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Exports of American queer hate

She is queer and grew up with lesbian parents. Now academic Haley McEwen is fighting to preserve basic rights for women and queers.

A woman in front of a black background, speaking into the camera.A woman in front of a black background, speaking into the camera.
Haley McEwan
Although I was never bullied, I realized early on that I came from a different family. On television, radio, newspapers and throughout schooling, it was constantly reminded that the traditional family is the norm. For example, at school we were asked to make cards on Mother's Day and Father's Day, even though I didn't have a father.
Haley McEwen

In the early 2000s, Haley begins to study. She is interested in feminism, international justice and how colonial structures live on. Simultaneously President Bush pursues increasingly conservative policies that sought to restrict women's rights to abortion and contraception.

I didn't feel at home in the conservative rise in America. At the same time, I became more and more fascinated by South Africa, a country that sought to build an inclusive society after Apartheid. A country with equal rights for all, regardless of skin colour, gender or sexual orientation. I wanted to learn more about this country and decided to move to South Africa and continue my studies there.
Haley McEwen

Haley moved to South Africa in 2005, and the following year same-sex marriage became legal, as one of the first countries in the world. It was a period of time marked both by optimism among the queer population, but also by unease over the resistance. Haley eventually began to discover that something wasn't right.

On radio and television, I heard the opposition to equal rights for queer people, and I discovered that the rhetoric was frighteningly similar to what I knew from the rhetoric of Christian conservatives in the United States. "Homosexuality is not compatible with Christian values and it threatens traditional family values. It doesn't belong here," etc. I had left the Christian conservative United States, but now I realized, to my surprise, they're here too.
Haley McEwen

“Pro Family”

It became clear to Haley that American organizations and think tanks did not restricted them self to lobbying against rights of women and gays in the United States, they're doing it on the African continent as well. In Uganda, a bill was introduced in 2009 that included the death penalty for homosexuality. This proposal came in the wake of a series of seminars in the country where Christian conservative American actors were very active.

Haley decided to do a PhD on the export of American queer hate to Africa.

In particular, I researched the strategies of the actors who call themselves 'pro-Family' and how they try to spread ideas about how the heterosexual traditional family is the natural starting point for all societies.
Haley McEwen

SAIH’s anti-gender work

In recent years, the "anti-gender movement", a collective term for actors who work to limit women and queer rights, has emerged. In 2020, Haley released a report in partnership with SAIH that looked more closely at the anti-gender movement and their attacks on academic freedom. The report takes a closer look at 4 countries where the anti-gender movement is particularly active: Poland, Hungary, Brazil and South Africa.

In recent decades, we have seen many advances when it comes to women's and queer rights. In the shadow of this progress, there is a resistance that has grown ever greater. In many ways, what we're seeing ia more than just a setback. It's cash-strapped global players working for a more conservative world order.
Haley McEwen

The report has received massive international attention.

The findings of the report were presented at the UN conference "Women deliver" in Kigali in the summer of 2023, which had 6,000 participants physically and over 200,000 digitally. Today, Haley is doing a post-doc at the University of Gothenburg where she continues to research the anti-gender movement and how they work to influence Africa.

I am glad that so many organizations and people have become aware of the anti-gender movement. We cannot take the rights that women and queer people have fought for, for granted. At this time, it is important for progressive forces to unite and collectively advocate for the right to decide over one's own body, and the right to research and education about gender diversity and sexuality.
Haley McEwen

Read the full report, here or watch McEwen present key findings in this video:

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