- Demonstrators marched in cities all over the world to call for action to end violence against women and show solidarity for those slain by it.
- The gatherings happened right before the International Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women, recognized by the United Nations on Nov. 25.
- The Day also kicks off an international campaign against gender-based violence that will last for 16 days.
- These movements put pressure on politicians to take legislative action to address this issue.
Thousands of people across the globe spent the weekend demanding the end of violence against women.
Women dressed in soft pastels—the favorite colors of the murdered victims—trod barefoot along the pavement of Ecatepec, Mexico on Saturday to remember those killed by gender-targeted violent acts. Over 5,000 miles away, in Paris, individuals marched through the city wielding banners and wearing face paint to look like blood, condemning domestic violence. Red shoes lined the streets of Brussels on Sunday, symbolizing victims of femicide.
These movements are only part of a wave of worldwide recognition of the International Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which falls on Nov. 25. The Day was officially recognized by the United Nations to bring attention to the physical and sexual abuse that affects millions of women globally.
“The United Nations is committed to ending all forms of violence against women and girls,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in his message to note the Day. “These abuses are among the world’s most horrific, persistent and widespread human rights violations, affecting one in every three women in the world.”
The theme this year is “Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands Against Rape,” because for the next two years, rape will be the focus of the UN’s UNiTe to End Violence Against Women campaign.
International landmarks were turned orange in support.
Nov. 25 also serves as the kick-off date for the international campaign 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, coordinated by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership. The campaign concludes on Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day.
The demonstrations called for legal action to be taken in response to gender-based violence, and some officials met these demands.
Amid protests in Rome on Saturday, Italian Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri tweeted that funding for orphans whose mothers were murdered is ready to be approved.
Gualtieri said the funding—12 million euros—is intended to cover medical expenses, scholarships, and training for these kids. He added that the funding does not make up for the “lost affection” of their mothers.
The United States has been reworking its own legislature that addresses gender-based violence. The Violence Against Women Act was passed in 1994 and has been renewed about every five years, but the most recent version has expired. Many politicians are pushing to reauthorize the law, and it is also undergoing changes to be more inclusive.
The House of Representatives passed a VAWA renewal bill in April, but it is on hold in the Senate. One of the most contentious parts of the bill is the closing of the “boyfriend loophole.” Currently, married men who are convicted of stalking offenses or domestic violence crimes are not legally allowed to buy guns. However, this law does not apply to boyfriends or other non-married partners in intimate relationships.
“At the end of the day, if we don’t get a bill that can realistically pass the House, pass the Senate and be signed into law, then all we have is a bill,” U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst said to the Des Moines Register. “And no survivors are helped by just bills alone. We need real results.”
U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden has also expressed support for the reauthorization of VAWA. Biden told The Washington Post that overseeing the implementation of the law in 1994 was the “proudest” moment in his career as a Senator, and said that he will make its reauthorization a priority if he wins the election.
See what others are saying: (Forbes) (The Washington Post) (UN News)
Trump Applauds Modi on Religious Freedom Amid Violent Protests in India
- Violent clashes between Hindus and Muslims have broken out in New Delhi over a controversial citizenship law.
- The protests, which have been described as the worst violence in the city for decades, have been ongoing since Sunday.
- According to reports, 13 people have died and 150 have been injured.
- In another part of New Delhi, President Trump praised Prime Minister Modi— who has long championed the law behind the violence— for his efforts on religious freedom.
Trump Applauds Modi
President Donald Trump applauded Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s record on religious freedom as Hindus and Muslims clashed violently just miles away over a controversial law championed by Modi.
The law, called the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), grants citizenship to religious minorities who came to India illegally from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan.
Those eligible for citizenship under the law include people from every major religion in South Asia except for Muslims.
Critics of CAA say it is anti-Muslim and accuse Modi and his Hindu nationalist party of openly discriminating against Muslims and trying to make them second-class citizens in India.
But Modi and his supporters have repeatedly argued that the law protects persecuted religious minorities who immigrate to India from those Muslim-majority countries.
Protests have been ongoing since CAA was passed by India’s Parliament in December. However, the most recent demonstrations in New Delhi have been described as the deadliest violence the capital city has seen in decades.
The protests first broke out Sunday and have been ongoing ever since. According to reports, 13 people have died and 150 have been injured in that time.
As the violence over the legislation espoused by Modi raged on nearby, Trump praised the prime minister’s efforts on religious freedom while speaking at a press conference.
“The prime minister was incredible in what he told me. He wants people to have religious freedom and very strongly,” the president said.
“We talked about religious liberty for a long period of time in front of a lot of people. And I had a very, very powerful answer,” he continued.
“And as far as Muslims are concerned, as he told me, I guess they have 200 million Muslims in India. And a fairly short while ago they had 14 million. And he said that they are very— working very closely with the Muslim community.”
When asked about the law behind the violence, Trump said that it was “up to India” to handle it.
It is not entirely clear how the violence started. Both groups blame each other for initiating the clashes and media reports are inconsistent.
What we do know is that protestors who oppose the bill held a sit-in over the weekend that blocked a major road.
On Sunday, Kapil Mishra, a local leader from Modi’s party, said that he did not want to cause a scene while Trump was visiting, but threatened to send a mob of his supporters to forcibly remove the demonstrators if the police failed to act once the president left.
From there, the reporting gets hazy. While some outlets said that both Muslims and Hindus both started throwing rocks at each other after Mishra threatened the protestors, others reported that Hindu mobs attacked the Muslim demonstrators first, throwing rocks and beating them.
Regardless of the initial confrontation, it is evident situation escalated rapidly. According to reports, both sides threw rocks at each other and at stores. Some people reportedly threw petrol bombs, while others set shops, cars, and other vehicles on fire.
In one viral video, a Hindu mob was seen climbing on and defacing a burning mosque before reportedly hoisting a flag of a Hindu god.
Another viral picture that circulated on social media showed a group of Hindu men beating a Muslim man with sticks and leaving him on the ground covered in blood.
Several journalists were also reportedly attacked.
Police responded with tear gas, grenades, and Molotov cocktails. However, multiple outlets also reported that the police mostly stood by the Hindus and did not do much to stop the violence.
Several Muslim protestors told reporters that police officers watched as they were attacked and did nothing. Some officers even encouraged the Hindu mobs to burn down Muslims’ property, according to some reports.
On Tuesday, officials banned large gatherings, shut down subway stations, and closed schools in the surrounding areas in an attempt to control the violence.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (BBC) (The Guardian)
Saudi Arabia Orders Rapper’s Arrest After Song Praising Women in Mecca
- Saudi Arabian Prince Khalid bin Faisal has called for the arrest of a rapper and her production crew after she posted a music video praising women in Mecca to YouTube.
- The song, “Mecca Girls,” features singer Ayasel Slay rapping about how beautiful and strong women in Mecca are in comparison to other cities.
- Bin Faisal has denounced the video as offensive to “the customs and traditions of the people of Mecca.”
- The Saudi Arabian government has faced accusations of racism, with many saying that Ayasel’s arrest has only been ordered because she is of African descent and not part of the Arab ethnic group.
Ayasel Slay Posts “Mecca Girl”
The Saudi Arabian government is calling for the arrest of a singer after she posted a song called “Mecca Girl” to YouTube last week.
That music video features singer/rapper Ayasel Slay dancing in a coffee shop. In it, she raps about women in Mecca, praising them as the strongest and most beautiful in all of Saudi Arabia.
“A Mecca girl is all you need. Don’t upset her, she will hurt you,” she raps at one point.
Notably, Slay, who is reportedly of Eritrean descent, also specifically raps about the beauty of both light- and dark-skinned women, saying: “She’s white, shines like a lightbulb. She’s dark, her beauty stings.”
The end of the music video shows kids dancing and having fun. Like Ayasel, many of the children are black.
While the video has garnered praise from activists, it’s also been hit with heavy religious criticism for featuring Mecca. Though also filmed in Mecca, Saudi Arabia’s holiest city, “Mecca Girl” was not filmed at any religious site. Nonetheless, Muslims consider the entire area sacred.
The mention of Mecca was enough to prompt Prince Khalid bin Faisal, governor of the Mecca province, to call for Ayasel’s arrest, as well as the arrest of her production crew.
In a post to Twitter, he said the music video “offends the customs and traditions of the people of Mecca and contradicts the elevated identity and traditions of its sons.” He then used the hashtag “You_Are_Not_Mecca’s_Girls.”
Following bin Faisal’s call to arrest Ayasel, she reportedly deleted her YouTube channel, also deleting “Mecca Girl” in the process. Numerous copies of the music video have since been posted to YouTube.
Accusations of Racism by the Saudi Government
Though some have argued that Ayasel’s incorporation of Mecca into her song was the reason behind the Saudi government’s retaliation against her, others have said the government is targeting Ayasel specifically because she is black.
“The consequences are not equaling the crime, because there is no crime there,” Seattle-based Saudi activist Amani Al-Ahmadi told The Washington Post. “It’s obviously targeted against a woman who they feel doesn’t represent what Saudi and Mecca should be.”
“It was very modest in nature,” she added. “If anything, it was just talking about how strong women are in the city compared to others… If you changed that city to any other city, you wouldn’t even know the difference. If she wasn’t a woman of color, they wouldn’t have seen her as a minority to target.”
Critics have also pointed to a 2018 music video featuring rapper Leesa, who went viral for singing about the end to a ban that prevented women in Saudi Arabia from driving.
Like “Mecca Girl,” Leesa’s song featured overt messages of female empowerment.
“I don’t need anyone to take me/ I put the seat belt over my abaya,” she raps at one point.
Unlike Ayasel’s performance, Leesa’s was more well-received, with critics noting that ethnically, Leesa is Arab. On the other hand, Slay is of African descent—even if Mecca is her hometown.
Criticism against Ayasel has also made waves on social media, with many people using the “#You_Are_Not_Mecca’s_Girls” hashtag to attack Ayasel.
“Immediate deportation is the answer, in addition to holding every foreigner who claims to be from Mecca accountable,” one person said.
Others, however, doubled down that Ayasel’s arrest warrant wasn’t about race but the fact that she referenced Islam’s most holy city in a song.
Have nothing to do with race, she shouldn’t use the Holy city on in a song.— Mariam Robly (@MariamRobly) February 24, 2020
I don’t where you get ur invitation but there no racist based on ur skin color in Soudi Arabia , if there a racism it’s against a foreigner.
Not everything in Twitter is true.
By Tuesday, many people had taken the “#You_Are_Not_Mecca’s_Girls” hashtag and flooded it with support for Ayasel, and in turn, criticism of the government.
“Had it been an affluent, well connected, light skinned Saudi influencer who created the video it would have been used in MBS’s propaganda as a sign of progress and reform. Double standards & hypocrisy at its best,” one user said.
Had it been an affluent, well connected, light skinned Saudi influencer who created the video it would have been used in MBS’s propaganda as a sign of progress and reform. Double standards & hypocrisy at its best. #لستن_بنات_مكة— MS SΛFFΛΛ صفاء (@MsSaffaa) February 20, 2020
Some people also accused Saudi Arabia of hypocrisy, noting that the country has been trying to change its strict social codes by booking performances from major acts such as Nicki Minaj, BTS, and Liam Payne.
Notably, all of those acts faced their own criticism for agreeing to perform in the country, especially considering Saudi Arabia’s poor track record with women and LGBTQ+ groups. That backlash then prompted Minaj to drop her performance.
“Shout out to the Saudi government for inviting Nicki Minaj to perform in a bid to appear “modern” but banned and arrested an *actual* Black Saudi female rapper who created a banger about her hometown #AsayelSlay,” one user said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, it is unclear still unclear whether or not the Saudi Arabian government has taken any action against Ayasel.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Al Jazeera) (Mashable)
Seoul to Improve Semi-Basement Apartments After ‘Parasite’ Shines Light on Issues
- The Seoul city government said it will financially support 1,500 households living in semi-basement apartments like the one depicted in the Oscar-winning film “Parasite.”
- With the help of the Korea Energy Foundation, the local government will offer up to 3.2 million won (about 2,630 USD) per household for enhancements like new floors, air conditioners, fire alarms, ventilators, and more.
- While many have noted that this new initiative won’t lift semi-basement dwellers completely out of trouble, they still feel that’s a step in the right direction that could help prevent thousands from sinking into worse conditions.
Film Draws Attention to Poor Living Conditions
After making history at the 92nd Academy Awards, the South Korean film “Parasite” has now inspired the Seoul Metropolitan Government to address poor living conditions in the city.
The dark comedy thriller, directed by Bong Joon-ho, took home four Oscars at this year’s ceremony and became the first non-English language film to earn the Best Picture trophy.
But aside from the historic win, the film also shined a light on the realities of living in semi-basement apartments also known as “Banjiha,” the Korean word for cramped basement flat.
In the film, the scheming Kim family lives in a semi-basement apartment that is prominently portrayed as a dark, smell, and small space. But while the movie is a work of fiction, its portrayal of these apartments is apparently not.
According to the Los Angeles Times, there were over 360,000 semi-basement apartments in South Korea as of 2015, with the majority located in the greater Seoul metropolitan area. Many of the units were originally built as emergency bunkers in the 1970s—an era of intense military tension between North and South Korea.
Some of these spaces were later converted into cheap rental units and though it was initially illegal to rent them out, the government walked back on their restrictions during the housing crisis in the 1980s, when living spaces began running short in the capital.
Government Plans to Take Action
As depicted in the film, Banjiha spaces actually are dark, poorly ventilated, damp, and often far too compact to support the number of residents living inside. But for many low-income people, these are some of their best options for affordable housing.
The Korea Herald cited city statistics that said 78% of Seoul’s semi-basement dwellers are in the bottom 30% income bracket. So to address the housing issues that became highly discussed since the movie’s release and subsequent success, the Seoul Metropolitan Government vowed to support 1,500 families living in these homes.
According to The Korea Herald, the local government is partnering with the Korea Energy Foundation to offer “up to 3.2 million won [about 2,630 USD] per household to enhance heating systems, replace floors, and install air conditioners, dehumidifiers, ventilators, windows, and fire alarms.”
Residents who live in semi-basement apartments and earn less than 60% of the country’s median income will be able to submit applications to the government to be selected for renovation. The government also said it plans to expand the range of recipients each year.
While many have noted that this new initiative won’t lift semi-basement dwellers completely out of trouble, they still feel that it’s a step in the right direction that could help prevent thousands from sinking into worse conditions.