Ohio loves abortion rights
+ Gaza’s humanitarian crisis mostly hits women and children
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:
- 🇮🇳 India’s top court declines to legalise same-sex marriage
- 🇦🇷 Argentina passes law on digital violence
- 🇮🇷 Mahsa Amini and Iranian women win the 2023 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought
🎉 VICTORY OF THE MONTH 🎉
US — The people of Ohio have voted in favour of an amendment enshrining reproductive rights in the state constitution. The ballot measure, issue 1, won 57% of the vote in general elections on November 7. It establishes a state constitutional right to « make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions, » regarding abortion, contraception, fertility treatment, miscarriage care, and continuing pregnancy. The amendment will come into effect on December 7. Also on November 7, a Republican proposal to restrict abortion up to 15 weeks of pregnancy was defeated in Virginia elections, while Gov. Andy Beshear, who campaigned on legal abortion, was reelected in Kentucky. Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the ruling that legalised abortion nationwide for nearly 50 years, several states such as Texas and South Carolina have restricted abortion rights, but others have moved to protect them.
Politics and Economics
ICELAND — More than 100,000 women and non-binary people in Iceland – 27% of the population – went on a nationwide strike to protest gender inequality. Workers in sectors such as the fishing industry, nursing and education as well as those who did unpaid domestic labour stopped work on October 24 to raise awareness about the gender pay gap and gender-based violence in the country. The strike was joined by prime minister Katrin Jakobsdottir, who has publicly stated her intention to close Iceland’s gender gap. Last time Icelandic women went on strike for equal pay, 48 years ago during the so-called « kvennafrí » (women’s day off). Despite being the top-ranked country in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2023, Iceland’s position has slipped to 14th in terms of economic participation and opportunity, and the gender parity score has suffered setbacks since 2021. One in four Icelandic women have experienced rape or attempted rape, and two in five have been subjected to physical or sexual violence
GAZA — Women and girls are severely affected by the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, with an estimated 493,000 displaced from their homes, Nadja Media reports. As the Israeli government has blocked basic services, 50,000 pregnant women and girls may not receive prenatal care and many will have to give birth without electricity and medical supplies. The lack of water also affects the ability to feed babies or manage menstrual hygiene, while 130 newborns are in incubators that require energy. Although there is no official information on sexual violence, human rights organisations noted that women and girls are particularly at risk, with no access to emergency contraception or treatment. Israel launched its attacks after Hamas perpetrated the worst massacre of civilians in Israel’s history, invading several cities on October 7. The terrorists killed 1,400 people, and took more than 230 hostages. The Israeli offensive has killed more than 11,000 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and children, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry.
ARGENTINA — The Argentine Congress has passed a law that incorporates digital violence, including revenge porn and online harassment, into its national gender-based violence legislation. The new law states that any sexual or violent content must be removed from digital platforms at the request of a court. Courts can also order a perpetrator to immediately halt any violent or intimidating conduct against a victim who comes forward with a complaint. A second bill, which is pending approval, would incorporate digital violence in the country’s penal code. The so-called Olimpia Law pays tribute to Olimpia Coral Melo, a young Mexican activist who fought for digital violence to be recognised in Mexican law after sexual images of her were published and shared without her consent in 2014. She succeeded in 2021, and her work inspired the new law in Argentina, creating a bridge between Latin America’s northernmost and southernmost countries.
IRAN — The European Parliament awarded the 2023 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Mahsa Amini and the Woman, life, freedom movement in Iran. According to the parliament’s president, Roberta Metsola, the prize is a recognition of Iranian women who defy the theocratic regime by demanding equality, dignity and freedom. The award came just a few days after the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to jailed Iranian activist Narges Mohammadi. Mahsa Amini died a year ago in the custody of Iran’s « morality police » for apparently failing to comply with compulsory hijab laws. Early this month, the morality police were involved in another violent episode when 16-year-old Armita Geravand collapsed in the Tehran metro. Activists have accused the authorities of beating the teenager for not wearing the hijab. The girl died on October 28. Meanwhile, two female journalists who covered the protests against the theocratic regime were sentenced to ten years in jail. Elaheh Mohammadi and Niloufar Hamedi were both found guilty of conspiracy, spreading propaganda against state security, and collaborating with the US.
CHINA — President Xi Jinping has said a « new culture » of marriage and childbearing should be promoted among women to address China’s declining population growth rate. During the opening speech of the All China Women’s Federation, Xi said it was also important to change young people’s views on « marriage, fertility and family ». The president’s words could further entrench discrimination in a country where women’s political representation is less than 30%, with no woman serving at the executive level, and where the feminists who started the Chinese #MeToo movement are jailed. China abandoned its one-child policy in 2015 to encourage people to have more children, but last year the population fell for the first time since the 1960s.
FRANCE — In a new survey commissioned by the Les Glorieuses newsletter, the opinion polling company Ifop found that 41% of French women had experienced at least one form of economic violence in their lifetimes, while 23% experienced it at the hands of their current partner. A report by Surviving Economic Abuse found that half the world’s countries lack any form of policy on economic abuse within relationships, leaving almost 1.4 billion women worldwide with no protection. Gloria Media launched an awareness-raising campaign about this little understood form of domestic violence as part of Les Glorieuses’ annual equal pay movement. Read our latest newsletter on economic abuse — the hidden side of domestic violence.
UK — An investigation by the UK media outlet Tortoise Media has revealed that British police ordered mass spectrometry tests on forensic reports in order to detect the presence of the abortion pills mifepristone and misoprostol in the urine, blood and placenta of women investigated for suspected late-term medical abortions. Tortoise also found other reports requesting « data related to menstruation tracking applications » within a police investigation. Such investigations have reportedly been going on for three years, since the scheme to obtain abortion pills by post was introduced during the Covid-19 lockdown. They involve women who have had miscarriages, including those who have suffered the loss of a wanted pregnancy. In the UK, abortion is permitted for up to 24 weeks, but home terminations are allowed up to ten weeks. A termination is considered a criminal act outside these limits. Earlier this year, Carla Foster, 44, was found guilty of having an abortion in the third trimester of pregnancy, although her sentence was later reduced and she was released.
INDIA — India’s supreme court has declined to legalise same-sex marriage, claiming it lacks the authority to do so, since the Constitution does not provide for marriage as a fundamental right. According to the verdict of the five-judge constitutional bench, it is the obligation of parliament or state legislatures to recognise same-sex marriage and protect LGBTQIA+ couples from discrimination. Hearings to legalise same-sex unions began this year, following several requests from LGBT couples to have the same rights as other citizens including marriage, adoption, insurance and inheritance. The Indian government has been openly opposed to extending marriage rights to same-sex couples. Currently, there are specific marriage rules for each religion practised in the country. In 2018, a colonial law criminalising gay sex was abolished, and last year rights such as shared social security benefits were formally recognised for same-sex couples.
JAPAN — Japan’s supreme court has ruled that a law which forced trans people to undergo sterilisation surgery in order to obtain a legal gender reassignment recognition is unconstitutional, arguing it was a « significant limitation of freedom ». Until now, a person who wanted to be recognised in their authentic gender had to undergo psychiatric evaluation and be surgically sterilised. The outdated law also stipulated that people who were married or had minor children could not change their gender identity. The supreme court has asked a lower court to review the legal requirement to “have a physical form that is endowed with genitalia that closely resemble the physical form of an alternative gender”, a provision which is included in the controversial Gender Identity Disorder Special Cases Act.