From the May-June 2015 issue of News & Letters
Chinese feminists had planned a demonstration against sexual harassment on public transportation for International Women’s Day and the 20th anniversary of the 1995 Beijing United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women. But on March 6, police arrested at least ten Chinese feminist activists in Beijing, Hangzhou, and Guangzhou. Police broke into their apartments and confiscated their computers, cell phones and documentation of activism. They were charged with “creating disturbance,” a charge used to detain, arrest, and harass civil rights activists. Five feminists remain in detention.
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In February, Purvi Patel, age 33, was convicted of feticide. In 2013, she went to a South Bend, Ind., emergency room with heavy vaginal bleeding, telling the staff she had miscarried and placed the body of the second-trimester fetus in a dumpster. A jury found her guilty of the contradictory charges of feticide and felony child neglect, sentencing her to 20 years in prison on flimsy evidence including an outdated and discredited forensic test. Laws passed to supposedly protect women from violence that causes miscarriage are being used to punish women for abortion and miscarriage.
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Last year, the prestigious sci-fi/fantasy Hugo Awards went mostly to women and people of color focusing on progressive themes. Now, “Sad Puppies,” a campaign by bigoted sci-fi writers, is attempting to skew the Awards towards ultraconservative themes. N.K. Jemisin, a Black woman fantasy writer speaking at last year’s WisCon, a feminist sci-fi/fantasy convention, described the increase in sexist, racist, homophobic and classist harassment in fandom. She stated this was a response to the successes of previously disadvantaged people and spoke of the importance of diversity in “dreaming” the world in which we want to live.
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In April, 78 mothers in the Karnes Detention Center in Texas for migrant women and children went on a hunger and work strike to protest being detained (some for as long as 10 months) when they posed no threat and were seeking refugee status. They were also protesting their exploited labor and tainted water and food. The facility has had scandals since it opened in August 2014, including the sexual abuse of prisoners by guards and withholding life-saving medical treatment from children. The mothers were released after being held five days in a dark room and threatened with losing custody of their children. Officials from the Department of Homeland Security promised to meet with the women to hear their allegations.