Welcome to The Wrap, a monthly round-up of news on women’s and LGBTQIA+ rights around the world by the Impact newsletter. This month:
- 🇹🇼 Taiwan’s big #MeToo moment.
- 🇪🇪 Estonia legalises same-sex marriage and adoptions.
- 🇧🇷 Brazil will distribute free sanitary pads.
Read on for more. And if you want to be up-to-date on feminism worldwide, follow us on LinkedIn.
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Politics and Economics
TAIWAN — A massive #MeToo movement is sweeping Taiwan after a popular Netflix series spurred more than 100 survivors of sexual assault to come forward with their experiences. The drama “Wave Makers” features a storyline about a political staffer who reports being sexually harassed by a party member. “Let’s not just let this go this time,” her colleague tells her. After the series went to air, allegations of sexual misconduct within President Tsai Ing-wen’s governing Democratic Progressive Party began to surface. The president has said she bears full responsibility for the incidents that occurred within her party. Since then, similar allegations have been made against high-profile men in academia, diplomacy, entertainment and the media.
SUDAN — Members of the warring Sudan army and the Rapid Support Forces have committed numerous acts of sexual violence during the conflict that erupted on April 15. The UN Human Rights Office has received 12 reports of sexual violence related to the conflict involving at least 37 women, “although the number could be higher”, a spokesperson stated. The government’s Combating Violence Against Women Unit has recorded at least 49 sexual assaults and rapes in Khartoum and Darfur. Meanwhile, a third of the 260,000 pregnant women in the country are expected to give birth in a violent, fearful and chaotic context, the UNFPA has warned. Twenty-eight hospitals, including maternity hospitals in Khartoum, have been attacked, with many suspending obstetrics and neonatal services due to fuel shortages and power cuts. The Sudanese conflict is believed to have killed more than 1,000 people, and displaced over 1.4 million, leaving much of the population without access to health care, water or basic supplies.
AFGHANISTAN — Close to 80 school students have been poisoned in Afghanistan, with girls the main victims. The poison attacks occurred in two schools in the Sangcharak district. Police reported the children suffered dizziness, headache and nausea, and had to be hospitalised. The attack recalls similar attacks in Iran, where more than 1,000 girls are suspected to have been poisoned by toxic gas since November. Since the Taliban returned to power in August 2021, girls have been barred from secondary and university education in Afghanistan. They can only attend classes up to the sixth grade, meaning that 80% of Afghan girls over 12 and young women – 2.5 million people – are out of school.
ICELAND — Iceland’s parliament has passed a law banning so-called conversion therapy based on sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity. The bill, introduced by reformist deputy Hanna Katrín Friðriksson, was supported by 53 representatives with only three abstentions. Conversion therapy refers to any sustained effort to change people’s sexual orientation; to prevent trans people from transitioning or make them de-transition; or to eliminate any non-binary gender expression. Iceland has followed Cyprus to become the latest country to make such practices illegal.
ITALY — A prosecutor in Italy has demanded that 33 birth certificates of children born to lesbian couples be changed to remove the names of the non-biological mothers. It is expected that a court will rule on Valeria Sanzari’s request later this year. Italian parliament legalised same-sex civil unions in 2016, but adoption rights for gay or lesbian couples were not granted. Since then, several court rulings or major regulations have allowed for the registration of births to both partners from same-sex unions. Sanzari’s request applies to children of lesbian parents born in Padua, northern Italy, since 2017. In March, far-right prime minister Giorgia Meloni ordered city councils to stop registering the births of children with same-sex parents.
ESTONIA — Estonia’s parliament has amended its Family Law Act legalising same-sex marriage, and allowing same-sex couples to adopt children jointly. The country is the first former Soviet republic and also the first Baltic nation to do so. According to the amended law, marriage is no longer a contract between a man and a woman, but between « two natural persons ». Passed during Pride month, the bill received 55 votes in favour, and 34 against. Same-sex civil unions have been legal in the country since 2014, and a single gay, lesbian and bisexual person could adopt a child. But a same-sex partner wouldn’t be recognised as a legal parent. The law will come into effect on January 1, 2024.
KENYA — Two Kenyan deputies have introduced a bill that would criminalise LGBTQIA+ people in Kenya, a law that if passed could follow in Uganda’s footsteps. The Family Protection Bill has many points in common with the notorious anti-LGBT law passed in Uganda in May, according to a draft accessed by Reuters news agency. One of them is to penalise gay sex with at least ten years in prison. It also gives death penalty to “aggravated homosexuality”, which is to have sex with an underage or disabled person or to spread a terminal sexual disease. Under the current legislation, gay sex is illegal in Kenya.
UK — A 44-year-old woman in the UK has been found guilty of having a medical abortion after the legal time limit and sentenced to 28 months in prison. Health care providers, human rights defenders and members of parliament have criticised the judge’s decision. The woman asked for a remote consultation to get the pills by post, a scheme introduced during the COVID-19 lockdown that allowed terminations at home up to 10 weeks of pregnancy. However, the woman was in her third trimester when she took them. The woman already has three children. In the UK, abortion is permitted up to 24 weeks. After the legal limit, a termination is considered a criminal act. The British Pregnancy Advisory Service has warned the number of people investigated under the current abortion laws has risen in the past ten years.
POLAND — A nationwide protest against Poland’s near-total abortion ban took place in June, after a pregnant woman died of sepsis. Protest signs read “Stop killing us” and « Not one more”. Dorota Lalik, 33, arrived at a hospital in Nowy Targ, a town in southern Poland, after her waters broke at five months. But doctors refused to provide her a life-saving abortion, and she died three days later, on May 24. Polish health authorities admitted that her rights were violated, and appointed a team to issue more detailed guidelines on pregnancy termination. The country’s restrictive abortion law allows terminations in cases of rape, incest or risk to the patient’s life. But doctors often refuse to perform abortions as they may face jail if they are accused of not complying with the law. On June 8, the European Court of Human Rights declared inadmissible a case presented by eight Polish women who claimed their human rights were violated by Poland’s ban on abortion in cases of foetal abnormalities in January 2021.
US — New York State’s legislature has passed a protection law for telehealth medical abortion providers, which will ease access to abortion in states where the procedure has been banned. Under the bill, New York state courts and officials won’t cooperate if a doctor is prosecuted for prescribing abortion pills through a telehealth appointment to an out-of-state patient, as long as the provider complies with local state law. New York state guarantees the right to abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. The bill was signed on June 23 by democrat governor and abortion supporter Kathy Hochul.
MALTA — Malta will ease its total abortion ban, but only to allow the procedure in cases of risk to a patient’s life. The new law is a watered-down version of an original proposal, in which doctors would also be allowed to provide abortion care in cases of risk to the patient’s health. But the bill was modified after anti-abortion protests. Malta was the only European Union country to prohibit termination of pregnancy under all circumstances. It is estimated that 400 people per year in Malta have self-managed medical abortions at home using pills ordered online. In early June, a woman was charged in court for having an abortion and given a conditional discharge for three years. Last year, American tourist Andrea Prudente suffered a miscarriage and had to be evacuated to Spain to have a life-saving abortion after local doctors refused to carry out the procedure.
BRAZIL — The Brazilian government has launched its Menstrual Health and Dignity Protection and Promotion Program, which includes the distribution of free sanitary pads. The sanitary products will be provided in primary health care centres, public schools and prisons. There will also be public campaigns to raise awareness about menstrual dignity, and to fight misinformation. It is estimated that 24 million women and people who menstruate will benefit from this program. On July 3, Lula Da Silva also signed into law an equal pay bill that was approved by Congress in early June. Brazilian women earn 22% less than men for the same job position.
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