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The women who no longer need to take their husband’s names

+ Kenya protests against femicide

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:

  • 🇬🇷 Greece launches parliamentary debate on legalising same-sex marriage
  • 🇵🇱 Poland moves towards liberalising abortion law
  • 🇱🇻 Latvia ratifies the Istanbul Convention

Read on for more. And if you want to be up-to-date on feminism worldwide, follow us on LinkedIn or Instagram.

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TURKEY — A ruling came into effect on January 28 annulling article 187 of the Turkish civil code, which obliged women to replace their surnames with their husbands’ after marriage, or to submit a written application refusing to do so. In April last year, the Constitutional Court declared the article null and void for violating the constitution’s principle of equality. Parliament had nine months to rewrite the article. Although this has not yet been done, Turkish women can now ipso facto claim that their surname should not be changed upon marriage.

Politics and Economics

GAZA — Women and children have accounted for nearly 70% of deaths in Gaza since the escalation of the Israel-Hamas conflict on October 7, according to a report from UN Women released in January. More than 27,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli assaults on Gaza, with more than 1.9 million people displaced. The entire population of Gaza faces food insecurity, with pregnant and lactating women at an even higher level of risk of malnutrition. The only functioning maternity hospital in northern Gaza was expected to run out of energy last month due to difficulties in delivering fuel, and it is reported that many women are giving birth without anaesthetic nor with access to clean water to wash the newborns.

FRANCE — France’s National Assembly has passed a motion that would enshrine abortion rights in the constitution with 493 votes for and 30 against. The proposed constitutional amendment reads: “The law determines the conditions under which a woman’s guaranteed freedom to seek an abortion is exercised”. The text will now have to be approved by the Senate before being voted on in a special meeting of both houses of parliament, at which it will require a three-fifths majority to pass. Read editor Megan Clement’s article on how France has a chance to make abortion history with this constitutional reform.

Gender-based violence

KENYA — On January 27, thousands of people marched against sexual and gender-based violence across Kenya as the number of femicides in the country continues to rise. Activists are calling for the government to declare femicide a national emergency. Protesters carried signs reading « Stop killing us! », « We are human beings not animals » and « There is no justification to kill women » during the anti-femicide demonstrations, considered the largest in the country’s history. Many demonstrators also wore T-shirts bearing the names of victims. The NGO Femicide Count Kenya registered 150 killings last year, the highest number in the last five years. Since the beginning of 2024, at least 28 killings have been recorded, including the case of a university student who was murdered in a short-term rental apartment in Nairobi.

LATVIA — Latvia has ratified the Istanbul Convention on preventing violence against women and girls. The decision will enter into force in Latvia on May 1, 2024, bringing the total number of EU member states that have signed the document to 22 out of 27. The remaining EU countries that haven’t signed the convention, which provides a framework on how to achieve gender equality, are Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania and the Slovak Republic. There are 45 signatories in total worldwide. Ironically, in 2021, Turkey became the only country to withdraw from the convention, which was drafted in Istanbul and bears the city’s name.

LGBTQIA+ People’s Rights

GREECE — The Greek government has introduced a bill to legalise same-sex civil marriage, which has received widespread support during discussions at the committee level. A vote is expected to take place by mid-February. Given prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ centre-right party majority and wide support from leftist parties, it is likely that the legislation will pass. The bill allows for the adoption of children by gay and lesbian couples, but not access to surrogacy. Same-sex marriage recognition will be a historic moment for Greece, making it the first Orthodox-majority country to do so.

Reproductive Rights

ANDORRA — Abortion activist Vanessa Mendoza Cortés has been acquitted of all charges, after being accused of committing a crime “against the prestige of institutions”. The president of the NGO Stop Violències criticised the Andorran government while presenting a report on women’s rights in her country to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 2019. Abortion is banned in all circumstances in the tiny principality, forcing women and girls to travel to Spain or France in order to have the procedure. In a joint public statement, Amnesty International, the Centre for Reproductive Rights, Women’s Link Worldwide and Front Line Defenders all welcomed the decision and reminded the authorities that Mendoza Cortés “should face no further intimidation or reprisals for carrying out her important and legitimate human rights work”.

IRELAND — The Republic of Ireland’s free contraception programme has been expanded to include 31 year olds. The scheme, launched in 2022, offered free contraception to women, girls and people who identify as transgender or non-binary initially aged 17 to 25, but this limit has been progressively extended. In addition to providing contraceptive pills, injections, implants and morning-after pills, the programme covers general practitioners or doctor’s appointments related to sexual and reproductive health. Around 2,400 general practitioners and health centres participate in the scheme along with 2,000 community pharmacies.

POLAND — Access to abortion could become easier in Poland, after it was all but banned by the previous conservative Law and Justice party government. The new Polish Health minister, Izabela Leszczyna, announced in January that she will cut public funding to hospitals that refuse to perform abortions in cases of rape, incest or risk to the patient’s life, which are allowed under the current legislation but rarely performed. The Tusk administration has also introduced a bill that would legalise terminations on demand up to 12 weeks’ pregnancy, and ease access to emergency contraceptives from the age of 15 without a doctor’s prescription, re-establishing a right that was withdrawn in 2017.

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