Global Roundup: Spain Menstrual Leave, Trans & Abortions Laws, Cameroon Women’s Protest, China Journalist & Activist Held Without Trial, Finding Queer Family, Taiwan Queer Short Film
Curated by FG Contributor Samiha Hossain
Spain's Minister for Equality Irene Montero, centre, celebrates the final approval of a law that will make it easier for people to self-identify as transgender, with LGBTQ activists outside Spain's Parliament in Madrid, Spain [Susana Vera/Reuters]
Last week, Spain’s capital Madrid approved legislation expanding abortion and transgender rights for teenagers, while making Spain the first country in Europe that will entitle workers to paid menstrual leave. The driving force behind the two laws was Equality Minister Irene Montero, who belongs to the junior member in Spain’s left-wing coalition government, the “United We Can” Party.
16- and 17-year-olds in Spain can now undergo an abortion without parental consent. In addition, the changes enshrined in law the right to have an abortion in a state hospital. Period products will now be offered free in schools and prisons, while state-run health centres will do the same with hormonal contraceptives and the morning-after pill. The menstrual leave measure allows workers suffering debilitating period pain to take paid time off.
A separate package of reforms also approved by lawmakers last week strengthened transgender rights, including allowing any citizen more than 16 years old to change their legally registered gender without medical supervision. Previously, transgender people needed a diagnosis by several doctors of gender dysphoria.
This law recognizes the right of trans people to self-determine their gender identity, it depathologizes trans people. Trans people are not sick people, they are just people. - Irene Montero, ahead of the vote
We're celebrating the fact this law has passed after eight years of tireless work to obtain rights for the trans community. - Uge Sangil, head of FELGBTI+
The second law also bans so-called “conversion therapy” for LGBTQ people and provides state support for lesbians and single women seeking IVF treatment.
These progressive new laws are a step in the right direction in removing barriers for women and trans people. Hopefully, they will encourage other countries to follow suit.
This photo, circulating on social media, purports to show women assembled in Buea, Cameroon, Feb. 16, 2022, awaiting the arrival of youths detained by Cameroon's military.
A protest led by women pushed Cameroon's military to release about 30 youths it detained as suspected rebels. The women from the Southwestern town of Ekona also accused Cameroon's military of committing abuses in the region.
In a video posted on social media, several hundred women celebrated on the streets of Buea last week after Cameroon’s military released 30 young men, most of them students. The military said the youths were detained during raids a week ago in Ekona, where separatist fighters were hiding. The women protested after the military stopped family members from visiting the youths in detention and chased away those who brought them food.
Although they have released our children, who were arrested unjustly and unjustifiable, we will continue fighting for our rights to be respected. We will be here again should the military continue intimidating us, harassing us, and beating us. We have suffered a lot from these crises and want peace. -Akah Judith, 33
Esther Njomo Omam, director of the Buea-based aid group Reach Out Cameroon, said the women were also angry after a 20-year-old Ekona resident, Felix Obini, was reported killed by the military.
The women from Ekona came marching peacefully but angry that women have been bearing the brunt of this conflict. They are the ones who have been burying their children, their husbands. They are the ones who are suffering all forms of ills as a result of the crisis. -Esther Njomo Omam
Since 2017, Cameroon’s military has been battling separatists fighting to carve out an independent, English-speaking state from Cameroon and its French-speaking majority. Rights groups accuse both the military and rebels of abusing civilians in the conflict, including rapes, torture, abductions, and killings. According to the UN, at least 3,500 people have been killed and more than 750,000 displaced in the six-year conflict, most of them women and children.
Huang Xueqin was a prominent voice of the #MeToo movement in China. Photograph: South China Morning Post/Getty Images via The Guardian
Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing, a labour rights activist, were detained in September 2021 and formally arrested a month later. They have been accused of inciting subversion of state power, and held in Guangzhou without access to family or lawyers. Advocates and human rights groups have said the pair should never have been arrested and that Huang is now in urgent need of medical attention. The advocates also accused authorities of “trying to exert mental pressure and physical torture” of Huang.
Huang is an independent journalist and was a prominent voice of the #MeToo movement in China. She and Wang were detained at Wang’s house shortly before Huang was scheduled to leave China for the UK to begin a master’s at the University of Sussex.
Under an increasingly authoritarian environment in Xi Jinping-ruled China, human rights groups, activists, lawyers and protesters are increasingly targeted by authorities, with growing concerns about the number of detentions, arrests, interrogations and convictions. Li Maizi, a veteran feminist activist in Beijing, said feminists were particularly targeted, which she believes has to do with Huang’s case.
Once you are a feminist, you are a feminist activist. You are going to be stigmatised as a traitor, a Hong Kong movement supporter, [as] are trying to divide our country. -Li Maizi
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Photo via Gaysi Family
Being nicknamed “Ladies” as a kid really stuck with Chaudhuri – it made him feel ashamed and marked the start of his “practice of acting straight.”
By 2008, Chaudhuri had finished college and moved to Bangalore, populated then by an urban crowd that was confidently queer. Though it helped him explore his sexuality, the shame he had internalised was still too powerful.
I stayed aloof, acting straight in auto-pilot, refusing to accept the humans I loved and even going as far as hiding it. There was no way I was going to normalize my sexuality in a world where homosexuality itself was alien. -Prasenjit Chaudhuri
Discovering trekking, however, shifted Chaudhuri’s life. He found a “sense of belongingness” with his trekking buddies and was able to express his authentic effeminate self. This was the start of Out and About, the primarily Bangalore based queer inclusive travel community. Chaudhuri says the group’s focus is on finding human connection, whether that be through trekking, slacklining, a dance workshop or an open mic evening.
Sexuality didn’t matter. Queers and allies joined, yes. But so did singles who wanted to stay single, divorcees, people who didn’t want to have kids, non-monogamous couples, anyone who felt disconnected and craved an alternative lifestyle from the one prescribed were flocking to us. -Prasenjit Chaudhuri
Today, Chaudhuri does not feel the need to fit in anymore, he says.
I found my tribe. It’s called Out & About and ŪRU – Your Queer Village, Queer Camping Festival. I am not sorted but I am quite unique in my own ways. We all are unique and we all are nothing but a bunch of stories. We can just try to set the right tone of our stories, a story where we are not the victims, we are the heros. -Prasenjit Chaudhuri
Marian Mesula as the heroine in Tank Fairy. Photograph: Manbo Key/The Observer
The film has now been selected for more than 100 film festivals across 32 countries. Those involved say it has cemented Taiwan’s place on the queer cultural map and shown that Taiwan is more than just a geopolitical flashpoint. Local drag queen and trans performer Marian Mesula plays the eponymous heroine, who inspires a young boy called Jojo to follow his dreams of dancing, drag and colour.
Drag performers are at the forefront of Taiwan’s LGBT community. A lot of people in Asia can’t be themselves. But when they see us, they feel braver. -Marian Mesula
Since decades of martial law ended in the 1980s, Taiwan has become a trailblazer for equality in the region. It was the first place in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage in 2019 and hosts one of Asia’s biggest Pride festivals.
An expansion of Tank Fairy into a TV series is now in development, titled Fanteasia. Like Tank Fairy, each episode would put a queer twist on a uniquely Taiwanese social identity, including funeral pole dancers, traditional market butchers, and betelnut sellers at neon-lit city stores.
International awareness of Taiwan has increased dramatically in recent years, primarily because of the growing risk of conflict over Beijing’s threat to annex it. Rettstadt, who has lived in Taipei with his Taiwanese husband for five years, wants the project to reflect his experience on the ground.
I want to collaborate with the Taiwanese drag community, to build a new platform for local queer artists here, to create a project showcasing Taiwan’s unique cultural identity on the international stage. -Erich Rettstadt
In China, government crackdowns have targeted queer communities and activists, making celebratory events more difficult to hold openly. Should Beijing forcefully make Taiwan a Chinese province, many Taiwanese queer people fear their hard-won rights to free expression could be eroded, or eradicated completely. Still, the community remains hopeful and determined.
I want people to know that Taiwan is more than the pressures we face. Just because we have these limitations, we won’t change. We’ll continue to innovate and become who we are supposed to be. - Local queen Honey Ji Mesula
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.