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Global Roundup: Women vs Femicides in Mexico, Iran Students Protest Tightened Restrictions, Domestic Worker YouTuber, Cartoonist Explores Wuhanese Roots & Queer Identity, SAfrica Play on LGBTQ Lives
Curated by FG contributor Samiha Hossain
Women march against the recent murders of several women, in the Mexico City suburb of Nezahualcoyotl, where two of the women were killed last week, Sunday, April 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Fernanda Pesce) via CTV News
Hundreds of women marched in Mexico and its suburbs on Sunday to protest the horrifying death of an 18-year-old in the northern city of Monterrey. Demonstrators also marched through the suburb of Nezahualcoyotl, where two women were killed in the last week. They carried signs reading "No to Harassment," "Mexico is a mass grave” and “24,000 are missing" and chanted “Justice, justice!" Demonstrators also taped missing posters on the Angel, a tall stone monumental shaft commemorating the country's independence.
Debanhi Escobar’s body was found Thursday in a cistern at a motel in Monterrey, almost two weeks after she had gone missing. The 18-year-old was left on the side of a highway late at night, purportedly after a taxi driver tried to fondle her. The driver, who worked for a taxi app, took a photo to show the 18-year-old got out of his car alive on the outskirts of Monterrey, which made headlines. Activists say police and prosecutors have been slow and ineffective in investigating the case. Escobar’s father said authorities had searched the motel several times before finding his daughter’s body. Critics are disturbed by the fact that even when authorities are spurred to act by public outcry, investigations are seldom very timely or efficient.
Killings of women have increased in recent years in Mexico, with femicides rising from 977 in 2020 to 1,015 in 2021. Disappearances of women also remain high, with about 1,600 reported missing so far this year. Officials say 829 of them are still listed as missing, and 16 were found dead. Protesters are urging law enforcement and government officials to treat these horrific deaths and the femicide epidemic with urgency.
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Students at Tehran's University of Science and Technology protesting against tightened restrictions. April 24, 2022 via Iran Interntaional
A large group of students held a demonstration on Sunday at a Tehran university in Iran against tightened measures by morality guards to force students to comply with the hijab. Students at the University of Science and Technology held a gathering and a march at their campus to protest the atmosphere of fear, intimidation and interference of morality guards to force them to comply with the Islamic dress and other codes. They chanted slogans such as "Girls' dormitory is a prison cell" and "We do not want police-style guards."
Some universities in Tehran have tightened dress code restrictions as the students have started to attend in person after over two years of virtual classes due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Morality guards at the University of Science and Technology and Amirkabir University began motorcycle patrols to force students to comply with the hijab and other Islamic regulations such as if male and female students sit and mingle together on the campus. Those that do not comply with the regulations are written up and could face more severe consequences if they repeat such behavior.
On Wednesday, students at the Iran University of Science and Technology wrote an open letter in protest to the new restrictions, saying “University is not a barracks, and the dormitory is not a prison.” The Islamic Students Associations of the University of Tehran and Tehran University of Medical Science also wrote to the president of their universities in the past few days to criticize the new measures.
Students say after the reopening of higher education institutions this year, the atmosphere has greatly changed. Authorities appointed after hardline President Ebrahim Raisi was elected, they say, are apparently finding it a good time to enforce an aggressive approach to Islamic discipline on students. Since the hijab became compulsory in Iran in 1979, women failing to meet the standards of modesty have been barred from entering university premises.
A screenshot from one of Contrinx’s YouTube videos. Screenshot, via Contrinx’s fansclub via Hong Kong Free Press
Contrinx, the Indonesian YouTuber who does not reveal her name for safety reasons – recently went viral in a video where she sarcastically reprimanded Hong Kong employers’ treatment of foreign domestic workers. She has been acting as a counsellor for migrant workers for 10 years and, in 2018, started writing blogs and posting videos to promote their rights. Through social media and word of mouth, she became famous among the domestic helper community.
Contrinx handles cases of sexual harassment, financial exploitation and even discrimination. She spends her weekend holidays listening to complaints and talks to domestic workers by phone on weeknights in urgent cases. For Contrinx, the Immigration Department’s visa approval system is unfair as work performance is subjective and there is no one to review whether the workplace is reasonable.
If the government received a complaint from the employer, they would deny our visa application. They just listen to one side. At least give us a chance to defend ourselves. - Contrinx
In order to retain a visa, workers are forced to obey their bosses. Contrinx described Hong Kong’s 400,000 foreign domestic workers as “muted, routinely silenced.” She rarely advises victims to report to police or go to court, since it is impossible to garner evidence and win a lawsuit.
If we record something, it may violate the privacy law… If you ask the victim to recall and recall the experience again, it would damage her too. - Contrinx
Contrinx highlights the double standard where the Hong Kong police have been issuing penalty tickets to workers who gather in groups of more than two, or without adequate distance between each group, but employers are not fined for hosting large parties at home. She also discusses how many have been fired when they become infected with Covid-19.
The reception for Contrinx’s advocacy is not always positive. She receives hateful comments on her social media accounts. Also, Facebook and YouTube received a number of complaints about her account and banned her from commenting for a period. Still, she remains determined and has over 34,000 followers on Facebook.
I’m so happy that I made it – I got your attention… Finally, they can hear our voice. - Contrinx
Laura Gao via NPR
Wuhanese American illustrator and writer Laura Gao creates comics exploring their Wuhanese American identity, as well as their queerness. In the early months of the pandemic, their cartoon “The Wuhan I Know” went viral on twitter. Gao has recently written a hilarious and heartfelt new book, Messy Roots: A Graphic Memoir of a Wuhanese American. Gao spoke to NPR about their book.
That was something I was insecure about growing up. I thought I had to be either one or the other – Wuhanese or American – in order to truly fit into one place. - Laura Gao
Gao talks about how “coming into” their Asianness was a slow process for them, but eventually they met other Asian kids in college and started to grow comfortable with their identity.
As I was writing these stories of finding myself and being proud of myself, I realized it became impossible to decouple that Asianness from the queerness. So much of who I am today stems from me taking pride in who I love. - Laura Gao
Gao came out to their parents before their book was published. Their parents did not take it well and have not read the book. They are also not sure if the book will ever be published in China because of censorship laws that China has around LGBTQ content. They hope that their family in China can one day read it and better understand them.
Gao wants people to know that Wuhanese people “care about you as if you're family.” Their graphic memoir is a heartfelt look into who they are.
Kopo Jake Nathane and Lethabo Bereng play the roles of Blaq Widow and Queen Bling in a production about the struggles of LGBTQ community via iol
A new play in South Africa, Born Naked, seeks to highlight the LGBTQ community experiences in the country. It tells the story of two young drag queens, Blaq Widow and her drag mother, Queen Bling, as they unpack their relationship on a train, in drag pageants and in dressing rooms. Born Naked, weaves together the complex stories that queer people experience in vibrant, colourful and sometimes violent communities. The production seeks to communicate the message that society has a collective responsibility and action towards the queer community.
The story also pays homage to the life of Thapelo Makhutle, who was brutally murdered in a violent hate crime in the Northern Cape in 2012. Makhutle was killed because he identified as gay in the conservative community of Kuruman.
The script is informed by real South African stories, with specific reference to Thapelo at the end. I remember reading his story 10 years ago and it was as if something shifted in me. I couldn’t begin to imagine that we had cultivated a society where we allowed this to happen. - Kirsten Harris, director
Harris said the play is a reminder of the call to action for a much-needed hate crime bill. The Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill was placed before Parliament in 2018 and seeks to reduce offensive speech and curb hate crimes. The bill, despite going through public comments and lapsed in 2019, is yet to be passed.
Nathane who plays the role of Queen Bling, said being part of the production meant they could tell their truth. They also said they believe representation is the key to changing narratives.
It’s a moment to let stories out and let the voices be heard. Theatre is a vocation for me that has helped me heal through my pain. I want Born Naked to help other people’s experiences of sharing their truth. - Nathane
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.