Global Roundup: Poland Abortion Laws, Thailand Same-Sex Marriage, Florida Trans-Led Protest, Afro-Indigenous Writers, Ukraine LGBTQ+ Film
Curated by FG Contributor Samiha Hossain
Polish women protesting in June last year after a woman’s death that was linked to Poland’s strict abortion laws. Photograph: Anna Liminowicz/The Guardian
Three years ago, women in Poland took to the streets wielding placards that read “The revolution has a uterus” and “My body, my choice.” Now, the battle against Poland’s draconian abortion measures has moved from the streets to the country’s legislature, in what campaigners describe as a crucial test of the country’s new government. Anything less than liberalisation of the laws would feel as though the new government had “cheated” on the hundreds of thousands who had taken to the streets, said Kamila Ferenc of the Federation for Women and Family Planning.
In the lead-up to October’s election, the Civic Coalition, led by Donald Tusk, vowed to do away with the country’s near-total ban on abortion within 100 days of being elected. As the days since his election as prime minister steadily tick down, campaigners say there has been little sign of change.
It’s very disappointing. We won these elections – it’s women and young people who won these elections. -Marta Lempart, Polish Women’s Strike
Three draft bills have so far been announced. In November, the Left party announced it would put forward two bills: one seeking to legalise abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy and another that would decriminalise the act of assisting in abortion. Late last month, Tusk said his party would also put forward its own draft legislation allowing abortion up to the 12th week. So far there is no confirmed date for the first reading of these bills in parliament, said Ferenc. The centrist Third Way party, a junior member in the Tusk-led coalition, has reportedly been contemplating introducing legislation that would call on the country to return to Poland’s strict 1993 laws.
We are afraid that only this most conservative draft bill, which seeks to bring back the previous legal situation on abortion, will pass, and the rest of them will be rejected. And that means disaster for us as women’s rights defenders. -Kamila Ferenc
At the Polish Women’s Strike, a petition has been launched to demand that each of the draft abortion bills be sent to a parliamentary committee for further study, regardless of whether they gain enough support to make it past the final vote. Even if the bills are backed by a majority of parliament, the question remains of whether the country’s president, Andrzej Duda, who is aligned with the rightwing former government, will sign them into law.
Photos: Thomas Christofoletti/Ruom for Them
Same-sex marriage is not legally recognized in Thailand, but the arrival of a new, more liberal-minded government in 2023 and a decades-long push from local LGBTQ+ activists means change could be coming. At the end of 2023, Thailand’s House of Representatives approved four different drafts of a marriage equality bill. While there are still several more rounds of approval to go, LGBTQ+ activists hope a version could be passed later this year. A subcommittee formed of MPs, representatives of citizen-led organizations, and activists is currently working on merging the bills into a final draft to be put forward for consideration.
If the bill passes, it would make Thailand only the third country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage, and potentially the first to do so without caveats. Nepal legalized same-sex marriage in 2023 and Taiwan in 2019, but both countries have been criticized for imposing restrictions. Human Rights Watch has called Nepal's path to marriage equality “piecemeal” and fraught with bureaucracy. When same-sex couples in Taiwan won the right to marry in 2019, they weren’t initially allowed to adopt a child not biologically related to one member of the couple. (This was changed in May of 2023, when they were granted full adoption rights.)
Couples around the country are waiting to discover whether they’ll be granted the right to marry who they want. But it’s not just about celebrating love – it’s about all the securities that come with a legal union: the ability to pass on wealth and to act as one another’s medical proxy, as well as to adopt and more easily move abroad together.
According to Bangkok-based couple Atitaya Asa and Nachale Boonyapisomparn, both of whom are trans, “same-sex marriage will open doors for other laws that support LGBTQ+ people.” Boonyapisomparn, a 43-year-old partnerships manager at the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, calls for a gender recognition bill that would allow Thais to legally change their gender if passed. She and Asa met through their work in trans activism and are both members of the parliamentary subcommittee charged with reviewing the same-sex marriage bills and condensing them into one.
They are also pushing for the use of gender-neutral language in the bill, such as for the term “spouse” to replace “husband and wife” and for the gender-neutral term “parents” rather than “mother and father.” This is especially important for trans people, Boonyapisomparn said.
A lot of trans people feel uncomfortable when we have to describe ourselves and fit in the gender binary. -Nachale Boonyapisomparn
As it stands, Boonyapisomparn and Asa could currently marry if they wanted to, but they’re not ready. They’d also have to do so as their sex assigned at birth. Legalization of same-sex marriage would not only grant them a legal union that recognizes their true identities, but it could also help change traditional attitudes about marriage and family.
[It will show that] LGBTQ+ people can create families and have the same equality of life. -Atitaya Asa
On Friday (9 February) trans people and allies took to the streets of Florida to protest a recent anti-trans ruling (Human Rights Campaign/Twitter)
Transgender activists have taken to the streets of Florida to protest against a recent policy change that bars alterations to gender markers on state-issued identification cards – and could criminalise trans Floridians.
Trans people in Florida will no longer be allowed to change the sex on their driving licence to reflect their gender identity, according to a memo released in January. As a result of this, demonstrators took to the streets on Friday to stage “die-ins” at driver’s license offices (DMVs) statewide, disrupting business and drawing attention to the state’s assault on transgender rights.
Crowds gathered in lobbies after 10 a.m., collapsing onto the ground in a symbolic gesture of resistance. Some activists held gravestones bearing poignant messages such as “Killed By the DMV” or “Killed by Ron DeSantis,” in a direct jab at the governor. The orchestrated protests were largely coordinated by PRISM, a prominent LGBTQ advocacy group spearheading the “Let Trans People Drive” campaign– in collaboration with allies like the Youth Action Fund, Equality Florida, Hope CommUnity Center, GLSEN Central Florida, and SPEKTRUM Health.
The Human Rights Campaign – the US’s largest LGBTQ+ civil rights organisation – shared several images from the protest and tweeted, “Shout out to the young queer activists that led this protest. You are the future of our movement and we are proud to fight with you!” A press release from PRISM explained the reason for the protests, stating, “Participants will stage die-ins to underscore the devastating consequences of efforts to erase the transgender community’s legal recognition.”
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Adeline Bird and Tasha Spillett. (Adeline Bird/Facebook/Sam Samson/CBC)
Tasha Spillett, who identifies as urban Afro-Indigenous with family ties to Opaskwayak Cree Nation and Cumberland House Cree Nation, said as an author her words carry the responsibility of her people and she uses her words for their empowerment. Her books include the New York Times bestseller picture book I sang you down from the stars and the graphic novel series Surviving the City. She said writing is her way of teaching the public how to treat brown and Black people with respect.
We have done such incredibly beautiful things under oppression; can you imagine if we are able to fully thrive and live in joy and flourish, the things we [will be] able to do. -Tasha Spillett
Spillett said she's working on a young adult novel about the Afro-Indigenous experience. She wants to explore how Afro-Indigenous people are treated during the "pretendian" exposes in recent years.
One thing I think about is whenever a case is brought forward on 'pretendianism,' there's a lot of discussion, 'Well they look Native' but yet those of us who are blood related to these folks, we're othered because we don't look Native. -Tasha Spillett
Adeline Bird is an Afro-Anishinaabe filmmaker and actor who is a member of Rolling River First Nation in Manitoba, and lives in Toronto. She appeared in the series Little Bird and is the author of Be Unapologetically You: A Self- Love Guide for Women of Color. She agreed with Spillett that barriers remain for Black and Indigenous creators but it's important for her to claim her space.
It's really about truth, being able to see the collective experiences of what it means to be Indigenous, what it means to be Black. It's not just the stereotypes, the poverty. I watch both communities closely. There are so many things that are so similar. It's just so much truth that hasn't been unpacked yet. -Adeline Bird
Bird wants to see other Afro-Indigenous people own their power as writers. She said her next project will be a series centred on an urban Afro-Indigenous girl's experience.
Ukrainian film director Arkadii Nepytaliuk poses for a photo in Kyiv, Ukraine. October, 2022. He hopes his new film "Lessons of Tolerance" will help change attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Natalie Vikhrov.
When he was growing up in a small village in Ukraine's Khmelnitskyi region during the Soviet era, being gay was a taboo subject, and Nepytaliuk said he felt afraid when he first met openly gay people as a student in the capital, Kyiv. But his homophobic beliefs melted away when he became friends with his gay room-mate and other LGBTQ+ students. Now, he hopes his new film, "Lessons of Tolerance", will have a similar thawing effect on audiences when it debuts at cinemas across Ukraine on Valentine's Day.
[Our film] is for people who are homophobic, so they can look at themselves and change – and not just towards LGBT people but towards each other too. - Arkadii Nepytaliuk
In 2022, a citizen petition calling for same-sex marriage to be legalised received tens of thousands of signatures, leading to a draft law on civil partnerships being introduced in parliament last year. But while same-sex relations were decriminalised after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the mainly Orthodox Christian nation scores poorly on LGBTQ+ rights, ranking 39th out of 49 European countries in the 2023 Rainbow Map by the ILGA-Europe rights group.
Adapted from a stage play by Ihor Bilyts called "Gay Parade", Nepytaliuk's film follows a financially struggling family forced to confront their prejudices when they host a gay activist as part of a European integration programme. Its message could cause a stir in Ukraine, where cultural events and films with an LGBTQ+ theme have been targeted by ultra-conservative groups in recent years. "Lessons of Tolerance" is the first Ukrainian feature film to tackle homophobia head on, Nepytaliuk said and he believes “this is the story that's needed now.”
Samiha Hossain (she/her) is an aspiring urban planner studying at Toronto Metropolitan University. Throughout the years, she has worked in nonprofits with survivors of sexual violence and youth. Samiha firmly believes in the power of connecting with people and listening to their stories to create solidarity and heal as a community. She loves learning about the diverse forms of feminist resistance around the world.