Every month RESURJ members and guest allies, collectively share their feminist analysis and reflect on news, events and personal experiences related to sexual and reproductive justice, as well as environmental and economic justice from the different regions and countries we work in.
For this latest edition of Reflections on Our Countries, RESURJ members and allies share feminist analysis and opinions from Paraguay, Egypt, Mexico and Brazil. We share more about how the conservative evangelical movement in Paraguay is spreading misinformation and tampering with the health and rights of adolescents. We also share an incisive analysis of the Egypt Report on gender-related commitments launched by the National Council for Women. From Mexico we provide a broader picture of the feminist mobilizations that took place in Mexico City, as a result of the outrage ignited by cases of sexual violence committed against women and the specific case of an adolescent raped by a group of police officers. And finally, we share the impact of Brazil’s president Bolsonaro war on “gender ideology” and its link to a broader global attempt to dismantle the advances on human rights.
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Being young in Paraguay in the era of Fakes News
Mirta Moragas Mereles
Photo credit: Somos Pytyvõhara
In Paraguay, every day on average two girls between 10 and 14 give birth. According to official data, at least six children are victims of sexual abuse taking place in their immediate environment. Abortion is penalized with the sole exception of risk to life. The State does not have a comprehensive sex education policy, and even further in 2017, the Ministry of Education prohibited the gender theory in education. Additionally, Paraguay is one of the few countries in the region that does not have comprehensive anti-discrimination policies or a law against all forms of discrimination.
What the State does allow, is Evangelical Churches entering public schools to provide false information about sexuality. These events take place in the schools during class hours, parents are not previously informed, and students do not have the option to opt-out. In the talks to the students, they affirm that “the condom does not prevent HIV” and that being gay or lesbian is a “disease that can be cured.” The ban on gender in education made it so that talking about gender has become a taboo subject in the classroom.
In the Fake News era, State decisions are very seriously affecting children, who have no tools to recognize and report abuse. To face this, students and youth organizations have begun to organize their own training spaces with rights and gender focus. They are also coordinating demonstrations urging for a comprehensive sexual education policy. These young people, who have been born after the fall of the Paraguayan dictatorship that lasted 35 years (1954-1989) no longer share the fear from past generations. The youth is showing that they will not be complacent towards a State that ignores them and does not address their concerns. As adults, our challenge is to live up to what is necessary.
Photo Credit: Mohammed Hassan
The 25th Anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, takes place after much debate on how to commemorate this landmark agreement on the human rights of women and girls. For many activists, organizing towards the celebration came in the context of the Commission on the Status of Women this March 2019 (CSW63). One major milestone is the creation of regional multi-stakeholder platforms for countries to draw from their national reports and feed into a regional reflection on gender-related commitments. Ultimately, the plan is for those reports to later be presented at the 64th session of CSW in March 2020. Egypt’s report was prepared by the National Council for Women (NCW), and here are some reflections.
The state declared 2017 as “The year of Egyptian Women”, this for starters, entails that all reported “achievements” are not incorporating migrants and refugees residing in Egypt. The report includes but is not limited to: a national campaign to eliminate hepatitis C by 2020.(1) Along this line, there is an overtone throughout the report of unprecedented achievements; “The first of its kind globally..for the first time…breaking the glass ceiling for the first time…” “first time” was mentioned 12 times throughout the document. It is striking how virtual campaigns, legislative changes (more punitive laws), and memorandum of understanding between the NCW and other governmental apparatuses have been the easy lazy go-to solution to streamline a national position on “equality between sexes.”(2) Social media indicators have been used primarily to applaud outreach achievements, and while they can certainly guide some civil society organizing and advocacy, they are insufficient to reclaim unprecedented achievements in a country like Egypt, or any country really!
The report is made up of four sections: 1) priorities, achievements, and challenges, 2) progress made across areas of concern,(3) 3) national institutions and processes, 4) data and statistics.
While this report is full of blanket statements presented as achievements, such as: “women employees in administrative machinery enjoy a high level of work stability, under no gender discriminatory executive order on promotions and job security.” Under section II area one, “Egyptian women participated in the formulation of five-year plans on the social and economic development of the state for gender mainstreaming” (2007 – 2012, 2012 – 2017) the mechanisms used to enable such participation go unmentioned, especially when surveys and data collection are gated by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS). Also, attempted quantitative evidence is problematic; in serving as a checkbox. For instance, it references subscribers in the health insurance system to be 57%, whereas only 8% are women who benefit from health insurance services.
Different sectors including civil society, are acclimated to top-down approaches partially represented in activities like: arranged home visits to women in rural areas, to “educate” women about reproductive health, and through messaging that takes away women’s agency in making reproductive decisions; such as the “Two [children] Is Enough” campaign.
It is inevitable to undermine celebratory reports that include no actual monitoring or evaluation, partly because of excluding civil society from the whole process, and largely for the absence of citizen participation.
(1)Egypt ranks first worldwide with highest rates of hepatitis C.
(2) The report (in Arabic) in different locations “women empowerment” was used, and rarely uses “gender”.
(3) 1) Inclusive development, shared prosperity and decent work, 2) Poverty eradication, social protection, and social services, 3) Freedom from violence, stigma, stereotypes, 4) Participation, accountability and gender-responsive institutions, 5) Peaceful and inclusive societies, 6) Environmental conservation, protection and rehabilitation,
Our rage is legitimate
Oriana López Uribe
Photo Credit: Brenda Arriaga @bwithacamera
(This article was originally posted in spanish here: https://politica.expansion.mx/voces/2019/08/22/columnainvitada-nuestra-rabia-es-legitima)
Without a doubt, Mexico is a violent country. Former president Felipe Calderon’s security policy put us in a state of war. This week, we have managed to place on the agenda a sensitive part of that violence: violence against women. We went to the streets furious both Monday, August 12 and Friday 16, because we need a real response from the authorities towards the sexual violence recently committed by police officers in Mexico City. Instead of this, the mobilizations were received with unsympathetic messages towards the victims, their families and against the women’s and feminist movement. A movement that has proven to be cohesive even though it is so widely diverse. Where one person cannot be criminalized; All forms of protest are legitimate. The mobilization on Friday, August 16 was echoed throughout the country, as a way of addressing gender violence together, because we know that it is a deeper issue, one that we have been trying to place in the public eye since the rise of feminicides in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua.
The violence exerted by rapists and feminicides is one which in this country remains unpunished, tolerated, and socially invisible. Hence, the feminist movements responded with broken objects, scratches on monuments and fire. I urge you to not focus on these distractions, these acts are a tool we have to get the attention of the media and thus urge society to listen to our outrage.
An outrage that is legitimate. For decades we have fought to stop violence against women in a country where, according to UN figures, at least 6 out of 10 Mexican women have faced an incident of violence; 41.3% of women have been victims of sexual violence and, in their most extreme form, 9 women are murdered daily.
Our rage is legitimate because we know that when a woman has been raped, the solution will not be as fast as using the soap that has already cleaned the Angela of Independence. It is an angry rage because when a woman is killed there is no solution that can stop the pain or bring her back.
Our so-called justice system is not giving women justice, it is filtering the data of the victims, it is omitting to take DNA samples to be able to do a due process, it is being complicit in machismo, it is asking the victims to go through cruel treatment.
We need joint work spaces between government, civil society (organized or not), academy and survivors. There can be no protagonists in a movement that demands justice and equality. We need to hear the voices coming from schools, neighborhoods and work spaces where concrete solutions can be achieved and are not just a media act. The government needs to ensure safe spaces where we can share perspectives and work, where our physical integrity is safeguarded.
We need to have a methodology of working together with the government, to find ways of being able to do justice, but a justice framed and understood from the perspective and needs of the victims.
What matters to us is that violations by state agents are not repeated. We are interested in thinking of ways from a restorative justice framework that care for victims and their families. We want actions that lead to the prevention of violence, recognizing that this involves us all, people and institutions and that this investment is the most important, determining and long-term: education to deconstruct and get rid of gender stereotypes, to question unequal power relations, to give us tools for non-violent conflict resolution. An education that gives us skills to live in a diverse and plural society, at peace.
War on ‘gender ideology’ hits Brazilian foreign policy, posing a threat to the human rights of women and the LGBTIQ community
Daniela Bicalho Godoy
Photo credit: Daniela Bicalho Godoy
A new foreign policy guideline issued by the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs ordered Brazilian diplomats to reiterate Bolsonaro’s administration new interpretation of the term ‘gender’ in their official statements. According to the new protocol, the word ‘gender’ would be simply equivalent to an individual’s biological sex, being it male or female. The ban on the use of the term ‘gender’ beyond the sense of biological sex inaugurated a dangerous new frontline of the so-called ‘war on gender ideology’, a resource which Bolsonaro learned how to exploit well as the locomotive for the mobilization and support of masses during Brazil’s troubled presidential elections last year.
In addition to positioning Brazil alongside the world’s most conservative countries in terms of the recognition of women and LGBTIQ human rights such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Russia, the new anti-gender protocol also denies several gender-inclusive guidelines adopted by the United Nations since the 1990’s as well as the most advanced scientific evidence that recognizes gender as a social construct based on the inequalities inherent to the different roles imposed to women and men by society.
The new national position defended by Foreign Minister, Ernesto Araújo, reached critical levels during the 41st Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva this June: more than 14 references to the term gender were vetoed by Brazil, causing embarrassment to negotiations and generating manifestations of repudiation and dismay from countless countries of more progressive positions. Brazil has also issued worrying vetoes regarding the terms ‘gender inequality’ and ‘sexual and reproductive health services’ which represent a serious setback for the already curtailed women’s human rights in the country. The same stance was observed at the closure of the 63rd Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 63) in March this year, when the government drew up a number of reservations to the final document of the agreed conclusions and opposed statements related to the expansion of global access to sexual and reproductive health services on the grounds that their approval would open the door to ‘promoting abortion’’. Bolsonaro’s anti-gender offensive has a disastrous impact on Brazil’s international credibility and puts historical achievements in the field of international human rights law at stake, primarily affecting women and members of the LGBTIQ community as well as directly confronting imperative principles and norms of international law such as the non-regression principle and the jus cogens norm of non-discrimination against women.
Bolsonaro’s war on ‘gender ideology’ now converted into a foreign policy guideline is extremely harmful, once it dismantles and promotes setbacks in pre-established and historical human rights language consensus, makes no room for advancements in major international negotiations for the progress of human rights and blocks diplomatic agreements that could lead to a greater protection of women’s rights, sexual and reproductive health and rights and LGBTIQ rights. This unfortunate international scenario is especially worrying, given that Brazil is the country with the highest numbers of killings of cross-dressers and transgender people in the world, as well as the 5th most violent country for women, where unsafe abortion is the 5th leading cause of morbidity and mortality of people who are able to get pregnant. The government’s biased strategy of conducting a discursive dispute through a conceptual review of the term ‘gender’ also promotes a forced silence of the voices of the most vulnerable segments of the brazilian population, which are subjected to systems of oppression that are structural to the Brazilian society, based on inequalities of gender, race and class.
Daniela is a feminist human rights lawyer from Brazil.