Global Roundup: Women Disappointed by Qatar Election, Mr. Gay World Competition Trans Inclusivity, But What Was She Wearing?, Jesteśmy rodziną (We are a family) in Poland, Feminist Comedian in China
Compiled by Samiha Hossain
Al-Maha Al-Majid, a candidate in Qatar's Shura Council election, poses for a photo next to an election poster in Doha, Qatar September 30, 2021. Picture taken September 30, 2021. REUTERS/Ibraheem Al Omari
Women in Qatar are disappointed by the country’s first legislative elections where voters chose none of the 26 women who stood for election. Turnout for the election of 30 members of the 45-seat body was 63.5 percent according to the interior ministry.
To have all men is not the vision of Qatar. For the first time in Qatar, this is the opportunity to take part in the political. - Aisha Hamam al-Jasim, 59, a nursing manager who ran in Doha's Markhiya district
While Qatar has introduced reforms to women's rights in recent years, including allowing women to independently get a driving license, it has been criticised by rights groups for issues like the guardianship system, where a woman needs male permission to marry, travel and access reproductive healthcare.
Human Rights Watch in March said that when in 2019 women tweeted from an anonymous account about Qatar's guardianship system, the account shut down within 24 hours after cyber security officials summoned one woman.
Naima Abdulwahab al-Mutaawa'a, a candidate and foreign ministry worker whose elderly mother came to vote for her, had wanted to press for a body advocating for women and children.
Several female candidates had been seeking to improve the integration into Qatari society of children of female citizens married to foreigners who, like in other Gulf states, cannot pass their Qatari nationality to their children.
Qatar has one female minister: Public Health Minister Hanan Mohamed Al Kuwari.
Jasim says she faced some men who did not believe women should run. Her platform highlighted her administrative skills and focused on policy priorities like health, youth employment and retirement.
I'm strong, I'm capable. I see myself as fit as a man ... If you want to see me as weak, that's up to you, but I am not weak. – Aisha Hamam al-Jasim
Many of the women candidates have strong ideas and platforms advocating for important issues in Qatari society. However, it appears that men and many women are holding on to patriarchal beliefs about women’s role being confined to the house.
Male candidate Sabaan Al Jassim, 65, supports women standing in elections but said their primary role remains in the family.
"They are here, they have their fingerprint and they have their vote and a voice ... But most important is in the house, to take care of the kids with the families," he said at a polling station where Jasim and another woman candidate sat across the room from him.
Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images
The annual international beauty pageant Mr. Gay World, a global competition for gay men, updated its policies to make it explicit this year that it is inclusive to trans men, stating that the competition is “open to anyone who identifies as male, using him and his pronouns and who collectively identifies as male.”
Mr. Gay World likely updated its guidelines in the wake of a transphobic controversy resulting from a historic bid by Chiyo Gomes, a trans and drag artist, in the Mr. Gay England contest last September. Gomes was the first trans finalist in the history of the competition, a fact about which they have been loud and proud.
However, the win was met with outrage from transphobes and TERFs who said that a trans man cannot be gay. Gomes responded and did not let the outrage threaten them.
The transphobic abuse persisted, and many were misgendering Gomes and saying their trans identity was a result of sexual assault. Gomes urged followers to “support the platforms who make space for me” and “make noise” in their honor.
Gomes self-advocacy evidently played a big role for this year’s Mr. Gay World competition to push for explicit inclusion of trans men. This push for inclusion may positively influence LGBTQ+ competitions across the world for years to come.
But What Was She Wearing? is India’s first feature-length documentary film shot by an all women crew that explores the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act of 2013 and its issues. Directed by Vaishnavi Sundar, it shows the perspective of over two dozen Indian women and their experiences of sexual abuse from corporate offices to building sites and manual scavenging.
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act of 2013 outlines the steps that employers are legally required to implement in order to facilitate healthy working environments. These include raising concerns of what constitutes sexual assault, establishing an independent employee complaints committee, and conducting sensitive and prompt investigations of complaints.
It is heartbreaking, frustrating, and eye-opening. Vaishnavi Sundar’s insightful documentary on sexual abuse in India blows the lid off the sheer magnitude of sexual assault experienced by women on a daily basis. For the first time, we have an examination of not only the idea of “sexual harassment,” but also the scratching, bile-inducing truth of the various behaviours that constitute sexual harassment. – Naina Bhargava
The film sheds light on a variety of different workplaces and the diverse problems women encounter based on their caste, religion, region, and the type of industry. It also includes men discussing the sexual harassment that they face and addressing the problems of toxic masculinity. After the film was screened, many organisations have set up committees and conducted awareness campaigns about initiating redressal to an aggrieved female employee at the workplace. However, one of the important messages of the film is that legal and structural responses to sexual abuse are not enough – social and cultural reform is also incredibly important to create long-term solutions.
Milena and Ola share what it is like to be part of a rainbow family in Poland in a powerful campaign for LGBT+ non-government organisation, Miłość Nie Wyklucza. (YouTube/Miłość Nie Wyklucza)
Miłość Nie Wyklucza (Love Does Not Exclude), a non-governmental organization promoting LGBT+ rights in Poland, launched its Jesteśmy rodziną (We are a family) campaign to highlight “rainbow families'' living in Poland. This video series will provide a platform to different queer families in Poland with the goal of creating a greater understanding towards the community.
Many municipal and local governments in the country declared regions free from “LGBT ideology” in 2019. Human rights groups have warned that these declarations can fuel violence against queer people. After a lot of push from around the world, in July, the European Commission finally announced it would launch action against Poland or “violations of fundamental rights of LGBTIQ people.” Since then, officials in Swietokrzyskie, Podkarpackie, Lubelskie and Malopolskie have repealed the anti-LGBT+ declarations.
The first video of the Jesteśmy rodziną campaign features same-sex couple Milena and Ola along with their young boys Tadzik and Edzio who all live in Poland. They say that coming out as a family was a “tough decision” for both of them, but it was ultimately “cathartic and liberating”.
You just go and say: ‘This is my girlfriend and we have kids. You confront others with it. You’re in-your-face about it. ‘Well that’s who I am. And if you don’t accept it, just leave us. Go away.’ It’s just sincerity with yourselves, your kids and this relationship… why should you be ashamed of love? – Milena
This is an important campaign for the LGBTQ community in Poland. It is powerful when queer people share their stories and let the world know they refuse to hide because of backlash and abuse.
Yang Li via BBC
Several women comedians have gained fame in China during the stand-up contest Rock & Roast. Among them, Yang Li is seen by many of her fans as a litmus test to weed out unwanted suitors. Among her routine are controversial jokes about men. She called men “average yet confident” which instantly became a meme. She joked that if a man proposed to her, he probably just wanted to beat her up—a reference to the domestic violence that often goes unpunished in China. Facing criticism, she said men turned frenzied and hysterical when they were unhappy, “just like women.” These jokes gained her many fans as well as criticism from others.
It was during an argument about Yang earlier this year that Wendy Liu, a 23-year-old university student in the central province of Hunan, decided to break up with her boyfriend of four years. Liu was praising Yang for speaking up for women, but her then-boyfriend was offended by the jokes and accused Liu of “getting brainwashed by feminist extremists.” Another young woman, Kristen, also broke up with her ex-boyfriend because of a debate over Yang’s comedy.
At that moment I felt I had wasted all these years. I don’t know how I lived through these four years. I thank Yang Li for helping me make up my mind to break up. – Wendy Liu
Yue Qian, a sociologist with the University of British Columbia, said her research showed that the divide over gender issues between Chinese men and women has widened in the younger population compared with previous generations. Women are becoming more pro-equal rights as they gain more education, Qian said, but the effect is smaller on men.
The social divide along Yang Li’s jokes and more broadly, feminism, is also a reflection of the growing gender gap in how men and women embrace gender ideology. Women have become way more egalitarian, whereas men have been left behind. And they are increasingly being left behind by women. - Yue Qian
Yang’s critics threatened to report her to China’s media watchdog for verbally abusing men and inciting conflicts between men and women. In March, angry men called for a boycott of Intel over an advert featuring Yang, prompting the company to pull the ad. Women fought back by flooding the hashtag “I am a woman, I support Yang Li” on microblogging site Weibo.
There are countless male comedians that have made careers off of misogynistic jokes, so it is ironic (yet not surprising) that so many men in China are so threatened by Yang’s jokes. It is powerful that one woman comedian speaking her mind is inspiring several women in China to stay away from misogynistic, anti-feminist men whose values do not align with theirs.
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.