From the March-April 2022 issue of News & Letters
On Feb. 14, the Kenyan women’s liberation organization FiLiA began their “Kakuma Campaign” with #ShowYourLove, asking organizations and individuals to write the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on behalf of the residents of Block 13, the LGBT+ area of the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. The Kenyan government plans to close the camp this summer and is already shutting down food, water, and medical services. It started requiring Block 13 to refer all issues through a hostile UNHCR-appointed liaison who had previously threatened their lives. FiLiA’s demands include fast-tracking of refugee status, evacuation to a safer area, and protection against violence. The Lesbians of Block 13 participated in and gave a presentation to FiLiA’s 2021 conference through Zoom.
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In February, feminist groups protested in Mexico City against legislation in Congress to recognize surrogate motherhood as a right and regulate it as a non-profit medical practice. Artificially inseminating a woman to produce a baby for another is condemned by many feminists worldwide. Surrogates endure even more health risks than women with normal pregnancies, from drugs that are poorly studied, only to be subjected to the emotional trauma of separation. Feminists say it encourages human trafficking, and surrogates are often cheated financially. Protesters wore costumes from “The Handmaid’s Tale” and signs read: “We are women, not incubators,” “No to wombs for rent,” “Our bodies are not for sale” and “Prostitution is not work, it is exploitation.” “The initiatives…violate human rights, since they consider us merchandise,” stated women’s rights lawyer Patricia Olamendi.
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After stalling for two years, in February Colombia’s constitutional court decriminalized abortion during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. It is the third Latin American country after Argentina and Mexico to largely decriminalize abortion, following years of work by feminist groups collectively called the Green Wave. Feminist groups estimate that only 10% of Columbia’s 400,000 abortions performed per year were legal. During 2020, 26,223 unsafe abortions were performed. Between 2006 and 2019, at least 350 women were convicted or sanctioned for abortions, including at least 10 under the age of 18.
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In January and February in Ottawa, Canada, people in organizations assisting survivors of domestic violence, war, homelessness and other traumas were retraumatized by the unpopular, far-right protest against vaccine mandates. Right-wingers used trucks to paralyze traffic for three weeks, honking horns and shouting at all hours. Sarah Davis, executive director of Cornerstone Housing for Women in downtown Ottawa, stated: “Women are afraid to go out to access their supports and services” and feel “terrorized” by protesters harassing them for wearing face masks. Studies show domestic violence escalated during the pandemic, and women disproportionately lost employment and housing. Activists have made connections between large, male-dominated events and prostitution and the disappearances and murders of women.