Global Roundup: Trans Women Elected to Mexico Congress, Black Trans Woman on Juneteenth, Rising Online Sex Crimes in South Korea, Survivors in Congo Heal Via Dance, Disabled Black Queer TikTok Star

Compiled by Samiha Hossain

Twitter/@mariaclementemx; Twitter/@SalmaLuevano

Maria Clemente Garcia and Salma Luevano, members of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s MORENA party, will be seated in the Chamber of Deputies marking the first time in Mexico’s history that trans women are elected to congress

Garcia and Luevano have been advocating for LGBTQ+ rights throughout their careers and are now committed to advancing affirmative-action policies for LGBTQ+ people.

Luevano owns a beauty salon and is also the director of a collective called Together for the Way of Diversity. Over 30 years ago, she was detained for wearing women’s clothing, which pushed her to become an activist. In Mexico, 300 members of the Chamber of Deputies are directly elected and the other 200 are assigned through “proportional representation,” which is a closed-list system allocating seats to political parties based on percentage of the national vote. Together for the Way of Diversity contributed to the push for new rules that allow for a minimum number of candidates from underrepresented groups to be part of that closed list. A historic 100+ LGBTQ+ candidates took part in the June 6 election because of that push. 

There’s really a lot of poverty... extreme poverty within our trans population…I’ll take this fight proudly... for our people who are vulnerable. - Salma Luevano

Still, not enough has changed since Luevano’s arrest: 2019 was the deadliest year for LGBTQ+ people in Mexico in the last 5 years, with more than half the victims being transgender women and a third being gay men.

Thirty years have passed and we still have the same discrimination, we still have the same fight. - Salma Luevano

Garcia hopes to advocate for tax breaks for companies that hire LGBTQ+ staff and amend Article 1 of Mexico’s constitution. Currently, the country’s constitution does not protect trans people at the federal level, as it prohibits discrimination solely based on “sexual preference.” Garcia would like the federal government to adopt comprehensive laws that offer protection based on “sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.”

Garcia and Luevano are breaking barriers for trans people. They are using their lived experience and their years of activism in the community to fight for change that will directly improve the lives of LGBTQ+ people in Mexico. 

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Dominique Morgan stands on the steps of Black & Pink’s upcoming Opportunity Campus in Omaha, Nebraska. Gabriella Parsons for Global Citizen

Dominique Morgan is a Black trans woman and an award-winning artist, activist, and TEDx speaker. In an essay, she discusses her work as well as the importance of linking the queer struggle with the racial justice struggle if we want to achieve true liberation for all.

I think, especially as a Black Trans woman, and as a Black Queer teen growing up homeless in the Midwest, the experience of being displaced reverberates in my body in a way that reminds me of what my ancestors likely experienced as stolen peoples in the United States. -  Dominique Morgan

Morgan was homeless at the age of 17, which led her to engage in sex work and “survival crimes.” She was sentenced to 8 to 16 years in the Nebraska prison system where she had to learn how to advocate for trans women who were assaulted and prevented from having jobs. She realized that advocating for others was her purpose on this earth. 

Today, Morgan is the executive director of Black Pink, the largest prison abolitionist organization in the US that centres the needs of LGBTQ+ people or people who identify as living with HIV and AIDS. 

Tangible liberation has been the motivation of Black people from the beginning of our existence in the United States. And the revolution that is happening now — including the reignited fight for racial justice over the past year — is propelled by the sweat and tears of Black Queer and Trans people all over the country. – Dominique Morgan

Morgan discusses how she sees Juneteenth as a day to honour and continue Black people’s “birthright” of abolition. However, it’s also a day to acknowledge the intersectionality of Black experiences. She has heard cisgender and heterosexual Black people say that they need to focus on their blackness and leave other issues, such as queerness, aside. 

It is clear that Morgan is deeply invested in her community and creating a future where Black and queer people of multiple different identities can exist freely. Her work embodies what a truly intersectional framework looks like. She will only accept liberation and will not settle for reform.

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Female protesters call for South Korea’s government to crack down on widespread spycam porn crimes during a rally in Seoul. Photograph: STR/AFP via Getty Images

South Korea’s epidemic of online sexual abuse has left survivors traumatised for life, and is adversely affecting all women and girls in the country, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, My Life is Not Your Porn: Digital Sex Crimes in South Korea. The report said sex crime prosecutions involving illegal filming rose 11-fold between 2008 and 2017, according to data from the Korean Institute of Criminology.

Molka is the use of hidden cameras to film or share explicit images of women without their consent. The report says that Molka is forcing women to contemplate suicide, quit their jobs or leave the country. 

Women and girls told us they avoided using public toilets and felt anxious about hidden cameras in public and even in their homes. An alarming number of survivors of digital sex crimes said they had considered suicide…Officials in the legal justice system – most of whom are men – often seem to simply not understand, or not accept, that these are very serious crimes. - Heather Barr, HRW’s interim director of women’ rights

Police and courts are often unsympathetic and do not take the issue seriously due to lack of physical evidence. In fact, most women who reported digital sex crimes had “terrible experiences” with the police, some were even mocked and told they would never find someone to marry.

One survivor, who asked not to be named, agreed to pose nude for a part-time modelling job when she was a college student. Her contract stated that the photographs would remain private, but over 700 images of her appeared on a website after she quit because her boss had demanded more sexually explicit images. When she reached out to the police, even more photographs of her appeared, leading her to contemplate suicide.

I’m quite afraid for my future, [The images] are going to always be on someone’s computer, and I don’t know when this will stop. I thought that if this can’t stop, then I want to stop my life. – Unnamed survivor

The report has suggested that the government introduce tougher penalties for offenders, increase the number of female police officers, prosecutors, and judges, and address South Korea’s poor record on gender inequality. They also called on the government to educate men and boys about the dangers of consuming abusive images online.

It is appalling that women’s bodies, consent and right to privacy are being violated at such an increasing rate. This is yet another attempt by the patriarchy to control women and punish them for existing in the public sphere. These are serious crimes that must be dealt with urgently. 

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CW: sexual violence  

Congolese rape survivors are seen before attending a dance session at a rehabilitation centre attached to the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, South Kivu province in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo April 19, 2021. Picture taken April 19, 2021. REUTERS/Djaffar Al Katanty

Amina Lusambo set up dance sessions for rape survivors at a rehabilitation centre attached to Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, in eastern Congo, which has treated more than 60,000 survivors of sexual violence in around 20 years of operation. The country’s eastern borderlands have remained gripped by violence since the official end of a civil war in 2003, with armed groups fighting for land, resources and self-protection.

I started doing this because of the girls who came to us in a state of silence. They were raped at a young age and they didn't know how to express themselves. They were so withdrawn… You can do more in one month of dance than in three months of psychotherapy. - Amina Lusambo

The dance classes help survivors live their lives after the trauma of sexual violence. A 20-year-old in the class says dancing had released her from the pain and fear she held inside, allowing her to sleep peacefully and smile again. Three years ago, she was raped and left for dead by unidentified men wearing combat fatigues in her village in South Kivu province. She could not tell if they were from a militia group or army soldiers. Her family did not alert the authorities due to fears of repercussions. 

I don't know how to explain it to myself, but I felt dirty looking at myself. Dance therapy helped me to take away all the bad things I had inside me. The sadness and fear I had all went away. – Unnamed survivor

The fact that sexual violence has been used as a military tactic in eastern Congo for so long is deeply troubling. Survivors in the region show incredible strength in connecting with their bodies through dance after their horrific assault, but the world needs to demand justice for them and an end to the use of rape and sexual violence as weapons of war. 

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IMANI BARBARIN (HANNAH PRICE)

Imani Barbarin is a communications manager who has over 150,000 followers on TikTok under @crutches_and_spice where she posts stories about discrimination against people with disabilities, marketing and social justice campaigns, and racial justice. As a disabled Black woman, she is able to use personal anecdotes to start the conversation and connect it to a larger social or political issue. For instance, in a video about how the CIA and MI6 actively recruit disabled people, she begins with a memory of wanting to join the CIA, then connects it to how the CIA employed disabled people because they’re often invisible. 

I’m a girl, so one of the things that I learned very quickly growing up was that people were going to cut me off when I spoke. So I had to make as much impact as possible with a limited amount of words. When I try to say things, I try to do so in a way that is digestible for people. - Imani Barbarin

Her content has a wide reach with professors teaching her videos in their classrooms and followers using her hashtags to form a community and have discussions. 

For me, it really comes back to community. I love the moments when I’m able to meet people and talk with other disabled people. I want to listen to what they have to say because I alone cannot understand each and every complexity. They help me make sure that when I tell our stories, I get it right. My community is my lifeline. - Imani Barbarin

As a Black, disabled and queer woman, she experiences a lot of  harassment online. Trolls have doxed and harassed her, calling her racial slurs among other violent names. The danger she faces everyday online has not stopped her. She recently signed with a talent agency, and said her dream on-screen role would be in an action comedy alongside Megan Mullally.

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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.

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