The Brazilian perfect storm
We apologize for the delay in the circulation of SPW’s October 2018 monthly announcement due to the stormy process and result of the Brazilian presidential elections. We needed time to begin processing this outcome and to select relevant information that may contribute to a better understanding of this crucial turn of Brazilian and transnational politics of democracy, including its gender and sexuality dimensions.
We expect that, albeit limited, the package we have been able to create may allow our readers to better grasp antecedents, the realities of electoral dynamics and, at least preliminarily, what can be predicted for the near future. It includes an essay by Sonia Corrêa; a fact sheet on the electoral results; an in-depth analysis of the profile of pro-active voters of the president-elect and a report on the November 2017 attacks on Judith Butler during her visit to Brazil that, retrospectively, can be read as the foreshadowing of the 2018 political landscape. These two reports result from the ethnographic research performed by SPW partner Isabela Oliveira Kalil and her team. We also offer a substantive compilation of news, articles and other analyses of the electoral process and outcomes published by the international press on the electoral process since September.
Since April 2018, 1,300 missing persons, and an estimate of 500 deaths, 3,000 people injured and 400 illegally prosecuted, according to ReliefWeb. On October 14, over thirty feminist activists were arrested, amongst them the renowned Marlen Chow, under an IACHR warning of a new wave of repression. They have been released four days later, but while in prison, Chow launched the #RedLip Campaign against state violence.
A new SPW publication is out!
With great pleasure, Sexuality Policy Watch (SPW) launches its new publication “The Catholic Church’s Legal strategies – The Re-naturalization of Law and the Religious Embedding of Citizenship“, authored by Juan Marco Vaggione, which examines the role of the Catholic Church in promoting regressions in gender, sexuality and abortion politics. His analysis provides a roadmap of antecedents and effects of the Vatican systematic investments, which are particularly useful to better grasp what is happening in the world of real politics, including the Brazilian 2018 elections. We dearly thank Juan Marco for his contribution.
On October 30th, the UN Human Rights Committee issued the General Comment No. 36 (2018) on article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, on the right to life that has been under debate since 2015 (read here and here). The Comment affirms that abortion is a human right, that preventable maternal deaths are a violation of the right to life, and that the right to life begins at birth.
Mexican Congresswoman Villavicencio Ayala, from Morena, the winning party in the recent general elections, introduced a federal proposition to legalize abortion until the 12th week of pregnancy, as to overcome the sharp disparity of legislation across the country. In the meantime, the case of Dafne McPherson in the Collegiate Court of the 22nd District of Querétaro, sentenced to 16 years in prison for a miscarriage, pushed forward. After suffering various attempts from the Prosecutor’s Office that treated her as a criminal since the early start and tabled to present the opinion of experts who have declared prejudiced claims on gender, the Court decided to suspend the hearing scheduled for November 7 in order to analyze the appeal filed by the defense of McPherson on request of more than twenty organizations that are supporting her.
Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court puts Roe v. Wade at greater risk. Meanwhile, state courts continue to further restrict the right to abortion. In response, Planned Parenthood declared a contingency plan to expand its network of clinics in states where abortion is legal. Not less importantly, a new online service, named Aid Access that provides information and access to abortion pills (until the 10th week of pregnancy) has been launched for self-managed procedures.
The municipal council of Verona, in Italy, where right-wing attacks against a seminar on the asylum of LGBTI persons and an anti-abortion campaign by CitizenGo occurred in May, approved a law that declares the city as a “pro-life” territory. In contrast, in Germany, Franziska Giffey, the Minister of Family Affairs, has severely criticized the pope for his more recent comments on abortion, comparing the practice of hiring a hitman.
In Queensland (Australia), after much Congress debate, a new law was approved that makes abortion legal on request up to 22 weeks of pregnancy, and thereafter with the approval of two doctors, promotes safe access zones around clinics and requires conscientious objectors to refer women to a medical practitioner who will provide a termination.
The International Campaign (ICWRSA) published a report on the 3rd Abortion & Reproductive Justice Conference: The Unfinished Revolution that took place on July 2018 in South Africa. The event is part of a series of international and regional meetings on abortion rights.
We are very pleased to share Gabriela Arguedas-Ramírez’s article, one of SPW’s partner, “Gender Ideology”, religious fundamentalism and the electoral campaign (2017-2018) in Costa Rica published by the LSE blog Engenderings.
In Brazil, during and after the electoral period, threats and attacks on academic freedom but also teachers working at the primary and secondary levels, which had been at play for some time, have geometrically escalated. The main forces behind these trails are the anti-gender crusade, and the School without Party movement, and conservative liberal formations, main supporters on the newly elected president (check here for a compilation).
US officials are seeking to eliminate the word “gender” from UN human rights documents and replace it with “woman”. At recent meetings of the Third Committee, US delegates pushed for deletion of the term depicted by them as an “ideology”. Concurrently, a draft memo to be issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services urged key federal agencies to define gender as determined “on a biological basis”. If adopted, the definition will roll back civil rights and protection against discrimination for transgender people. This potential setback was protested by rallies in Washington and New York under the hashtag #WontBeErased and these policy guidelines were severely criticized by Foreign Policy and Scientific American.
In the UK, a reform to the 2004 Gender Recognition Act to make the legal gender change in documents less bureaucratic has enabled the collusion between the Christian right and a group of feminists against trans rights, as an openDemocracy research suggests, despite disputing many other issues.
In Ukraine, draft bill N. 9183 was tabled that aims to “protect public morals and traditional values” through the criminalization of same-sex relations and removal of language on “sexual orientation”, “gender identity”, “gender equality” and “gender-based legal assessment” from previous legislation. While the bill will most likely be voted down, it is a flagging sign of potential legal regressions in the future, as openDemocracy reports.
On October 17, anti-gender groups in Argentina engaged in attacks against the national Comprehensive Sexual Education policy, invading a classroom where the content of the program was being shared.
LGBTTIQ + Rights
In Brazil, as reported by sites tracking intolerance and political violence (Vítimas da Intolerância e Violência Política no Brasil) during the electoral period (September 1st, October 28th) there were between 60 to 133 episodes of violence, including 36 homicides and physical aggression. Various of these victims were trans women or travesties: Priscila em São Paulo (SP), Kharoline em Santo André (SP), Julyanna no Rio de Janeiro (RJ), Jéssica em Taguatinga Norte (DF) and another travesti were injured, among many others. Laysa, from Aracaju (SE), was murdered. In all these cases, the aggressors made explicit they were Bolsonaro supporters.
In Romania, a proposal to amend the Constitution in order to ban same-sex marriage, promoted by the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD), the Coalition for Family and the Romanian Orthodox Church, failed to gather the necessary turnout of voters for the referendum on October 7, as only 20 percent of Romanians showed up. Despite same-sex marriage is still not legal in the country, the proposition would limit in the Constitution the scope of marriage as the “union between a man and a woman”.
In Uruguay, the Comprehensive Trans Act was finally approved on October 19 after a lengthy 10-hour Congress session. The proposition had been heavily attacked by anti-gender actors outside and within the Parliament, who argued against the law alleging it would provoke a further a decline in the country’s fertility rate and that sex reassignment procedures would be too costly (very similar to arguments used against abortion rights in recent Argentinean and Brazilian debates). The new law allows hormonal therapy for minors, but require parental consent for surgeries and includes reparations for trans people persecuted during the military dictatorship.
On November 2nd, for the first time, in Argentina, a legal document was issued without the gender marker of the person. This was only possible due to the Gender Identity Law enacted in 2012 and the Yogyakarta +10 Convention that states “Everyone has the right to legal recognition without reference to or requiring assignment or disclosure of, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or sex characteristics.”
On October 17th, the International Day of Action for Trans Depathologization, GATE issued a joint statement reassuring the important actions trans activists are committed to in regards to depathologization and especially ICD-11.
In the US, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit against the Social Security Administration arguing legal protection for pensions and other benefits of LGBT persons whose partners have already deceased.
In Uganda, the Ministry of Ethics, resorted to the existing sodomy criminal to prohibit the creation of country’s first Community Center for LGBTTI+ persons.
In the Crimean peninsula, since Russia annexation in 2014, the situation of the LGBT community has deteriorated badly, as reported by Daily Beast.
SPW thanks Berenice Bento for her article on the pinkwashing tactics developed in Israel to promote the country as a world ambassador for LGBTTIQ+ rights while concealing the violence against this same population and, most importantly, erasing the Palestinian apartheid.
Under the argument of tackling sex trafficking, Israel’s Parliament is debating a law provision aimed at sanctioning prostitution clients. Also in Israel, the Haifa Rabbinical Court voided the Jewish status of a female sex worker.
On 21st September, the Governor of Kinshasa, in the DRC, launched a campaign for “morality in clothing and behavior” which led to the harassment, arrest and detention of hundreds of sex workers.
The Malaysian Religious Affair Department arrested, sentenced and submitted a single mother to corporal punishment under the accusation of prostitution.
#MeToo and Sexual Violence
In India, #MeToo is expanding its trails, triggered by accusations from Bollywood actress Tanushree Datta against actor Nana Patekar of sexually harassing her on the sets of a movie almost ten years ago. Since then, the trail grew and spread from the entertainment and media industry to Indian politics, art, law, sports, education and the corporate sector. The biggest outcome so far was the resignation of State Minister of Foreign Affairs, MJ Akbar, accused of harassment by sixteen women.
The decision of the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize to grant Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege for their efforts to help women abused in conflict zones, though unprecedented, must be situated in relation to the scandal of sexual harassment that erupted early this year in the Swedish Academy.
In Brazil, after the new law on sexual assault was approved in September, five people were prosecuted. The law increases the convictions for sexual crimes and offenses and expands the scope of crimes (read in Portuguese).
In the US, where the federal Violence Against Women Act approved in 1994 will expire, debates have expanded on the effectiveness of a criminal response to domestic violence as reported by an article published by The Conversation.
In Uganda, feminist activist and scholar Dr. Stella Nyanzi, from Makerere University, was once again detained for using her personal social media to denounce the murderer and torture of Ugandans perpetrated by President Museveni. In a clear attempt to suffocate contrary opinions while violating freedom of expression, Nyanzi was arrested over claims of cyber harassment and offensive communication. In response, the hashtag #FreeStellaNyanzi was raised, just as it was in 2017, to pressure authorities for her release and to reinforce petition No. 15 of 2017, tabled at the Constitutional Court, to challenge Section 25 of the Computer Misuse Act, used by Museveni, that contravenes the Constitution & violates fundamental freedoms.
In Ethiopia, an increase in women’s political participation to occupy 50 percent of the House preceded the Parliament unanimous vote to nominate Sahle-Work Zewde as the new and first female president of the country (read in Al Jazeera).
A group of nine independent experts urged Saudi Arabia to release all women’s rights defenders, who were arrested for peacefully protesting for the right to vote and to drive.
The U.N. Human Rights Committee considered France’s ban on the niqab (the full-body Islamic veil) as a human rights violation and called for a review of the legislation.
Sexuality & art
In accordance to Brazil’s glaring news, SPW remembers the works of artists during a similar time, when the country lived under the military dictatorship, in order to evoke how life and art persist and resist amid anything.
Papers and articles
The limits of moral limitations: Re-conceptualizing morals in human rights law, written by SPW partner, Ryan Thoreson.
Achille Mbembe: The age of humanism is ending – Mail & Guardian
Interview with the Free Women’s Movement (TJA) in North Kurdistan – openDemocracy
Africa’s selective approach to human rights – Daily Maverick
#MeToo and sexual violence
What do we consent to when we consent to sex? – Aeon Magazine
#MeToo movement in China: powerful yet fragile – Al Jazeera
All the ways the world polices sex – Bhekisisa
South Africa Easy-to-use Safe Abortion graphics – Bhekisisa
Publications and resources
Providing ethical and compassionate health care to intersex patients: Intersex-affirming hospital policies – InterACT and Lambda Legal
“Free to Think 2018” Report of the Scholars at Risk Academic Freedom Monitoring Project – Scholars at Risk Network
Check it out!
Journal of Social Issues – Call for papers: Applications of Intersectionality to Critical Social Issues, abstracts due Jan 15, 2019; International Perspectives on Women in the Workplace, abstracts due March 1, 2019.
Initiative Sankofa d’Afrique de l’Ouest (Sankofa Initiative for West Africa). Apply here by 22nd November.