Global Roundup: Stella Nyanzi Flees to Kenya, Spain's Draft Law on Gender ID, Pakistan Female Police Officers Aim To Help Sexual Assault Victims, Celebrities Slut-Shamed for Supporting Punjab Farmers
Compiled by Inaara Merani
Dr Stella Nyanzi. via The East African
Ugandan feminist and political activist Dr. Stella Nyanzi has fled to Nairobi, Kenya, after facing political persecution by President Yoweri Museveni. Just last month, Nyanzi—who was released from prison in February 2020—ran for a seat in parliament. She left Uganda due to increased abductions and detentions of political actors, fearing that she would be next after the police started trailing her children. Just a week after the election, Nyanzi’s partner, David Musiri, was abducted and tortured for days.
Museveni was re-elected for a sixth term after 35 years of rule, amid a nationwide internet shutdown and heavy security presence in the capital, Kampala, that prevented more mass protests on election week.
I fled to get my voice back. I fled to get my mind back. I fled to get my freedom back…"I fled so that I can live tomorrow, to keep being a proud Ugandan and keep contributing to the liberation struggle. I fled also to give my children an opportunity to live in safety and security, and to have access to their mother - Stella Nyanzi
Throughout her career, Nyanzi has fought hard for the rights of women and girls, as well as other marginalized groups. Her activism was commended around the world, and she continues to be regarded as an inspiration to many. She is known to be proudly profane - when she was released from prison in 2020, she wore a tiara and a sash that read “FUCK OPPRESSION.”
‘It’s not necessarily freedom’ ... Stella Nyanzi leaving court in February 2020. Photograph: Sumy Sadurni/AFP via Getty Images via The Guardian
Nyanzi was first incarcerated in 2017 for criticizing Uganda’s first lady’s failure to deliver on her promise to provide sanitary pads to schoolgirls. She was arrested again in 2018 and imprisoned for writing a poem that graphically described the birth of the Ugandan President and his mother's vagina to criticize his "oppression, suppression and repression" of Uganda.
It is evident that Nyanzi’s outspoken feminism has led to her multiple arrests and now, persecution from her own country. What lengths will the government go to in order to prevent activists like Nyanzi from speaking out? How long will they prevent freedom of speech, so long as it pertains to the equal rights of women, girls and the LGBTQ+ community?
I've had the most hectic five years and I think that I deserve a break. I deserve to recuperate, I deserve to take care of myself mentally, emotionally, physically -- strengthen my energy reserves, and then come back to the bigger struggle - Stella Nyanzi
Nyanzi crossed the border into Kenya by bus with Wasswa, one of her 13-year-old twin sons. Her other children Kato, 13, and Baraka, 16, had left with Nyanzi's sister a week earlier.
They have all been offered asylum-seeker passes while the Kenyan authorities consider their claims for refugee status, Nyanzi said.
A person wearing a protective face mask waves a transgender pride flag during a demonstration for the rights of transgender people, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Puerta del Sol square in Madrid, Spain, July 4, 2020. REUTERS/Juan Medina/File Photo
A new draft law, created by Spain’s Equality Ministry, would allow transgender people, aged 16 and over to officially change their gender with the Spanish authorities and on their ID without a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria. Individuals would simply have to swear by an oath in order to legally have their gender changed.
The bill would also recognize non-binary people, and has proposed eliminating the ‘gender’ field on official documents. It would also open access to assisted-reproductive treatment to trans people who are able to reproduce. Additionally, the law would allow parents of intersex babies one year before to legally specify their child’s sex, and it would prohibit gender-assignment surgery on infants.
This legislation was created as part of a governing agreement signed between the Socialist Party and Unidas Podemos, a left-wing political party in Spain. The Equality Ministry, led by Irene Montero, met with more than 20 different LGBTQ+ and trans collectives to finalize this draft law.
Currently, Spain requires transgender people to be medically diagnosed with gender dysphoria, and also requires individuals to undergo hormone treatment for at least two years before they can legally change their gender. The draft law has been met with opposition by some women’s rights groups and has sparked tensions among the coalition government. These arguments and disagreements are happening as many Western countries consider self-determination of gender as a way to guarantee trans equality and avoid systemic abuse. Trans rights and the dignity of trans people are part of the feminist fight against patriarchy.
Violence against women is very prevalent in Pakistan; however, many women do not report these abuses due to fear of the consequences, as well as fear of having to deal with male police officers - there have been reports of harassment in police stations during investigations. Women only make up 1.8% of Pakistan’s police force. While the nation has seen an increase in the amount of women joining the force, there is still a long way to go before gender equality, in this sector, can be achieved.
Muhammad Ahsan Younas, a deputy inspector general for the Rawalpindi city police, has launched many programs which are led by policewomen. For example, the local police station in Rawalpindi established a separate unit to deal with complaints of harassment and violence, in order to encourage more women to speak out.
Additionally, he helped launch a helpline which is only operated by female police officers. Women in Rawalpindi can call the toll-free number to report domestic abuse or harassment without having to go to the police station. Following the call, a female police officer works with the victim to deal with the complaint in a respectful and ethical manner.
Most of the times it is not even an option for them because of the social stigma. Women going to the police station is considered a taboo in Pakistan. Our helpline ensures anonymity and safety - Anna Baig
According to the police, 52% of complaints were about “teasing” in public spaces, 12% about sexual harassment, and around 36% about domestic violence. Anna Baig, one of the main policewomen behind the helpline, has noted that while this helpline is encouraging more women to report their cases, filling formal police reports is still quite rare.
With more female police officers, Younas, Baig and other police officers are confident that women may be able to comfortably report cases of sexual and domestic violence. While this still remains a challenge due to stigma and other barriers, the gradual increase in Pakistani policewomen seems hopeful to many.
The largest protest in history is currently taking place in India, with over 250 million people protesting against the new farming laws implemented by the Indian government. Although this protest has been taking place for months—FEMINIST GIANT Global Roundup brought you news of the farmers’ strike in December—it has only recently gained the attention of western eyes. Just last week, artist Rihanna and climate activist Greta Thunberg tweeted in support of the farmers' protest, and were also joined by Meena Harris, Mia Khalifa and Rupi Kaur.
Farmers have been peacefully protesting for months, yet they have continuously been met with violence. Prime Minister Modi implemented a phone and internet shutdown in the area earlier this month. He is joined by many other politicians who have regarded the protestors as terrorists.
Since expressing their support, these women have been mocked, slut-shamed, and sent death threats. Their crime: a single tweet. All it took was one tweet to upset the misogynists and call for violence to be inflicted upon these women. Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut has joined in on the hatred through a series of tweets calling Rihanna a “porn artist” and Greta Thunberg a “dumb and spoilt brat”.
How is it that women’s sexuality always gets dragged into issues in which they have no place? Indian nationalists are upset that western celebrities have ‘interfered’ in their nation’s politics, and so they have chosen to incite violence against these women who are simply amplifying the voices of millions of farmers who would lose everything with these new laws.
These protests are ongoing and farmers in India, as well as millions around the world, will not stop fighting until justice is delivered.
The Black trans-led collective For the Gworls recently announced that it has hit a major milestone with its widely shared mutual-aid program, saying it has redistributed over $1,000,000 million to Black trans people around the world in the past year and a half.
If you would’ve told me that at 25, not only would I have touched a million dollars, but that I also would’ve given it away, I would’ve cackled. If you would’ve told me hundreds of thousands of folks would trust me with a million dollars to help people, I wouldn’t have been able to comprehend it - Asanni Armon
For the Gworls began with a Fourth of July rooftop party in Brooklyn in 2019, to fundraise for two friends facing eviction. Until the pandemic, the group hosted parties every month for similar fundraising purposes for Black trans people. In a statement on its website, Armon refers to the collective’s mission as a “safe haven for Black transgender people” and “a tool to sustain Black trans livelihood.”
Black trans people are among those hardest hit by the pandemic and the vast majority of their needs continue to go unmet.
We are the last ones hired and the first ones fired when shit hits the fan — CO(V)ID is just the latest in a long history of reminders. We are the ones left without insurance when we need it just as much as others. We are the ones left homeless and with very few fail-safes when we need help just as much as others. We are the ones being thrown in prison cells irrespective of our gender. We are *also* being ki(l)led in the middle of the street, in our homes, in jail cells — not just Black cis people - Asanni Armon
Inaara Merani (she/her) is a recent graduate from the University of Ottawa where she studied International Development and Globalization with a minor in Women’s Studies. She is an Ismaili Muslim Canadian who is deeply passionate about human rights, social justice and feminism, and in turn, dismantling 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 that she can continue to fight for the rights of women and other marginalized groups everywhere. She also enjoys reading, travelling and spending time with her beautiful cat.