October 16, 2019
BUENOS AIRES — It's now been three years since the British and Argentine governments signed the Foradori-Duncan agreement and committed to taking "appropriate measures to remove all obstacles limiting the economic growth and sustainable development" of the Islas Malvinas (also called Falkland Islands).
What the agreement did not include was any specific reference to the long-standing sovereignty dispute over the islands.
Since that joint communiqué was signed, on Sept. 13, 2016, Argentina has been extremely generous with the United Kingdom in questions pertaining exclusively to British interests, without reaping any benefits in return.
Argentina has, for example, renewed its cooperation mechanisms with regards to fishing resources and agreed to allow commercial flights to the Malvinas to make a stopover in Argentine territory (even though the airline in question isn't even Argentine). The country also agreed to tone down its sovereignty claims in international forums, and is analyzing the possibility of easing protections on its natural resources. These were Argentine concessions in response to British demands (and in many cases responding to the prior wishes of Falkland islanders).
The UK still refuses to meet its international obligations.
The only result of the 2016 agreement has been to attend to British claims and needs, and without any involvement from our Congress. If matters pertaining to the Malvinas really are considered to be state policy, then all of this requires robust debate and agreements forged among all political forces on strategies and objectives for the short and medium terms. And the ideal place to have those debates is in Congress.
Some readers might argue that Britain also made a concession by helping identify unknown Argentine soldiers buried in the Darwin cemetery, on the Malvinas. But this is humanitarian issue, not a concession, and something that should have been cleared up much sooner. That's not to take away from the efforts made, in this case, by the Argentine and British governments, and by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
In recent years, the strategy pursued by the current government has been all about satisfying the claims of the British side but without obtaining any substantial benefits for our country. Above all, the United Kingdom still refuses to meet its international obligations to negotiate a solution to the sovereignty dispute.
Message commemorating 1982 Falklands war — Photo: Ryan Noble
The immobile and naive posture of pleasing the British, based on the fantasy that they will at some point decide to sit and negotiate a proper solution to this dispute, has neither logical nor historical foundations. After all, Britain wouldn't negotiate in the late 19th century, when Argentina was one of the world's premier economies and a global actor with weight, nor in periods when the countries entertained much closer relations.
The problem is that the sovereignty dispute is the main obstacle to the natural and sustainable development of the Malvinas. This must be clear. If the dispute were resolved, the islands would become much better connected with the world, services would improve and its natural resources, both renewable and non-renewable, could be exploited without further complications.
There is no sense imagining that the other side will soften its intransigence when you are already meeting its demands. Improving trade, cultural and other ties with the United Kingdom and with islanders is important, but only as part of a central and inalienable objective to recover Argentine sovereignty over the islands.
If the dispute were resolved, the islands would become much better connected with the world.
Other countries have been in situations similar to that of Argentina. They've been firm and coherent, spelled out their case legally, and used creative tools to defend their interests. Argentina must do the same.
We must recover our ability to take the initiative, break with the current stagnation and status quo, and stop swinging from one extreme to another in the way we deal with the dispute, because all that does is help keep the conflict alive. The country must handle this in a responsible way now so that subsequent generations don't inherit the same uncertainty.
Our country has solid arguments, both historical and legal, and that is our main strength. We must analyze all the means international law offers us, without passion or prejudice, and appeal to the people and bodies that will allow us to reach the inalienable objective of restoring effective sovereignty over the Malvinas.
*Rodríguez is a lawyer and lecturer in international law at the University of Buenos Aires.
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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.
October 19, 2021
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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