Last November at a panel hosted by the Salt Lake Tribune on rape culture and sexual consent, Kiman Kaur said, “the University of Utah needs a makeover on how we talk about consent.” The U student in gender studies and environmental science works to change that conversation in her work with Students for Choice, an organization that works with Planned Parenthood to educate students on reproductive health and rights.
“The lack of honest, authentic, and ongoing conversations makes it feel like rape culture is not an issue that is being taken care of seriously,” said Kaur. “Many students do not know what consent is, or how to practice it in their daily lives. It’s terrifying to spend six to eight hours a day at a school where many different acts of sexual assault and violence take place, and nothing is productively being done to solve this problem in a systemic and intersectional way.”
As the president of the U’s chapter of Students for Choice, Kaur helps plan events like Sex Week — a week centered around education about reproductive justice which includes abortion, safe sex, consensual sex and awareness of sexual violence. She also facilitates workshops surrounding reproductive health and rights in the community. Kaur said advocating for reproductive justice feels great because it’s one of the most intersectional social movements she has been introduced to.
“The reproductive justice framework advocates for the equity and wellbeing of all bodies, all families, and all lives,” said Kaur. “It does not equate gender with sex. It shows that advocating for racial justice, environmental justice, trans[gender] justice, immigration rights, transformative dis/ability justice, and LGBTQ+ liberation are a part of advocating for reproductive justice.”
After Governor Gary Herbert’s attempt to defund Planned Parenthood last summer, President Donald Trump’s opposing stance on the organization and recently introduced federal legislation to sever funding from the group, Kaur decided to expand her activism from education to politics. In the Fall, she canvassed for candidates endorsed by Planned Parenthood like Rep. Karen Kwan, Nikki Cunard, Peter Tomala and Christine Passey. Kaur is currently training to lobby for reproductive and civil rights in the 2017 Utah State Legislative session.
Kaur spends her free time volunteering with the Go Girlz Community Initiative through the Women’s Resource Center at the U. Go Girlz is a program that works to empower the academic success of female students in underserved populations, which according to the Women’s Resource Center’s website is comprised primarily of minority, first generation and economically disadvantaged individuals. Kaur would like to see better representation of women from these backgrounds at the U, particularly women of color.
“There are few women of color who are students on this campus, and even fewer staff and faculty who can represent and mentor them,” said Kaur. “Representation matters. Women of color must not be a check box that fulfills a diversity requirement. Our institution can do better at sustaining and empowering women of color to unapologetically be their whole and complete selves.”
Lack of representation isn’t her only concern regarding the U. Kaur has expressed repeatedly that she doesn’t think the U is doing enough to make campus safe for all of its students, so she has some suggestions for administration.
“The U can start by enforcing all students, staff, and faculty to engage in bystander intervention training as well as an anti-discrimination training,” said Kaur. “Everyone at this institution should be held to accountable and everyone should work toward harvesting a braver space that holistically recognizes and represents everyone. The voices of those most marginalized and most affected by [violence] must always have a place to sit at the table.”
While Kaur works toward achieving reproductive justice for individuals of all identities, she worries that other women of color that engage in activism at the U aren’t getting the support or recognition they deserve.
Kaur said, “Women of color of historically and currently lead many of our social movements for justice and liberation. There are many of us on this campus doing work to improve campus climate and uplift our community and voices when we do not have to. We need to give credit where it is needed.”