भारत में घरेलू कामगार न्याय की मांग करते हैं

समाज और सरकार की उपेक्षा की वजह से हम घरेलू कामगार आज भी हाशिए पर रहने को मजबूर हैं। लेकिन कोरोना और लॉकडाउन हम घरेलू कामगारों के लिए बेबसी भरे एक बेहद चुनौतीपूर्ण समय के रूप में सामने आया।

इस कठिन समय में हम मौत, बीमारी, भुखमरी और लाचारी से जूझ रहे थे और शहरों में अपनी मजदूरी छोड़कर जब भूखे पेट हजारों मील पैदल चलकर अपने गांव वापस आ रहे थे तो सरकार कही नहीं थी ?

इस महामारी के दौर में जब हमारी छोटी-सी आजीविका भी चली गई और काम कराने वाले लोग हमें घृणा की नजरों से देखने लगे तो भी सरकार कही नहीं थी?

घरेलू कामगार को कोरोना के वाहक बोलकर, कई कामगारों का काम, आमदनी ख़त्म कर दी गयी और उनके ख़िलाफ़ नफ़रत फैलायी जा रही थी उस समय सरकार कहाँ थी?

Illustration by Chaitali Haldar

एक तरफ हम इन समस्याओं से जूझ रहे थे तो दूसरी तरफ सरकार ने सड़कों पर हमें परेशान करने के लिए पुलिस को खुली छूट दे रखी थी।

कोरोना महामारी के दौरान घरेलू कामगारों की मुसीबत और लाचारी सबसे ज़्यादा सामने आई। घरेलू कामगार महिलाओं को कोरोना महामारी के बहाने बेरोजगार करने, हमारी रोज़ी-रोटी का साधन छीनने जैसे अन्याय करने का काम हुआ।

महामारी के नामपर घरेलू कामगारों को काम से निकाल दिया गया। लेकिन उन्हें वापस काम में कब बुलाया जाएगा इसका किसी कामगार को इसका कोई अंदाज़ा नहीं था। उनके हाथ मासिक वेतन नहीं पहुँचा और इसके साथ ही राशन और स्वास्थ्य सुविधाओं का अभाव भी रहा। आमतौर पर यह समाज का वो तबका था, जो अपना श्रम देकर सम्मानपूर्वक जीवन गुजर बसर करता था। पर इस महामारी ने उनको भीख मांगने जैसे माहौल में लाकर खड़ा कर दिया। जब घरेलू कामगारों को ज़िम्मेदारी ज़न-प्रतिनिधियों की सबसे ज़्यादा ज़रूरत थी पर किसी ने भी इस तबके की तरफ़ मदद का हाथ आगे नहीं बढ़ाया।

बच्चों की शिक्षा ध्वस्त हो गई। नदियों में लाश बहती रही, श्मशान घाटों एवं कब्रिस्तानों पर लंबी कतारें, अस्पतालों में ऑक्सीजन की कमी, संसद सत्र में कटौती व संसद में लोगों की समस्याओं पर चर्चा के बजाय श्रमिक और जन-विरोधी कानूनों का पास होने का सिलसिला चलता रहा। एक ओर तो, देश की अर्थव्यवस्था का धराशाही होना, नदारद प्रशासन, बंद कोर्ट कचहरी एवं लोगों के प्रतिरोध पर तालाबंदी जैसी समस्याएँ हैं। वहीं दूसरी ओर, चुनाव में भीड़ के लिए छूट, कुंभ में जाने की छूट, सरकारी संस्थानों की बिक्री एवं पूंजीवादी बड़ी कंपनियों की कर्जमाफी जैसे मुद्दे हैं, जिनसे जनता जूझती रही।

इन सबके बीच वो घरेलू कामगार जो किन्हीं कारणवश शहर में बच गए थे, उनकी आजीविका की मजबूरी को समाज के संभ्रांत तबके (कोठी वाले) ने ‘आपदा में अवसर’ मानकर पूरा फायदा उठाया। उनमें से कई घरेलू कामगारों को कोठी वालों के घर में रहकर बिना रुके 24 घंटों तक काम करना पड़ा। उनकी मजदूरी बढ़ने की बजाय और कम होती गई। कोरोना महामारी के दौर में ऐसे शोषण बहुत से घरेलू कामगार लोगों के लिए असहनीय था। इनके लिए कोरोना समस्या नहीं थी, बल्कि कोठी वालों का अत्याचार, मजदूरी में कटौती, दिन-रात बिना रुके काम करवाना, घृणित निगाहें एवं क्रूरता इत्यादि समस्याएं थी।

आज भी घरेलू कामगारों की स्थिति पहले से बदतर है। बेरोज़गारी की स्थिति आज भी जस की तस बनी हुई है, जिससे हम अपनी जिंदगी के करीब 20 साल पीछे ही गए है। वे घरेलू कामगार, जिन्हें ‘चार छुट्टी या दिवाली पर 500 रुपए ही बोनस चाहिए।‘ – यह बोलकर लेने का हक मिला था, उस हक़ को इस महामारी ने छीन लिया। उनकी मोलभाव करने एवं अपने काम के अनुसार मज़दूरी की बात रखने की शक्ति एवं संगठनात्मिक शक्ति भी कम हुई है।

Illustration by Chaitali Haldar

2016 में नोटबंदी हुईं इसके बाद साल 2020 में कोरोना महामारी ने घरेलू कामगारों की ऐसी कमर तोड़ी कि वे आज भी इससे उभर नहीं पा रहे है। वे आज भी आर्थिक बोझ के नीचे दबे हुए है । आज युवा बच्चों या पतियों का नियमित काम नहीं है। घर चलाने का बोझ परिवार घरेलू कामगारों पर आ गया है, जो उनके शारीरिक एवं मानसिक स्वास्थ्य को भी प्रभावित कर रही है।

घरेलू कामगारों के सामने आने वाली स्थिति और चुनौतियों को देखते हुए हमारी कई मांगें हैं। हम उचित वेतन, सप्ताह में एक दिन की छुट्टी, एक दिन में काम के निश्चित घंटे और भविष्य निधि, पेंशन, श्रमिकों की सामाजिक सुरक्षा आदि के आश्वासन की मांग करते हैं। घरेलू कामगारों के लिए एक नियामक हो जिससे कामगारों के साथ होने वाले अनेकों तरह के शोषण और अत्याचार पर रोक लगायी जा सके।

इसलिए घरेलू कामगारों के लिए यह जरूरी हो गया है कि, कोरोना लॉक डाउन के समय आज की परिस्थितियों में जिन समस्याओं का सामना करना पड़ रहा है। उन्हें एक साथ कहना, उनकी जांच करना और समस्याओं को दस्तावेज में तब्दील करके सरकार की जवाबदेही तय करना अनिवार्य है। इस कार्य में सभी की सामूहिक भूमिका अहम है। देश के कोने-कोने से विभिन्न संगठन इस तरह की जनसुनवाई कर रहे हैं। ऐसी स्थिति में सहयोगी संगठन के साथ मिलकर घरेलू कामगारों के लिए राष्ट्रीय मंच  ( NPDW)  को  भी अपनी बात मनवाने के लिए सरकार पर दबाव डालना चाहिए। जगह-जगह सार्वजनिक जांच समितियां बनाकर सरकार की नीतियों की जांच करनी चाहिए। यह जांच संविधान के तहत हमारा मौलिक कर्तव्य है, जिसे करना हमारी जिम्मेदारी है  । देश के सभी लोगों को एक साथ मिलकर यह काम करना चाहिए।

Illustration by Chaitali Haldar

घरेलू कामगारों की आवाज़ें

“कोविड एक निशानी है, शोषण और अत्याचारों की”
“इज्जत, गरिमा, प्यार, आराम
हम कामगारों की यही है मांग”
“हम कामगारों का यही है नारा
कामों का दो दाम हमारा।”
“घरेलू कामगारों की यही पुकार
हमारे काम को मिले काम का  सही अधिकार।“
“घरेलू काम भी एक काम है
हमें भी कामगार का दर्जा दो दर्जा दो”
” घरेलू कामगारों के मुद्दों पर, सरकार को अपनी जांचेंगे”
“आजीविका के मुद्दे पर, सरकार को अपनी जांचेंगे”
“घरेलू कामगारों का न्यूनतम वेतन तय करो, तय करो।”
” घरेलू कामगारों के काम के घंटे तय करो, तय करो”
“हम कामगार है, गुलाम नहीं”
” हमारे साथ जो हुआ उसका हिसाब हम करेंगे”

5 ways Serbia can #EmbraceEquity

Continuous normalisation of gender-based violence in the media in Serbia has led to women from all over the country coming together to fight for gender equality. Additionally, EuroPride, held in Belgrade in September 2022, received severe backlash from right-wing groups and ultimately had to be reorganised with a shorter route.

These events have exposed the limits of gender equality in Serbia, the strength of anti-gender organising, and the lack of support from the current government, who is pushing right-wing radicalisation via media outlets. With this in mind, here are five ways Serbia can better #EmbraceEquity:

1. Government control of the media must stop

The current Serbian political arena is dominated by right-wing, authoritarian beliefs that limit the space for alternative political views. This has transformed over time, as the ruling party’s control over state resources and the media has resulted in a constant increase of poverty and social divides. As public dissatisfaction is directed, with support of the ruling party, at the perceived Other/s, it has created an intolerance towards any diversity, including gender, in which the media play an important role.

Constant pressure on civil society organisations; threatened financial sustainability; and further fragmentation of the civil society sector is creating an increasingly difficult and dangerous environment for the work of feminist organisations. Thus, there is an increased need for observation of media coverage of gender equality issues and the rights of minority groups, as well as applying pressure on state institutions to react more quickly to media regulation violations.

2. There must be broader support of progressive independent media

In the face of the right-wing, conservative backlash against gender equality in Serbia, Centre for Women’s Studies latest media discourse research (publication forthcoming) has shown that the term ‘gender ideology’ is less prevalent than the term ‘family (and traditional) values’. This latter term has a great capacity for mobilising the Serbian population as it covers a wide range of meanings. Present in mainstream media, advocates for the fight against so called ‘gender ideology’ use the term ‘family values’ to defend the role of the ‘natural family’. In their view, the ‘natural family’ is under threat by various social and legislative interventions concerning reproductive and LGBTQIA+ rights, as well as measures against gender discrimination, equity for same-sex communities, sexual education, and protection from gender-based violence.

Against this backdrop, independent media outlets offer an inclusive, multi-perspective, gender-sensitive way of reporting, giving a voice to marginalised communities. These outlets are important to Serbian society for diversifying the debate and fighting against fake news. As such, it is necessary that different progressive actors – national and international independent journal associations, civil society among other – give support for progressive media in their work of defending freedom of speech and adhere to the highest standards of the journalistic profession.

3. More debate about the role of gender in Serbian society

The fight for gender justice in Serbia is receiving backlash from advocates of tradition on at least two levels: sexuality outside hetero norms; and gender roles and feminism. Heteronormativity is present every day in the mainstream media, particularly in the months preceding the Pride parades or when addressing the possibility of legal regulation for same-sex unions. At the centre of this conflict is the defence of the so-called ‘traditional family’ from the attack of progressive actors from the West.

Similarly, at the level of gender roles and feminism, the backlash from the anti-gender movement also relies on traditionalist views of the family structure, placing men and women within certain roles and hierarchies. As such, work must be done to widen the understanding of gender and its role as part of the radical right-wing political agenda through debate and knowledge exchange.

4. The local political context must be reanalysed

The Serbian media landscape is seeing increased influence from anti-gender advocates, from both Eastern and Western Europe, with some specificities that are primarily connected to the local political context.

The fight for gender justice is seen as an attack on local cultures by foreign powers. In Serbia, this is framed as destroying national sovereignty and the Serbian national identity. Furthermore, part of the local right-wing political and intellectual elite plays an active role in this framing, lending support to the narrative of an ‘attack on the national identity and family values’. The rejection of democratic values is also connected with the rise of Russia’s increased sphere of influence and the strengthening of conservative Orthodox ideas about the ‘traditional family’. A careful analysis of the local political context is required, which should be followed by a progressive media response.

5. Feminist organisations must mobilise

Relying on a biological understanding of gender and sexuality and insisting on a traditionalist family structure is part of a broader rejection of ideas and practices of social and human equality. In this sense, using the terms ‘gender ideology’, ‘family values’, and ‘traditional values’ in the media space in Serbia clearly corresponds to the wider action of the international anti-gender movement.

A response to the international organising of conservative actors should be formed at an international level and from a progressive perspective. Anti-gender ideas often find ways to cross borders, which is one reason why they prove to be influential and dangerous for the progress of human rights. The concept of ‘family values’ is the backbone of this discourse. International feminist and LGBTQIA+ solidarity organisations should find models to counter such ideas. The role of progressive independent media in the process of formulating different narratives, and in their marketing across national borders, is particularly significant.

Looking ahead

Over the past ten years, Serbia has seen a significant decline in democratic governance and free speech. The intensified attacks on gender equality and the rights of LGBTQIA+ persons, as well on NGOs and civil society, is part of this oppression. Despite this, resistance to these processes exists and will continue to exist. The fight for gender equality in Serbia remains an important part of the wider fight for a fairer society in which there will be no gender inequality, but also national, religious, political and any other oppression and exploitation.

A longer version of this blog can be found on the Centre for Women’s Studies website.

Duža verzija ovog bloga dostupna je na veb-sajtu Centra za ženske studije i možete je pročitati ovde.

Partner Research: Unravelling and countering the backlash against gender justice in Uganda

While it is right and fitting to celebrate International Women Day 2023, it is also important to understand the politics defining how the gains made by women are understood and appreciated, while being insidiously countered at the same time.

There is need for a conversation about a backlash against gender justice that is unravelling in our eyes. More needs to be done to sustain gender justice agendas in the journey ahead. Voices in countering backlash must be intentional, strategic, enduring and needs support from all well-intentioned Ugandans.

Unravelling and countering the backlash against gender justice in Uganda‘, authored by Josephine Ahikire and Amon A. Mwine of Countering Backlash partner the Centre for Basic Research, explores the critical need to interrogate gender backlash and identify ways in which the women’s rights agenda can navigate this backlash.

Read Now

5 ways Lebanon can #EmbraceEquity

Gender backlash against women’s rights in Lebanon persists despite progress made by activists over the past few decades. Backlash in the Lebanese context continuously oppresses women’s rights, rather than being a reaction to progress.

This can take a broad range of forms such as structural discrimination and exclusion, all of which are fed, incubated and fuelled by the sectarian system. These forms not only fight and obstruct advocacy for women’s rights, but more importantly, impede the possibility of progress.

The perpetual and overlapping economic and political crises overtaking the country and the resultant blocked policy spaces since 2019 indicate that there is still a lot of progress to be made. With this in mind, here are five ways Lebanon can better #EmbraceEquity:

1. Lebanon must adopt a personal status law

Due to the absence of a civil code governing personal status matters like marriage, inheritance, and child custody, Lebanon depends on 15 distinct religious laws and courts for the country’s 18 acknowledged sects. Consequently, individuals experience different treatment based on their sex and sect, which results in discrepancies in women’s rights between sects. Under this system, women also do not have the same rights as men in the same sect.

By relegating family and personal matters to religious courts and abstaining from establishing civil courts, the state renounced its constitutional right (and obligation) to institute a civil family law. A unified personal status law needs to be adopted, specifically one based on equality between men and women.

2. Lebanon must amend its domestic violence law

In 2014, following years of feminist lobbying, the Lebanese parliament passed a domestic violence law, rigged with gaps. The law failed to criminalise marital rape and excluded former partners and relationships outside legally recognised frameworks from its protection provisions. Amendments in 2020 allowed for prosecuting not only abusive spouses but former spouses as well. The amendments also expanded the scope of ‘family’ to include current or former spouses, and extended the definition of violence to include emotional, psychological, and economic violence. Despite these improvements, gaps remain in the law and its implementation.

Domestic violence cases are usually investigated by police officers with no training in handling abuse cases, which needs a specialised and trained domestic violence unit. Additionally, while religious courts cannot interfere with civil courts’ domestic violence rulings, these can still rule in divorce and custody matters. Due to these circumstances, there is a growing need for a unified personal status law.

3. The Lebanese Labour Law must include domestic and agricultural workers

The Lebanese Labour Law fails to protect women’s rights in all respects, particularly those in domestic work. It excludes migrant domestic workers from its protections, leaving them vulnerable to the kafala (sponsorship) system that ties their residency to their sponsor, often leading to violations of their rights. Despite numerous reports of abuse in the past decade, there have been no significant official efforts to protect domestic workers. Without regulatory laws or monitoring mechanisms in place, there is little accountability for those who violate their rights.

The labour law needs to be amended to include migrant domestic workers, and the standard unified labour law should be upgraded and implemented. Migrant domestic workers should be allowed to unionise, and their rights should be protected. The law also excludes agricultural workers, primarily women, from social security benefits. Reforms are needed to protect these workers and to enhance equal opportunity and pay in employment between women and men.

4. The Lebanese Nationality Law must be amended

The Lebanese Nationality Law discriminates against women by preventing them from passing their citizenship to their children, explicitly stating that Lebanese citizenship is only granted to those ‘born of a Lebanese father.’ Although the government has taken some steps to ease the residency of children of Lebanese mothers, such as exemptions from work permits, demands for women’s right to grant citizenship to their children are still largely ignored.

While there have been some attempts to amend the law, the latest draft failed to reflect a commitment to equality, denying the children of Lebanese mothers from nationality, political rights, and some labour and property rights upon reaching legal age. The Lebanese nationality law should be amended to include every person ‘born to a Lebanese mother’.

5. Lebanese law must address violence against women in politics

The World Bank’s 2021 Global Gender Gap Index report ranks Lebanon 150th out of 156 countries in the category of Political Empowerment. Women’s underrepresentation in political decision-making limits their ability to shape the country’s direction. Successive Lebanese governments have failed to address the gender gap in politics, especially by resisting the implementation of a parliamentary quota. Further, women in politics are subjected to cyberbullying, defamation, and discrimination in the media.

Lebanon needs legislation addressing violence against women in politics, including instances of violence occurring within the political and public sphere, with the aim of outlawing all forms of violence against women in politics and promoting greater awareness among the public.

Looking ahead

Women in Lebanon face many challenges in their struggle for gender equality, as any attempts to address these structural inequalities are often faced with resistance from the people that benefit from the patriarchal and sectarian political system in Lebanon.

The ongoing struggles of women in Lebanon are a reminder of the importance of continued efforts to promote gender equality worldwide. We must #EmbraceEquity!

5 ways Brazil can #EmbraceEquity

2023 has been politically significant for Brazil. We celebrated the inauguration of President Luís Inácio Lula da Silva but were left reeling from the devastating coup attempt in Brasília on 8 January by Jair Bolsonaro supporters. After four years of a neofascist government, his supporters vandalised symbols of Brazilian democracy.

Shortly after the attempted coup, a humanitarian crisis shot onto the news. 570 Yanomami children – one of the remaining indigenous groups in the Amazon – have died in the last four years. Malnutrition and preventable diseases were blamed but the Yanomami’s region had suffered almost total neglect from the local, state, and federal governments. Coupled with illegal mining, the Yanomami people’s land had been completely devastated. According to Flávio Dino, Minister of Justice, this crisis had a “strong materiality of genocide”. There is also an ongoing investigation by the Ministry of Human Rights into the alleged rape of more than 30 young Yanomami girls by miners.

This recent crisis is one of many that has afflicted Brazil over the past eight years. Gender justice defenders and organisations have been fighting to counter gender backlash. With a new government now in charge, and for International Women’s Day 2023, here are five ways Brazil can better #EmbraceEquity.

1.    Our democracy must expand based on gender equity

Women’s rights must be part of the basis of government policies in Brazil across all policies. Public policies should be written in a way that guarantees the reduction and/or elimination of gender inequalities.

Existing policies and laws in Brazil must be strengthened, used, and monitored in a way that furthers gender rights. The government must guarantee the equipment of Maria da Penha Law, which combats domestic violence in Brazil, and Feminicide Law, which qualifies the crime of homicide based on gender. The Brazilian government must guarantee reproductive justice in Brazil, especially regarding abortion provided by law.

2.    The Government needs to work with feminist movements

In 2022, Brazilian feminist movements occupied the National Congress to demand change. This was led by two groups: ‘Frente Nacional contra a Criminalização de Mulheres and Legalização do Aborto’ and ‘Frente Parlamentar Feminista Antirracista com Participação Popular’.

This feminist movement was central to pressuring Congress to guarantee rights provided for by law for women and against setbacks. The action had the support of feminist parliamentarians, showing that alliances and networks between parliament and movements can happen and do work.

Their movement wasn’t realised until Brazil’s new government withdrew from the oppressive Geneva Consensus and revoked an ordinance that created obstacles for women and girls to terminate pregnancies resulting from rape. They also joined the Commitment of Santiago and the Declaration of Panama – two gender-progressive policies. The new government must ensure that these rights are protected and deliver on its promises for women.

3.    Cash-transfer programmes must be strengthened

In recent years Brazil has seen a massive reduction in State services which were already marked with inequalities. This has led to millions of families going hungry – 33 million according to Rede PESSAN in a survey carried out in 2022.

In 2020 and 2021, more than 300 civil society organisations successfully pressured Bolsonaro’s government into increasing cash transfers to those most in need. Women who were single mothers were awarded double the amount, signifying a victory for the Brazilian women’s and feminist movements.

The fight for emergency income was so strong that, later, cash transfer programmes became a central issue in the presidential campaigns of the main candidates, especially Lula and Bolsonaro. Before Lula was inaugurated, his government managed to approve a Proposal for a Constitutional Amendment (PEC) which guaranteed a significant increase for the Bolsa Família Program. A major part of this programme – which was closed by Bolsonaro’s government – is to support women’s healthcare, particularly mothers. In March 2023, Lula’s government resumed the programme.

4.    Resolve and investigate the humanitarian crisis against the Yanomami people

The feminist commitment to democracy and human rights is also based on solidarity with Indigenous communities and the demand for actions by the State and authorities to resolve and investigate the humanitarian crisis that is spreading across indigenous-owned territory.

There is an immediate need to expel all illegal miners from the indigenous land. It is important to remember that the region is occupied by 30,000 indigenous people, but with the invasion of more than 20,000 illegal miners, the situation of the Yanomami in particular has become unsustainable. Throughout his government, Bolsonaro encouraged illegal mining.

It is necessary to investigate and punish those responsible for the humanitarian crisis, and the alleged rape of the young girls. The current federal government must ensure the safety of the Yanomami people, and guarantee their territory, culture and traditional practices, in addition to strengthening their Bem Viver (‘Good Living’ in English). Young indigenous people must have their rights guaranteed and respected, including in accordance with their values ​​and traditions.

5.    Strengthen the Ministry of Women with the necessary budget and political force

The institution of a Ministry of Women is an important victory for the feminist and women’s movements. An earlier version of this Ministry, created during Lula’s government – the National Secretariat of Policies for Women – was weakened during Dilma Rousseff’s second government, as a consequence of conservative pressures from the opposition during the impeachment crisis. It was then shut down during Michel Temer’s presidential term. During the extreme right-wing government of Jair Bolsonaro, the Ministry of Women, Family and Human rights – among others – were dismantled as part of the attack on women’s rights and gender justice legislation.

It also means that we must demand greater participation from women in civil society and social movements in the production of public policies, giving space to their struggles and recognition of their expertise. Participatory state feminism must be resumed and expanded.

The Ministry must also have a robust budget that can manage women’s demands. This means that the federal government must guarantee the necessary budget for policies and equipment to protect women to be really efficient.

Looking ahead

Brazil is experiencing a moment of relief compared to recent years. The coup suffered by Dilma Rousseff and the Bolsonaro government meant a period of marked defeats for women and for Brazilian society in general. Social movements were hampered, indigenous people were massacred, black people suffered from slaughter, racist statements and practices without control or punishment; women suffered from misallocated resources to combat domestic violence.

We thought we would not survive. But we won. And now the new government, which was elected with a lot of women’s strength, deliver to us what it promised. We are dreaming of a better world, one that is radically democratic and feminist, and that is willing to #EmbraceEquity.

5 ways Uganda can #EmbraceEquity

The late 1980s was a turning point for gender justice in Uganda. The country reaffirmed gender-positive policies by embracing Affirmative Action in 1986, and incorporating Article 32 in the country’s Constitution in 1995. The article mainly addresses groups marginalised because of their gender and the historical norms that affect specific groups.

Uganda has seen many women join leadership positions both at the political and organisational levels. For instance, in the  2021 national election, 122 Members of Parliament were elected on their affirmative action positions. The affirmative action policies from the Parliament through other institutions have led to school girls from disadvantaged backgrounds accessing higher education.

Despite this progress, there has been significant pushback on the gender progress made by women’s rights organisations, women’s movement, women human rights defenders (WHRD), and feminists in Uganda. This is because the power being held by women in leadership positions is not reflected in the policies and laws passed by Parliament.

Gender backlash is happening in digital spaces and moving into offline spaces. Even though the advancement in technology comes with its advantages, it opens up women and girls using technology to online backlash, in a context where the regulation and implementation of policy to protect them from online gender-based violence is lacking.  Countering Backlash partner WOUGNET is working to counter this.

For International Women’s Day 2023, we share five ways Uganda can promote gender justice within the region to better #EmbraceEquity.

1. Embrace a rights based approach to gender-justice

Some of the religious institutions in Uganda denounce gender-diverse rights, such as same-sex marriage. The globalising world intersecting with local traditions is producing unexpected ways of thinking about rights.

Religious and cultural groups command a huge following and often oppose equal rights for LGBTQI+ people, sex workers, and feminist movements, especially those that challenge the mainstream gender norms. They form and inform tactics for opposition, and intentionally hinder opportunities for WHRDs, LGBTQI+ people, and sex-worker communities to advocate for their rights, occupy public space and become a part of democratic processes. Religious institutions must encourage new understandings of gender-diverse rights and how to secure them in Uganda.

2. Stop violence against feminist activists and human rights defenders

The existence of different methods of violence against feminist activists, human rights defenders, and sexual rights advocates continues to evolve and manifest differently in spaces (online and offline). These attacks are through words, phrases, images and representations of women in media, where feminism is framed as the main cause of women’s problems. The raiding of LGBTQI+ shelters, the killings of LGBTQI+, and protests against same-sex marriage are a combination of direct and visible attacks on activists.

The government must stop shrinking aid programmes using the Non-Governmental Organisations Act and Anti-Money Laundering Act. They should also make funding available to research the forms and types of violent attacks happening online and offline, and include methods for public awareness on how backlash can impact women’s rights and progress on gender justice that can affect Uganda’s socio-economic development.

3. End digital and online attacks

Advances in the use of technology and digital platforms have a flip-side: the same technologies are used as tools to share masculine narratives and to attack gender advocates, feminists, and sexual rights advocates. They are used to push back gender equality achievements such as women political candidates losing seats in Parliament, for instance, the former Member of Parliament Sylvia Rwabwogo case of cyber harassment worsened by biased media reporting led to Rwabwogo’s loss of a seat in the next Parliament.

The internet can enable and also promote unwanted male gaze which causes intrusion of women’s privacy online and offline hence affecting women in public spaces. There have been increased regulation of online spaces using existing laws such as the Computer Misuse (Amendment) Act 2022 and the Uganda Communications Act 2013. The latter has been used by the government to disrupt and shut down the internet, restricting individual expression online. Internet shutdowns worsen the inequality and injustice women already suffer.

Gender activists are progressing in bridging gender inequalities, reproductive rights, and freedom from gender-based violence. However, access and use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) can help to bridge the gaps or deepen the gaps every time the internet is shut down or blocked.

There needs to be more training on network measurement in order to quantify and qualify the impact of internet shutdowns on gender justice and women’s rights online.

4. Support civic space

Civic space in Uganda is shrinking. There has been government interference and threats to close some civil society organisations, including many prominent organisations working to promote gender justice. In February 2023, Trade Minister David Bahati cited about 30 non-governmental organisations alleged to be involved in the promotion of homosexuality in Uganda that will be investigated. He added that the list of NGOs will soon be submitted to relevant security bodies for formal investigations into their activities with a view to closing their operations in Uganda. The anti-homosexuality bill will be introduced to the Parliament of Uganda to target people wishing to engage in homosexual acts, as well as organisations working on LGBTQI+ rights in the country.

In the past, women-led civil society organisations that are working with structurally silenced women such as lesbians and sex workers expressed facing challenges in their advocacy work because they are generally considered groups that are working with people engaged in criminal and immoral activities.

We must work with and build the capacity of the key stakeholders such as policymakers, journalists, and the media on the impact of shrinking civic space and gender-restrictive attitudes and discourses.

5. Support organisations fighting for gender justice in Uganda

There are local organisations, groups or people who are doing important and exciting work in Uganda related to the issues. This type of work is significant for the fight against gender backlash in Uganda, and must be supported.

Looking ahead

Although there is significant backlash against gender rights at the moment in the country, there are also opportunities to create a gender-just Uganda. We must work together to #EmbraceEquity.

5 ways Kenya can #EmbraceEquity

The present decade has witnessed a visible backlash against gender equality and the women’s human rights agenda across continents – and Kenya is no exception. This backlash has immediate and long-term implications for women, men and individuals who identify as not sexually- or gender-conforming, and for the consolidation of democracy, social cohesion, and economic growth in any country.

Gender inequality undermines the hard-fought values of human rights, equality and freedom embedded in Kenya’s Constitution 2010 and in other national and international instruments that Kenya is a signatory to.

The LGBTQ+ community’s challenges in Kenya continue unabated against the backdrop of social exclusion based on sexual and gender identities. These challenges are increasingly seen as being interdependent and shaped by a multitude of different pressures that converge within the gender and development sector.

With this in mind, and for International Women’s Day 2023, here are five ways Kenya can better #EmbraceEquity.

1. Generating and managing knowledge

The research, co-creation and framing of gender issues can significantly help in understanding gender and patriarchal backlash. There is a need to work with different people and organisations to improve the understanding, nature and forms of this backlash.

Knowledge generation and management can strengthen interactions and debates about gender and patriarchal backlash, and find ways of countering this backlash in different contexts in Kenya. Various actors can draw on their past work and the existing knowledge of how to package, disseminate and add to the evidence of backlash where it is lacking. But we must understand how to communicate research findings without doing more harm. This can be done by properly positioning emerging gender equality issues to inform policy and programming.

2. Positioning policy

It is pivotal for all stakeholders to address the erosion of gender policies and agendas at the national and county levels away from egalitarian ideals. Efforts to change political, socio-economic, cultural, and religious norms along with power relations which prevent gender equality should go together with efforts to identify, disrupt, adjust or dismantle policies, structures and systems which reinforce negative norms and stereotypes that strengthen gender backlash.

Policies should be framed to engage different groups of men and boys in overcoming gender inequality. It should also help them overcome and address their own gender-related vulnerabilities and oppression. This can bring forth a major shift in debates about the ‘boy child’ or generalised ideas about ‘men in crisis’, thus guarding against victim blaming and the impression that women empowerment is being advanced at the expense of men and boys.

3. Transforming attitudes and social norms

Enabling an environment to change attitudes and social norms needs to be informed by contexts. Decision-makers should put in place efforts to support communities in confronting stereotypes, attitudes, values and structures that perpetuate social exclusion and promote gender backlash. This can be achieved by consolidating and building upon knowledge and practices that inspire action among different groups in addressing social justice issues. Ultimately, this requires structural and systemic transformations towards favourable social norms, attitudes and behaviours at institutional, community and individual levels.

4. Promoting accountability

There must be more work done with men through gender transformative approaches to address negative social norms. This should also extend to encouraging dialogue between male activists to support Women’s Rights Organisations (WROs) on accountability with regards to development and gender equality agenda. This is because a lot of men are experiencing hesitancy leading to shifting roles toward gender equality. This is particularly important in the socio-cultural space between what used to be and what is currently expected in the human rights space.

Working with men and boys for gender equality is crucial. A comprehensive engagement process is needed to ensure that women are not targeted or ostracised by men in the belief that measures to address entrenched gender inequality are unfair and a form of ‘reverse discrimination’. Working with men and boys to address underlying social norms and help them become more gender-equitable and address their own gender-related vulnerabilities will help to counter patriarchal backlash on a large scale.

5. Building advocacy and movements

Kenya is a signatory to many international treaties, conventions and instruments on gender equality and human rights. There is a need for like-minded partners and stakeholders in the field of gender justice, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Women’s Rights Organizations, feminists, and male allies to forge strong alliances to advocate for the fulfilment of the commitments made by the government

CSOs and Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) have acted as catalysts and progress leaders in legislative and policy developments over the years. Advocates for Social Change Kenya (ADSOCK) alongside organisations such as the Wangu Kanja Foundation (WKF), Center for Rights Awareness and Education (CREAW), African Women’s Development and Communications Network (FEMNET), Collaborative Center for Gender and Development (CCGD), Gender Violence Recovery Center (GVRC) among others, have been in the forefront in advocating and championing for gender equality including addressing the rights of survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Kenya.

Looking ahead

It is critical for all actors in every sphere of society to openly condemn all forms of gender inequalities. They can do this by providing the impetus to confront the environments where social exclusion and discrimination are rationalised, justified, internalised, normalised, and allowed to thrive. An equal world where everyone’s rights are respected, protected, preserved and promoted is possible. We must #EmbraceEquity!

Backlash against student activists during #MeToo in Kolkata, India

Student politics in Kolkata is dominated by left-leaning organisations who look at the world in terms of ‘class struggle’ and claim to be supportive of all democratic movements – including women’s movements and anti-caste struggles. However, some scholars such as Arundhati Roy have critiqued this claim, arguing that social equity does not always extend to caste.

Kolkata’s female students faced caste and gender backlash during the #MeToo movement. This blog explores how this backlash operates against female students in Kolkata’s public universities during the #MeToo movement, from my recently published paper ‘Caste and gender backlash: A study of the #MeToo movement in tertiary education in Kolkata, India‘ . Here is what I found.

#MeToo and Anti-caste

There is a strong anti-caste critique of the #MeToo movement in India argued by Dalit- Bahujan- Adivasi (DBA) feminists. It manifests in gaps of the Indian feminist movement and with female student activists belonging to the two social identities in the universities.

In my recently published paper, I show that politically left-leaning (or ‘Leftist’) male-dominated political organisations in Kolkata’s university campuses use these gaps to their advantage as tools of gender backlash. They uphold established power structures on campuses, silencing and removing both categories of women – DBA and Savarna – from spaces of power and quashing their #MeToo incidents and demands for redressal.

The #MeToo movement led to these institutions strengthening and developing the proper functioning of the universities’ Internal Complaints Committee (ICC), the formation of Gender Sensitisation Committees against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH), and stronger redressal bodies on campuses and in political organisations.

But even with these committees, my research shows that female students continue to constantly receive backlash when sharing their #MeToo posts on social media, calling out perpetrators in general body meetings and demanding justice.

How caste and class are used as tools of gender backlash

Backlash to gender equality can be viewed through two broad approaches. The first is as an immediate reaction to progressive change made or demanded by women. The second is inherent discrimination in power structures that affect women’s experiences of backlash differently. My research uses both of these approaches to explore gender backlash.

Two clear themes emerged from my interviews with female student activists belonging to both DBA and Savarna groups. These were the centrality of power and misogyny, and how they operate together to create gender backlash. All the respondents said that the powerful positions in the Leftist political organisations on campuses were held by Savarna men, although the organisations were by principle pro-working class. Issues of sexual harassment and gender sensitisation were most often avoided by bringing up the caste and class of female party members whenever men felt that their power was being challenged.

Respondents described how the leaders of political parties they worked in insisted that they were elite middle-class women and that issues such as calling out perpetrators of sexual harassment online and in general body meetings were middle-class issues and actually did nothing for DBA women.

When I described my experience with the harasser, he confidently dismissed the allegation and retorted with accusing me and other Savarna female members of planning to form a group to falsely accuse men in the party of sexual harassment, malign the party’s image and beat up the men. He kept repeating that urban elite feminists like us do nothing constructive for the women’s movement and marginalised women.

This type of backlash silenced Savarna feminists and did nothing to serve the interests of DBA feminists on campuses. It ultimately removed the crucial need to address sexual harassment from their political activities.

Respondents repeatedly emphasised that Leftist organisations in the universities tend to integrate caste within class, and target their position in society to reverse any attempt to address critical issues like sexual harassment. Being upper caste (and, according to the male leaders, automatically upper class), the groups first need to address the issues of the working class and then gender.

Intimidation through threats of physical and sexual violence and marginalisation using the position of caste and class in society creates effective backlash against upper-caste female students, ultimately silencing them and stalling any progressive change. Dalit respondents mentioned that Savarna women are pitted against Dalit women strategically by Savarna male leaders. Similarly, Savarna women are pitted against Savarna women within the party which is also a subtle form of backlash.

Bridging the rift

The purpose of this study using conventional and alternate conceptual approaches to backlash was to reveal that they can be understood in unison in this case and might also be relevant in understanding and further analysing backlash.

The intersection of gender identity and the position of caste and class in society plays a crucial role in generating gender backlash. Feminist movements must include an analysis of caste and class to understand the needs and aspirations of women belonging to DBA and upper-caste backgrounds.  Anti-caste and anti-class movements need to examine patriarchy and sexism[19] [20]  within their movements.

Both movements should focus on the actual life situations and experiences of women. Concepts of gender backlash that focus on power, and why and how backlash occurs, should also look at the intersection of gender identity and the position of caste and class in society to better understand different groups’ experiences.  Concepts of backlash focusing on intersectionality should look at how power is exercised to generate gender backlash. This combined understanding will contribute to strategies for dealing with backlash and make efforts to mitigate it through activism.

We must bridge the rift between Dalit and Savarna feminists and be inclusive. Only then can the valid narratives emerging within the two different groups of feminists which generate gender backlash come to a stop.

Women, life, freedom: Women’s bodies at the centre of the Iran protests

Zan, Zidegi, Azadi (‘women, life, freedom’) is the central slogan of the ongoing women-led protests that have shaken Iran and captured the world’s attention. The slogan emerged from the Kurdish freedom movement and has been taken up by Iranian protestors. It is a call for the reclamation of women’s bodily autonomy, an issue at the core of the current movement.

The women-led protests started after Masha Amini, died  in police custody. Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian, was arrested during a visit to Tehran by the morality police for violating ‘hijab’ laws. She was sent to a ‘re-education’ camp and later died. The images of Amini’s brutalised body went viral and triggered widespread protests led by women. Women are removing their headscarves (hijab) in public and cutting off their hair in a bold defiance of a law that requires mandatory head covering. The protests, the largest since the 2009 Green movement, have been met by a brutal crackdown by the authorities, and several media sources have reported deaths.

Women’s Bodies as Battlegrounds

Contestations over women’s bodily autonomy are not new in Iran’s history. The politicization of the hijab (and women’s bodies) started with Reza Shah Pahlavi – the father of the deposed Shah, who banned wearing the veil in public. Women who veiled faced harassment in public. The law was abolished a few years later as it was unpopular with devout women and the general public, but it had cemented the hijab (and by extension women’s bodies) as an ideological battleground. After the 1979 Islamic revolution, veiled women came to symbolise national identity for the new regime, and hijab-wearing was made compulsory. This proved unpopular with women, and there were major protests led by women in post-revolutionary Iran. Compulsory veiling was written into law in 1983 but has remained contested, with the regular emergence of protest movements.

Women-led protests and state backlash

Recent protests in Iran have seen numerous strategies by women defying the state’s control over their bodies: the cutting of hair in public, the making of bonfires with headscarves, the singing and dancing in the streets; all of which change how women’s bodies are imagined and presented in public. This is not unique to Iran. Similar strategies of performing songs and dances, defying gender norms and state regulations in creative and unruly ways to claim public space and demand change are used by the Aurat March protestors to draw attention to bodily integrity issues and the Hazara women protestors in Pakistan. Anti-sexual harassment protestors at Egyptian universities  used performance to draw attention to claim women’s right to say ‘no’, and the Shaheen Bagh protestors in Delhi used sit-ins and public performance to draw attention to citizenship rights.

All of these women-led protests are facing backlash from their country’s regimes, who continually attempt to discredit them and delegitimise their claims. State security forces and police have harassed and detained protestors and their allies. Given the high levels of state surveillance in these contexts acts of protests carry grave, even life-threatening, risks for the protestors, their families, and their allies.

A leaderless movement and change

As with many other women-led protests, the Iranian protests are leaderless, showing a model of distributed leadership, which enables the sustainability of the movement in the face of state clampdown. The widespread support from many men and across society is another sign of hope for Iranian women.

Time will tell whether this will be a turning point for renegotiating women’s rights in Iran, and if the wide-scale support for the women-led protests will trigger positive change. What we do know, and are seeing, is that the protestors will face severe repression. The state has implemented a social media block in an attempt to contain the protest. In the meantime, those of us that support Iranian women’s right to bodily autonomy need to find effective ways of showing our solidarity, so the protestors know they are not alone. We need to avoid exceptionalism and Islamophobic narratives that position Iran’s gender politics as static and uniquely repressive.

Backlash against women’s bodily autonomy is rising in many contexts at the moment, and it will take a collective effort, to resist it.

The overturning of Roe vs Wade: a dark time for rights

We live in illiberal times. The systematic attack on women’s rights, and human rights more broadly, is a global emergency. The overturning of Roe vs Wade – the 1973 US Supreme Court ruling that established access to abortion as a constitutional right – is the latest assault. Overturning the right to abortion will not mean less abortions, but less SAFE abortions, in particular for poor women.

Overturning the right to abortion will not mean less abortions, but less SAFE abortions

Global backlash against rights

In terms of the rule of law, the overturning of Roe vs Wade will erode public trust in a much-respected institution crafted to protect the law and rights of citizens. The fact that since we knew this was coming after the leaked draft last month makes it no less shocking.

Many see the reversal of rights as a part of a global backlash driven by right-wing populist forces and their allies; one against women and LGBTQI+ people, based on the perceived gains of rights movements since the 1980s (as argued by Goetz in 2020 and Petchesky in 2005). Others claim that the idea of a backlash assumes progress that many have not yet seen. Whichever side of this debate you are on, there is no denying that the impact of this week’s Supreme Court decision will reverberate beyond US borders, and significantly strengthen anti-abortion actors elsewhere.

Countering the anti-abortion lobby

Access to abortion is regarded as a fundamental human right

As feminists, access to abortion is regarded as a fundamental human right. Between 2015 and 2019, over 120 million unintended pregnancies occurred worldwide, 61 percent of these ended in abortion. Since 1994, abortion rights have been rolled back in Poland, Nicaragua, El Salvador; in many other countries where this right does not exist for women, abortions are accessed secretly, often unsafely. While the anti-abortion forces have lost in Ireland and Argentina – their energy at the global and national levels has not dissipated, despite growing public support for abortion rights in many countries. In the US about 85 percent of Americans view abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances.

The anti-abortion lobby in the US and around the world is a diverse set of individuals and groups. They have strong transnational links that have long infiltrated the international arenas and institutions where ‘global norms’ and human rights are debated. Before Roe vs Wade was challenged in the US supreme court, the US government (under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Donald Trump), used the ‘global gag rule’ to restrict funds to organisations working on sexual and reproductive health if they provided any information on abortion services or advocated for abortion law reform. This rule has had a significant impact on women’s and girls’ access to reproductive services around the world.

What does the overturning of Roe vs Wade mean for other hard-won rights in the US? For contraception? For same sex marriage? People are fearful that these too will be reversed.

Our rights need to be fought for

In development studies, we tend to see history as a linear, progressing towards greater well-being, and more rights for more people. Since the 1950s, this idea has been tied up with notions modernisation and an ‘extractivist’ model of development. As a result, it has been significantly compromised by both of what constitutes progress and of its presumed linearity. Rights are not won forever; their maintenance requires vigilance and on-going struggle, or they are at the risk of reversal. We cannot assume that many of the rights enshrined in international laws are universally regarded as either valid or intrinsic.

We must mobilise urgently, with renewed commitment, and in preparation for an on-going struggle to counter backlash and to defend our hard-earned rights.

Event: Defending online spaces for women

Social media has become a key place for gender activists to share their voices, show solidarity and mobilise action, but it has also become a focus for backlash. Online abuse and disinformation can be faced daily by women and those championing gender justice.

To mark International Women’s Day, the Institute of Development Studies hosted an online webinar with an international panel of speakers to share experiences, learning and tactics for countering backlash against gender justice, and disinformation targeted at women that frequently occurs in online spaces.

  • Title: Defending online spaces for women – countering disinformation and gender-based violence
  • Date: Thursday 10 March
  • Panellists:
    • Omaina H. Aziz (volunteer organiser for the Aurat March Lahore)
    • Iffat Jahan Antara (Research Associate, BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University – co-author of Countering Backlash pilot study on online GBV in Bangladesh)
    • Pragyna Mahpara (Senior Research Associate, BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University – co-author of Countering Backlash pilot study on online GBV in Bangladesh)
    • Chaired by Becky Faith (Leader, Digital and Technology Cluster, IDS)

Watch the recording below.

 

 

Feminist protests and politics in a world of crisis

Feminist activism and organising for gender justice are rapidly evolving. We are seeing new energies and new ways of building a feminist future. This is happening in a time of multiple and interconnected crises, adversely impacting women’s, trans folk’s and non-binary people’s rights, as well as gender equality gains made in policy, discourse and practice.

To explore the challenges to feminist and gender justice activism and to identify new energies in the field, Sohela Nazneen and Awino Okech were invited to guest edit the Gender & Development journal’s special double issue on Feminist protests and politics in a world of crisis. You can also watch the authors discuss their articles in an Institute of Development Studies’s webinar held in November 2021.

Why now?

Feminist activism has faced new and diverse challenges over the past decade. The rise of conservative and populist forces, the growth of authoritarianism, racism and xenophobia, and austerity in many countries are just some of these challenges. These have led to an increased dismantling of civil liberties, freedom of speech, expression and peaceful assembly.

Across the globe, feminist and gender justice activists are recalibrating their actions to face these challenges.

From Black Lives Matter, #MeToo and climate justice activism, we are witnessing a growth of transnational and intergenerational organising. Feminist and gender activists are seizing the moment to reimagine democracy, gender and power relations, and humanity.

Feminist activism requires presence across policy, online spaces and the street…

What we explore

In this special double issue on Feminist protests and politics in a world of crisis, we set out to answer two central questions:

  1. How are movements sustaining thriving, robust and resilient spaces and alliances in a world of multiple crises?
  2. How is politics of solidarity created at the national and trans-national levels?

To answer these, we explore varying themes and collective mobilisations for feminist and gender justice actors through 20 articles from different regions of the world. Below are some examples of what you will find:

Nothing is as it seems: ‘discourse capture’ and backlash politics; Tessa Lewin

Tessa Lewin develops the concept of discourse capture, analysing how gender equality is undermined by right-wing political parties and women’s groups as they co-opt progressive feminist agendas. Tessa details examples from around the world, including the US pro-life movement, the ‘Vote No’ campaign in the Republic of Ireland, the ‘Anti-Homosexuality Bill’ in Uganda, and more.

Femonationalism and anti-gender backlash: the instrumental use of gender equality in the nationalist discourse of the Fratelli d’Italia party; Daria Collela

Daria Collela explores the media strategies of right-wing political parties in Italy, and how they frame people of colour, especially those of a Muslim background, as perpetrators of violence against women. Daria argues that these nationalist forces use gender equality agendas to bring together a diverse set of actors to promote racism, anti-migrant agendas and xenophobia.

The resistance strikes back: Women’s protest strategies against backlash in India; Deepta Chopra

Deepta Chopra analyses the strategies used by Muslim-women activists in Shaheen Bagh, Delhi, India. These women led a four-month-long sit-in protest against the police violence inflicted on student activists and India’s discriminatory citizenship laws. Deepta details how the grandmothers of Shaheen Bagh used inclusive frames for claiming citizenship, rotated care work duties with younger women of the community so the latter could participate, and how the performance of poetry and songs transformed the Shaheen Bagh as a space for building cross-sectional solidarity.

Visible outside, invisible inside: the power of patriarchy on female protest leaders in conflict and violence-affected settings; Miguel Loureiro and Jalila Haider

Miguel Loureiro and Jalila Haider examine the Hazara women’s protests in Balochistan, Pakistan. They look specifically at how the women went on hunger strike and drew national attention to the killing of and violence against the men of their community. Women’s participation transformed the movement from male-dominated violent protests to women-led peaceful ones. But despite women being the face of protests, they are still excluded from key decision-making structures, drawing attention to the slow pace of change.

Gendered social media to legal systems, online activism to funding systems

Other articles in this issue explore how South-South transnational solidarity is built. They examine the role of public performance, street protests and intergenerational dialogues in creating solidarity across diverse social groups and generations in the movements such as “A Rapist in Your Path” in Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia and the anti-abortion rights movement the Green Wave in Argentina. There is a focus on queer and feminist activism in online spaces in Nigeria (such as #ENDSARS), Lebanon, Brazil and how online engagements help to raise contentious issues but also pose a significant risk to activists. For many authors, how to sustain movements and protect spaces for autonomous organising remain key concerns. Several of them focus on the development of alternative funding mechanisms and influencing bilateral negotiations as key pathways for sustaining activism.

Further articles analyse how having a seat at the table in Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines, Argentina were important for making and sustaining pro gender equality policy change and explore the ways an active and effective feminist presence in policy political spaces can help to counter gender backlash.

The strength and determination documented in the articles of feminists and gender justice activists, gives us hope for a better, equitable, fairer future.

Event: Feminist protests and politics in a world of crisis

The special issue of the Gender & Development journal covers empirical cases and current thinking on the rapidly evolving terrain of gender justice and feminist organising. In the last decade, we have witnessed a rise in racist, misogynist, populist and neo-nationalist governments, ideas and political practices that challenges the policy and discursive gains made. Further challenges to gender equality gains made in the world of work and labour rights comes from Covid-19 and its global impact.

Yet, feminist and women’s rights organisations and gender justice actors are mobilising around various issues – violence against women, denial of abortion rights, LGBTQI rights, weakening democracy, immigration laws and many other issues. The struggle against backlash is interconnected.

This event covered IDS members’ and partners’ work on manifestation of backlash through the co-option of feminist/gender equality agendas around the world and in international policy circles, the rise of ‘femonationalism’ in Europe (particularly Italy), the Shaheen Bagh movement and the strategies used by the women to counter democratic backslide and erosion of citizenship rights in India, and Hazara women’s protests against state violence and how participation in street activism affects women’s political leadership.

  • Title: Feminist protests and politics in a world of crisis
  • Date: Wednesday 10 November
  • Panellists: Tessa Lewin (IDS Research Fellow), Daira Collela (IDS alumnus), Deepta Chopra (IDS Research Fellow), Miguel Loureiro (IDS Research Fellow), Jalila Haider (human rights lawyer, and Sussex Alumnus), Lean Karlsson (Sida). Chaired by Sohela Nazneen (IDS Research Fellow)

Watch the recording of the event below.