Global Roundup: Peru GBV & Femicide Crisis, Japanese Writer & China’s Feminists, Iranian Artist Portrays Resilience, India Same Sex Marriage, Two-Spirit Singer on Identity
Curated by FG Contributor Samiha Hossain
The organisation Mothers Fighting for Justice marches through the streets of Peru to protest violence against women [Neil Giardino/Al Jazeera]
CW: gender-based violence
A string of high-profile murders has drawn attention to rates of gender-based violence in Peru.
Last month, after 18-year-old Katherine Gómez ended things with her boyfriend Sergio Tarache, he set her aflame with a lighter and fled the scene. Nearly six days passed before a superior court judge in Lima issued an arrest warrant. Tarache, 21, had already fled the country. Meanwhile, Gómez, suffering severe burns to her chest and face, died of respiratory failure in an induced coma. Nine days after the attack, an 11-year-old Indigenous girl was found on the cusp of death in the Amazon region of Ucayali after her 25-year-old stepbrother attempted to rape her. And two days after that, a 32-year-old nurse was discovered severely injured after being sexually assaulted by two male coworkers. She died after 12 days in a coma. Her co-workers were subsequently arrested and await charges.
The brutality of these cases has shocked Peruvians in recent weeks, laying bare what many are calling a systemic “crisis” of gender-based violence. Six out of 10 women have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence, and rates of femicide are soaring in the country. Since January, there have been 51 reported femicides in Peru, a figure likely to outpace the 137 recorded last year. Furthermore, in 2022, there were 11,524 reports of missing women and only 48 percent of them were found by authorities.
It’s a vicious circle. Cases continue to occur, and a negligent state response sends an unfortunate message that in Peru you can rape, disappear or kill a woman without consequence…It’s a system that fails to comply with due diligence and does not take reports seriously, which aggravates a situation of daily violence. -Diana Portal, ombudsman’s office
One week after her daughter’s death, Gómez’s mother, Cinthia Machare, clutched a banner with the teenager’s portrait as she marched through downtown Lima, protesting the state’s response to the wave of recent femicides. Following an international manhunt, Tarache was apprehended on April 11th in Bogota, Colombia, and is awaiting extradition. But critics say the procedural delays that allowed him time to flee reveal a crisis of impunity.
Gender-rights activists call for increased state funding for programmes that support survivors as well as stronger prevention measures, harsher sentencing for aggressors and meaningful education reforms to address the violence. Magali Águilar whose daughter, Sheyla, was murdered by her boyfriend in 2018 has formed an association called Mother’s Fighting for Justice, which serves as a support network for bereaved families and holds workshops to teach young women how to recognise and avoid abusive relationships.
Through our pain, we’re rising up. When we’re together, we cry when we need to, and then we dry our tears and keep fighting so that there isn’t another Sheyla. So that this story doesn’t keep repeating. -Magali Águilar
Prof Chizuko Ueno, the Japanese feminist and author. Talk to young Chinese academics, writers and podcasters about what women are reading and Ueno’s name comes up. Photograph: The Asahi Shimbun/Getty Images
Japanese feminist and author Chizuko Ueno’s books are hugely popular in China, where a crackdown on large-scale organising has stifled a nascent feminist movement. Ueno, a professor of sociology at the University of Tokyo, was little known in China outside academia until she delivered a 2019 matriculation speech at the university in which she railed against its sexist admissions policies, sexual “abuse” by male students against their female peers, and the pressure women felt to downplay their academic achievements. The speech went viral in Japan, then China.
In China we need some sort of feminist role model to lead us and enable us to see how far women can go. She taught us that as a woman, you have to fight every day, and to fight is to survive. - Shiye Fu, host of popular feminist podcast Stochastic Volatility
China’s feminist movement has grown enormously in the past few years, especially among young women online, where it was stoked by the #MeToo movements around the world and given oxygen on social media. Feminism is also facing much stricter censorship – the word “feminism” is among those censored online, as is China’s #MeToo hashtag, #WoYeShi.
Lü Pin, a prominent Chinese feminist who now lives in the US, says because large-scale organising is “almost impossible” in China, women are turning to “all kinds of alternative ways to maintain feminism in their daily lives and even develop and transfer feminism to others.” These may take the form of book clubs or exercise meet-ups. Some of her friends in China organise hikes where they talk about feminism.
Lü first read Ueno’s academic work as a young scholar, when few people in China knew her name. Ueno’s books are for people who are starting out on their pursuit of feminism, Lü says, and the author is good at explaining feminist issues in ways that are easy to understand. Lü notes that because of censorship, it is hard for Chinese scholars and feminists to publish their work.
Ghazaleh Rastgar painting a mural in Red Deer, Canada (left). Images of two of her illustrations for the Iranian revolution. - Copyright @Ghazaraza
Ghazaleh Rastgar, an Iranian ex-pat and multidisciplinary artist, has been going around the globe painting murals and designing posters in support of the “Women, Life, Freedom” revolution. Her art – ranging from graphic illustrations to murals – celebrates female strength, spirituality, and sexuality. She says women and their issues are a common theme in her art due to the early years of her life spent in Iran.
The main message in my art has always been respect for life, respect for women, and respect for nature. -Ghazaleh Rastgar
Rastgar moved to Canada as a teenager where she says she had the “freedom” to unlearn many of the things she had been indoctrinated with during her childhood in Iran. A graduate of Ontario College of Art and Design, she worked as a graphic and web designer in the early years of her career before realizing she wanted to be a fine artist.
A lot of my art, in the beginning, was just about the female body. I started making figures – female figures in different positions just loving their lives, loving their bodies, loving their hair. -Ghazaleh Rastgar
After the murder of Mahsa Amini, Rastgar decided to channel her anger toward the Iranian regime and her “guilt” of not being able to do enough as an ex-pat into her artwork. Her art blends Iranian iconography and Persian folklore into modern designs inspired by contemporary events. Last month, one of her posters for the Iranian revolution that she designed during Halloween was displayed in museums in Paris. Drawing on Iranian iconography, it depicts a standoff between a white-colored monster and a female warrior with the words “women, life, freedom” embroiled in her flowy hair. She explains that the monster is called a ‘Div’ (demon) in Farsi (Persian) and is based on stories from the Shahnameh – a collection of pre-Islamic Persian folkloric stories written by the legendary Iranian writer, Ferdousi, in the 14th century. In the stories, the hero is always a man, she says, but she wanted to depict a female hero. The monster is also symbolic of the oppressive Iranian regime while the female soldier is representative of all the women protesting resiliently.
With the revolution in Iran getting international coverage, Rastgar says she is very grateful for the international outcry amplifying the voices of protestors in Iran but a lot more needs to be done by the international community. She hopes she can continue using her art to spread awareness and urge the international community to stand in solidarity with Iran.
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Abhay Dang and Supriyo Chakraborty, who are among the petitioners outside India's Supreme Court after attending a hearing on the case, April 20, 2023.
India’s Supreme Court is hearing arguments in a landmark case on whether to legalize same sex marriage in the country. The case follows a number of petitions filed by LGBTQ couples saying that the constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gives all citizens the right to marry a person of their choice.
What we are canvassing before this court is a new imagination of marriage and family whose foundation is love, care and respect. -Vrinda Grover, one of the lawyers for the petitioners
The hearings that began on April 18th before a five-judge bench led by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, are being livestreamed on YouTube and are getting widespread attention, both in the packed courtroom and outside.
The case holds huge significance for India’s LGBTQ community, which only emerged from the shadows four and a half years ago after the top court struck down a law criminalizing homosexuality. Their legal battle for the right to marry marks the next big step in a country that is still largely conservative, but where acceptance and understanding of same sex relationships has been gradually growing. In the big cities, many now celebrate their sexuality openly.
Petitioners say both emotional compulsions and the practical need for legal rights that heterosexual couples take for granted prompted them to approach the court. Among them are Abhay Dang and Supriyo Chakraborty, a gay couple based in the southern city of Hyderabad who held an elaborate “wedding” ceremony a year and a half ago to seal their partnership. But they still do not count as a married couple under the law.
I really wanted to call Abhay my husband. My mother, my family accepted us. I want my mother to call Abhay loudly, proudly, legally as her son-in-law. -Supriyo Chakraborty
The pivotal moment that prompted Dang and Chakraborty to approach the court was when they both contracted COVID-19 during the pandemic. They realized if one of them was hospitalized and needed the other to make medical decisions for them, it would not be possible as their partnership is not legally recognized. Another gay couple, Utkarsh Saxena and Ananya Kotia, who met 15 years ago in college, say they want the host of legal rights that flow from being married such as adoption, filing joint taxes, holding joint bank accounts and inheritance rights.
It is not clear when the court will pronounce a decision. But even as they wait for it, Saxena and Kotia hope the law will soon allow them to plan a marriage while Dang and Chakrabarty hope that ceremonies like the one they held will count as a legal wedding someday.
Singer-songwriter Shawnee Kish. (Courtesy Shawnee Kish media team)
Canadian Two-Spirit singer-songwriter Shawnee Kish is sharing her journey on how music helped her find her identity. A 2022 Juno Award nominee for Contemporary Indigenous Artist of the Year, she says her path with music started at a young age. She describes struggling with what it meant to be Indigenous and Two-Spirit, however, music helped her find her place in the world.
I rediscovered music and the power that it has, and the power that it gave me, that I fit in the world in my own way. I just discovered that there’s this purpose for me in this life. -Shawnee Kish
Kish says for her, being Two-Spirit is about understanding.
I think of Two-Spirit as this beautiful term for Indigenous people in the queer community to embrace who they are. It has nothing to do with your sexuality, it has nothing to do with even a specific gender. It has to do with understanding both walks of life. -Shawnee Kish
Kish was recently part of the Kids Help Phone, which has offered free, accessible support to Canadian youth for decades, and launched a new mental health campaign called ‘Feel Out Loud.’ She says helping out was important to her because of her own experience.
I know that your survival and peace is so crucial when you have that identity of struggle, that’s what makes you great and powerful, you have this perspective of overcoming, you have this perspective of fight and drive – and you are unstoppable. -Shawnee Kish
Kish believes there is hope, and going through hard times can help strengthen and shape people. She is set to release new music later this year.
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.
I'm so enriched by these roundups. Thank you, Samiha.