Global Roundup: Senegal Activists Seeks Disability Inclusion, Japan Same-Sex Marriage, Honduras Women’s Rights, Somalia Social Worker vs GBV, Brazil Artist Depicts Lesbian Couples
Curated by FG contributor Samiha Hossain
Photo credit: Sightsavers/Sidy Camara
Coumba Ndiaye is an activist and city councillor in Pikine, a Dakar suburb in Senegal, striving for disability inclusion. Her traumatic experience giving birth as a disabled person 22 years ago drives her activism today. When she sought care to deliver her baby, several health centres refused her, saying her disability would make the delivery “too complicated.” The hospital she was finally referred to initially assumed she needed a caesarean section without examining her. After giving birth, she was not helped off the bed and fell, leading to her haemorrhaging. Later, she was told by the head midwife not to have another child.
Ndiaye engages with women’s groups, the association of Senegalese midwives, female lawyers and community groups. She raises the situation of disabled women giving birth when she can, and sometimes helps individual women with disabilities in a personal capacity.
I lived through many experiences and that’s why I’m confident today. I can fight for disabled women. I also know that I can talk with the authorities. -Coumba Ndiaye
Although inclusivity is progressing in Senegal, there was still a need for change “from the bottom to the top of society” Ndiaye says. She called for a goal to provide access to health centres to all people with disabilities, without them having to face problems. She also believes health workers need better training on how to provide equitable and respectful health services for people with disabilities.
Step by step, society will include people with disabilities. My dream is to make all delivery rooms accessible to disabled women… [and] have medical staff both skilled and kind. When the delivery room will be available for disabled women, I would say that I have reached my goal. -Coumba Ndiaye
A Tokyo court upheld a ban on same-sex marriage on Wednesday but said a lack of legal protection for same-sex families violated their human rights. Japan’s constitution defines marriage as based on the mutual consent of both sexes. Although Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's ruling party has revealed no plans yet to review the matter or propose changes, several senior members support same-sex marriage.
Japan does not permit same-sex couples to marry or inherit each other's assets, such as a shared home, and denies them parental rights to each other's children, while even hospital visits can be difficult. Though partnership certificates from municipalities cover about 60% of Japan's population, they do not give same-sex couples the same rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples.
The Tokyo ruling promises to be influential as the capital has an outsized influence on the rest of Japan. It had been keenly awaited after hopes were raised by a 2021 ruling in the city of Sapporo that the ban was unconstitutional, although another decision in Osaka in June upheld the ban. The eight plaintiffs in the case said the ban contravened their human rights and demanded damages of 1 million yen, although the court rejected that.
This is hard to accept. -Gon Matsunaka, head of the activist group Marriage for All Japan
The plaintiffs, who unfurled a banner outside the courthouse reading, "A step forward for Marriage Equality" after the ruling, said they were encouraged. Two more cases are pending in Japan, and activists and lawyers hope an accumulation of judicial decisions supporting same-sex marriage will eventually push lawmakers to change the system, even if this is unlikely soon.
There were parts of this that were disappointing, but parts of it gave me hope. -Katsu
Legalizing same-sex marriages is just one part of making society a place where LGBTQ+ people can live freely. A lot of work goes into making these bare minimum policies a reality, but activists continue to fight for their rights.
Photograph: José Cabezas/Reuters via The Guardian
At her inauguration earlier this year, Xiomara Castro, the first female president of Honduras, ended her speech with a message showing solidarity with women – but 10 months into Castro’s single constitutionally permitted term, many are losing faith that this moment in history will bring the changes they were promised.
We are in ways losing hope. I believe that at some point [Castro] will possibly fulfill some of the things, but the reality is that 20% of her term has already passed, and at least in terms of reproductive rights we do not see any substantive change in women’s lives up to now. -Regina Fonseca, activist for women’s rights in Honduras
The Guardian spoke with 10 activists in Honduras, nearly all of whom expressed a similar sentiment to Fonseca. Their main grievance was the failure to fulfill a campaign promise to legalize emergency contraceptives without restrictions. Honduras is the only country in Latin America with absolute bans on abortion and emergency contraceptives. A recent proposal to legalize emergency contraceptives in cases of rape sparked indignation. President Castro could lift the prohibition on emergency contraceptives with an executive decree, as she was expected to do within her first hundred days in office.
All issues are priorities, but there are some commitments that are easier to carry out, and [lifting the ban] is the simplest, because it doesn’t even require a budget or generate an economic cost. -Jinna Rosales
More complicated is the issue of femicide, which preliminary data shows continues at a slightly reduced rate under Castro’s government compared with last year. Two bills aimed at combatting violence against women have so far stalled in Congress. Castro is not responsible for Congress, but there is disappointment she has not made greater use of her pulpit to advocate for causes of importance to women.
However, Honduran activists did welcome some advances under the new administration, including the creation of a minister for women, the appointment of some feminists to important positions and more focus on gender issues, none of which would have happened under the previous regime. Still, Castro is perhaps another reminder that it is not enough to simply have more women in power if they are not committed to fighting the patriarchy.
Saferworld will be featuring stories from activists and journalists to highlight the power, resolve and solidarity of women activists across Somalia to mark this year’s 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence.
Anifa (not her real name) is a 34-year-old social worker who lives in a camp for internally displaced people in Baidoa and is a single parent to six children.
the humanitarian crisis and conflict in Baidoa has displaced large populations and put many women and girls at greater risk of violence, including sexual violence at internally displaced people’s camps. Gender-based violence and conflict-related sexual violence severely impact women’s and girls’ right to life, livelihoods and dignity. -Anifa
Anifa began helping gender-based violence survivors and advocating for women's rights in 2014, when she joined the Protection Department of a Somali humanitarian organization, at a time when women’s rights were not taken seriously. Her neighbours (including women), clan elders, militia groups and local politicians threatened her because of her work, which they believed to be against Islam. Her (now ex-) husband also disapproved of her job and abused her.
In 2020, Anifa’s husband had agreed to a divorce, but gave her an ultimatum: she could either give up all claims to her children and never see them again, or she could keep custody of them but renounce all rights to child support. She chose to keep her children. It was not easy for her to provide for the family on her own, despite working multiple jobs.
One day, the IDP community leader approached Anifa and invited her to join a United Nations Peacebuilding Fund (UNPBF) project, which supports women activists and journalists through training and grants. Anifa immediately agreed, and has since undergone training in GBV case management. Now, she is a fully qualified social worker. Every Thursday, she raises awareness among the IDP community about the importance of protecting women rights, and of how and where to report GBV cases.
I will take this opportunity during the 16 Days of Activism to create awareness and share my story with fellow survivors to encourage them and to empower them to come out, seek help and rebuild themselves again. -Anifa
Jenifer Prince’s likes to describe her work as “lesbian and Sapphic storytelling in a vintage-inspired aesthetic, especially comics and pulp illustrations.” Her illustrations, which she posts on her popular Instagram page, feature queer couples stealing kisses in between rows of books at the library and then coyly reapplying their lipstick after a makeout session. The artwork is reminiscent of Todd Haynes’ instant queer classic “Carol” and Prime’s new more queer-forward reboot of “A League of Their Own” ― both of which Prince has created fan art for.
Given how rare it is to see old images of queer couples happily existing in private and public spaces, Prince looks at her work as a quiet form of activism. In 2016, the Brazil-based artist won a contest and had her work featured as the official poster of the San Francisco Dyke March, which spurred her to create more LGBTQ+ art.
In my work, I want to show that lesbians and bisexual women have always existed. Our love stories have always existed, even though they were erased from history. I believe illustrating with this vintage-inspired aesthetic helps to combat the erasure of our existence in history. That’s why I like to draw positive and often wholesome stories. -Jenifer Prince
Prince draws inspiration from unearthed photos of lesbian and gay couples, as she likes imagining the story behind them, as well as midcentury advertising and pulp fiction work from artists like Tom Lovell, Gloria Stoll Karn and Stan Pitt. Her sexier, more noirish prints call to mind the covers of lesbian pulp fiction titles published largely from 1950 to 1969.
Lesbian pulp covers had sometimes very explicit, eye-catching art for that period of time when being gay was a crime. I particularly like the ones where there’s a subtle look or touch between the characters. -Jenifer Prince
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.