Global Roundup: Punjab Women Farmers Protest Farming Law, Afghan Female Tattoo Artist Breaking Taboo

Compiled and written by Inaara Merani

Harinder Bindu. Photo: via The Wire

The Indian government is currently trying to implement new laws which would open up the agricultural sector to corporate forces. For Punjab farmers, this would result in the consolidation of land into mega-farms, which in turn would result in a corporate monopoly over this sector. These new laws may also result in the government not buying crops at guaranteed prices. Farming has long been part of Punjab culture; these new laws would detach Sikhs from their land and would result in further segregation of the Punjab community. 

Since September, Punjab farmers have been protesting against these laws and in recent days, farmers gained traction as they marched to Delhi in protest of the new laws. Throughout these protests, women have been a constant source of support and action, but their stories often go unnoticed. In the mainstream media, women have been left out and their involvement has not been adequately represented.

Last week, a convoy of at least 10,000 female protestors made their way to Delhi led by Harinder Bindu, who has been farming in Punjab for over 30 years. Bindu explained that these proposed laws would have a detrimental effect on women in particular because without a guaranteed crop price, women will not earn enough money to support their families. Additionally, if farms do not generate enough income, women will be forced to work in areas where there is no guarantee for their safety. These laws will have adverse effects and will affect each family in different ways. 

The three laws brought by the Modi government will impact women in a very different way…If the farmers’ are affected, they will not be able to earn enough money to sustain their households. This will impact women as they will have to control the portions of meals that they cook - Harinder Bindu

Over the past few weeks, protestors have been repeatedly met with water cannons, tear gas, and other forms of violence. Yet, throughout it all, Punjab farmers have remained strong and nonviolent, and have demonstrated how resilience and peace prevails over violence.

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The program to provide free period products like tampons and pads in P.E.I. schools will cost the province about $15,000 a year. (gpointstudio/Shutterstock) via CBC

In Prince Edward Island, Canada, the government will pay for free period products in schools, food banks and shelters. That is so amazing! After hearing about Scotland’s decision to make menstrual products free, the world wondered when other nations would follow suit, and it is amazing to see a country like Canada step up and implement something which is absolutely necessary! 

Menstruation isn't typically something we talk about in the house, or even in public, in general…This silence needs to end. It creates stigma and shame about a natural, biological event - Natalie Jameson, P.E.I.'s minister responsible for the status of women 

All around the world, millions of women and people who menstruate miss out on activities, such as school and work, because they do not have the income to pay for menstrual products. Missing out on these formative experiences can be catastrophic, and it further polarizes women from society. It is estimated that women spend up to $6000 in their lifetime solely on menstrual hygiene products. In rural areas, this amount could double. In this rapidly changing economy, it is more important than ever to make menstrual products free. Women cannot continue to bear the economic burden of these products for something that is completely out of their control. 

It is time for the government to cover the cost of menstrual products, just like they cover other medical expenses. Moreover, the other Canadian provinces, as well as other nations, needs to step up and implement similar legislation. 

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Tattoo artist Soraya Shahidy tattoos a client at her beauty salon in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 10, 2020, Photo: REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

Soraya Shahidy is breaking the stigma around tattoos in Islamic culture. Shahidy recently opened her salon in Kabul, Afghanistan and has received many customers since. She insists that her artwork is legitimate in Islamic practices and also believes she is the first female tattoo artist in Afghanistan. Shahidy, 27, who trained in Turkey and Iran, insists her artwork is legitimate in Islam. She says that there is a growing interest from the younger generation and that she wanted to demonstrate her artistic abilities in a sector which is predominantly run by men.

I could have performed this profession abroad but I wanted to do it in Afghanistan because there are no female tattoo artists in the country…I believe it’s not only men who can apply tattoos. Women can do it too - Soraya Shahidy

She is a badass woman and will not let societal and cultural norms dictate what she can and cannot do. 

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The BBC found hymen-repair kits being sold online, claiming to restore virginity. Photo: RACHEL STONEHOUSE via BBC

An investigation by the BBC has found that British medical clinics are offering “virginity tests”. ...What the fuck? The virginity test involves a vaginal examination in order to check if the hymen is still intact. The intrusive tests are considered a violation of human rights by the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations, which want to see them banned.

Critics say they are unscientific, cannot prove whether someone is a virgin and can be a form of abuse.

Many of these clinics also offered “virginity repair” which is essentially a hymen-repair surgery; this can cost anywhere from £1,500 to £3,000. As fucked up as it is, there are women who have undergone this extremely controversial surgery. 

“Virginity tests” like female genital mutilation are about controlling female sexuality and reinforcing patriarchal standards.

My parents and the family of the man they wanted me to marry said I had to have a virginity test to prove I was still a virgin so the marriage could go ahead…I was scared and didn't really understand what it meant. I felt running away was my only option - so that's what I did - a woman who was helped by the charity Karma Nirvana, which supports victims of so-called honour-based abuse and forced marriage in the UK

Currently, this procedure is practiced in about 20 countries but the WHO claims that there is no way to determine whether a woman has had sex or not. Hymens can tear for many reasons, it does not only mean that a woman has engaged in intercourse. This falsifying procedure seeks to “protect” women’s purity and chastity.

We have received calls from girls who are concerned about this. It might be that they are worried their families have found out perhaps they've been in a relationship or they're not a virgin. It might be family are pressuring them to go through with tests and they are concerned about the outcome of that - Priya Manota manages the helpline for Karma Nirvana

These tests reinforce the false notion that engaging in intercourse makes one impure, however this label has only been attached to women. We must abolish these patriarchal double standards.

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Over the weekend, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris announced their new all-female White House senior communications team. Four of the seven top communications roles at the White House will be filled by women of colour. This is the first time the entire senior White House communications team will be entirely female.

The team is said to be a reflection of the women who supported Biden’s victory; without the support of female Congressional candidates and countless other women, his victory would not have been possible. Women and BIPOC were the backbone of Biden’s campaign, and it is extraordinary to see women being recognized for their contributions. 

While celebrating historic firsts is important, it is also important to recognize that as intersectional feminists, we must hold politicians and the teams they appoint accountable as they go about their work and as we learn about the policies they vow to implement. Feminism must be about more than just celebrating the elevation of individual women to historic positions. It is about dismantling systems of oppression that hold back many others.

Currently, journalism is dominated by men and this all-female team is a way to disrupt this norm. It is inspiring to see such a diverse group of women represented in senior leadership positions! We must ensure that their presence represents a shift in politics and that it will create space for more women in senior leadership positions. 

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Inaara Merani (she/her) is a fourth-year undergraduate student at the University of Ottawa studying International Development and Globalization with a minor in Women’s Studies. She is a Muslim Canadian who is passionate about human rights, social justice and feminism. She is deeply interested in destroying the patriarchy and ensuring that all women have safe and equal access to all their rights. She hopes to pursue a career in law so she can fight for women’s rights! She also enjoys reading, travelling and spending time with her beautiful cat.