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Global Roundup: Sudanese Women vs Sexual Violence, India Vaccine Camp for LGBTQ+ folks, Afghan Bikers For Girls’ Education, Fighting Homophobia in Namibia, Benefits of Hormone Therapy for Trans Youth
Compiled by Inaara Merani
Protesters chanted slogans and pledged to continue fighting for their cause [Ebrahim Hamid/AFP]. Source: Al Jazeera
Hundreds of women took to the streets in and around Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, to protest against sexual violence and harassment, including alleged rape by security forces during a pro-democracy protest.
The UN said that at least 13 women and girls were allegedly raped or gang-raped by security forces during a mass demonstration in Khartoum outside the presidential palace on December 19. That protest was against a military coup that took place in October. Doctors also said at least two people were killed by security forces during Sunday’s rally against a military coup in October and a deal last month to reinstate Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok to office.
Following the mass demonstration, at least eight women between the ages of 18 and 27 approached the gender-based violence unit at the Ministry of Social Development in search of treatment.
Five days after the demonstration, protesters delivered a memorandum to the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights and demanded an investigation into the instances of sexual and physical violence that took place. More than 40 rights organizations and resistance committees have signed the document so far.
We are here to put pressure so that this could stop happening…We will not allow such things ever to happen, and we can stop them. - Shaihinza Jamal, resistance committee member
This is not the first time that sexual violence has been used against protestors; in 2019, dozens of rapes were reported when security forces violently dispersed a crowd. Additionally, sexual violence was frequently used as a weapon of war during the conflict in the Darfur region.
Time and time again, Sudanese women have demonstrated their ability to lead protests and revolutions. In 2019, Sudanese women were a driving force during the months-long popular protests that led to the removal of longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir and a subsequent power-sharing agreement between generals and civilians. In 2021, women have also taken part en masse in the recent demonstrations denouncing at first the coup and then the military’s deal with Hamdok, whom pro-democracy protesters have accused of “betrayal”.
But many women said they often have to overcome family pressures to be able to add their voices to the movement and to fight for their right to demonstrate.
My father and brothers are more open-minded, but my husband doesn’t let me go out all the time, so I’ve missed many of the protests and processions. - one mother of three girls said at the rally against sexual violence in Khartoum.
A special vaccination camp in Kanpur, India, is welcoming members of the LGBTQ community who had earlier either stayed off vaccination centres fearing harassment and humiliation or were denied the vaccine over inaccurate gender information on identity documents.
The social stigma against the LGBTQ+ community is one of the main reasons behind its members shying away from visiting vaccination centres. We do not want to face the discrimination and humiliating stares from the public. We are humans too. - Tarana Kapoor
The Indian government has reported that just over half of the registered trans population in India has received their first dose, whereas 85% of the Indian population has received their first dose. Paired with many vaccination centres refusing to administer vaccines to trans people because of their legal gender identity, it has been a great struggle for trans Indians to obtain just a single dose of the vaccine.
In light of this, a two-day camp was organized exclusively for the LGBTQ+ community in Kanpur, at Bal Bhavan Phool Bagh, by the Kanpur Queer Welfare Foundation. This camp took place on October 12, where there was no judgement and no questioning about one’s gender.
I was excited when I came to know that the NGO was organising a vaccination camp exclusively for us. At the camp, I was vaccinated without being humiliated, alienated or judged for my sexual orientation. It was a very comfortable experience for us. - Mariya Yadav
Misinformation about the vaccine has further alienated the LGBTQ+ community from receiving their dose. For over two years, Kanpur Queer Welfare Foundation has been working with the LGBTQ+ community; throughout the pandemic, the NGO conducted multiple awareness campaigns and supplied grocery and hygiene kits.
We organised meetings as well as formed WhatsApp groups for the community to educate its members about the importance of the vaccination and encourage them to come forward. We have managed to convince at least 50 percent of the community that the vaccine will not harm them. We have also urged the district magistrate to issue an order not to deny vaccination to members of the LGBTQ+ community over discrepancies in their identity documents and accord them priority at the vaccination centres. He has agreed. - Anuj Pandey, co-founder of Kanpur Queer Welfare Foundation
Kanpur is home to more than 1000 trans people, and Kanpur Queer Welfare Foundation anticipated the attendance of around 500 individuals. Although only around 250 people showed up to receive their vaccinations, it encouraged many members of the community to approach common vaccination centres to receive the vaccine, counteracting the myths which have been circulating.
Source: N World
Twelve years ago, Matiullah Wesa created Pen Path, an NGO dedicated to fighting for education for Afghan children. Today, the group is supporting and raising awareness about girls’ education by biking throughout Afghanistan, in an attempt to emphasize the importance of education for all.
After Taliban suspended grade 7 to 12 education for girls, we started this campaign, involving scholars, educators, men and women, to request the Taliban to restart girls school. We want to emphasise that education is our Islamic and basic right. - Matiullah Wesa, founder of Pen Path
Following the Taliban takeover in August, Pen Path gathered a group of volunteers and began to ride their bikes throughout many villages, urging elders and locals to reopen schools and libraries. Since August, the team has campaigned in 42 districts across 13 provinces. In the last 10 years, Pen Path has: reopened 100 schools, registered 46 new schools, and started 39 public libraries.
Our primary focus is on creating awareness about education and particularly girls education. Apart from that we help communities open schools with the help of government or NGOs, and also provide martial support where needed. - Zarlasht Wali, Pen Path board member
The NGO is entirely funded by local donations and operates only through the work and dedication of over 2400 volunteers across the country. Despite facing violence and threats, Pen Path continues to fight for girls’ education and raise awareness across Afghanistan. The work of Pen Path is crucial, especially now.
We use our motorbikes to spread the message of peace, which is incomplete without women’s rights. I often receive threats, and I always reply, I want to rebuild the country again, but it is not possible to do that without ensuring women’s fundamental rights, from Bamiyan to Kandahar, from Helmand to Badakhshan. And I am ready to die for this. - Matiullah Wesa
Protesters marched the streets of Windhoek, demanding equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community. Image by Equal Namibia, used with permission. Source: Global Voices
In March, twin daughters of a same-sex Namibian couple were born via surrogacy in South Africa. However, despite one parent having Namibian citizenship, authorities refused to provide the twins with documentation and instead insisted that a DNA test be completed to determine the parentage of the children. This sparked outrage within the Namibian LGBTQ+ community, as well as around the world.
Philip Lühl took his case public in March, and quickly gained the support of many online. Activists took to social media to call out the Namibian legal system and continue to raise awareness about this issue.
After being separated for two months, the twins’ parents were finally reunited after authorities issued emergency travel documents that allowed the twins to enter Namibia. In October, their first daughter was declared a Namibian citizen; this made headlines and many thought this case was moving in the right direction. However, this victory was short-lived as the Ministry of Home Affairs announced an appeal to the court, stating that the court had erred. The question of the twins’ citizenship still remains.
This is not the first time that social media has been used to advocate for causes within Namibia. Last year, social media campaigns called for the legalization of abortion, as well as an end to sexual and gender-based violence. Social media continues to be an important outlet to raise awareness, especially when the government enforces actions that often contradict human rights.
It's not so much about whether or not people are aware. People hold on to their own ideology according to their values, according to their perspective and according to their community and how they grew up as people.” The challenge for Namibian activists and lawyers therefore goes beyond using social media to create awareness. Instead, Nthengwe insists that activists must challenge the legal system as well, ensuring that they do not “lose sight of our jurisdiction, of our judicial system. - Ndiilokwlqa Nthengwe, Namibian author and activist
Published in mid-December in the Journal of Adolescent Health, a study conducted by the Trevor Project – an organization for LGBTQ+ youth – confirmed that having access to gender-affirming hormone therapy can have extremely positive impacts on mental health.
The idea that gender-affirming hormone therapy could have positive effects has long been hypothesized, but it had not been confirmed. The study used a sample of over 9000 respondents between the ages of 13 and 24 and found that those under 18 who had received hormone therapy were around 40% less likely to report depression and suicide attempts, compared to those who wanted the treatment but could not obtain it.
These data should serve as a call to action to resist blanket bans on gender-affirming medical care and to invest in more research on this topic so that youth and their families can make evidence-informed decisions regarding care. - Dr. Amy Green, Vice President of Research at The Trevor Project
The survey also demonstrated that although rates of mental health issues decreased as trans youth were able to obtain hormone therapy services, not every trans youth has the ability to access such services, particularly young people of colour. The Trevor Project found that there are lower rates of access for young trans people of colour, especially Black youth, which can result in detrimental impacts on mental health.
Ultimately, the study suggests that gender-affirming medical care will improve the mental health outcomes of trans and nonbinary youth, and therefore it is very important that gender-affirming care receive more attention and support, especially amongst parents, and any individuals in a position to support trans youth.
Banning this vital care and exposing young people to harmful political rhetoric can cause real harm,” said Trevor Project CEO and executive director Amit Paley. “It’s critical that all transgender and nonbinary youth across the country have access to medical care that is affirming, patient-centered, and evidence-based. - Amit Paley, Trevor Project CEO and Executive Director
Inaara Merani (she/her) is currently completing her Master’s degree at Western University, studying Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies with a collaborative specialization in Transitional Justice and Post-Conflict Reconstruction. She is an Ismaili Muslim Canadian who is deeply passionate about gender equality and social justice and in turn, dismantling the patriarchy and ensuring that all women and vulnerable populations 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.