Global Roundup: Decriminalizing Abortion in Veracruz, Myanmar’s Garment Workers, Compensating Caregivers in Argentina, India Trans-Led Healthcare Clinics, Women Appointed to 2 Holy Mosques Management

Compiled by Inaara Merani

Women hold green handkerchiefs during a protest in support of legal and safe abortions in Mexico City on February 19, 2020. Edgar Garrido/Reuters. (NBC News)

The state of Veracruz will become the fourth state in Mexico to decriminalize abortion. In the predominantly Roman Catholic country, abortion is seen as taboo and religion frequently takes precedence over this issue, as it does in many other countries. 

This law was passed in July with a 25-13 vote and one abstention. Veracruz will now join Mexico City, Oaxaca, and Hidalgo which have all decriminalized abortions and allow women to choose to have an abortion within 12 weeks of pregnancy. 

We thought this day was so far off that we’re in shock, in the best way possible. Let’s go after the 28 (states) that are left. - Brujas del Mar, Veracruz feminist group 

Veracruz is also only one of three states in Mexico which does not require jail time for women who have unauthorized abortions. Elsewhere in the nation, women can actually be placed in jail for choosing to undergo an abortion. The changing dynamic of abortion policies can be attributed to a recent shift in traditional mentalities and attitudes, however many within the nation would still argue that abortions are immoral. 

In December, Argentina legalized abortion which was groundbreaking for South America, however more than 20 Latin American countries still completely ban abortion. In El Salvador, women can be imprisoned for up to 40 years for undergoing an abortion. 

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(Creative Commons). (Women’s Media Centre)

On February 1, 2021, Myanmar’s military seized power and launched a coup d’état. Since then, thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest the unjust treatment of Myanmar citizens. Garment worker union members have joined the protests.

Garment workers have stood at the forefront of protests, fighting not only for an end to the military dictatorship, but also for the elimination of systemic harassment and violence which has been an ongoing struggle.

After international sanctions against Myanmar were dropped in 2016, the nation began to set its own labour standards which resulted in the booming of the garment industry. Many multinational corporations set up factories in Myanmar. In 2018, the garment industry accounted for 31 percent of all exports out of Myanmar. 

With 600 factories open in Myanmar, around 450,000 workers are employed who work up to 11-hour days, 6 days a week. Brands such as H&M, Gap, Inditex and Primark are among some of the companies which have set up shop in Myanmar. Roughly 90 percent of garment workers are women, some beginning their careers as young as 13. Traditionally, women have been utilized in the garment industry because of their ‘nimble fingers’ and ‘passivity’, making them more vulnerable to poor labour conditions. Workers as young as 18 endure sexual harassment inside the factories, with around 40 percent of workers reporting some form of harassment while travelling to and from work. 

A significant proportion of women interviewed seemed to have been asked to go through a pregnancy test before securing employment in the factories.” These routine tests are done to prevent factory owners from paying the legally-mandated 98-day maternity leave, keeping workers at work. Knowing that the garment industry views having children as incompatible with continuing employment, women in Myanmar “feel continuing pressure to quit work when they have children. - Catherine Vaillancourt-Laflamme, ILO representative 

The ILO established a treaty in June to prevent violence and harassment in the workplace, however only six countries have ratified the treaty and Myanmar is not one of them. Since the military dictatorship began, garment workers have urged brands to denounce the violence and authoritarianism, and to protect workers from being harassed or fired. However, no brand has spoken out against these injustices and the international community has yet to act as well. The people of Myanmar and those working so hard to fight for justice are barely being heard and are continuing to suffer under the military dictatorship. 

Steps are slowly being taken in the right direction, however all garment workers are asking for is the ability to make a living without sacrificing their dignity. The international community needs to act quickly and efficiently to ensure the rights of these frontline workers are protected, and to prevent the situation from worsening. 

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The Fernandez administration set up the country’s first directorate on economy, equality and gender and is crafting policies targeting structural issues underlying economic disparities between men and women [File: Erica Canepa/Bloomberg] (Al Jazeera)

In Argentina, it is estimated that more than 300,000 women aged 59 to 64 are unable to retire because they do not have an adequate pension fund. This is mostly driven by the lack of compensation for caregiving, a job which many women take on around the world in addition to a paying job. Caregiving places a double-burden on women as they struggle to make ends meet. In Argentina specifically, many women do not participate in the formal workforce at all because they are tasked with responsibilities at home. 

In light of these challenges, the Argentine government is aiming to address this gender inequity by assigning a pension contribution value to the time that women have spent raising their children or completing caregiving tasks which were uncompensated. Launched last week, the program is expected to enable 155,000 more women to immediately collect a pension. The program is open to any woman who is at least 60 years of age and who has not been able to establish a pension fund for at least 30 years. Women can earn the equivalent of one year of social security contributions for every child they have raised, or two years per child if they were adopted or living with a disability. 

At the age of 65, individuals in Argentina are eligible to collect a pension from the state even if they did not make contributions when they worked in the formal workforce. This pension plan, however, only pays around 23,000 pesos, $237, a month which places many below the poverty line. 

Women and men do not have the same opportunities in the formal job market. This measure highlights the fact that women effectively work more and recognises the value of care [work] in the right to access a retirement. - Fernanda Raverta, executive director of Argentina’s National Social Security Administration 

This program is part of the National Social Security Administration’s (ANSES) ongoing effort to address gender inequality in Argentina at the direction of President Fernandez. The administration also established the nation’s first directorate on economy, equality and gender to craft policies which target structural issues contributing to gender inequality. 

The most interesting thing for me, and that I think is notable, is that this policy defines women’s caregiving as something that should be recognised and valued as if it was an employment contribution. We can question whether it’s enough. I think one year per child is too little, but the path this opens up is important. - Ana Arias, social worker and professor at the University of Buenos Aires 

Based on a study completed by an Argentine think tank, The Center for the Implementation of Public Policies for Equity and Growth (CIPPEC), this program will mostly benefit women whose work was fragmented or who had a harder time enlisting childcare. The CIPPEC also estimated that 60 percent of women between the ages of 55 and 59 have less than 5 years of contributions. 

Despite this program supporting women financially, structural issues are still present. CIPPEC recommends implementing programs which will incentivize men and women to share caregiving responsibilities. Although this will come with time, it is a necessary change to shift the current dynamic of unpaid caregiving work. 

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Staff at India’s second new trans clinic were joined by famous drag artist Sushant Divgikr (Instagram/SushantDivgikr). (Pink News)

Two trans-led healthcare clinics have opened up in India, supporting trans people as they navigate their health, wellbeing, and possible HIV status. Both located in Hyderabad, these clinics are inclusive and welcoming of all trans and nonbinary people, and they are entirely staffed with trans doctors, nurses, managers and counsellors.

As part of the Transgender Persons Act of 2019, the Indian government committed to having trans clinics across the country. These clinics are the first of their kind in India and despite receiving criticism and transphobic remarks, the community has remained strong. However, this legislation is still troubling as there are clauses which leave little to no protections for trans people. 

The two new clinics are on a mission to prevent HIV in the trans community as the trans population is much more susceptible to being diagnosed with HIV compared to the cis population. Hyderabad was chosen as the first city for these clinics because of the prevalence of HIV in the trans community.

The Hyderabad Transgender Community Clinic very well fits into the USAID’s mission and objectives of the Accelerate project to prevent HIV and support antiretroviral therapy (ART) treatment services among transgenders. The clinic also strives to improve the socioeconomic status of the community and take care of overall wellbeing. - Rachana Mudraboyina, trans activist

The first clinic opened in January, and the second in July where drag artist and goodwill ambassador for the clinics, Sushant Divgikar, was in attendance. 

Such a proud moment for the transgender community. I was so happy to see my trans brothers and sisters being of service to humanity. This is proof that we can also be doctors, nurses, medical examiners, resource staff, management staff, counsellors, psychiatrists and work so many other productive jobs just like cis gendered (Male and female), Heterosexual people. - Sushant Divgikar

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Pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba (Tawaf), as part of the Umrah pilgrimage, in the Grand Mosque complex in the holy city of Makkah, on October 4, 2020 [Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umra/AFP via Getty Images]

For the first time ever, two women have been appointed into positions of management with the Two Holy Mosques. This comes just one month after the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah allowed women to perform hajj without a male family member present. Female guards were also appointed for the first time ever at the Grand Mosque.

Appointed by Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, imam of the Grand Mosque in Makkah, Dr. Fatima Al-Rushood was made assistant president for women’s affairs and Dr. Al-Anoud Al-Aboud was made assistant president for women’s development affairs. These two women, however, are not alone; around 20 women holding masters and doctoral degrees were also appointed to positions of leadership within the presidency. 

Women who are working at the Two Holy Mosques have proven their competence in various fields. The presidency aims to continue working to achieve the maximum benefit from the distinguished female cadres, and to harness their efforts in serving Hajj and Umrah pilgrims and visitors in accordance with the Kingdom's Vision 2030. - Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais

Placing women into positions of power and removing misogynistic traditions is just one step forward in the agenda of gender equality. In Saudi Arabia, women face many structural misogynist hurdles. The recent actions are small and welcome steps but much more is needed.

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Inaara Merani (she/her) is a recent graduate from the University of Ottawa where she studied  International Development and Globalization with a minor in Women’s Studies. She is an Ismaili Muslim Canadian who is deeply passionate about human rights, social justice and feminism, and in turn, dismantling the patriarchy and ensuring that all women have safe and equal access to all their rights. She hopes to pursue a career in law so that she can continue to fight for the rights of women and other marginalized groups everywhere. She also enjoys reading, travelling and spending time with her beautiful cat. 

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