Turkana and West Pokot, however, women have not always been allowed to play that role. For Mary and Christine, leading peacebuilding efforts has meant confronting fast-held patriarchal norms that marginalize the role of women.
In pastoral communities, women are considered like children. They’re not included in conversations on peace. The men hide their issues from the rest of the community, particularly when they are planning raids across the border. They feel that women might try to stop these activities. -Mary
In 2016 the two women, with a wider group of like-minded individuals, set up the POTUMA Women’s Forum—an organization bringing women from the Pokot, Turkana and Marakwet communities together to try and deescalate the shared insecurities of their tribes, as well as to challenge the patriarchy that limits women’s participation in peace and security issues. But conflict in the region remains in flux, with periods of relative peace revolving into periods of heightened violence. Both women call for more involvement from state actors to help broker peace, particularly during the election year. For Mary, it is important to be able to understand and localize available policy frameworks like the Kenya National Action Plan:
It clearly shows women have a place in their community’s peace and security development—it is recognised in national policy. This policy is supposed to ensure active participation of women in peace and security spaces at the grass roots. -Mary
A participant faces riot policemen wearing a rainbow flag during a pride march in Istanbul, on June 26, 2022. - KEMAL ASLAN/AFP via Getty Images via Al Monitor
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s push for a constitutional change to “strengthen the family” and public affronts to same-sex relationships have left Turkey’s LGBTQ community on edge, with many fearful that the controversy will embolden discrimination and hate crimes.
A draft prepared by Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) reportedly introduces an explicit reference to “man and woman” instead of just “spouses” in a constitutional article on the family. He has openly framed the planned change as a move against same-sex relationships.
Though homosexuality has never been criminalized in Turkey, existing laws do define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. What could change in practice if that norm is enshrined in the constitution remains unclear. Rights activists worry that such a move would only reinforce discrimination against LGBTQ individuals, and even if the move fails, the current rhetoric of government leaders could alone fan hate speech and violence.
We all know that LGBTI individuals in Turkey are not equal citizens — they have no rights in any law. A constitutional amendment would formalize the state’s denial of civil rights to LGBTI individuals. -Yildiz Tar, activist from gay rights group Kaos GL
I.O., a gay man in Ankara who has shared a home with his partner for three years, decried the amendment plan as a “terrible” move that would “take Turkey backward and formalize discrimination,” but he doubted it might lead to direct interventions into the lives of gay couples. He says having a private space through jointly owning an apartment with his partner helps him avoid discrimination. However, this is not possible for many LGBTQ people.
Young adults and teenagers are seen as the most vulnerable in the LGBTQ community. Dozens of parents in Ankara have overcome the stigma and joined the Rainbow Families Association to support their children against homophobia. Nedime Erdogan is one of them:
How are our children going to cope with all this? There are many people out there who would take it upon themselves to act on the rhetoric of state officials and commit hate crimes. -Nedime Erdogan
Professor and author Sami Schalk, right, gives a copy of her new book, “Black Disability Politics” to television personality, hairstylist, comedian and podcast host Jonathan Van Ness, before his performance at the Orpheum Theater in Madison on Oct. 13. Schalk is also featured on a recent episode of Van Ness' podcast.. Photo by RUTHIE HAUGE via The Cap Times
Photo via Madison365
Schalk was inspired by seeing a protest organized by Black.Seed, a queer liberation collective, where people stood in front of cars and stopped traffic on the San Francisco Bay Bridge to raise awareness about Black lives and Black health and well-being in January 2016. The activists brought attention to the ways Black people are harmed by institutional oppression and racism through discrimination in housing, socioeconomic status and more. At the front of their protest was a sign that read, “Black Health Matters.”
In her book, Schalk hopes to reclaim a legacy of disability justice work in Black liberation movements, which has historically been overlooked or dismissed.
One of the things I think about a lot after the (2020) uprisings here was how many Black folks I knew that just were feeling really terrified and weren’t sleeping well. The mental effects of living through so much indirectly, so much violence, was causing so many mental health effects, and that is racism disabling us. -Sami Schalk
In the text, Schalk analyzes how Black cultural workers engaged in issues around disability between the 1970s and 2010s, diving deeply into the disability justice activism from the Black Panther Party and the National Black Women’s Health Project. She also conducted interviews with Black cultural workers in the Harriet Tubman Collective, a group of Black Deaf/disabled organizers and community builders striving for radical inclusion and collective liberation. She wanted to explore how Black disability politics operate in the present and speak with organizers who are currently doing this work.
As a scholar, I do activist work, but that is not my main thing. I'm doing educational work, research, and other things. So it just felt really important to me to talk to these folks. -Sami Schalk
Schalk said her book is written for Black people, especially Black disabled people. Her primary audience is Black scholars, activists, writers and artists who use Black disability politics in their work for Black liberation. She prioritizes making her work intellectually accessible through writing in clear ways and explaining the academic words she uses. She also released an open access version of “Black Disability Politics” where readers can download pdfs of each chapter to read for free.
I want it to be bigger, I want it to be a part of larger conversations that are pushing our world in a better direction than where we are right now. -Sami Schalk
People hold a giant rainbow flag during the pride parade in Taipei, Taiwan, October 29, 2022. REUTERS/Ann Wang
An estimated 120,000 people attended Taiwan LGBT Pride held in Taipei this weekend. This year marked the 20th anniversary of the event and the first full-scale one since 2020, due to the pandemic. Taiwan LGBT Pride was held as a scaled-down online, hybrid event in 2021, with events held in smaller venues, or stage and market booths set up across Taipei, and no physical march.
Many of the groups that attended work on gender and sexuality issues, ranging from the Taiwan Lourdes Association, which provides assistance to people living with HIV and AIDS, to Taiwan Sex Industry and Worker’s Rights Advocacy, which advocates for sex workers.
Speakers at the pride parade, East Asia’s largest, brought up many issues. Many of the issues raised by the 2022 pride parade carry over to past years as well. This includes, the call to lift limits on transnational gay marriages that do not allow Taiwanese to marry individuals from countries that have not legalized gay marriage, or people from countries that have not legalized gay marriage to marry in Taiwan. These restrictions on transnational gay marriages have persisted since the legalization of gay marriage in Taiwan in May 2019. There were also demands similar to the Trans March, which took place the day before, such as lifting the surgery requirements for changing one’s legal gender.
Other placards and slogans reflected on global political issues pertaining to Taiwan. A number of Hong Kong independence banners and Ukrainian flags were present, for example, including Hong Kong independence banners in the colors of the Ukrainian flag.
I'm very proud that Taiwan has Pride…Taiwan is the first place where same sex marriage was legalised in Asia. That's not possible in many countries. Taiwan is a place where you can be who you are. - Chang Chi, 28, social worker, who took part with her girlfriend
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.