Global Roundup: South Africa Shared Parental Leave, Bangladesh Garment Workers Protest, Latvia Legalises Same-Sex Partnerships, China Feminist Consumers & Pink Tax, Series on Queer Indigenous Youth

Global Roundup: South Africa Shared Parental Leave, Bangladesh Garment Workers Protest, Latvia Legalises Same-Sex Partnerships, China Feminist Consumers & Pink Tax, Series on Queer Indigenous Youth

Curated by FG Contributor Samiha Hossain

Campaigners see the new ruling as the first big step towards more balance caregiving in South Africa. Photograph: Schalk van Zuydam/AP

South Africa is set to become the first country in Africa to introduce shared parental leave after a high court ruled that both parents must have the right to time off after the birth of a baby or adopting a child. The landmark judgment allows parents to choose how to divide four months parental leave between them. Previously, mothers were entitled to four months’ leave while fathers or partners were allowed a maximum of 10 days.

Nkululeko Mbuli, communications strategist for Embrace, a social movement for mothers, said the policy was a move in the right direction but “it still shortchanges mothers”. She said that the judgment, issued last month, placed responsibility for leave with individuals rather than “building a caring system”. The unemployed and those working in insecure employment were left out, she said.

Mothers want to be excited but they are concerned about the practical implications. -Nkululeko Mbuli

Thandile Ndoda, 30, lives in Cape Town and is expecting a baby with her husband, Kwanda, 34, later this year. Kwanda was happy about the “progressive” move, and would take more leave to support Thandile. But both agreed a mother should not have to give up her leave. They want to see an extra portion of non-transferable “use it or lose it” leave for both parents, that does not cut into the shared leave period, as in Spain and Sweden.

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Bangladeshi security forces violently disperse protesting garment workers in Gazipur. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

A Bangladeshi woman was shot dead last week after police in Dhaka opened fire during a protest held by garment workers demanding a wage increase.

Anjuara Khatun, a 26-year-old machine operator at Islam Garments, was on her way home after the factory closed suddenly as a large group of protesters gathered nearby. Her husband told reporters he heard gunshots when police opened fire on about 400 workers and then saw people carrying his wife’s motionless body. Khatun is the third garment worker to be killed in the past two weeks, with hundreds of others badly injured, during clashes that have broken out in key production hubs in the capital, Dhaka, including Ashulia, Gazipur and Savar.

The minimum-wage-setting process for garment workers had been going on in Bangladesh since April 2023, but fresh violence broke out this week after the government’s announcement of a monthly wage increase to just 12,500 taka (£92), which workers and rights groups deemed inadequate – and is half of what the workers are asking for.

We call on the prime minister to step in and stop the police brutality immediately. The proposed new wage is unacceptable. We reject it and demand a revision. -Nazma Akhter, trade unionist 

Akhter also urged the Bangladesh government to ensure that a new wage provides equitable compensation and meets the needs of workers and their families. The majority of garment workers are women and along with low wages they experience long hours, dangerous working conditions and sexual violence on the job. 

Global fashion brands must also speak out. What use is all their talk of female empowerment when the women who make their clothes are being murdered on the streets? -Nazma Akhter

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Latvian same-sex couples will now be able to register in civil unions. (Getty)

The Latvian parliament has voted to allow same-sex couples to establish civil unions in a historic first for the Baltic nation. Officials voted last week to permit same-sex couples the right to have their partnership legally recognised as part of legislation set to come into effect in mid-2024.

Couples in civil unions will be afforded certain tax and social security benefits, as well as union hospital visiting rights, although unions will still have less rights than married couples which, legally speaking, are still defined as only between a man and a woman. Gay rights activist Kaspars Zalitis noted that couples in same-sex unions would still be unable to adopt children and still face inheritance issues in Latvia.

This is a great beginning. Latvia is not one of the six countries in the European Union that have no recognition for same-sex couples. -Kaspars Zalitis

The move comes following the appointment of Edgars Rinkēvičs – both Latvia and Europe’s first out gay head of state – in July this year. During a speech, Rinkēvičs promised to “break the glass ceiling” and to help fight inequalities that had become a “significant problem” in Latvia. While the vote is a significant step in the right direction for the conservative country, justice minister Inese Libina-Egnere said parliament did not intend to provide civil unions with the same rights as married couples.

A shopping mall in Beijing last month. Bloomberg via Getty Images

The term ‘pink tax’, referring to how goods and services marketed to women often come with higher prices, has become popular in China and feminist consumers are rejecting it. 

The hashtag #PinkTax has attracted millions of views on Chinese social platforms, where women share their experiences of rejecting higher prices. The issue has come up again amid a major annual online shopping event in China known as Singles Day, or Double 11, which ended on November 11. 

The pink tax is about more than just color. It can be used to describe a broad range of discrimination against women consumers. An online campaign this fall encouraged the Chinese government to drop a 13% tax on menstrual products as it considers a new law on value-added taxes, arguing they should be considered basic necessities. For women on tight budgets, the added cost can mean going without menstrual products at all, said Nancy Qian, an economics professor.

Instead of being able to use sanitary pads that are sold in modern stores, a large number of females have to resort to things that women used historically and that lead to health issues. What it means is that it costs women more to be healthy than men. That’s very unfair. -Nancy Qian

Some consumers are pushing back, calling for boycotts against retailers that charge women more for essentially the same products men buy. Two of China’s largest e-commerce platforms, and Taobao, drew backlash this year over annual shopping events dubbed “Goddess Day” and “Queen’s Day” that are held on March 8, International Women’s Day. Critics accused the companies of using the terminology to manipulate women into spending money, and pointed out there is no equivalent shopping event for men.

Every dollar spent is a vote for the world. I won’t contribute another cent to brands that blatantly deceive women or are unfriendly to them. I believe that the efforts of women groups may bring about changes. – Lancc Lan, college student

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KIN was created by an all-Indigenous cast and crew who focused on creating an authentic, tender representation of queer, Indigenous life. (Courtesy: KIN)

Focusing on a group of 2SLGBTQ+ Indigenous youth, new series “KIN” explores themes like community, identity, and love while keeping the storylines realistic and down-to-earth. The series takes audiences inside a tight-knit group during a weekend filled with drama. 

The series closely follows friends Tye (Ta’kaiya Blaney) and Ellie (Aalayna) through the trials and tribulations of what feels like a week, but is really just 48 hours. Set in present-day Canadian city Toronto, the mini-series explores real conflicts and scenes of queer community and tenderness.

Lead actor Aalayna explained the personal importance of taking on this role. 

There aren’t stories like this told in mainstream media. So, it was important for me to be as authentic as I can in this position. It’s telling an authentic story of a trans woman, and a lot of the time trans women are missing from the conversation in stories like this. So, it was refreshing to take on a role with a trans story in the forefront. -Aalayna

KIN was created by an all-Indigenous cast and crew who focused on creating an authentic, tender representation of queer, Indigenous life. 

It really centres this communicative and meaningful care that queer, Indigenous folks have for one another. – Justin Ducharm, co-writer and director 

Ducharme takes a lot of pride in creating a story that centres around queer, Indigenous love, with scenes that bring audiences into the community. That love was Ducharme’s favourite part of making KIN.

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Samiha Hossain (she/her) is an aspiring urban planner studying at Toronto Metropolitan University. Throughout the years, she has worked in nonprofits with survivors of sexual violence and youth. Samiha firmly believes in the power of connecting with people and listening to their stories to create solidarity and heal as a community. She loves learning about the diverse forms of feminist resistance around the world.

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