Event: Sustaining and expanding south-south-north partnerships and knowledge co-construction on global backlash to reclaim gender justice

We are living in a time of global unrest and division stoked by increasing polarisation in politics, authoritarianism and backlash on gender equality, inclusion and social justice.

This event, during the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) 2024, will explore how effective south-south-north partnerships can develop better and more nuanced understandings of gender backlash, to inform strategies for defending gender justice.

Based on research from the Countering Backlash programme, this event will be a discussion between researchers, civil society activists, with bi- and multi-lateral development agencies. It will provide insights from research and policy spaces on how we can work together more effectively to reclaim gender justice.

Starting in a panel format, speakers will be asked to reflect on key insights from partnering in research on backlash, in activism and in international policy spheres. The co-chairs will facilitate a dialogue between panellists and then open up the discussion with the audience.

This event is hosted by the Lebanese American University, and co-sponsored by the Government of Sweden.

When

  • 13 March 2024
  • 12:00-14:00 EST // 16:00 – 18:00 UK Time

Where

  • In person – Lebanese American University, New York
  • Online – WebEx

Speakers

  • Nay El Rahi, Activist and Researcher, Arab Institute for Women, Lebanese American University
  • Phil Otieno, Executive Director, Advocates for Social Change Kenya (ADSOCK)
  • Tessa Lewin, Research Fellow, Institute of Development Studies
  • Jerker Edström, Research Fellow, Institute of Development Studies
  • Ida Petterson or Sofia Orrebrink, SIDA – Sweden
  • Nils Mollema, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Netherlands – TBC
  • Constanza Tabbush, Research Specialist, UN Women

Co-chairs

  • Myriam Sfeir – Arab Institute for Women, Lebanese American University
  • Sohela Nazneen – Institute of Development Studies

Event: How is backlash weakening institutional contexts for gender justice globally?

Gender backlash is continually gaining momentum across the globe, and social and political institutions and policies are being dismantled. Gender justice activists and women’s rights organisations are having to mobilise quickly to counter these attacks.

With speakers from Bangladesh, Uganda, Lebanon, Serbia and India, in this official NGO CSW68 event we ask, ‘how is gender backlash weakening institutional contexts for gender justice globally?’ Speakers will discuss: stalling and lack of implementation of the Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act (2010) in Bangladesh; the infiltration of conservative religious and political actors in democratic institutions in the context of Serbia and neighbouring countries; anti-feminist backlash as institutional by default in Lebanon; and the legislative weakening of institutional contexts in Uganda, examining Acts which exert control over Civil Society Organisations.

When

  • 11 March 2024
  • 08:30 – 10:00 EST // 13:30 – 15:00 UK Time

Where

  • Online – Zoom

Speakers

  • Pragyna Mahpara, BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD)
  • Sandra Aceng, Executive Director, Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET)
  • Nay El Rahi, Activist and Researcher, Arab Institute for Women (AIW)
  • Nađa Bobičić, Researcher, Center for Women’s Studies Belgrade (CWS)
  • Santosh Kumar Giri, Director, Kolkata Rista
  • Jerker Edström, Research Fellow, Institute of Development Studies (IDS)

Chair

  • Chloe Skinner, Research Fellow, IDS

Event: Understanding Gender Backlash: Southern Perspectives

The 30th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 1995, and the 10th anniversary of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), are fast approaching. And with global progress on gender justice on the rise around the world, we must find ways to combat gender backlash now.

The Countering Backlash programme has produced an IDS Bulletin on ‘Understanding Gender Backlash: Southern Perspectives’, due for publication in March 2024. It includes contributions, insights, and expert knowledge from programme partners in diverse locations across South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Brazil, Lebanon and the UK.

This Bulletin addresses the urgent question of how we can better understand the recent swell of anti-gender backlash across different regions, exploring different types of actors, interests, narratives, and tactics for backlash in different places, policy areas, and processes. In this event — ahead of International Women’s Day 2024 — speakers will reflect on their articles and share key findings from their research. The panel will then answer questions from the audience.  

When

  • 7 March 2024
  • 12:30 – 14:00 UK time

Where

  • Online – Zoom
  • In-Person – Convening Space, Institute of Development Studies (IDS), Brighton, UK

Speakers

  • Josephine Akihire, Centre for Basic Research
  • Amon Mwiine, Centre for Basic Research
  • Ishrat Jahan, BRAC James P Grant School of Public Health
  • Sudarshana Kundu, Gender at Work Consulting – India
  • Shraddha Chigateri, Gender at Work Consulting – India
  • Sohela Nazneen, IDS
  • Jerker Edström, IDS

Chair

  • Andrea Cornwall, King’s College London

Partner Event: BRAC JPGSPH and BIGD hosts Stakeholder Roundtable on Online Anti-Feminist Backlash

Countering Backlash partner BRAC James P Grant School of Public Health (BRAC JPGSPH) held a roundtable discussion on ‘Anti-feminist Backlash in Online Spaces and Creating Counter-Moves’ in collaboration with BRAC Institue of Governance and Development (BIGD) in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 28th November, 2023.

The roundtable was moderated by Nazia Zebin who is the Executive Director of Oboyob, a community-based organisation tackling gender justice for sexual minorities.  The event featured research presentations by Raiyaan Mahbub and Israr Hasan from BRAC JPGSPH and Iffat Jahan Antara from BIGD which set the context for the discussion. The discussions focused on the current challenges of navigating gender justice agendas in the face of rising organised backlash and the delegitimisation of feminism in the consciousness of the mass populace on social media platforms.

Critical insights were shared by experts and lawyers working on issues of digital safety and justice, seasoned NGO personnel, activists, and young movement organisers who are at the forefront of experiencing online backlash as they work on ensuring democratise, safe and gender-friendly digital environments. 

Read the press release for further details

Podcast: Politicising masculinity and its politics in the global context

Countering Backlash’s Jerker Edström joined Satish Kumar Singh on the Azad Foundation’s ‘Masculinities in focus’ podcast to discuss ‘Politicising masculinity and its politics in the global context‘. They unravel the politicisation of masculinity and its wide-ranging implications for politics, gender equality, and power relations in the global context, in a discussion moderated by Mr. Shrinivas Rao, National Lead, Azad Foundation.
Recent years have seen a rising concern over the politicisation of masculinity impacting global politics. Masculinities politics often emphasises traditional gender roles, maintaining male dominance in politics. This manifests in the underrepresentation of women in leadership and the perpetuation of gender stereotypes promoting male dominance and aggression. Additionally, the politicisation of masculinity is evident in populist movements and nationalist ideologies, relying on exaggerated hyper-masculine narratives that create a toxic political environment, reinforcing stereotypes and undermining gender equality.
This episode aims to delve deeper into the politicisation of masculinity and its global implications, explore strategies for mobilising resources to engage with men amid the current dilemma with feminist organisations, and recommend a way forward for civil society actors.

Listen Now

Event: Counting the cost: funding flows, gender backlash and counter backlash

Major political and social shifts are stifling the possibility of gender justice across the world. Analysing this backlash as operating on global, regional and local scales in this webinar, we ask, where is the money?

While predominant anti-gender backlash movements and actors appear well financed, those countering backlash face significant financial challenges, heightened in the context of rising authoritarianism and shrinking civic space.

In this event, we were joined by leading experts and partners from Countering Backlash and beyond. Isabel Marler from the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) presented a mapping of sources of funding for anti-rights actors, and interrogate what is effective in countering anti-rights trends, while Lisa VeneKlasen (Independent Strategist, Founder and Former Executive Director of JASS), explored ‘where is philanthropy on anti-gender backlash’? Turning to national restrictions, Sudarsana Kundu and Arundhati Sridhar from our partner organisation Gender at Work Consulting – India focused on the impacts of funding laws for women’s rights organising in India.

When

  • 12 December 2023
  • 13:00 – 14:30 UK time

Speakers

  • Lisa VeneKlassen, Independent Strategist, Founder and Former Executive Director of JASS (Just Associates)
  • Isabel Marler, Lead, Advancing Universal Rights and Justice, Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)
  • Sudarsana Kundu, Executive Director, Gender at Work Consulting – India
  • Arundhati Sridhar, Gender at Work Consulting – India

Discussant

Chair

Watch the recording

Partner event: BIGD discuss the implementation of Bangladesh’s Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act

Countering Backlash partner BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) hosted an engaging and important workshop with representatives of the Bangladesh Government and advocates. The workshop was hosted by BIGD in partnership with the Citizen’s Initiative against Domestic Violence (CIDV) at the BIGD offices in Dhaka’s Azimur Rahman Conference Hall.

The session discussed the implementation of the Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act (DVPPA) 2010, and shared key findings and recommendations from BIGD’s Countering Backlash policy brief ‘Backlash in Action? Or Inaction? Stalled Implementation of the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act 2010 in Bangladesh‘. Despite being approved in 2010, the Act remains underutilized and commitment to its implementation has been low, often treating domestic violence as a family matter. There is an immediate need for changed norms and attitudes among those who are implementing the Act, along with better victim support, procedural revisions for effective implementation of the DVPPA.

The session featured a presentation by Maheen Sultan, Senior Research Fellow, and Pragyna Mahpara, Senior Research Associate, both from BIGD. Expert insights were provided by Dr Shahnaz Huda, Professor of Law at the University of Dhaka.

The event offered crucial insights and perspectives, emphasizing the ongoing effort to combat domestic violence and create a safer environment for all.

Read BIGD’s update about the session on their website

Countering gender backlash in Africa and Asia

Countering Backlash partner, Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET), recently participated in the Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum (DRIF) in Nairobi, Kenya and RightsCon in Costa Rica. During the two events, WOUGNET led discussions on the challenges faced by women’s rights advocates and the broader gender justice movement in the face of increasing online gender-based violence and shrinking civic space.  

Joined by Countering Backlash partners BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD – Bangladesh) and NEIM (Brazil), along with a representative from the Ugandan police force, sessions highlighted the emergence of new forces and alliances that are actively pushing back against the progress made in achieving gender equality and justice, both globally and in Africa.

Participants discussed the various manifestations of gender backlash, such as the formulation of restrictive laws and legal frameworks, attacks on human rights and defenders, and the use of digital technology to propagate misogynist narratives.

WOUGNET spoke about the continuous attacks on gender activists and human rights defenders in Uganda, where laws and policies are enacted that restrict their activities, such as the recent Anti-homosexuality Act 2023 and amended Computer Misuse Act 2022. The blocking of online platforms also further erodes gender justice, minimising the potential for collective action and the amplification of marginalised voices.

Countering Backlash partner BIGD reported on their recently published research on online gender-based violence and backlash against women gender justice actors in Bangladesh. Currently, the south-Asian country is seeing a rapid increase in internet usage, particularly on Facebook, though evidence shows that almost 68% of Facebook users are men. According to Iffat Antara (Senior Researcher at BIGD), digital space has become an essential medium for activists and individuals to reach global audiences with messages on human rights, gender justice, and other critical social issues. They also addressed opposition from religious leaders towards comprehensive sexuality education policies and the push for discriminatory legislation such as the Anti-homosexuality Act 2023 of Uganda which argues that children’s understanding of their sexual rights makes them ‘pro-sexual’.

WOUGNET’S role in Countering Backlash

Sandra Aceng, Executive Director of WOUGNET, introduced the organisation’s work. WOUGNET has focused much of its research on online gender-based violence, and is currently implementing a project supported by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) called Our Voices, Our Futures, which aims to improve civic space online in Uganda for the women human rights defenders and feminists. WOUGNET’s goal through this project is to enhance its research on online gender-based violence and empower women actively to actively participate in shaping inclusive policies.

Efforts by the Ugandan Police Force

Francis Ogweng, Assistant Superintendent of Police in Uganda, shared the initiatives undertaken by the Uganda Police Force to promote gender justice. He said that the police are making progress towards promoting gender equality, thanks to the establishment of several directorates and departments that have an objective of reporting, analysing and tackling online gender-based violence, including the Gender Policy 2018. Besides these, there has been increased engagement with men on gender equality work as a strategy to reduce gender backlash in policing. Ogweng reported that senior officers have been promoted to higher ranks as a strategy to promote gender equality.

Ogweng is a He-For-She champion of UN Women and Uganda Police where he has promoted positive masculinity within the police. His role as champion resulted from the Uganda Police’s negative image when it comes to working with women and girls.

Despite the recent Anti-Homosexuality Act, Ogweng noted that there are a number of male-led organisations and Government initiatives promoting gender equality and ministries and other non-governmental organisations have programmes targeting male involvement in gender equality work.

Professor Maira Kubik, a Countering Backlash research partner NEIM in Brazil, defined gender backlash as a setback on rights that have not yet been achieved.

What are the trends in online gender backlash?

Antara’s research in Bangladesh explored online hate and threats of violence towards advocates for gender justice, and women in general, causing them to lose confidence and an interest in speaking out. The findings indicate that the violence women experience online has some common forms. These mainly focus on sexually explicit hate comments labelling women as sex workers, and particularly targeting women feminist activists, lawyers, and journalists. She then suggested the need to identify the severity of online gender-based violence against women on gender backlash and to improve the legal frameworks.

What are some of the achievements in gender justice?

Some of WOUGNET’s work on gender backlash is conducting research to understand the challenges that the communities we work with face. This research has shaped the capacity building work done over the years for women, and our community of practice around laws such as Uganda’s Computer Misuse Act 2011 as amended 2022, Data Protection and Privacy Act 2019, and the Anti-Pornography Act 2014 – three policies that significantly affect the meaningful participation of women in online spaces. WOUGNET also has a toll-free line 0800 200510 in place for the public to report cases of online harassment against female journalists.

Recommendations

In order to reduce gender backlash in digital spaces, laws and policies, panellists recommended conducting evidence-based research on gender backlash, building the capacity of men as anti-backlash actors, and training police officers on online gender-based violence so they can respond effectively to cases reported to their desk for investigation. Additionally, they recommended that the communities should know about some of the existing laws/policies so as to be able to fight for their rights, and to counter backlash.

Authored by: Isaac Amuku, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, and Irene Marunga, Communications associate, WOUGNET

Conference: Anti-feminist backlash in the Global South

Anti-feminist backlash is gaining momentum. It is essential for feminist organisers, activists, and researchers to collaborate to effectively counter this backlash.

The eruption of feminist responses to this backlash is evidence of just how important the concept of backlash is to feminist theorising and mobilising. Around the world, journals have devoted entire issues to the study of backlash. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Working Group on discrimination against women and girls released a paper on gender equality and gender backlash, arguing that in light of the ‘increasing misuse of the concept of gender [and] attacks on gender (equality) and women’s rights,’ it is ‘important to take stock of these developments, to counter the anti-gender attacks, and to clarify the use of the concept in relation to [OHCHR’s] mandate’.

In 2019, the European Parliament adopted a resolution ‘on experiencing a backlash in women’s rights and gender equality,’, and The New York Times published an article on backlash with the following tagline: ‘The rise of authoritarianism has catalyzed a rollback of gender violence protections and support systems’.

But it is essential that we do not overlook local specificities of backlash. In Lebanon, anti-feminist backlash extends beyond its normative definition as a hostile reaction or response to progress made within or by the women’s movement. Instead, anti-feminist backlash is embedded across institutions and social structures in Lebanon. This makes anti-feminist backlash less of a targeted response to a singular event; rather, anti-feminist backlash is systemic and diffusive in several contexts in the Global South.

This timely and important three-day hybrid conference, live from Beirut, Lebanon, and hosted by Countering Backlash partner Arab Institute for Women (AIW), will bring together feminist and gender experts to share, produce, and build knowledge on anti-feminist backlash. They will compare counter backlash strategies and build cross-sectoral and transnational alliances among anti-backlash actors in the Global South.

The sessions will be led by leading organisations, researchers, and activists from Countering Backlash, the Middle East region and beyond, including: the Lebanese American University, BRAC BIGD, the California State University, the Institute of Development Studies, Nucleus of Interdisciplinary Women’s Studies of the Federal University of Bahia (NEIM), Sakeena, University of Belgrade, and more.

Date and time

20 – 22 June

Location

In-person: LAU Beirut Campus, Arab Institute for Women, Beirut, Lebanon

Online: WebEx

Languages

The sessions will be conducted in English.

Find out more about each day of the conference below.


20 June

Join us on 20 June for the Anti-feminist backlash in the Global South conference. You can sign up to exciting sessions and hear from leading gender-progressive researchers and activists from Lebanon, Brazil, Inida, Palestine, Tunisia, Turkey, the UK, and the USA.

All times are UTC+3.

Register to attend the 20 June sessions


  • Keynote Speech / 09:30 – 10:30 (UTC+3)
    • Maya Mikdashi

  • Panel 1: Backlash: Understanding Power Dynamics / 11:00 12:30 (UTC+3)
    • Moderator: Lydia Both – Program Director at Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)
    • Speakers:
      • Elif Savas: “Gendering the Far-Right: A Comparative Perspective” – Ph.D. Student, Department of Political Science, University of Massachusetts Amherst
      • Hasina Khan: “Muslim Women’s Rights in the Context of Muslim Personal Laws in India: Between State Repression and Patriarchy” – Founder and Member of the Bebaak Collective 
      • Isis Nusair: “Anti-Feminist Backlash, Counter Strategies for Resistance and Modes of Building Transnational Alliances” – Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies & International Studies, Denison University
      • Caroline Ramos: “Redpill Movement in Brazil: Straining a Re-thinking of Identity Politics Under Neoliberalism” – Researcher in Gender and Women’s Studies, American University in Cairo (AUC)

  • Panel 2: Backlash Against Gender Rights: Exploring Global and Regional Perspectives / 13:30 – 15:00 (UTC+3)
    • Moderator: Lina Kreidie – Academic Director of the Tomorrow’s Leaders Gender Scholars (TLS) Program, LAU
    • Speakers:
      • Amel Grami: “Learning from the Anti-Feminist Backlash in Tunisia” – Professor of Gender Studies, University of Manouba
      • Nurseli Yeşim Sünbüloğlu: “Masculinist Backlash and KADEM” – Visiting Faculty Member in the Core Program and the Director of the Women’s Studies Research Centre, Kadir Has University
      • Islah Jad: “The Backlash Against the CEDAWISTS: The Case of Palestine” – Associate Professor and Lecturer on Gender Issues and Politics, Women’s Studies Institute and Cultural Studies Department, Birzeit University
      • Abir Chebaro: “Misogynistic Discourse and Other Types of VAWP as Tools for Backlash on Feminism in Lebanon” – Gender Consultant and Activist

  • Panel 3: Linking Backlash and Crises: Why Now, Why Here, There and (Almost) Everywhere? / 15:30 – 17:00 (UTC+3)
    • Moderator: Sohela Nazneen – Research Fellow, IDS
    • Speakers:
      • Nay El RahiResearcher and Activist, AiW-LAU
      • Jerker EdstromResearch Fellow, IDS
      • Nurseli Yeşim Sünbüloğlu Visiting Faculty Member in the Core Program and the Director of the Women’s Studies Research Centre, Kadir Has University
      • Teresa Sacchet: “How Far is the Concept of Backlash Helpful in Analyzing Gender-Based Political Violence? Reflections from Brazil” – Professor and Researcher of the Graduation Program in Interdisciplinary Studies on Women, Gender, and Feminism, Federal University of Bahia

21 June

Join us on 21 June for the Anti-feminist backlash in the Global South conference. You can sign up to exciting sessions and hear from leading gender-progressive researchers and activists from Lebanon, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Tunisia, and more.

All times are UTC+3.

Register to attend the 21 June sessions


  • Panel 4: Countering Backlash Against Gender Rights: Innovative Practices and Lessons Learned / 09:00 – 10:30 (UTC+3)
    • Moderator: Zina Sawwaf – Assistant Professor of Gender Studies, Social & Education Sciences Department, LAU
    • Speakers:
      • Deepta Chopra: “Innovative Strategies to Counter ‘Cyclical Backlash’: Women Protestors in Shaheen Bagh” – Senior Research Fellow, IDS
      • Diana Ishaqat: “Lessons and Experiences: The Anti-Feminist Backlash at the Protection of Orphan Women in Jordan” – Communications and Fundraising Manager, Sakeena
      • Faten Mbarek: “Can Intersectional Movements be a Solution to Counter Anti-Feminist Backlash – Case Study from Tunisia” – Assistant Professor, University of Gafsa, and the Head of Department of Sociology, Higher Institute of Applied Studies in Humanity
      • Sriya Satuluri: “10 Steps Forward And 3 Steps Backwards: A Journey Towards Creating a Gender Just & Violence Free World” – Social Worker and Mental Health Professional, Swayam

  • Panel 5: Misogyny, Morality, and State Repression: Anti-Feminist Backlash in Pakistan, Malaysia, Ethiopia, and Bangladesh / 11:00 – 13:00 (UTC+3)
    • Moderator: Jennifer Skulte-Ouaiss – Director of the Title IX Office, LAU   
    • Speakers:
      • Azza Basarudin: “Anti-Feminist Backlash: The Case of Malaysia” – Assistant Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, California State University, Long Beach
      • Tina Beyene: “Anti-Feminist Backlash: The Case of Ethiopia” – Assistant Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, California State University, Northridge
      • Khanum Shaykh: Anti-Feminist Backlash: The Case of Pakistan – California State University, Northridge
      • Maheen Sultan & Shravasti Roy Nathan: “Reform of the Hindu Family Law under a Muslim Majority State: Intersectional Backlash Dynamics: The Case of Bangladesh” – Senior Fellow of Practice and Co-Founder of the Centre for Gender and Social Transformation, BRAC University / Research Associate, Gender and Social Transformation Cluster, BRAC Institute of Governance and Development

  • Panel 6: Workshop: Grasping Patriarchal Backlash: Briefing and Interactive Gameplay – Chess / 14:00 – 16:30 (UTC+3)
    • Facilitator: Jerker Edstrom – Research Fellow, IDS

22 June

Join us on 22 June for the Anti-feminist backlash in the Global South conference. You can sign up to exciting sessions and hear from leading gender-progressive researchers and activists from Lebanon, Bangladesh, Morocco, Serbia, UN Women, and more.

All times are UTC+3.

Register to attend the 22 June sessions


 

  • Panel 7: Backlash in the Media: Analyzing the Role of Traditional, Digital, and Alternative Media Outlets / 09:00 – 10:30 (UTC+3)
    • Moderator: Diana Mukalled – Co-Founder and Managing Editor of Daraj
    • Speakers: 
      • Omar Khaled: “Voices of Change: Exploring the Impact of Alternative Media Platforms in Combating Hate Speech Against Feminism in Lebanon” – General Manager, Spot Cast in Lebanon
      • Nađa Bobičić: “Anti-Gender Discourse in Serbian Mainstream Media” – Research Associate, University of Belgrade
      • Israr Hasan & Sharin Shajahan Naomi: “Online Misogyny in Bangladesh: Facebook as a Site of Anti-Feminist Backlash” – Research Associate, BRAC James P. Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University / Gender Expert, BRAC James P. Grant School of Public Health

  • Panel 8: Breaking Barriers: The Struggle for Gender Rights and Freedoms / 11:00 – 12:30 (UTC+3)
    • Moderator: Gretchen King – Assistant Professor of Multimedia Journalism and Communication, Department of Communication, Arts & Languages, LAU
    • Speakers:
      • Sanae Ansar Ech-Chotbi: “Anti-Feminist Cyberviolence as Perceived by Activists: The Case of Morocco” – Ph.D. Candidate at the Centre for Communication and Digital Media, University of Erfurt
      • Nastaran Saremy: “Woman, Life, Freedom Movement in Iran and its Regional Connections” – Ph.D. Student in Media and Communication Studies, Simon Fraser University
      • Iffat Jahan Antara & Pragyna Mahpara: “Silencing Dissent: How ‘Piety Policing’ and ‘Cancel Culture’ are Undermining Gender Justice Activism Online in Bangladesh” – Senior Research Associate, Gender and Social Transformation Cluster, BRAC Institute of Governance and Development / Researcher, Gender and Social Transformation Cluster, BRAC Institute of Governance and Development

  • Panel 9: Case Study on the Feminist Civil Society Platform in Lebanon / 12:30 – 13:00 (UTC+3)
    • Speakers:
      • Representative from the Feminist Platform (TBD)
      • Marianne Touma & Rima Al Mokdad: “Presentation of the Study Findings on Backlash in Lebanon” – UN Women
    • 12:30 – 13:00 (UTC+3)

  • Panel 10: Reflections on Backlash: A Conversation / 14:00 – 15:30 (UTC+3)
    • Moderator: Nay El-Rahi – Researcher and Activist, AiW-LAU
    • Speakers:
      • Sohela Nazneen: Research Fellow, IDS
      • Tessa Lewin: Research Fellow, IDS
      • Jerker Edstrom: Research Fellow, IDS

 

Event: Backlash against gender justice globally: What does it mean for development?

Countering Backlash hosted a panel debate where a panel of international experts will discuss and debate questions for development arising from a swell of anti-gender backlash across the world such as ‘What is it?’, ‘How should development adapt?’. 

Panel:

Co-chairs:

When:

  • 13 June 2023

Watch the recording

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

Event: Agency and activism – experiences of countering backlash against gender justice

Gender-progressive policies around the world are facing significant backlash. Gender justice activists and women’s rights organisations are having to mobilise quickly to counter these attacks.  

The rise of racist, misogynist, populist and neo-nationalist governments, ideas, and political practices in the last decade has only further incited this backlash against gender-progressive policies. This is also leading to an increase in physical, verbal, and digital violence against women, those in the LGBTQI+ community, and human rights defenders. 

This backlash is being challenged, documented, and researched by  Countering Backlash and SuPWR – both hosted by the Institute for Development Studiesin several countries of Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America. Research of backlash against gender-equality policy gains in the focus countries include Uganda’s 2019 Sexual Offences Bill, Bangladesh’s Domestic Violence Act, and discrimination against transwomen in Peru’s labour market. They also look at Pakistan’s laws (and non-existent laws) about un-paid work for home-based women workers and India’s Shaheen Bagh protests.  

This event for International Women’s Day 2023 discussed how organisations, informal collectives and individuals are standing up and fighting to protect and further gender-progressive policies. We were joined by those working in the midst of national and regional struggles in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Uganda, and Peru.  

By watching this event, you will understand the nature and source of obstacles that gender justice actors face, what it looks like in policy areas, and how they are attempting to counter this backlash.  

Panel 

  • Maheen Sultan, Senior Fellow of Practice and Head of Gender and Social Development Cluster, BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD)
  • Pragyna Mahpara, Senior Research Associate, BIGD 
  • Amon Mwiine, Researcher, Centre for Basic Research 
  • Zehra Khan, General Secretary, Home Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) 
  • Deepta Chopra, Research Fellow, Institute of Development Studies (IDS)
  • Maria Grados Bueno, Post Graduate Researcher, IDS 

Chair 

Event recording

Event: ‘Unsettling Apologies’ – seminar and book launch

Join Countering Backlash for a seminar co-hosted by the Participation, Inclusion and Social Change Cluster at the Institute of Development Studies with Melanie Judge (UCT) and Dee Smythe (UCT), the Editors of ‘Unsettling Apologies’, Priya Raghavan (IDS) and Mark Walter (Sussex Law School)

There has recently been a global resurgence of demands for the acknowledgement of historical and contemporary wrongs, as well as for apologies and reparation for harms suffered.

Drawing on the histories of injustice, dispossession and violence in South Africa, this book examines the cultural, political and legal role, and value of, an apology. It explores the multiple ways in which ‘sorry’ is instituted, articulated and performed, and critically analyses its various forms and functions in both historical and contemporary moments. Bringing together an interdisciplinary team of contributors, the book’s analysis offers insights that will be invaluable to global debates on the struggle for justice.

When

  • 14 November 2022
  • 13:00–14:30 UK time

Chair

Tessa Lewin, Research Fellow, IDS

Speakers

  • Melanie Judge, author and editor
  • Dee Smythe, author and editor
  • Priya Raghavan, discussant
  • Mark Walters, discussant

How to attend

  • In person in the Convening Space at the Institute of Development Studies
  • Watch on Zoom by registering below:

Register Now

  • Melanie Judge works with leading civil society organisations and multilateral institutions on strategy, policy and research for sexual and gender rights in Africa and is Adjunct Associate Professor in Public Law at the University of Cape Town.
  • Dee Smythe is Professor of Public Law and Director of the Centre for Law and Society at the University of Cape Town as well as a member of the Centro de Investigação e Desenvolvimento sobre Direito e Sociedade (CEDIS) at the Nova University of Lisbon School of Law.
  • Mark Walters is a Professor of Criminal Law and Criminology in Sussex Law School. His research interests are focused primarily on hate crime studies, as well as criminal law and criminal justice reform with a special emphasis on restorative justice practice and theory.
  • Priya Raghavan is a research officer in the governance cluster at IDS.
  • Tessa Lewin is a research fellow in the Participation, Inclusion and Social Change Cluster.

Event: Reclaiming Trans Rights in India: Unsettling Patriarchy?

Despite a rich cultural tradition of gender-fluidity, the transgender community in India have been stigmatised as a ‘criminal tribe’ through a colonial-era law. The community has struggled for their rights over decades, and only after significant engagement with the judiciary were they finally counted in the population Census of 2011.

The Supreme Court of India ruled in 2014 that transgender persons had the right to self-identify as male, female or a third gender. It also brought into law that the constitutional rights to life, dignity and autonomy would include the right to a person’s gender identity and sexual orientation. The government then brought in the ‘Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2019 (TG Act)’, and issued the Rules in September 2020, which are used to enforce the act.

But the transgender community has seen little change, and still face discrimination in everyday life.

Re-watch the discussion with Countering Backlash about reclaiming trans rights in India, and how individuals and organisations unsettling the patriarchy and patriarchal masculinities.

When

  • Tuesday 6 September

Speakers

  • Jashodhara Dasgupta, Consultant Researcher, Countering Backlash Project at the Centre for Health and Social Justice
  • Santosh Giri, Founder and Executive Director of the transgender organization Kolkata Rista
  • A Social Anthropologist and Community Activist

Chair

  • Jerker Edström, IDS Fellow and programme convenor for Countering Backlash

Event Recording

Event: Engaging men and boys on gender issues in India

Global progress on gender equality is under attack. Engaging men and boys on gender issues is a key way we can counter gender backlash.

This seminar was a collaboration between Countering Backlash, Men Against Violence and Abuse (MAVA), and Men end FGM for a discussion about methods, lessons learnt and reflections on working with men and boys on gender issues in India and Kenya.

Mr Harish Sadani from MAVA spoke about his work on gender and masculinity, which he has been involved in for over three decades. He showcased part of a documentary he produced – “Yuva Maitri: Young Men Breaking the Moulds” – which focuses on the tools and methodologies used to engage young men on contemporary gender issues.

Mr Sadani also discussed the process and methods used, reflecting on the challenges he has been facing while addressing gender-based violence, in the current political context of India. He shared the outcomes and insights of a unique international travelling film festival on Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, which he has been running over the past five years.

Our discussant, Tony Mwebia, commented on what we have seen and heard, with some reflections on working with men to end female genital mutilation (FGM) in Kenya.

When

  • 14 July at 13:00 UK Time

Speakers

  • Harish Sadani, Executive Director of Men Against Violence and Abuse (MAVA) India
  • Tony Mwebia, Executive Director of Men End FGM Foundation in Kenya and MA Gender and Development student at IDS

Chair

  • Jerker Edström, IDS Fellow and programme convenor for Countering Backlash

Event recording

Due to a technical issue with Zoom, only the half of the event has been recorded. However, you can view Harish Sadani’s presentation slides here, and watch MAVA’s full documentary.

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.

 

 

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.

Event: Uniting to counter backlash – roundtable

Activists, researchers, activist researchers and policymakers share experiences, concerns and tactics, asking “can work on masculinities help to counter patriarchal backlash?” and much more. This fifth and final debate in the series ‘Countering Patriarchal Backlash’ will focus on critical challenges and potential solutions for mobilising to counter backlash through different strategies, like intersectional alliance building and men’s engagement in feminist and other social justice struggles.

Starting with reflections on key insights, dilemmas and directions recommended from the series, this debate will take a forward-looking perspective to discuss central questions posed, as we are all facing backlash and explore ways forward. What should we do? That is, as activists, researchers, organisations, networks, and movements? How should we link across social justice movements and counter the onslaught through alliance building, whilst holding ourselves and each other to account? This pair of facilitated two-way conversations – wrapped up with a plenary debate – will be guided by the co-chairs and focused on the ‘road ahead’.

Register now (select 1 June)

COUNTERING PATRIARCHAL BACKLASH AGAINST GENDER JUSTICE SERIES
Global progress on gender equality is under threat. So is democracy, freedom of opinion and assembly, and the very notion of human rights. Women’s and human rights actors and organisations in diverse contexts are facing conservative backlash to their work, including from religious fundamentalist groups, “men’s rights” groups, political parties and think tanks, media corporations, new movements and states who are anti-womens’ rights and dispute key aspects of gender equality.

New forces are pushing back to reverse many gains made for gender justice as well as to frustrate implementation of commitments and forestall further progress, but this backlash is also far deeper, more insidious, and complex than the recent trend of religious fundamentalisms, or a mere pushback on gender policies. While these are visible manifestations of patriarchal backlash, other actors and forces are also at play in nuanced ways, often under the radar, deploying and producing old and new power hierarchies across intersections of identity, beyond and including gender.

Such diverse, diffuse and networked backlash ‘others’, demonises and disempowers those who seek to advance gender justice. It entrenches binary understandings of gender and re-valorises patriarchal gender roles, appealing to ‘traditional family values’ founded on patriarchal ideologies of male supremacy. These forces tend to deploy polarising politics, mobilising populist narratives, promiscuously comingling misogyny, xenophobia and homophobia, with scant regard for evidence or truth.

Our series at the MenEngage Ubuntu Symposium explores this pressing global trend, advancing understanding of these movements and how the men and masculinities field can strengthen efforts and better support feminist movements to counter this backlash.

Our understanding of backlash must go beyond simple linear visions of social change – as in ‘one step forward, two steps back’. Diverse forms of patriarchal backlash appear to function in interaction with arrays of other oppressive dynamics, including de-democratisation and the capture of civic space, the rise of populism, ‘strongman’ demagogues and a global rightward turn, predatory capitalism, inequality and precarity. Furthermore, some argue that ill-conceived policy and practice on gender in development may itself play into the hands of backlash forces, who are said to be co-opting existing policy processes for gender. Yet, all of this is happening in plain sight. New opportunities, mobilisations and intersectional strategies in struggles for gender justice are likely to evolve.

The series will result in several knowledge products in line with the overall knowledge development strategy for the symposium. Products may include bitesize videos, a learning page on the Alliance’s website including webinar recordings and related reading materials and a report/thought piece providing deeper analysis and focused on promising practices and ways forward for the Alliance.

Event: Movement-building to counter patriarchal backlash

Join Countering Backlash for the fourth session in the ‘Countering Patriarchal Backlash against Gender Justice’ Ubuntu Symposium. This will be an interactive space for reflecting on experiences of anti-feminist backlash in our own contexts, and how to explore strategies to support feminist movements in countering backlash.

  • Title: Movement-Building to Counter Patriarchal Backlash: A Conversation Space (Ubuntu Symposium Concept Session (5)
  • Date: Thursday 13 May
  • Time: 9am EST; 2pm BST; 3pm CAT; 6.30pm IST
  • Facilitators: Sinead Nolan (Chair) with Jerker Edström and Chloe Skinner.

Reflecting on insights from previous sessions on backlash, this penultimate session of this series creates an open space for conversation among participants to share practical strategies used in different contexts and begin to collectively consider some concrete steps that members of the MenEngage Alliance can take to build on and link with efforts from other gender justice movements to counter backlash.

The format involves two rounds of breakout room discussions with some three-to-five participants per breakout room, interspersed with an opening, two feedbacks and a closing in plenary. Key outcomes of the session will feed into the final plenary of the series on 1 June tying together the series and proposing ways forward for the Alliance, as per the commitment in the Alliance’s new strategic plan for 2021-24.

Register now (select May 13)

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The UK’s ‘anti-protest’ bill is a symptom of broader backlash

Global progress on gender equality is under threat. We are living in an age where major political and social shifts are resulting in new forces that are visibly pushing back to reverse the many gains made for women’s rights and to shrink civic space. This push back is not just about ‘men’ or ‘women’ however, but also the gendered structures through which power is enacted or shut down.

The proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in the UK is a symptom of broader backlash on gender equality and progressive values. Following the heated debate in the House of Commons, the controversial policing bill was passed after its second reading on Tuesday.

If accepted in parliament this Bill will:

  • Introduce new police powers to decide where, when and how people can protest
  • Impact the ability to organise including how trade unions protest and picket
  • Increase penalties for those breaching police conditions on protests
  • Creates new trespass offences

One component of the Bill is a proposed 10-year prison sentence for ‘damage to statues’ – standing in direct contrast to the much shorter sentences (very rarely) served for sexual assault. It represents a clear disregard for the call precipitated by the Black Lives Matter movement to remove and dismantle statues that commemorate colonialism; those who ‘damage’ these stone homages to slavery, racism and colonial patriarchies are vilified, while the pervasive and normalised threat of sexual assault continues to be routinely disregarded.

Chloe Skinner, a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute of Development Studies, examines global manifestations of backlash, working in partnership with academics and activists in Bangladesh, India, Uganda, Kenya, Brazil and Lebanon to counter backlash against gender and social justice. The Countering Backlash programme explores the many forms of backlash and how they often appear in seemingly innocuous and hidden ways.

Chloe argues that this Bill embodies ‘patriarchal backlash’ as an archetypal exemplar of the clampdown on even the possibility of moves toward gendered, racial and social justice. She states that “white and male supremacy live on, palpably demonstrated by the restrictive and regressive laws laid out in the anti-protest bill.”

Comparisons can be drawn to India, where Countering Backlash partners Gender at Work highlight the extent of the government’s effort to curb dissent in the country through draconian laws and policies. As the programme demonstrates and explores, backlash is global. To counter it, we must understand its diverse manifestations – from the subtle to the spectacular, the hidden to the explicit. The proposed anti-protest Bill in the UK is one such expression to resist.

On 18 March at 1pm, Countering Backlash partners will also be participating in the IDS event “Global perspectives on countering backlash against women in politics” chaired by Liz Ford, Deputy Editor, Guardian Global Development.