#RiceBunny – The Resilient #MeToo Movement in China

Photo: This image circulating on Chinese social media explains the origin of the movement’s adapted hashtag. #MeToo has been one of the most profound developments in the modern feminist movement. Far more than a hashtag, it has been a conduit for unity among women, enabling many for the first time to openly share the abuses committed against them without fear of being silenced or of retribution from the powers that be. It has realized overdue consequences to a tremendous number of men in high positions – men who have so long abused their power over female colleagues in completely unacceptable ways. #MeToo is powerful. Celebration of its victories, however, should not completely overshadow the movement’s ongoing struggles. China is a male-dominated, highly censored culture. Needless to say, it is absolutely not conducive to social media campaigns, especially those that challenge men in positions of power. When the Weinstein story first broke in the US, launching the #MeToo movement, Chinese state-run media ran articles affirming that, “Chinese traditional values and conservative attitudes tend to safeguard women against inappropriate behavior from members of the opposite gender.” Statements like these met immediate backlash, however, from women whose personal experiences told a very different story. Nevertheless, the Chinese government’s longstanding policy of writing off feminist groups as ‘Agents of Western Interference’ seemed to again stifle any effectual change from taking off at that time. The #MeToo movement first breached Chinese media when Luo Qianqian, a citizen of China living in the US, decided to share her story. Luo had been sexually assaulted by a professor at her university. She recalls that he pounced on...

Women’s Rights are Human Rights – Iranian Women Protesting the Veil Law

Picture – Hosein Ghazinoury. The Girl of Engheleb Street – “An Iconic Fighter for Women’s Rights in Iran” In the struggle for women’s rights in Iran, enduring since the 1979 Revolution, a resurgent act of protest this week demonstrated the exasperation many have with the implemented Sharia Law. This policy sidelines women and bestows on them the “harsh reality of subjection to a patriarchal interpretation of Islamic law when applied by the legal machinery of a modern state.“ Sharia Law – The Islamization of the Iranian Legal System In the 1930s, jurisdiction of the Sharia courts was terminated in Iran. When the Pahlavi monarchy collapsed and Ayatollah Khomeini came to power, however, he reinstated the Sharia Law in 1979. This set the trend for subsequent changes and the notion of a centralized and unified legal system. As a result, wearing the hijab became compulsory for women. Moreover, the education system became segregated, and though universities remained mixed, regulations were implemented to separate the sexes in class and on campus. This took a severe toll on women. Though their suffrage rights were maintained, most of the pre-revolutionary legal reforms were completely abolished. Thus, under the Islamic Law that prevails since the 1979 Revolution, women are absolutely forbidden to appear in public without the hijab to covering their heads and necks, concealing their hair. The Iranian government upholds the hijab as “an emblem of its religious and political identity” symbolizing “not only the Islamic government but also…the ideal type of Iranian women.” This is further emphasized as the government denies the “existence of many others who did not wear chadors or believe in hijab.” Unfortunately, in spite of...

Protesting Putin – Thousands Demonstrate Across Russia

Picture: Moscow Times. Young demonstrators call for democracy in the Russian capital on Sunday. Across Russia yesterday, demonstrators took to the streets in opposition to Vladimir Putin and in support of boycotting the upcoming presidential elections in March. The rallies were called by Alexei Navalny, the politician widely regarded as Putin’s only significant political opponent. From Moscow to Vladivostok, thousands of Russian citizens, especially young people, braved police threats and frigid temperatures to make their voices heard. The protests were conducted peacefully overall, with 257 arrests but no clashes with police reported across the country. This total is much lower than that of past demonstrations, and is especially impressive considering the general fervor with which police sought to adjourn the events. The most notable arrest was that of Navalny himself. He was forcefully detained immediately upon arrival at the Moscow rally, but urged supporters online to continue on without him. And in fact the protesters seemed completely undeterred by this detainment, with demonstrations in eastern Siberia having already taken place, and many in Moscow stating that they don’t support Navalny’s politics anyway. Among that latter group are the liberal, globally-minded youth of Moscow. Their presence at the rallies was especially notable and highly charged. A 15-year-old girl, identified only as Nastia by the Moscow Times, said to reporters that “Putin has been president for longer than we’ve been alive. It’s time for a change.” Many of the adult protestors saw the youth not as harbingers of an election upset, but as a glimmer of hope in the more distant future. Their enthusiasm for engagement in civil society could be the...

Public transport moves – also in nonviolence

Photo:  Left: “Members of DYFI ride bullock carts and stage a novel protest against the hike in bus fare in Salem on Sunday.” (E. LakshiNarayanan, via thehindu.com) – Right: “Demonstrators in Sao Paulo, Brazil, carry banners that read in Portuguese “Against the Fare” and “No Rise” during a protest against the bus fare increase.” (Andre Penner / Associated Press, via latimes.com, 2015) An issue that affects almost everyone, that has mobilized people in both the past and present to raise their voices throughout the world, is public transport. This week, hikes in bus fare in Tamil Nadu inspired people to get involved in various cities throughout the Indian state. Students who often led the protests were joined by youth organizations and government employees, among others. Wednesday marked the third consecutive day of protests. Tactics to grab attention, to make their statement against the increase in fares, involved road blocks, demonstrations, the hand-over of a petition – and the riding of bull carts through the streets. Earlier this month, the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) union called for protests at busy train stations throughout the UK over an increase in train fare prices. Late-2017 protesters took to the streets of the Canadian city Winnipeg to oppose a raise in bus fares. Another slightly more dramatic example comes from Peru in 2016. The population of marginal Lima-neighborhood Manchay protested the introduction of a new government-run transportation system that was to replace the existing privately-owned options and would have more than doubled the costs. The inhabitants of Manchay blocked their streets, leading to clashes between police and protestors that involved the use of teargas against civilians, and culminating...

People Power – Women’s Marches Around the World

Picture – Chicago Tribune. “Weekend of women’s marches promises continued momentum” As CANVAS aims to spread the word of “people power” to the world, nonviolent struggle proves a powerful tool for achieving freedom, democracy, and human rights. In line with CANVAS’s mission, this weekend bore witness to a global Women’s March. January 21st, 2018 marked the one-year anniversary of the Women’s March in Washington DC last year. Over the weekend, “thousands of women, femmes, and allies” came together around the world in commemoration and advancement of their cause. Their mission, to “Look Back, March Forward and launch [their] collective 2018 Women’s March agenda: #PowerToThePolls”. The goal is to empower women and their allies, first by having their voices heard through their votes, and then further through their inclusion in positions of influence and power, especially in government. Moreover, the marches also highlighted the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements against sexual assault and harassment. Marching in Solidarity Women, men, and children around the world marched in solidarity this weekend at over 500 events across six continents including in: France, New Zealand, Kyrgyzstan, Zambia, Spain, Ecuador, Italy, the United Kingdom, the US, and more. USA – Dozens of Women’s Marches filled cities across the United States, at which attendees supported and advocated women’s rights and equality. This year’s main focus was on making people’s voices heard by urging supporters and allies to vote in the upcoming midterm elections. The rally held in Las Vegas, Nevada marked the official anniversary rally of last year’s Women’s March held in Washington DC. The main focus was “using activism to generate concrete action at the...

Ethiopian Opposition Leader Merera Gudina Freed from Prison

Picture: Al Jazeera. The Omoro people protest their discrimination and disenfranchisement by the Ethiopian government. The leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress, the opposition party representing Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, has been released after spending more than a year in prison. Gudina, a fixture in Ethiopian politics since the 1960s, has spent his career building bridges and fighting for democracy. Along with Gudina, the government has also annulled or pardoned the cases of 115 other politicians. In December 2016, after returning to Ethiopia from Brussels, Gudina was arrested for charges including “association with terrorist groups” that violated the state of emergency in place at the time. Gudina and his supporters claim that the charges were simply an excuse for the government to lock away the opposition, although Ethiopia has always insisted that it holds no political prisoners. Their claim proves extremely difficult to substantiate in this case, as the arrest of Gudina was made upon his return from the European Parliament, where he had criticized the state of emergency in a public address. The state of emergency in question had been implemented as a response to protests in the region of Oromo, where the people demanded that the government open up political space, allow dissent, and tolerate different perspectives. These protests left more than 1000 dead and led to countless arrests without charge. Gudina, among the most prominent of those arrested without clear or justified reason, has long had the Oromo public calling for his release. He has, from his arrest, been a clear ‘political prisoner’ in the eyes of the people. Even though the government has accused him...