V Day for Valentines as well as Victory over our own Bodies!- by Surabhi Shrivastava

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Over the past month or so, my phone has been abuzz, almost every day, with Google alerts about news stories related to abortion. Surprisingly, most have been from mainstream (English language) Indian newspapers, either reporting about the filing of court cases by women to secure an abortion beyond the legal limit of 20 weeks, as mandated by the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTP), aka the abortion law in India, or about the court’s decision on these cases.

Although the flurry of such news is an exciting sign of the media’s increasing interest in covering an issue that has long been ignored, most of the reporting still largely focuses on the woman being compelled to approach the court to make a decision pertaining to her own body, usually under an extreme circumstance, thereby leading to a perception that such cases are rare occurrences that are somehow “deserving” of being reported because of their “shock value”.

What’s left out, however, is the broader conversation about the stigma and shame and simply lack of information around abortion. This is what prevents thousands of women from standing up and speaking about a perfectly valid and routine aspect of their healthcare, even when we know that 1 in 3 women will have an abortion in her lifetime.

What’s left out is the explanation of how patriarchal notions and norms around gender and sexuality perpetuate and reinforce the stigma, shame and silence around abortion, thereby making abortion a part of the bigger web of interconnected oppressions that confront women and other minorities day in and day out.

What’s left out is the ridiculousness that women can’t exercise their bodily autonomy, and instead must depend on doctors and judges to make decisions pertaining to their body, sexuality and life.

What’s also left out is that, how, by refusing to trust women to make their own decisions, especially about their bodies and trajectories of their reproductive lives, society repeatedly violates our bodily rights and integrity and undermines our inherent value as people.

Therefore, today, on February 14, as we rise collectively, as part of One Billion Rising, to speak out and demand an end to all forms of violence, be it physical, emotional, economic or sexual violence, we ought to also demand an end to the controls and denials that women continue to face.

We ought to demand an end to the violation they face when they are denied access to safe, legal, available and free abortion services. The violation they face when they are condemned to feel guilty and ashamed for a decision they made, and are “expected” to ask for forgiveness and feel remorseful. The violation they face when a routine healthcare procedure is politicized by those who will never become pregnant.

So, let’s rise!! Let’s demand an end to this!! Let’s re(claim) our bodies and lives!

And, let’s demand unapologetic access to safe, legal, available and free abortion services!

For every woman. Everywhere.

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Dying for Love

There is a whatsapp joke doing the rounds last week—

Valentine died for love, Romeo also died for love, Jack in Titanic died for love, Even Jesus Christ died for love. Where are the women ? Don’t buy any woman a Valentine’s day treat or gift till she gives you names of 5 women who died for love, because no woman would die for love. Wake up Guys !

Seriously ?

Ok, let’s start counting……..

The number of young girls who commit suicide after being jilted by boyfriends and lovers

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/Chennai-tops-the-list-of-failed-love-suicides/articleshow/7350621.cms

The number of wives killed by men having affairs:

The number of women who are burnt to death for dowry and because they don’t leave violent marriages for the love of their children:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Dowry-deaths-One-woman-dies-every-hour/articleshow/22201659.cms

The number killed because they fell in love with someone from the wrong caste/ class/ religion,

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/12/india-sees-huge-spike-honour-killings-161207153333597.html

India has registered an almost 800 percent rise in the number of killings in the name of “honour” reported last year, according to figures presented in parliament.

honor killing

The number of women dying while giving birth : love for their partner, family, society, the human race ?http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/5-women-die-every-hour-during-childbirth-in-India-WHO/articleshow/52781552.cms

The number of women disfigured, blinded, scarred for life due to acid attacks by men:

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/309-acid-attack-cas
es-in-14-300-rise-in-3-yrs/

Acid-Attack

The number of women who carry on in the face of violence till they finally get beaten to death because they don’t leave home for the love of their children:

http://www.newsweek.com/deathly-toll-domestic-violence-india-388125

One woman dies every hour says this article from 2013.

And besides this Last year, over three lakh women were kidnapped, raped, molested—and in some extreme cases, killed—by men across the country.

There are 860 hours in one year. Do the math.

And then bring on the presents for Valentine’s Day and make it big !

Of course, if you are a follower of the Asaram Bapu who raped a 15 year old girl and allegedly sexually assaulted many many more, you are probably celebrating today as Matru Pitru Samman diwas. Wah, kya bat hai !

valentines-day3

https://scroll.in/article/742580/asaram-bapu-rape-case-as-witnesses-die-this-family-is-keeping-its-hopes-for-justice-alive

 

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The time is now! A Call to End Female Genital Mutilation

 

IMG_2154“Sustainable development demands full human rights for all women and girls. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development promises an end to this practice by 2030.”- UN Secretary General

Female Genital Mutilation reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women and girls. The practice also violates their rights to health, security and physical integrity, their right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and their right to life when the procedure results in death.

“There is no developmental, religious or health reason to cut or mutilate any girl or woman.” On 20 December 2012, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution A/RES/67/146 in which it
“Calls upon States, the United Nations system, civil society and all stakeholders to continue to observe 6 February as the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation and to use the day to enhance awareness- raising campaigns and to take concrete actions against female genital mutilations”.

Key Facts:
• Globally, it is estimated that at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of FGM.
• Girls 14 and younger represent 44 million of those who have been cut, with the highest prevalence of FGM among this age in Gambia at 56 per cent, Mauritania 54 per cent and Indonesia where around half of girls aged 11 and younger have undergone the practice.
• Countries with the highest prevalence among girls and women aged 15 to 49 are Somalia 98 per cent, Guinea 97 per cent and Djibouti 93 per cent.
• FGM is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15.
• FGM cause severe bleeding and health issues including cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth increased risk of newborn deaths.
• FGM is a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
• The Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 calls for an end to FGM by 2030 under Goal 5 on Gender Equality, Target 5.3 Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.
• The elimination of FGM has been called for by numerous inter-governmental organizations, including the African Union, the European Union and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, as well as in three resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly.

Putting an end to end to female genital mutilation would require a comprehensive dialogue on sexual and reproductive health from a rights based perspective and realization of bodily autonomy. We believe in the right of women and girls to decide what to do with their bodies. Saying no FGM and saying yes to safe abortion!

References:
http://www.un.org/en/events/femalegenitalmutilationday/

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Don’t have sex if you have a disability?!

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Girls, boys, men, women living with disabilities have sexual desires just like anyone else! But their sexual and reproductive health and rights are often disregarded by society and overlooked by policymakers. It is assumed that they are somehow asexual. Women with disabilities have to bear a double burden of marginalization due to their gender.

And just as ‘women’ are a heterogenous group, so are ‘disabilities’. The multiple layers of vulnerabilities that exist within the community also need to be recognized.

Of the 7 billion humans on this planet, nearly 1 billion live with some disability. [1]Of these, 80% live in developing countries- 19% of women and 12% of men. People with a disability face many obstacles in their physical and social environments that prevent then from fully excising their rights and participating in social, cultural and professional life as well as fulfilling their true potential.

Women with disabilities may not be able to access the services they need for a number of reasons including lack of awareness, stigma, discrimination, physical barriers, lack of information, providers attitude, lack of services at public sector etc. Women and girls with disabilities are at higher risk of sexual abuse and violence, as they may be physically or financially dependent on their abuser.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities calls for an inclusive approach and underscores the need for including persons with disabilities at all stages of decision- making, policy planning and implementation.

In order to invest in the capacity building of young leaders from within their community who can advocate for such rights, the National Forum for Women With Disabilities (NFFWDs), Pakistan and Asia Safe Abortion Partnership (ASAP) partnered to initiate and launch a project.

This will not just educate WWDs about safe abortion, reproductive rights and healthy sex life but also train them to become peer educators for the disabled and non-disabled women in their community.

– See more at: http://asap-asia.org/blog/3111/#sthash.w2ovphEQ.dpuf

Watch Video here: https://youtu.be/PTFUERGrlv0

 

Reference:

http://www.who.int/disabilities/world_report/2011/report.pdf

 

 

[1] [1] http://www.who.int/disabilities/world_report/2011/report.pdf

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The Best and Worst of 2016

2016 has been a pivotal year for reproductive rights for reasons both good and bad………..and as we bid adieu to this rollercoaster ride of a year let us pause and reflect on all that we have achieved and start looking forward to the year that will be.

The Best of 2016

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1. Polish abortion law protesters march against proposed restrictions
Woman power rocked Poland when one of the biggest marches in history took place on Black Friday. Protesters took to streets across Poland to oppose the proposal to ban abortions in almost all circumstances.

2. The Year Abortion Was Destigmatized On TV
Four shows debuted which normalized, and even had humorous abortion plotlines in 2016, making it a landmark year. Black Horseman, Jane the Virgin, You’re the Worst, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend all featured abortions that were not framed as tragic endings, but rather as hopeful beginnings

abortiondrone3

3. Abortion drone Ireland: Abortion pills everywhere!
On June 21st an Abortion Drone flew from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland at Narrow Waters Castle. After the drone landed safely two women took the pills. At the same time Women on Waves employed a RC speedboat to send over more pills for the women. Making abortion illegal will not keep women from accessing abortion pills, by ship, by mail, through the internet, drone or RC speedboat!

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4. Let’s Talk About Abortion
ASAP launched a month long Film festival commemorating Sept 28th. The overall objective was to create awareness around the issue of abortion access and stigma in general and to give space to voices of youth from Asia in particular. The intention was to increase the visibility and encourage dialogue on women’s bodily autonomy and rights. Watch the film here- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8i2qvGrtIU

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5. Abortion is on the Agenda at Women Deliver: ‘Elephant in the Room’
The “Women Deliver” conference, a major recurring global gathering on reproductive and sexual health, has been criticized in the past for tiptoeing around the issue of abortion. Not so this year. At the conference this year, organizers are included a session called “The Elephant in the Room: What About Abortion?”

Before we set to welcome 2016 here’s what went really wrong and why we should be prepared for challenging times ahead. These are issues affecting not just abortion but shows a closing of spaces for dissent and diversity and an increased intolerance of a different voice. This environment makes it even more difficult and challenging to speak up for a woman’s right to take decisions over her own body.

The Worst of 2016
1. Abortion is ‘murder,’ says Turkey’s PM
Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday he considered abortion as “murder.” “I am a prime minister who is against Caesarean births. I consider abortion as murder,” Erdogan was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency.

2. Qandeel Baloch, a self- proclaimed feminist from Pakistan is killed by her own brother. She was bold, she was out there and she challenged society’s hypocrisy. In one of her last posts, Qandeel said: “As women we must stand up for ourselves. As women we must stand up for justice. I believe I am a modern day feminist… I am just a women with free thoughts free mindset and I LOVE THE WAY I AM.” http://images.dawn.com/news/1175827

3. After a long struggle to regulate surrogacy in India, the government passed a law which is unfortunate in that it reinforces the need for others to decide what a woman should or should not do with her body! It justifies more control rather than less, it denies parenthood to single persons, gay and lesbians. http://feminisminindia.com/2016/08/31/critical-analysis-surrogacy-regulation-bill-2016/

4. Bangladesh has become a dangerous place for anyone who dares to cross an invisible line set by Islamic extremists intent on silencing dissenting voices with knives and guns. In the last two years, at least eight atheists and gay rights campaigners have been killed in attacks in the majority Muslim country. http://edition.cnn.com/2016/04/28/opinions/bangladeshi-bloggers-opinion/

rio-sexism
5. And now for the big one. The Olympian sexist milestone that was created by the media, where women athletes, winners all, were denigrated, insulted and generally considered as inferior to all the men, even when they were breaking world records for both sexes! Here is a compilation of almost every reported sexist incident. Brace yourself and read on: http://fusion.net/story/338501/sexism-olympics-rio-simone-biles/

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