MIGRANT BOAT CAPTAIN ARRESTED
Italian authorities in the port of Catania said Tuesday they arrested the Tunisian captain of the boat that capsized off the Libyan coast Sunday, killing around 800 people, Rome daily La Repubblica reports. He has been charged with multiple homicide. The captain was arrested along with a Syrian man believed to be part of the same smuggling gang. They were part of 27 survivors of the disaster. “The remaining 25 migrants are free. They will be identified following immediate care and are expected to request asylum,” Italian prosecutor Giovanni Salvi was quoted as saying by The Guardian.
- Meanwhile, the EU is set to launch military operations against human trafficking networks in Libya, an emergency meeting between interior and foreign ministers decided in Luxembourg on Monday, Le Monde reports.
- The operations will include destroying smuggler ships and dismantling trafficking gangs.
- The UNHCR said the death toll was likely to rise above 800, including children aged between 10 and 12. Early accounts said 700 people had died.
- So far this year, at least 1,600 refugees and migrants have died trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, the UN says.
- The EU has also called for more cooperation with Libya’s neighboring countries Egypt, Tunisia and Niger.
- A summit of EU leaders is to take place in Brussels Thursday for more detailed measures.
MORSI SENTENCED TO 20 YEARS IN PRISON
Former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was sentenced to 20 years in prison by a Cairo court Tuesday for inciting the killing of protesters during clashes outside the presidential palace in December 2012 that led to the death of 11 people, the BBC reports. This is the first ruling Morsi has faced since he was ousted by the army in July 2013 following mass street protests. The former Islamist president faces serious charges in three other upcoming trials, according to Al Jazeera. On Monday, 22 Muslim Brotherhood supporters were sentenced to death by a Cairo court for attacking a police station near the Egyptian capital in 2013. In an ongoing crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, 1,212 people, including the head of the organization Mohamed Badie, have been sentenced to death since the start of 2014.
ON THIS DAY
Happy 68th, Iggy — and happy 2768th, Rome! Get ready for your 57-second shot of history.
YEMEN AIR STRIKE KILLS 25, CEASEFIRE HOPES
At least 25 people were killed and some 400 wounded in a huge explosion triggered by a Saudi-led coalition air strike on a missile base Monday in the Houthi-controlled Yemeni capital, the Yemeni state news agency Saba — controlled by the Houthi — reports. According to Reuters, “the number could not be immediately verified, but medical sources said at least 15 people had been killed and scores wounded.
- Meanwhile, the Iranian deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian was quoted as saying Tuesday by the Iranian Tasmin news agency that a ceasefire in Yemen could be announced very soon. “We are optimistic that in the coming hours, after many efforts, we will see a halt to military attacks in Yemen,” he said.
A rare case of school violence in Spain as a Barcelona student stabbed a teacher to death. See Tuesday’s coverage from the city’s leading daily La Vanguardia.
"ONCE-IN-DECADE" STORM IN AUSTRALIA
Two men and one woman have been found dead in the Australian town of Dungog, in New South Wales, as a powerful storm and floods hit the southeastern state, The Australian reports. As weather conditions are expected to worsen, local authorities have sent emergency alerts to thousands of people in the region. More than 200,000 homes and businesses were without power Tuesday and winds of up to 135 km/h (85 mph) were recorded in some areas. The Emergency Services Minister David Elliott said it was expected to be a “once-in-a-decade storm.”
ACCOUNTANT OF AUSCHWITZ TRIAL
The trial of Oskar Groening, a former SS guard referred to as “the accountant of Auschwitz” and charged with at least 300,000 counts of accessory to murder in the Nazi death camp during World War II, will start Tuesday in the northern Germany city of Lueneburg, Deutsche Welle reports. The 93-year-old is not actually accused of committing murders, but he has admitted witnessing the mass killings of Jews between May and July 1944. Groening, who has also denied being an “accomplice,” faces 15 years in prison if convicted. This trial against a former Nazi officer is expected to be one of the last of its kind.
India launched its new destroyer INS Visakhapatnam into the water for the first time Monday at Mazagon Dock in Mumbai. The brand new warship — the Indian Navy's most powerful and lethal — will be able to operate in nuclear, biological and chemical atmosphere.
After already setting a new record speed last week, a Japanese magnetic levitation train beat its record again Tuesday, reaching 603 km/h (374 mph) in a test run near Mount Fuji, The Japan Times reports.
Mara Delius, a writer and culture editor at Die Welt, suggests that the conversation around feminism has taken a terribly wrong turn. First you must ask the right questions: “When I first started in this editorial department, a long-serving editor welcomed me by calling me "blondie" (I thought that was amusing). Later on, a globally renowned philosopher grabbed my breast after I interviewed him (I thought that was disgusting). Nowadays, there's not a single female editor in a position of responsibility (which I find old-fashioned and very surprising). The most recent survey of wages in Germany found that women earn on average 22% less than men for the exact same jobs. Why is that the case? I would like a clear and objective answer, please. Perhaps more people should be asking that question rather than prodding me incessantly about whether I'm a feminist.”
Read the full article, Don't Ask If I'm A Feminist, Ask Why Women Earn 22% Less.
MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD
AC/DC DRUMMER PLEADS GUILTY
Phil Rudd, the drummer of the Australian hard rock band AC/DC, pleaded guilty on charges of threatening to commit murder and possession of cannabis and methamphetamine Tuesday in a court in Tauranga, New Zealand, The New Zealand Herald reports. The plea comes as a surprise as the 60-year-old had previously denied all charges. He is accused of telling an associate he wanted a former employee “taken out,” after his solo album failed to perform well.
The confinement experience could turn brutal for those forced to live with relatives who would not tolerate a member of the family living their sexual orientation openly as a young adult. Here are stories from urban and rural India.
Abhijith had been working as a radio jockey in the southern Indian city of Thiruvananthapuram when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, 2020. When the government imposed a nationwide lockdown, Abhijith returned to the rural Pathanamthitta district , where his parents live with an extended family, including uncles, cousins and grandparents.
Eighteen months later, he recalled that the experience was "unbearable" because he had to live with homophobic relatives. "Apart from the frequent reference to my sexual 'abnormality', they took me to a guruji to 'cure' me," Abhijith recalled. "He gave me something to eat, which made me throw up. The guru assured me that I was throwing up whatever 'demon' was possessing me and 'making' me gay."
Early in 2021, Abhijith travelled back to Thiruvananthapuram, where he found support from the members of the queer collective.
Inspired by their work, he also decided to work towards uplifting the queer community. "I wish no one else goes through the mental trauma I have endured," said Abhijit.
Abhijith's story of mental distress arising from family abuse turns out to be all too common among members of India's LGBTQ+ community, many of whom were trapped in their homes and removed from peer support groups during the pandemic.
Oppressive home situations
As India continues to reel from a pandemic that has claimed more lives (235,524) in three months of the second wave (April-June 2021) than in the one year before that (162,960 deaths in March 2020-March 2021), the LGBTQ community has faced myriad problems. Sexual minorities have historically suffered from mainstream prejudice and the pandemic has aggravated socio-economic inequalities, instigated family and institutionalized abuse, apart from limiting access to essential care. This has resulted in acute mental distress which has overwhelmed queer support infrastructure across the country.
Speaking to queer collective representatives across India, I learned that the heightened levels of distress in the community was due to longstanding factors that were triggered under lockdown conditions. Family members who are intolerant of marginalized sexual identities, often tagging their orientation as a "disorder" or "just a phase", have always featured among the main perpetrators of subtle and overt forms of violence towards queer, trans and homosexual people.
Calls from lesbians and trans men to prevent forced marriages during lockdowns.
Sappho For Equality, a Kolkata-based feminist organization that works for the rights of sexually marginalized women and trans men, recorded a similar trend. Early in the first wave, the organization realized that the existing helpline number was getting overwhelmed with distress calls. It added a second helpline number. The comparative figures indicate a 13-fold jump in numbers: from 290 calls in April 2019-March 20 to 3,940 calls in April 2020-May 2021.
"Most of the calls we have been getting from lesbians and trans men are urgent appeals to prevent forced marriages during lockdowns," said Shreosi, a Sappho member and peer support provider. "If they happen to resist, they are either evicted or forced to flee home. But where to house them? There aren't so many shelters, and ours is at full capacity."
Shreosi says that the nature of distress calls has also changed. "Earlier people would call in for long-term help, such as professional mental health support. But during the pandemic, it has changed to immediate requests to rescue from oppressive home situations. Often, they will speak in whispers so that the parents can't hear."
Lack of spaces
Like many of his fellow queer community members, life for Sumit P., a 30-year-old gay man from Mumbai, has taken a turn for the worse. The lockdown has led to the loss of safe spaces and prolonged residence at home.
"It has been a really difficult time since the beginning of the lockdown. I am suffering from a lot of mental stress since I cannot freely express myself at home. Even while making a call, I have to check my surroundings to see if anybody is there. If I try to go out, my family demands an explanation. I feel suffocated," he said.
The pandemic has forced some queer people to come out
Sumit is also dealing with a risk that has hit the community harder than others – unemployment and income shortage. He's opened a cafe with two other queer friends, which is now running into losses. For others, pandemic-induced job losses have forced queer persons from all over the country to return to their home states and move in with their families who've turned abusive during this long period of confinement.
Lockdowns force coming out
According to Kolkata-based physician, filmmaker and gay rights activist Tirthankar Guha Thakurata, the pandemic has forced some queer people to come out, succumbing to rising discomfort and pressure exerted by homophobic families.
"In most cases, family relations sour when a person reveals their identity. But many do not flee home. They find a breathing space or 'space out' in their workspaces. In the absence of these spaces, mental problems rose significantly," he said.
Not being able to express themselves freely in front of parents who are hostile, intolerant and often address transgender persons by their deadname or misgender them has created situations of severe distress, suicidal thoughts and self-harm.
Psychiatrist and queer feminist activist Ranjita Biswas (she/they) cites an incident. A gender-nonconforming person died under suspicious circumstances just days after leaving their peer group and going home to their birth parents. The final rites were performed with them dressed in bangles and a saree.
"When a member of our community asked their mother why she chose a saree for someone who had worn androgynous clothes all their life, she plainly said it was natural because after all, the deceased 'was her daughter,'" Biswas recalls.
The Indian queer mental health support infrastructure, already compromised with historical prejudice, is now struggling
In India, queer people's access to professional mental healthcare has been "very limited," according to community members such as Ankan Biswas, India's first transgender lawyer who has been working with the Human Rights Law Network in West Bengal.
"A large majority of the psychiatrists still consider homosexuality as a disorder and practice 'correctional therapy'. It's only around the big cities that some queer-friendly psychiatrists can be found," Biswas said. "The pandemic has further widened the inequalities in access to mental health support for India's LGBTQ community."
Biswas is spending anxious days fielding an overwhelming amount of calls and rescue requests from queer members trapped in their homes, undergoing mental, verbal and even physical torture. "We don't have the space, I just tell them to wait and bear it a little longer," he said.
Medical care is dismal
Anuradha Krishnan's story, though not involving birth family, outlines how the lack of physical support spaces have affected India's queer population. Abandoned by her birth family when she came out to them as a trans woman in 2017, Anuradha Krishnan (she/they), founder of Queerythm in Kerala who is studying dentistry, had to move into an accommodation with four other persons.
Isolation triggered my depression
"I am used to talking and hanging around with friends. Isolation triggered my depression and I had to seek psychiatric help." Living in cramped quarters did not help with quarantine requirements and all of them tested positive during the first wave.
What is deeply worrying is that the Indian queer mental health support infrastructure, already compromised with historical prejudice, is now struggling, placing more and more pressure on queer collectives and peer support groups whose resources are wearing thin.
During the 10 months of the first wave of the pandemic in India in 2020, Y'all, a queer collective based in Manipur, received about 1,000 distress calls on their helpline number from LGBTQ+ individuals. In May 2021 alone, they received 450 such calls (including texts and WhatsApp messages) indicating a telling escalation in the number of queer people seeking help during the second wave.
As India's queer-friendly mental health support infrastructure continues to be tested, Y'all founder, Sadam Hanjabam, a gay man, says, "Honestly, we are struggling to handle such a large number of calls, it is so overwhelming. We are also dealing with our own anxieties. We are burning out."
Sreemanti Sengupta is a freelance writer, poet, and media studies lecturer based in Kolkata.
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