Alabama’s Ban on Abortion

Right after the Me Too movement had a global impact, the anti-abortion laws in America recently has taken the world by storm. Abortion has been legal in America since the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling provided access to safe and legal abortions as a constitutional right. Right from the beginning, anti-abortions groups have continuously attempted to undermine this ruling. In light of this, following Georgia, Ohio, Mississippi and Kentucky, the near total ban in Alabama has been the most extreme and sweeping law that has been passed in recent memory. Challenging the constitution, anti-abortion politicians have, once again, highlighted how women are undermined and not even included in the policy making decisions, especially when the law is about the bodies of the women.

The law not only bans all abortion, at any stage of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape, incest or fetal viability, this would also see doctors who perform an abortion facing up to 99 years in prison. Fact; THIS IS 89 MORE YEARS THAN SOMEONE CONVICTED OF RAPE.

There’s also the fact that even though abortions are supposed to be safe and legal, accessibility wise abortions clinics have been decreasing and in anti-choice states they are often not even covered by state or private health insurance.

The proposition of this bill had more than 500 #StopTheBans demonstrations spearheaded by several abortion rights groups and liberal organizations including American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Women’s March, Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL). Taking the streets with slogans screaming “Abortion is healthcare. Abortion is a right.” The fact that 25 men decided that they can make a law that directly questions not only the democratic rights of the women, but also questions their own understanding of their biology and strips them off planned parenthood entirely, is what the people have been protesting against. Feminists all over the world were shocked and outraged by this war on women using myths like women are aware of pregnancy within a month as foundation to pass policies that forbids abortion after the heartbeat is detected after the first six weeks of pregnancy. Reading this bill from a pro-choice ideology, to bass an extremist law that strips the women of choice even when there is evidence of rape or incest, it has reached a point where abortion is okay only if it threatens to kill her.

Protestors participate in a rally on May 19, 2019 in Montgomery, Alabama. (Photo: Getty Images)

Dr. Shashi Tharoor’s proposed Women’s Rights Bill: What and How

In an unprecedented move, Dr. Shashi Tharoor recently tabled a private bill in Lok Sabha titled Women’s Sexual, Reproductive and Menstrual Rights Bill 2018 and recommended more freedom for women with respect to their “inherent right to their sexual and reproductive choices.”

Not only is this a bold move, but also of utmost importance because it creates space and possibility to finally come out and address issues like female sexuality and desire, reproduction by choice and menstrual issues. India has never really been so openly vocal about any of these, especially in terms of creating a discourse from the female perspective.

Dr. Tharoor explained the importance of the Bill while introducing it in the Lok Sabha stating, “the existing laws fail to recognise ‘woman’ as an individual capable of making her own choices, specifically her sexual choices as a wife and her reproductive choices when pregnant.” For the first time in the history of Indian politics, Dr. Shashi Tharoor visibilized the existence of rape within marriage.

Sexual Rights in the Bill:

  • The Bill proposes the deletion of Exception 2 to Section 375 of Indian Penal Code, which states that sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife is not rape. In the past few years, we have seen this law fail to protect victims of marital rape. Dr. Tharoor’s Bill highlights the importance of consent even if the relationship is legally binding and the woman is of age.
  • Additionally, it was specified that under Explanation 2 of Section 375 of Indian Penal Code such as “the women’s ethnicity, religion, caste, education, profession, clothing preference, entertainment preference, social circle, personal opinion, past sexual conduct or any other related grounds shall not be a reason to presume her consent to the sexual activity.”, propagating a shift from the masculine understanding of ‘no means yes’ and ‘yes means yes’ ideology.

Reproductive Rights in the Bill:

  • The Bill proposes that instead of being called the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971, it should now be known as Legal Termination of Pregnancy Act so there is no mistake of understanding that the woman herself holds autonomy over her body and decisions related to her body.
  • The Bill also advocates an intense study and removal of any ambiguities so that medical practitioners in rural areas especially do not feel unsafe and in fear of criminalization because of Section 312 of the Indian Penal Code that penalizes anyone, even the mother herself, for voluntarily terminating pregnancies.
  • After discussing several possible amendments about the right to abortion in the bill, what is highlighted is that until the 12th week a woman is to be given absolute right to terminate if they wish. Additionally, conditional termination of pregnancy should be avaible to women until he 20th week of their pregnancy.
  • Though the Bill still retains that if a Medical Practitioner recommends termination due to any risk for the mother, the Bill is a huge win for feminists in India because it doesn’t trivialize their choice of either not giving birth or planned parenthood.

Menstrual Rights in the Bill:

  • Statistics show that only 18% women in India have access to sanitary hygiene. An amendment to Right to Education Act was also proposed to make free distribution of sanitary napkins to girl students in schools and colleges and ensure that their health is not being compromised.
  • Further, the Bill also proposes that every public institutions should ensure adequate supply, storage and distribution of sanitary products to be given free of costs.

Dr. Tharoor’s Bill is laudable not just because it breaks the taboo that outnumbers health, choice and priorities and trivializes issues that women face when they are prematurely forced into pregnancy, when they do not have access to sanitary necessities and where their consent is always labeled dubious. It is necessary for the welfare state to provide not only basic resources but also to incorporate knowledge, agenda and concerns of the other sex.

As a first step towards realizing women’s rights and respecting the their choice regarding sexual intercourse, menstrual health and unplanned or forced pregnancies, the Bill raises a strong voice in favor of women’s sexual autonomy, menstrual hygiene and abortion rights.

The Disaster of Denmark

With the vision that the world has of Denmark, it comes as a surprise that only one is six Danes consider themselves to be ‘feminists’. This was announced as a result of a poll conducted by YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project of more than 25,000 people in 23 major countries, targeting Denmark as one of the candidates because of its narrow gender pay gap, equal employment rights, and universal nursery care.
In a global survey of attitudes of gender, equal rights for both men and women and the importance and wide-spread reach of the #MeToo movement to come out and encourage women to share their voice and stories of harassment, that Denmark is one of the least feminist countries in the world.

This project was conducted three years after the country’s equality minister and member of the party Venstre, Karen Ellemann, said she did not consider herself to be a feminist. The project also found that only two out of five Danes supported the #MeToo movement and only 4% of men and 8% of women questioned in the survey had a ‘favorable’ view of the #MeToo movement. Some even raised challenges like they believed #MeToo would make men feel constrained in their relationships with women. Sara Phil was noted saying “I think some men are afraid of talking to women at work, in case they get accused of something.”

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Breaking taboos, a film based on menstruation has just won an Oscar

Breaking taboos, a film based on menstruation has just won an Oscar. Period. End of Sentence, a documentary that tackles the stigma around menstruation in rural India, is available on Netflix.

The 26-minute film revolves around a group of women who use a new machine in order to create low-cost sanitary pads so that women in their village can be financial independent and at the same time improve their feminine hygiene.

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