April 11, 2022
Gender-neutral passports in the US, Afghanistan’s school ban and more HPV vaccines in Japan
By Agustina Ordoqui
POLAND: Justyna Wydrzyńska is the first pro-choice activist in Poland to be charged with helping a woman have an abortion. Wydrzyńska, an activist from the group Aborcyjny Dream Team, provided abortion medication to a women who was 12 weeks pregnant and experiencing domestic violence. The woman had previously tried to travel to Germany for the procedure but her husband had prevented her from doing so. Wydrzyńska could be sentenced to up to three years in prison if found guilty. Abortion in Poland is limited to cases of rape, incest or risk to the life of the pregnant person. Abortion in cases of foetal abnormality was banned in January 2021.
JAPAN: Japan has resumed promoting the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for girls aged 12-16. HPV is a leading cause of cervical cancer, which kills nearly 3,000 people a year in Japan. Health authorities stopped recommending the vaccine in 2013 due to “adverse effects » which were later found to be unrelated. Women aged between 17 and 25 will also be offered the vaccine, having previously gone unvaccinated because of the suspension. A study published in The Lancet in 2020 estimated that the lack of HPV vaccination in Japan between 2013 and 2019 will lead to 25,000 cases of cervical cancer and more than 5,700 associated deaths, all of them preventable.
KENYA: The High Court in Malindi, a town in southeastern Kenya, has dismissed all charges against a girl who sought abortion care and the doctor who assisted her. Judge Reuben Nyakundi ruled that the Constitution guarantees comprehensive access to medical care and asked parliament to work on an abortion law that reflects this. Termination of pregnancy in Kenya is only permitted at the request of health practitioner and in cases of threat to life or rape. The Malindi case sets a precedent for reproductve rights in a country where it is estimated that half of all pregnancies are unwanted and 2,600 women and girls die each year from unsafe abortions.
US: The governor of Arizona has signed a bill banning abortion at 15 weeks in almost all circumstances, except for in medical emergencies. Doctors who perform abortions risk prosecution and the suspension of their medical license under the bill. Kentucky’s house of representatives has approved similar legislation, but it has yet to be signed by the state governor.
US: On Transgender Day of Visibility, US President Joe Biden announced the introduction of gender-neutral passport options. The ‘X’ gender option will now be added to ‘M’ and ‘F’ on passports and airport forms. Biden also announced that airport screening procedures would become less intrusive for trans travellers. In Florida, however, Governor Ron DeSantis passed the so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law, which will ban the teaching of topics related to sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergartens and elementary schools up to third grade. LGBTQIA+ rights activist groups have sued DeSantis, claiming the law marginalises their community and families.
HUNGARY: Ultra-conservative Viktor Orban has won a fourth term as Hungarian prime minister, with his party gaining 53% of the vote. However his plan to further restrict LGBTQIA+ rights has hit a setback. Hungarians were also asked to vote in a referendum on an anti-LGBTQIA+ law purported to “protect children”. Voters were asked wehether they agreed with school sex education programmes that address gay and lesbian relationships, the promotion of gender transition treatment for minors, the appearance of LGBTQIA+ people in media and advertising, and children being allowed to view “media content of a sexual nature”. The referendum was declared invalid after it failed to attract more than half of Hungarian voters, yet 90% of those who voted did so in favour of the proposed policies.
QATAR: The rainbow flag could be confiscated from fans during the World Cup in Qatar, according to Major General Abdulaziz Abdullah Al Ansari, who oversees security for the tournament. The World Cup will be played from November 21 to December 18 in a country where gay relationships are criminalised and transitioning gender is not legal. Al Ansari said the flags could be removed to “protect” fans from being attacked by other supporters. He said same-sex couples would be welcome, but « for their safety » they will not be able to « promote » symbols of LGBTQIA+ rights.
GUATEMALA: A bill that increased the prison sentence for having an abortion from three to ten years has been withdrawn in Guatemala after strong criticism from feminist and human rights organisations and a request from the president, Alejandro Giammattei. The law was passed on International Women’s Day, but dropped one week later. Abortion is only permitted in cases of risk to life of the pregnant person. The ‘Life and Family Protection Law’ also explicitly prohibited same-sex marriage and access to sex education in schools. At least 32 LGBTQIA+ people were killed as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity in 2021, while nine other murders have been reported so far in 2022.
AFGHANISTAN: Girls have once again been barred from going to secondary school in Afghanistan, despite the Taliban regime’s pledge that they would be able to attend from March 23. Many girls were turned away at school gates after the Taliban announced late on Tuesday that the ban would not be lifted. The authorities said classrooms would remain closed until school uniforms have been designed in accordance with Sharia guidelines. A demonstration against the ban took place on March 26 in Kabul, despite the fear of reprisal. The Taliban regime has also banned women from travelling alone on aeroplanes: from now on they must be accompanied by a male relative.
ARGENTINA: Companies with more than 100 employees must provide care facilities for children between 45 days and three years old under a new law passed by the Argentinian government. The legislation, published on March 22 is designed to contribute to more equitable work-life balance. « Care work is part of the core of inequality in Argentina. Care policies are central for mothers and fathers to be able to work and for those who work while caring, » said Pamela Ares, from the country’s labour ministry.
INDONESIA: In March, the Indonesian house of representatives began debating a bill which is expected to provide a legal framework to set out the types of criminal acts of sexual violence. The government is also preparing a decree to prevent cases of sexual abuse and violence in the workplace, announced Labour Minister Ida Fauziyah. Separately, the National Commission on Violence Against Women has asked the Supreme Court to reject an attempt to change state guidelines on consent and sexual violence on university campuses.
This issue of Impact was prepared by Agustina Ordoqui, Heloísa Marques, Megan Clement and Steph Williamson.
Impact is financed by the New Venture Fund.
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