Global Roundup: Morocco Official Fired Over Mentioning Sexual Orientation, Protesters vs UK Women’s-only Detention Centre, Brazil Female Fishers, Pakistan Women’s Cricket, Tamil Queer Artists Calendar
Compiled by FG Contributor Samiha Hossain
A Moroccan activist with the number 489 written on her shirt, in reference to article 489 of the penal code, which punishes homosexuality with by up to three years in jail. (AFP via Getty/ FADEL SENNA) via Pink News
The head of literacy at Morocco’s ministry of endowments and Islamic affairs has been fired for simply mentioning sexual orientation in adult learning materials. The ministry was overseeing the production of adult literacy courses used in mosques, and recently released a new curriculum. A part of the curriculum included a quote from a book, “Equality implies that people are treated equally without discrimination regardless of ethnicity, sexual orientation, or disability.”
After an investigation, it was concluded that the head of literacy had been trying to “promote” homosexuality in mosques. He was fired immediately, and teachers across Morocco have been ordered to cross out the words “sexual orientation” in their copies of the curriculum.
We are one of the few countries that cancel people for doing the right thing. Just see the injustice that this man faced, and imagine how much the LGBTQIA+ community suffers in Morocco. – Anonymous queer person in Morocco
According to article 489 of Morocco’s penal code, sexual acts between people of the same sex are punishable with up to three years in prison, plus a fine. Abderrahim El Habachi, a gay writer and actor who fled persecution to seek asylum in the UK in 2017, has described being LGBTQ+ in Morocco as having to hide yourself.
If you show your colours it means that you are going to face the most discriminatory behaviour and homophobia… If people sense that you are gay, they can beat you – and you have no right to complain. You are the victim at that moment but in the eyes of the law, you are the criminal because you are gay. - Abderrahim El Habachi
Given the strong and swift reaction at the mere suggestion of the LGBTQ+ community, it is clear that those in power are determined to uphold homophobic and patriarchal structures. Yet LGBTQ+ people continue to assert their existence and call out these injustices.
Former detention centre detainee Agnes Tanoh said locking women up "broke families" via BBC
Protesters from around the UK gathered outside a new immigration detention centre for women. Derwentside Immigration Centre opened last month and replaced Yarl's Wood as the UK's only women's-only centre.
The Home Office said the accommodation was for women who "had no right to be in the UK." According to the government, the unit housed foreign national prison inmates due for release and immigration offenders awaiting deportation, with a capacity for 84 people. Centre bosses have so far refused to say how many women are currently being housed at the centre.
At the protest outside the facility organized by various campaign groups including Durham People's Assembly, Abolish Detention and No To Hassockfield, advocates said the women should be set free to live in the community.
We have women locked up, who cannot leave who do not have their freedom and who came because they were seeking sanctuary in the UK. These women are not dangerous, set them free to live among the community. It's cheaper and much more humane and let them proceed with their legal cases. - Dr Helen Groom, campaigner
Agnes Tanoh from Women for Refugee Women, who was detained in Yarl's Wood, told the crowd that putting women in detention breaks families. Marginalized women are overrepresented in detention centres and face misogyny, racism and other forms of oppression. It is important to stand in solidarity with these women, listen to their stories, and demand an end to such human rights violations.
Eliete Paraguassu is one of the many female leaders in Brazil who has taken charge to help protect her fishing community during the pandemic. Photo courtesy of Eliete Paraguassu via Hakai Magazine
A recent study looking at how small fishing communities in Brazil have coped with the pandemic found that female leaders often took on vital roles in ensuring their communities’ subsistence, and in helping to prevent contagion.
As the COVID-19 pandemic threatened the tiny Ilha de Maré off the coast of Salvador, Brazil, Eliete Paraguassu, a 42-year-old shellfish harvester, mobilized her community. She spurred the community to erect physical barriers to deter tourists who continued to try to visit the island despite the pandemic. With the closure of the street market, which crippled the community’s fish sales and left residents with less money and few options to leave the island to buy groceries, Paraguassu and the other fishers began growing their own food.
The women’s group led by Paraguassu established partnerships with NGOs and a local university, and members were trained to keep the community protected from the virus. They received and distributed donations of face masks and hand sanitizer, and treated people with traditional medicine.
Most men refused to understand the seriousness of the disease from the beginning. We had to assume the role of caretakers. - Eliete Paraguassu
Despite women taking more leadership positions, Monalisa Rodrigues da Silva, one of the authors of the study, says women have to fight to be heard in the traditionally misogynistic fishing sector. The study also found that empowering female fishers can be important for ensuring the food security, sovereignty, and safety of fishing families and communities.
Ever since far-right President Jair Bolsonaro took office in 2019, women have been the targets of political attacks and his government has suspended several programs designed to empower women. However, Paraguassu says women will continue to play key roles in her community “because we have been able to keep them united and alive during the pandemic.”
Bisma Amjad has had to dress like a man to be able to play. Her family gave her a year to break into the national team or to drop the sport. Photograph: Shah Meer Baloch/The Guardian
Bisma Amjad was chosen for Pakistan’s under-19 squad to play the World Cup in 2021, but it was cancelled due to the pandemic, and now she has to keep playing first-class cricket to have any hope of making the national team. However, being a woman playing cricket comes with many barriers. For instance, Amjad has to dress as a man to play alongside male cricketers at “gully cricket” – the street game.
Amjad also hears constant comments such as “your skin will turn darker” or “it is a boys’ game and you are wasting your time. Do a course that will help you after marriage.”
A friend of mine has chopped her hair off so she could go and play without being known as she is a girl. Women who play sport have to struggle a lot in our society. - Bisma Amjad
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has yet to propose a time frame for the women’s league it had promised three years ago. The Pakistan women’s cricket captain, Javeria Khan sees this as a big step forward.
That is very welcoming since it would encourage more women to play cricket. Men have a lot of such tournaments where they can show their talents but women do not have such opportunities. Here, a woman has to work twice as hard as a man to prove her talent. - Javeria Khan
There is evidently a lot of work to be done in women’s cricket, such as tackling the gender pay gap. Women and girls are not letting these challenges deter them from following their dreams and proving their immense talent in the sport.
INSTAGRAM/ IQUEER, ARTIST MADHAN via The News Minute
IQueer is a Tamil collective that hosts Clubhouse sessions where queer people discuss queer art and literature and plan to focus more on mental health, sexual health and queer rights in the future. IQueer also opens the door to nuanced conversations on issues that affect queer people on a daily basis such as the stereotypes and stigma, the difficulty of coming out, the lack of vocabulary in Tamil or other regional languages to address the LGBTQIA+ community. They are releasing a calendar for 2022-23 that features the artworks made by Tamil queer artists that reflect on the lives of members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
There are times when even members within the queer community might believe in certain myths or fail to talk about things that need to be discussed. Intersectionality, for instance, is often overlooked. We have dedicated a number of Clubhouse sessions on that. - Angel Glady, IQueer member
The founders explain that instead of featuring the photos of queer persons, they are hoping that the calendar would act as a canvas to showcase artists’ talents, raise awareness, and present an opportunity to learn and normalize discourses about the LGBTQIA+ community in people’s day to day lives. Revolving around themes such as gender identity and the mental and sexual health of queer persons, the lineup includes 12 artists.
Along with the artwork of the month, one can also find the name of the artist and other information on them, and a few sentences shedding light on the interpretation of the art. The days that are of significance to the community are also marked in the calendar.
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.