On October 21, a 31-year-old woman went to University Hospital Galway, in Ireland. Savita Halappanavar had back pain and was 17 weeks pregnant with her first child; upon exam, doctors told Savita and her husband, Praveen, that she was experiencing a miscarriage. As the pain continued and her water broke, Savita asked if the pregnancy could be terminated. But, according to her husband, “‘They said unfortunately she can’t because it’s a Catholic country. … Savita said … she is not Catholic, she is Hindu, and why impose the law on her.” The hospital’s response was that, because Ireland is a “Catholic country,” an abortion couldn’t be performed if the fetus still had a heartbeat. Although Savita asked repeatedly that the pregnancy be terminated, her requests were always denied. Several days later, the heartbeat stopped, but Savita’s condition was worsening, and she was moved to the hospital’s intensive care unit. She died on October 28.
Historically, witches have been scapegoats, and witch-hunting has occurred during periods of crisis such as wars, and times of famine or disease. More recently, the consequences of the global economic crisis have been devastating: unemployment, poverty, and in some countries, an increasing number of suicides. But some politicians have more pressing concerns: in Spain, for example, the Conservatives target women who can already come under heavy fire when it comes to economic issues. This behavior can uphold patterns such as the economic and social marginalization of women.
As abortion, reproductive freedom and the power to choose continue to be hot topics during the 2012 presidential election (even though it is soon coming to a close), it is also interesting to know what laws concerning abortion exists in different nations. The Center for Reproductive Rights have created an interactive world map that does just that, compares and explain abortion laws all over the world.
The map provides interesting information in different ways:
Country icon key: Different icons express the conditions under which abortion is allowed or prohibited. There are many icons (all explained on the website), but here are a few examples.
R – rape
F – fetal impairment
MH – mental health
SA – spousal authorization needed
PA – parental authorization needed
For example, in the United Arab Emirates, both spousal authorization and parental authorization is needed for an abortion. In Iraq, the icon NE describes that the “law does not make an explicit exception to save a woman’s life”. In Argentina abortion is permitted in cases of rape, whereas France have a gestational limit of 14 weeks and New Zealand concludes that abortion is permitted in cases of incest, fetal impairment and to preserve a woman’s mental health. [Read more...]
Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard is fed up with the sexist and misogynist views of opposition leader Tony Abbott and she is not afraid to speak up .
Gillard states that Abbott is sexist, misogynist and anti-woman and it seems that she has the proof to back it up. Stating that Abbott would not treat another man in a similar way, Gillard recounts the sexist strategies of Abbott, such as standing next to a sign outside of parliament saying: “ditch the witch and “man’s bitch”. Abbott has apparently also repeatedly acted in a demeaning manner towards Gillard, both catcalling her across the table at work and telling her to shut up while speaking in the past.
The Swedish newspaper Metro was the first to report the removal of all women from IKEA’s 2013 Saudi Arabian catalogue. Metro reports that IKEA have taken the strict Saudi rules concerning women’s freedom one step further by completely removing any evidence of women in the catalogue. The only female designer representing the PS collection, Clara Gausch, was also removed. In Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to vote, drive cars, or leave their home without male company. According to Metro, it is common that IKEA catalogues are adapted to “fit” cultural traditions in certain countries. For example, in Saudi Arabia the name wineglass has been changed to “partyglass” since the consumption and distribution of alcohol is prohibited.
IKEA is however not the only company removing images of women when targeting the Saudi Arabian consumers. When Starbucks opened their doors in Saudi Arabia the woman in the logo was completely removed, only her crown remained.
We had never heard about the custom of breast ironing before watching the documentary television series Taboo, which provided an in-depth view into the practice. Breast ironing is mostly practiced in Cameroon, and is described as either the pounding or massaging of young girl’s breasts often with a heated object (such as a wooden pestle) in order to stop or slow the growth of breasts.
This practice is usually carried out by the mother and is said to help prevent sexual abuse and rape, as well as keep young girls in school for as long as possible. It is believed that breast development signal sexual maturity and readiness for sex, and therefore breast ironing may prevent men to sexually assault young Cameroon girls. Breast ironing is however extremely painful and often lead to a multitude of side effects, such as tissue damage, breast cancer and cysts, and may interfere with breast feeding at a later age. [Read more...]
Some people’s inability to treat rape as the serious act of violence that it is, as opposed to say, a joke, has recently been quite a hot topic. Unfortunately, joking about rape and treating it like it’s really “not that big a deal” is no new thing. However, even having said that I was stunned stupid by the scandal that Polish media (to their great credit) were reporting all over the place last week: rape as a teaching opportunity. An opportunity to teach English grammar no less!
Last week a seriously upset mother called the Polish ombudsmen reporting that the grammar workbook her son is using (“English Tenses – it doesn’t get easier” by Walt Waren) teaches verb declination using examples including the word “rape.” Some of the exercises included translating into Polish:
- Tom will rape Linda tomorrow.
- Linda hopes to get raped before the end of the summer.
- Linda is raped everyday.
Rape culture alert, anyone? [Read more...]
In the last week, a horrible story about a Chinese woman forced to undergo an abortion while 7 months pregnant has caused quite the upheaval in China and in the rest of the world.
Since 1979, China has reinforced the one-child policy as a strategy to control a fast growing population. There is however exceptions to the one-child policy, such as a second child may be allowed if the firstborn is female. In terms of controlling and reducing the population, the policy has been successful. But there have been many subsequent consequences related to the policy. For example, female infanticide and forced abortion has become increasingly common as male children are deemed more desirable. The ratio of females to males in the nation is also very uneven, as is the overall age of the Chinese population (described as the 4-2-1 problem where one child will be required to care for two parents and four grandparents as they age).
As unrepentant pro-choicers, we feel that women should have the right to make their own decisions concerning their bodies and reproduction, and this includes the choice to carry, give birth to, and care for your own child as well. The problematic notion of the one-child policy not only highlights women’s extremely limited reproductive choices and reproductive rights, but also gender inequalities, as well as inequalities influenced by a person’s social class and status. [Read more...]
On June 20-22nd, hundreds of organizations will gather in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, while the Heads of State and Government will meet as part of the United Nations Conference on sustainable Development, Rio +20, to review progress on issues about environment and development. Activists around the world come to attend the discussions, share and exchange ideas, make contacts and promote changes – many focusing on women’s rights and gender equality.
The destruction of the natural resources of the Planet and the exploitation of women are two models of domination with common origins and characteristics. Indeed, the links between anti-science and anti-choice have the same detractors : the Christian fundamentalists who play an important role in anti science thoughts such creationism and climatological skepticism.
Women’s initiatives for a sustainable environment are a source of inspiration for actions in favor of environment and sustainable development. There is a feminist trend of thought which deals with such matters named ecofeminism or social ecofeminism according to the different points of view. [Read more...]
Argentina has become the first country in the world to allow transgender women and men to change their names and sex in official documents such as passports and identification cards. On Monday June 4th, lines formed as some transgender women and men became the first in the world to judicially change their sex in official documents. The change of one’s name and sex is now allowed without the need for a physical transition, the permission of judges and doctors and without different types of evaluations.
This law suggests a positive change towards the stereotypical and unfair beliefs that transgender women and men are in need of evaluation, control and counseling before being able to judicially change their sex, suggesting that they are not in control of their identity and that they are confused as to who they really are. This law means in some ways that the stereotype and the belief that transgender individuals need to prove their “sanity” is challenged and that individual choices are considered valid and no longer in need of intervention by doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists. It in some ways recognizes that transgender women and men are not suffering from an identity disorder or from body confusion. Instead, this new law is a great recognition of the issues and difficulties that transgender women and men face concerning the right to an identity that they personally recognize and feel fits them. This new law also means that transgender women and men will be officially recognized as the person that they truly consider themselves to be.
Despite the victory for transgender women and men in Argentina, we should not forget that that this law is only available in one country in the world. Also, discrimination and transphobia against transgender women and men is rampant and occurs in society at large as well as in the feminist movement. Discrimination, and accompanying violence, is common in the lives of transgender women and men, as recently demonstrated when a young transgender woman in Minneapolis was brutally attacked after being called transphobic and racist names. The resistance towards transgender women was also demonstrated by the British radical feminist conference RadFem 2012 in which only “ women born women” were allowed to attend, thereby excluding transgender women.
Even though this recent change is a step in the right direction, we need to remember the discrimination and violence that so commonly affect transgender women and men. We do hope, however, that the right for transgender women and men to have their identity recognized in official documents will spread from Argentina to the rest of the world.