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Global Roundup: Art vs Slut Shaming in S. Sudan, Gender Neutral Uniforms in Kerala Primary School, New Guidelines for Trans Inclusion at the Olympics, Queer Mercado in East LA, Swiss Marriage Equality
Compiled by Inaara Merani
Art by Abul Oyay via Baobab Art Foundation
In Bor, South Sudan, there have been reports of young women and girls being harassed for their choice of outfits. They have often been slut shamed, and have been subject to violence on the streets; sometimes, these women and girls have been jailed.
In light of this, Abul Oyay started creating art to battle slut shaming in South Sudan and explore perceptions of women, societal expectations, mental awareness, and relationships. The art exhibition, titled “The Loose Woman” is the first of its kind in South Sudan. Using herself as the subject, Abul explores the battles that many South Sudanese women face.
In South Sudan, patriarchal norms thrive. In Bor specifically, there a numerous other issues that require immediate attention, such as: the abduction of thousands of children, flooding that has displaced thousands, cattle raiding, and inter-communal violence. The South Sudanese government has chosen to focus on harassing young women and girls for their outfit choices when thousands of others require immediate attention.
“The Loose Woman” portrays the struggles of South Sudanese women from the early 90s until today. Abul was inspired by the strong women around her who raised children on their own while their men were on the front lines. These paintings bring together the past, present, and hope for the future of South Sudan.
Name-calling and shaming are all tools used to harass, humiliate, coerce, stigmatize and silence women who dare to simply exist. In Abul’s words, to all the loose women out there, keep on being loose and keeping on doing what you love. Owning these titles used to degrade women is a step towards taking back our power and control. - Aluel Atem,
Via The Quint
In Kerala, India, a lower primary school recently introduced gender neutral uniforms for their young students, in hopes of setting an example for other schools to follow. Located in the Ernakulam district, Valayanchirangara Government Lower Primary School’s 754 students will now wear these uniforms regardless of their gender.
We got the backing of the students and their parents. We wanted all the students to have the same uniform so that they could enjoy the freedom of movement. This was first introduced in the pre-primary classes of around 200 students. It was a big hit which gave us confidence to implement it for all other classes. - Vivek V, school PTA President
This move has been applauded by many, notably V Sivankutty who is the General Education Minister. The principal of the school said students have already embraced the new uniforms; she added that it will now be easier for young girls to participate in extra-curricular activities.
Girls told us that they feel very comfortable with the new uniform. - Vidya Mukundan, Designer
Although there is currently no law which mandates this, Valayanchirangara Government Lower Primary School is setting an example not only for primary schools within India, but also around the world. A senior official from the education department added that it is the goal of the department to make gender neutral uniforms the norm for all schools across the region.
South Africa's Caster Semenya crosses the finish line to win her women's 800m heat at Carrara Stadium during the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, Australia, on April 12, 2018. Mark Schiefelbein / AP file via them.us
For years, trans and intersex athletes have battled with the Olympics to establish fair practices that do not discriminate against them. After years of delays, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced an updated framework for the inclusion of trans athletes across different events.
The “Framework on Fairness, Inclusion and Non-discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sex variations” now provides 10 principles which seek to guide individual sports federations in creating new rules, compared to previous practices which dictated harsh and overbearing rules for trans inclusion regardless of the sport. The new framework is set to be implemented after the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing
Hormones have been the subject of debate when it comes to trans womens’ eligibility to participate, however this new framework makes no mention of specific hormone levels that athletes must conform to. Rather, it states that athletes should never be pressured by athletic governing boards to undergo unnecessary medical testing or treatment to meet eligibility criteria. Another principle set forth in this new framework is that trans and intersex athletes should not be assumed to have an unfair advantage over their competitors; restrictions on their participation should be based on thorough research and athletes will be able to contest restrictions through internal mediation mechanisms.
Sports are for everyone, and fairness in sports means inclusion, belonging and safety for all who want to participate, including transgender, intersex, and nonbinary athletes...On the heels of the most anti-LGBTQ legislative session in history (in the U.S.) with the majority of bills targeting trans youth in sports, every state and lawmaker should listen to the experts from the world of sports, medicine, and athletes themselves to allow transgender youth the same opportunities to play with their friends, have fun, learn, grow, and benefit from the lasting life lessons and supportive community sports can provide. - Alex Schmider, GLAAD Associate Director of Transgender Representation
Despite the progress on this front, advocates have criticized the previous treatment of trans and intersex athletes, especially Black athletes. Caster Semenya, for example, has repeatedly been subject to invasive sex testing and has been forced to lower her natural testoterone levels since 2009. The first out trans athlete to compete in the Olympics was a white woman, Laurel Hubbard, who faced no discrimination whereas her Black trans and intersex counterparts have been repeatedly discriminated against. The new guidelines are definitely a step in the right direction and are necessary for trans and intersex athletes moving forward.
Marisa Salgado, in yellow, and her wife Alicia Lopez are enjoying a family outing with their children and friends. (Frank Rojas for LAist)
Since the Chicano moratorium of 1970, East Los Angeles has been the historic epicenter of civil struggles, a region that has been fighting gentrification and displacement of communities of colour for decades. To emphasize networking among small business owners within the LGBTQ+ community, a Queer Marketplace has recently emerged and has become a space for East LA’s queer community to connect and support one another.
The idea emerged earlier this year when Diana Diaz thought her Goddess Mercado project, a space which creates economic opportunities for local women of colour businesses, could be applied to other communities. As a native of the area and a school counsellor, Diaz wanted to do all that she could to support marginalized populations in this area.
I realized, when I was approached about being at the Goddess, that there is a huge need, not just for Latinas, or Chicanas, but for queer youth in East L.A. There’s so much shame because of machismo because we’re predominantly Latino. It’s so important to create spaces where we’ve increased tolerance and visibility. - Diana Diaz
After reaching out to Rosalba Gonzalez, director of the Hilda L. Solis Learning Academy, Diaz was able to secure a spot for the Mercado. She learned that the academy had been hit hard financially by the pandemic, and hardly had any resources for students at the school’s youth programs. This inspired Diaz to invest into East LA’s youth community. She partnered with the nonprofit community resource centre In the Making, which works with young people to help spearhead business plan ideas and also enables them to get paid internships.
After reaching out to a number of local vendors, including queer crocheter Gaudencio Marquez, Diaz was able to open the Queer Mercado on July 17. Four months later, it is now a hub for the LGBTQ+ community and for people of colour.
The Mercado is open every third Saturday of the month from 10am until 4pm. There are more than 60 vendors, 95% of whom identify as queer and 5% as allies. Paying a $65 fee, vendors are able to sell their products and promote their local businesses, with all funds being donated to the Hilda Solis H.S. student body and local youth employment which assists in running the market.
Zurich Pride 2021 (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images) via Pink News
Despite Switzerland being recognized as a fairly progressive society, it has repeatedly missed the mark when it comes to same-sex marriage. This finally changed: Switzerland has now become the 17th country in Europe to legalize marriage equality, which will come into effect on July 1 next year.
Although same-sex couples have been permitted to engage in civil partnerships since 2007, there had never been any progress on this front. In 2013, legislation was introduced to allow same-sex marriage, however this was followed by 8 years of campaigning and debates. Now, not only will same-sex couples be eligible to marry, but they will also be able to adopt children together and obtain IVF treatments.
We cannot take progress for granted. We must stay visible, loud and clear about injustice. Trans and intersex people need to be protected against discrimination, conversion therapies, and non-consensual surgeries must be forbidden. Another focus has to be minorities within the queer community… Queers of colour, queer disabled people, queer migrants and others should find welcoming structures and a community that doesn’t exclude them. We want to make Switzerland a safer place for marginalised people. - HAZ - Queer Zurich, Switzerland’s oldest surviving LGBTQ+ group
Switzerland is one of the last western European countries to introduce marriage equality, and it only recently banned LGBTQ+ discrimination in February 2020. Although this is a landmark decision in the nation, there is still much more to be done to support the queer community in Switzerland. Stigma still remains high and, without a doubt, there will be backlash to this decision; however, allies and advocates must stay strong and united to uphold the rights of the LGBTQ+ community in Switzerland and around the world.
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.