Japan approves abortion pills for the first time
+ Mifepristone will remain available in US – for now
The Wrap brings you all the latest news on women’s rights around the world, including:
- 🇺🇬 Donors contributed to anti-LGBT backlash in Uganda without knowing.
- 💜 Uzbekistan and Brazil pass new legislation against gender-based violence.
- 🇮🇹 Contraceptive pills free of charge for people of all ages in Italy.
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Politics and Economics
BRAZIL — Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has signed three significant bills for women’s rights, including a law that establishes that police stations dedicated to dealing with women’s cases should operate 24 hours a day and provide psychological and legal assistance to victims. Lula also enacted a law to prevent and combat sexual harassment, sexual violence and other crimes against sexual dignity. This program will run in public agencies, high schools and universities. The third piece of legislation establishes a gender quota in the national employment system, which will reserve 10% of vacancies for women suffering from domestic violence.
IRAN — Women who are not wearing a hijab will be banned from visiting national museums and historical places in Iran, the country’s head of museums, Morteza Adibzadeh, has ordered. The decision was taken after a picture of unveiled women in Persepolis went viral. Hijabs are compulsory for all women in Iran. Authorities have also installed surveillance cameras in different parts of Tehran to monitor and identify women who are not wearing the veil in an attempt to restrict protests against the compulsory hijab laws. More women have been publicly defying authorities since the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old who was arrested by the Iranian morality police for apparently failing to cover her hair properly, in 2022. Many women have been attacked in public spaces or arrested for defying compulsory hijab laws. Penalties for not wearing the hijab range from fines to two months in prison.
UGANDA — At least $40 million of international aid funding has gone to groups that support the anti-LGBTQIA+ backlash in Uganda, a report from The Institute for Journalism and Social Change has revealed. The investigation – led by Claire Provost and Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah – is based on an in-depth examination of financial records published by aid donors. Through these aid payments, taxpayers from the United States, Canada and the UK, among other countries, have been financially connected to anti-LGBTQIA+ religious groups without knowing it. These groups, including the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda, have been instrumental in supporting a recent anti-gay law that imposes imprisonment or even the death penalty on queer people. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill was passed by parliament in March. In April, President Yoweri Museveni returned the bill to parliament, asking for it to be restricted to criminalising people who have « committed a sexual act with another person of the same sex ». The amendment of the law was passed on May 2, removing the clause that criminalises the mere fact of identifying as gay or trans, as homosexuality is already illegal in the country. It also specifies that the death penalty will apply to people who have same-sex relations with minors or HIV-positive people. Read our interview with activist Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, who is campaigning against the backlash against LGBTQIA+ people in her country.
HUNGARY — Hungary has passed a law that allows anyone to report gay or lesbian couples who have children in their care to authorities. Same-sex marriages are not recognised in the country, and the national constitution states that « a mother is a woman and a father is a man », making it impossible for same-sex couples to adopt children. The new legislation passed by parliament also establishes that children and adolescents must be raised in the sex they are assigned at birth. It’s the latest attack on the LGBTQIA+ community by Viktor Orban’s government. In April last year, a referendum that aimed to approve a set of laws banning talking about homosexuality or gender reassignment in schools was declared invalid.
UNITED STATES — The US Supreme Court has decided that mifepristone, one of two drugs used for medical abortions, must remain available in the country while an appeal against a ban on the pills moves forward. In April, a judge in Texas blocked the legal distribution of mifepristone, while another federal judge in Washington ruled the same day that blocking mifepristone’s distribution nationwide would be “inappropriate”. The sale of abortion pills is permitted in 17 states and the District of Columbia. The Supreme Court must now issue a final ruling in what is the biggest reproductive rights controversy since the overturn of Roe v. Wade, the decision that protected abortion rights in the US. The medical use of mifepristone was first authorised in 2000 by the Food and Drug Administration.
JAPAN — Japan’s ministry of health has approved the use of Mefeego Pack, a drug combination of mifepristone and misoprostol developed by British pharmaceutical company LinePharma. This will be the country’s first abortion pill. Until now, the only legal method for abortions and miscarriages is curettage, which is not recommended by the World Health Organization. Termination of pregnancy is legal in Japan on broad social and economic grounds. However, those seeking an abortion must have consent from their partners. Japan is one of eleven countries worldwide to require third-party consent to perform a legal abortion.
ITALY — The Pricing and Reimbursement Committee of the Italian Medicines Agency has proposed making contraceptive pillsfree of charge for people of all ages. The decision will require the final approval from the agency’s board of directors before coming into force. Currently, Italian women and people who can get pregnant must pay between €9 and €24 for birth control pills. In some regions such as Tuscany or Lazio, contraception methods are already free of charge, but only for under-25s. It is estimated that a budget of €140 million per year will be needed to implement this new regulation.