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Global Roundup: Women vs Criminalization of Abortion in El Salvador, Eulogizing Trans Activist Elise Malary, Being Nonbinary in the Philippines, Uganda Woman Boda Boda Driver, Women & Climate Crisis
Curated by FG contributor Samiha Hossain
Poster for ‘Cuerpos juzgados’ (‘Bodies on Trial’) | Courtesy of Mariana Carbajal via Open Democracy
Mariana Carbajal’s new film “Cuerpos juzgados” (Bodies on Trial) documents the impact of the absolute ban on abortion in El Salvador, and the pioneering work to change this reality by Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto, a feminist group led by former guerrilla fighter and feminist Morena Herrera.
While El Salvador has an absolute ban on abortion, it also routinely prosecutes women who suffer miscarriages or deliver stillborn babies for “aggravated homicide”. Some women have been prosecuted after seeking medical advice for complications during pregnancy that led to miscarriage, on suspicion of having attempted an abortion. Between 2000 and 2019, 181 cases were identified of women who had experienced obstetric emergencies and were prosecuted for abortion or “aggravated homicide”, which can be punished with up to 50 years in prison, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Teodora Vázquez, one of the protagonists of the film, was convicted of “aggravated homicide,” sentenced to 30 years and only released in 2018, after a long legal battle. She explains what happened after giving birth to a stillborn in 2007.
I was unconscious. When I woke up and saw the police were there, they were handcuffing me […] I didn’t even understand […] I only know that they just beat me, treated me very badly and at the end, when I asked what was happening, they told me I had killed my daughter and would be 50, 60 years in jail for the crime I had committed. - Teodora Vázquez
Judges and prosecutors routinely consider miscarriages and stillbirths as “aggravated homicide.” Women and girls who are raped, frequently by gang members who control poor neighborhoods, have no access to abortion as well. Almost two girls between the ages of ten and 14 became pregnant every day between January and September 2021, according to official figures. Women with ectopic pregnancies also suffer, as doctors deny them surgery until the foetal heartbeat is gone, despite the fact that the foetus has no chance of survival.
Carbajal decided to tell this story after meeting Morena Herrera at a regional conference of human rights advocates in Colombia in 2019. She researched the subject for several months before travelling to El Salvador. Her team interviewed activists from Agrupación Ciudadana, as well as doctors, psychologists, lawyers, social workers, and Vázquez along with two other victims. The documentary also reflects the context of oppression for women, the acceptance of sexual violence, and the religious discourse and Christian morality that permeate everything. Carbajal highlights the feminist activism that has been helping women like Vázquez.
Without this committed and loving activism, they and dozens of other women would still be lost and forgotten in Salvadoran jails. Without this activism, the debate on abortion would not have reached the media and legislative chambers, as it has in recent years. Amplifying these voices motivated me to make this film. - Mariana Carbajal
Credit: Facebook via Block Club Chicago
Hundreds of mourners gathered in Chicago to honour trans activist Elise Malary, writing tributes on a brick wall and on notes they tossed into a small bonfire earlier this week. Malary, a prominent LGBTQ advocate in Chicago, was reported missing by her family earlier this month, sparking a massive search among family friends that came to a tragic end when her body was found in Lake Michigan. Her death is still under investigation.
Malary was a Black trans woman and a founding member of Andersonville-based Chicago Therapy Collective, which aims to alleviate LGBTQ health disparities through education, therapy, advocacy and the arts. Hundreds of people gathered at the vigil, which started near the collective, and used chalk to write memories of Malary – one person wrote “Her voice was soft. Her tongue was sharp. Her love is forever.” Other messages highlighted Malary’s smile and big heart.
Most recently, Malary worked at the Civil Rights Bureau of the Illinois Attorney General’s office. Malary previously worked as a communications associate for Equality Illinois and interned for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.
Elise faced hardness and chose kindness. Elise faced cruelty and chose softness, love and joy. She chose giving people the benefit of the doubt. She looked for the good in them. She chose compassion, and she chose time and time again to lift others up. - Iggy Ladden, director and therapist for the Chicago Therapy Collective
Friends celebrated Malary’s dedication to making the world a better place, and promised to honour her legacy by continuing that work on her behalf.
We will continue your legacy by taking care of one another in the true spirit of community you embodied. - Precious Brady-Davis, speaker at vigil
COLLAGE: VICE. IMAGES: COURTESY OF JOANNA YAP, JENZEL MHAR DE JESUS, AND SAI “D.VON” GALMAN
Joanna Yap, 30, has a traditionally feminine gender expression and often comes across to people as a straight woman, which is challenging as they do not want to be put in that box. Yap hesitated to come out as nonbinary precisely because the way they looked did not make their being nonbinary particularly obvious. But their queer friends assured Yap that being nonbinary is not just about the way they look, and that they could still embrace their feminine side as a nonbinary person. Yap does not give labels importance, as they have always been sure of their identity. However, they think being out and proud as nonbinary helps widen other people’s understanding of the gender identity. Yap added that doing so could help other nonbinary people see that they can express themselves in many ways.
Sai “D.Von” Galman, 29, described being nonbinary as “just being myself.” Galman decided not to use any pronouns as a reflection of not conforming to gender norms.
I don't fall [in] any of the categories that fall under male and female—I blend in that masculinity and femininity in me. - Sai “D.Von” Galman
The way Galman presents raises eyebrows in the Philippines, but Galman believes the surprise stems from a lack of understanding. Galman believes nonbinary people should be able to wear whatever they want without it being a big deal.
Gender is not tied in just male or female, woman or man. There are others who feel comfortable being both, and there are others who don’t fall [in] any of the two. That's just who we are. - Sai “D.Von” Galman
Jenzel Mhar De Jesus, 22, and also from the Philippines, began expressing their identity as a nonbinary person by growing out and dying their hair, something they said made them feel “so happy.” Others would tell them to cut their hair because “long hair doesn’t look good on boys,” which is how they insisted on seeing De Jesus. Both Galman and De Jesus say being nonbinary in the Philippines can get tiring, even within the local LGBTQ community, as people are largely bound by the gender binary.
Being nonbinary in the Philippines can feel exhausting, at least in my experience. Somehow, the society that we have here—that is still heavily conservative—makes me feel like a misfit. But embracing my gender identity is far more important than what anyone will say about it, and I’m glad I have the courage to just be myself. - Jenzel Mhar De Jesus
Yap acknowledges that not immediately coming off as queer grants her some privileges. The privilege does, however, also give Yap the opportunity to educate people on the different ways gender can be expressed. All three want Filipinos to acknowledge that nonbinary people exist and will continue to exist, and to have their identity respected in public spaces.
Allen Kisakye Butundu, a boda boda rider, earns up to £10 a day and is the main breadwinner for her family. Photograph: Courtesy of SafeBoda via The Guardian
llen Kisakye Butundu, 27, is one of just a few female riders of boda boda, as motorbike taxis are known, out of an estimated 1 million in Uganda. She is also one of only three women working for SafeBoda, a Uganda-based startup that employs about 26,000 riders.
Initially, Butundu decided to learn to ride a motorbike two years ago to save money on travel between the capital, Kampala, and the more rural areas where she worked as a social worker. But the journey has not been easy in a society with ingrained gender roles. Her husband “refused completely” when she asked him to teach her how to ride. She did not let that deter her and was taught by other riders, paying them a small fee or buying petrol. Eventually, her husband came around.
Last year, she became a full-time driver. Working from about 10am to 6pm most days, Butundu says she decided to forgo her former career because she could be more flexible with her hours. She has recently bought another bike and rents one out to a friend.
My neighbours had never seen me put on trousers before. I felt ashamed at first. I used to pack my helmet and trousers in a bag and change near my bike, which I parked away from the house. But then I thought – I have to start accepting that this is part of my work. - llen Kisakye Butundu
Driving a boda boda is considered taboo for women because of its association with crime. It is a largely unregulated industry and in February, Ugandan authorities warned that criminals were masquerading as boda boda drivers. Women are also seen as unable to defend themselves from attacks from other drivers and the public.
Butundu hopes her story will encourage other women to start riding boda boda in Uganda. She has had a positive experience with her employer. Butundu is determined to keep on breaking gender boundaries.
Those who talk, let them talk. This woman is serious now. - llen Kisakye Butundu
Via Global Citizen
Global Citizen met with Salma Zulfiqar, the director of the short animated film “The Migration Blanket – Climate Solidarity,” created to show the true impact of global warming on marginalized women around the world. The effects of the climate crisis will be felt the most by women because women are more likely to live in poverty than men, have less access to basic human rights like the ability to freely move and acquire land, and face systematic violence that escalates during periods of instability. However, these women’s voices are rarely prioritized.
Zulfiqar is the founder and director of ARTconnect, a workshop-based project that empowers refugee and migrant girls and women across the globe through art. She is also an artist and activist passionate about giving the voiceless a voice and educating young people on climate change and gender equality through her creative work.
Many women said they thought the changes in weather patterns were "an act of God". Through the creative learning in ARTconnects, I am opening their minds to the climate crisis and encouraging them to take action to help save lives and save our planet. - Salma Zulfiqar
Zulfiqar says she has personally witnessed many people from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East displaced by climate change. The title “The Migration Blanket” came from how she has seen the blanket as a source of comfort for many displaced and homeless people. “Climate Solidarity” refers to these women and herself showing their solidarity with climate activism in order to better protect women who are on the front line of the climate crisis.
The film is animated with around 400 pieces of artwork. As an artist, Zulfiqar believes art is a powerful medium together with film.
We had young women from four continents participating in The Migration Blanket film project. Art crosses cultures and boundaries and doesn't need translating. It's up to the viewer to draw their own conclusions from their powerful authentic drawings. - Salma Zulfiqar
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.