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Global Roundup: Taiwan MeToo Allegations, Kenya Survivors’ Mental Health, Short Film on Alabama Black Queer Community, Organization Supporting 2SLGBTQ+ Refugees, Trans Activist Miss Major
Curated by FG Contributor Samiha Hossain
Courtesy of Netflix
More than 30 people, mainly women, have come forward in Taiwan over the past month to share stories of sexual harassment and sexual assault on social media inspired by a hit Netflix series. Taiwanese Netflix drama Wave Makers tells the story of two women working to hold a male colleague accountable for sexual harassment in a thinly disguised version of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and was inspired by events in the life of one of the show’s writers, Chien Li-ying, who has said she was harassed by exiled Chinese writer Bei Ling.
Nearly six years since the #MeToo campaign took the world by storm, Taiwan’s reckoning with sexual harassment and assault has been a long time coming. Taiwan’s first experience with #MeToo was relatively small compared with other places, although there were some well-publicised incidents. One included the release of a novel by 26-year-old writer Lin Yi-han that drew on her experiences of being groomed and sexually assaulted by her middle school teacher. The writer later took her own life, setting off a national discussion.
Brian Hioe, a frequent commentator on Taiwan news and non-resident fellow at the University of Nottingham’s Taiwan Studies Programme, says the reports may have caused more of a stir as Taiwan is gearing up for a presidential election early next year, which means political parties are under more scrutiny than ever. For instance, former Taipei mayor and presidential candidate Ko Wen-je of the Taiwan People’s Party has been accused of making “sexist comments” in the past about female political candidates and about his choice of specialisation as a doctor. Ko has since publicly apologised and promised to change his behaviour as he embarks on his presidential campaign
As someone who works on gender equality in Taiwan, it is not surprising to me that there are many sexual harassment cases in a wide range of different industries and spheres. However, the sudden wave of #MeToo came as a surprise to me, considering Taiwan’s relative silence in the last wave of #MeToo. -Ting-yu Kang, associate professor at National Chengchi University
Many of the institutions affected by the allegations have pledged to improve their systems for reporting sexual harassment, but Kang says that deeper issues can keep victims from reporting incidents – from a desire to maintain workplace “balance” to the risk of a potential backlash from stepping forward. Lawyer Audrey Lu also points out that beyond social pressure to remain quiet, evidence can be difficult to pin down, while statutes of limitations can also limit legal and civil prosecution, and tough libel laws raise the risk of a public accusation ending in a lawsuit.
A photograph taken by a rape survivor, as part of a PhotoVoice workshop, to express long waits to be seen by medics. Tracey Doyin was ignored for hours after she was raped, prompting her to interrupt an ‘important’ meeting and demand medical attention. Photograph: SSVKenya/PHR
CW: rape, sexual violence
Tracey Doyin, a survivor in Kenya, has shared her story on TikTok, saying she experienced a rapid decline in her mental health since last year’s attack, going from being cheerful, sociable and outspoken to feeling reclusive, anxious and drained.
According to the Survivors of Sexual Violence Network in Kenya (SSVKenya) and Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), mental health provision is in a dire state. The organisations used PhotoVoice – a charity that encourages survivors to reflect on and document their experiences using cameras and recordings. The 223 photos and 99 WhatsApp voice notes that came back highlighted significant barriers to mental health services, including cost, stigma, a lack of privacy where therapy is offered and a lack of compassion and sensitivity from poorly trained medical staff.
On one TikTok post, Doyin describes facing a barrage of questions from police when she went to report her attack, such as what she had worn and why she was out at that time. She says the most difficult part comes after reporting the case – she scoured the internet looking for online support services. Most were unavailable in Kenya or too expensive.
It made the help that I needed feel so far away from me. I have so many numbers that I called just trying to look for help. But I wasn’t getting any at all. -Tracey Doyin
Naitore Nyamu-Mathenge, head of PHR’s Kenya office, says health practitioners tend to focus on the physical impacts of sexual violence. PHR and SSVKenya want the government to invest in mental health services. In particular, they are calling for health workers to be better trained, including documenting the psychological impact of rape.
In Kenya, jokes or misogynistic comments trivialising sexual assault are commonplace. Last week, David Ole Sankok, a member of the East African Legislative Assembly, part of the regional East African Community, stirred online outrage over comments he made promoting a tree-house “lovers’ nest” at a country lodge. In a video, he declared that once romantic partners were settled inside, the ladder would be removed so no one could change their minds and the man could “get the value for his money”. Rights groups hit out, saying that such comments implied that women did not have to give consent and normalised the idea that women were obliged to provide sex for financial favours.
I think as a country we are at a place where we’ve numbed out our emotions. There are too many negative things happening, so we have kind of normalised things that are not normal as normal. We need to change. -Wangu Kanja, convener of SSVKenya
Zuri, Daquon, Myah, Dorian, Peyton, Quentin Bell, Jennine Bell, Jai’Lynn, Johnathan, Theo, Ms. Diane in 'Devoted to the Dream'. Photo via Unilever
A new short documentary shows how members of the Black queer community in Alabama are coming together to fight for basic rights in the state. Devoted to the Dream, directed by trans Black filmmaker Tourmaline, features interviews with members of The Knights and Orchids Society (TKO), which provides healthcare, housing, food, support and important resources for the trans and Black communities in Alabama and other states in the South.
TKO was like the first time I felt like true community. They just, like, took me in like I was like one of their own. Especially in a time where I really needed it. So I'll forever appreciate them for that... and showing me what family really is. -Peyton, TKO faith program assistant
The film was produced by queer-owned creative agency RanaVerse as part of Unilever's "United We Stand" Pride/Human Rights campaign. RanaVerse CEO Rana Reeves leads the strategy for the UWS campaign to ensure it focuses on systemic change. Under his watch, UWS has grown from a New York-based Pride campaign to a national, year-round program. This year, Rapid City, South Dakota and Jonesboro, Arkansas were added as at-risk cities, bringing the number of cities in the program to seven.
The move to incorporate its LGBTQ+ work through the company, including sites that are in areas where there are few protections or services for LGBTQ+ people, continues to break new ground in the way corporations can work with our community to affect actual change on the ground. -Rana Reeves
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The 519 in Canada is home to Toronto’s 2SLGBTQ+ communities and serves as a hub for Queer people of all walks of life, offering a wide range of services. The community agency is hoping to highlight the supports available for 2SLGBTQ+ refugees.
Each year Canada welcomes thousands of refugees who have fled everything from war to political unrest. For some newcomers, they’ve come to the country for a different reason: to be able to live a life true to themselves.
Gloria Godwin claimed asylum in Canada in 2019. In her home country of Nigeria, she was faced with a distressing ultimatum: stay and be imprisoned, or leave and be free. Godwin is currently a participant in The 519’s New to Canada Program, which connects refugees to crucial services including doctor and lawyer referrals, mental health services and others. The program also holds monthly meetings that see an attendance of over 200 people looking for resources and information related to immigration, housing and more.
It’s against the law to be an LGBTQ person in my country, and if you are caught, you’ll definitely go to jail for 14 years. It wasn’t safe for me and at the time I was caught. It’s very emotional for me because I don’t have any family, it’s just me. -Gloria Godwin
Karlene Williams-Clarke helps facilitate a number of programs at The 519. As someone who was once a participant of the program, she uses her experience as a refugee from Jamaica to help those in need of support during uncertain times.
They’re very scared. They’re unsure what’s going to happen. They get traumatized over and over again to the immigration officer, to the lawyer. I was able to hold people’s hands even tighter. I was able to explain deeper what the next process would be, the next steps would be. -Karlene Williams-Clarke
According to staff there has been an increased demand for services post-pandemic. The program currently serves 1,900 refugees and more are continuing to walk through the doors each day. Long waitlists for services and accessing mental health services promptly remain challenges.
Image: SHONDALAND STAFF
Shondaland talked to Trans Activist Miss Major on Her New Memoir, the commercialization of Pride Month, and the Stonewall Uprising. Miss Major Griffin-Gracy is an icon in the LGBTQ+ community in the US, fighting for trans rights for over 50 years. The 82-year-old activist and writer uplifts trans women of color, especially those who have survived police brutality and incarceration.
Miss Major was on the front lines of the Stonewall Uprising and was incarcerated, and her new book details her survival story. Her memoir, Miss Major Speaks: Conversations With a Black Trans Revolutionary, which was released on May 16, is an oral history of her exciting but tumultuous life. The book, formatted as a Q&A interview with writer Toshio Meronek, celebrates Miss Major’s triumphs in life while also detailing her struggles, including living through the HIV/AIDS crisis, her life as a sex worker, and surviving Dannemora prison and the Bellevue psychiatric hospital.
Miss Major calls Pride Month “mechanical” and says she doesn’t go to events. She says there has been some progress but acknowledges some new laws that are going backwards.
It’s funny; there are these new laws coming in, these anti-trans laws. We have been through that before. What do they want us to do? Go back and live like it is the 1950s? I’m not going back to that. We did it [fight against injustice] once; we will do it again. They need to back up 10 feet and let us do our vibes. Let us live. -Miss Major
Miss Major ends with some inspiring advice for today’s young people.
Keep your guard up, and no matter who it is, be prepared to fight, fight, fight. If you don’t fight now, you’ll have to fight later. Nothing and no one is better than you. You are unique unto yourself. Everyone is different, and everyone gets treated the same. Nobody gets thrown under the bus. -Miss Major
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.