Elena Kostyuchenko (in the yellow hat) at the pro-gay Day of Kisses protest.
On January 25, 2013 the Russian State Duma swiftly passed a bill banning the "promotion of homosexuality." The bill will have to undergo two more readings and be signed by the Russian president before it becomes law. If this happens, it will give the Russian government the right to fine publications and individuals up to half a million dollars for "promoting homosexuality." Meanwhile, the law does not define what constitutes "promoting" and conflates homosexuality with, among other things, pedophilia. LGBT rights activists speculate that the passage of this law will lead to the government shutting down organizations, websites, and print publications that support the already besieged Russian LGBT community.
Protests for LGBT rights in Russia have a history of violence. Along with those brave enough to participate in them, protests often attract thugs calling themselves Russian Orthodox activists who pelt the LGBT protesters with eggs and physically attack them. The thugs discuss their plans for the beatings in their online forums on V Kontakte (a Russian version of Facebook), and cover their faces with scarves and masks in order to avoid being identified. Although the police are always present at such protests, the Orthodox activists seems to have their tacit approval.
To tabloid readers they are bodies and blood. Stories of scandal. The irresistible macabre. But the voices of art and activism group Ni Una Más want us to know that the ninety one women killed recently in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico are daughters, mothers, sisters, schoolmates, friends. And they have names, though they no longer have their lives.
Today, on International Women's Day, the Chiapas academic and perfomance research center Centro Hemisférico adds a message of life to a campaign to end death, inviting the community to the steps of the Church of Guadalupe to remember and honor the women they love—past and present—with poetry, flowers, and photos. For the last 11 months, the arts-based Ni Una Máscampaign has taken to the streets of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas to reclaim public spaces and demand an end to violence against women.
Friends, today is International Women's Day. I know more than a few of you forgot last year since I monitored all of your social media postings while waiting for you to call and wish me a happy International Women's Day. I did not see nearly enough activity. Let us not be so remiss this time around. Around the world today, we celebrate and honor women's economic, political, and social accomplishments. In Italy, women are given flowers, while in China, women get the day off work. In Cameroon, women dance in the streets. I've seen the U.S. do very little commemorating. I'll take this moment to appeal to your friendly competitive patriotism and encourage even a small act of celebration and appreciation, cyber or otherwise. It will be like the Olympics of Caring About People in Other Countries.
A lot of us working/breathing/organizing in feminist/humanist/womanist communities were running from event to event last week during International Women's Day (IWD) week, and I thought I'd share some of the deconstructing thoughts I've been having aloud about what I witnessed and participated in.
Many of you already know all too well the tokenization that happens when we Indigenous and racialized women get invited to things our own communities are not putting together, the envelopes we sometimes have to push, the chastising we get from both white people and people in our own communities who don't like that we're calling ourselves feminists/womanists/humanists, so on and so forth.