Global Roundup: Italy Protestors for Abortion Rights, Indigenous Women Share Birthing Trauma, South Korea Stalking Law Overhaul, Hungary DykeMarch, #DayWithoutUS Campaign
Curated by FG Contributor Samiha Hossain
Demonstrators raise their hands to symbolise the uterus, at a protest organized by Non Una di Meno (Not One Less) movement and feminist collectives, to mark International Safe Abortion Day, in Rome, Italy September 28, 2022. Photo by Yara Nardi/REUTERS
Thousands of people marched across Italy in nationwide protests organized by Italian feminist movement Non Una di Meno (Not One Less), for the continued availability of free and safe abortions. The marches were part of nationwide actions aimed at sending a message to Giorgia Meloni and her Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy) Party that protesters won’t stand for any changes to 1978 legislation, known as Law 194, guaranteeing access to abortion. The protests coincided with International Safe Abortion Day.
More than 1,000 people marched through Rome’s Esquilino neighbourhood holding up signs reading “My body – My choice” and “Safe for all.”
Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia was announced to have won Italy’s general election on September 25 and will lead the most right-wing government in the country since World War II. Meloni campaigned on a manifesto of “God, homeland and family” and her party pushed a nationalist and anti-immigration agenda with messages about the protection of “traditional” families, opposing adoptions by same-sex couples. Brothers of Italy’s “pro-family” stance has stoked fears that there could be a rollback on abortion rights and LGBTQ+ rights under Meloni’s leadership as prime minister.
Organizers of the marches fear that Fratelli d’Italia could impose “rigid gender roles and assign women the task of reproduction and growth of a white, patriarchal and heterosexual nation,” they said in their announcement of the rallies against the agenda of Meloni, who would become Italy’s first far-right premier of the post-war period and its first woman in that office.
Abortion has been legal in Italy since 1978 under the country’s law 194. People can terminate a pregnancy within the first 90 days, or later if their health or life is endangered. But it can be difficult to get an abortion as law 194 gives healthcare workers the option to “conscientiously object” to performing the treatment if doing so would go against their religious or personal beliefs.
We are furious because the attack on abortion is strengthened in a moment of economic and social crisis, exacerbated by the consequences of a war that reduces wages with inflation, feeds the energy crisis, impoverishes us and makes us more blackmailable, exacerbates conditions of social reproduction by fuelling the division of labor and its exploitation in a sexist and racist key. -Non Una di Meno
Though Meloni said she “wouldn’t change” current legislation protecting abortion as prime minister, she also said she wanted to go further with a part of the law “about prevention.” Brothers of Italy has proposed allowing anti-abortion activists to work in family counselling clinics, which advise on sexual health, contraception and abortion. As seen in examples around the world, it is not enough to simply legalize abortions, they must also be safe and accessible to all. Meloni and her party show an intent to add more barriers for people to get a safe abortion.
From left to right, Kathleen Rogers, Audrey Redman, and Neecha Dupuis have become friends while living in Ottawa. They are all survivors of the Sixties Scoop and were taken away from their families. Now, they're opening up about how child welfare authorities either threatened to, or actually took away their babies from them at hospitals across Canada. (Patrick Louiseize/CBC)
Three Indigenous women say they were left traumatized after giving birth in hospitals across Canada, where child welfare authorities threatened to, or actually took their newborns away without explanation.
Birth alerts are notifications issued by child welfare agencies to local hospitals about pregnant people who they deemed "high-risk." In turn, healthcare providers are required to alert welfare authorities when the subject comes to seek medical care or deliver their baby. The alerts often include directions to take additional action — such as medical testing on the parent or baby, or to prevent the baby from leaving the hospital with the parent. It can lead to newborns being taken away from their parents for days, months or even years. Often, birth alerts are issued without letting the pregnant person know and without evidence of real risk. Several provinces and territories have stopped the practice now.
[Birth alerts are] problematic in the sense that unfortunately they were most often deployed against Indigenous, racialized and disabled parents. -Tina Yang, lawyer
Kathleen Rogers’ son was taken away from her at the hospital while she was breastfeeding him. Rogers spent three months in court and regained custody of her son. The child welfare agencies admitted "Ms. Rogers posed no threat to the child," and she was "well able to provide the necessary care for her baby.” Through her lawyer, Rogers learned that the agencies took away her child because they thought she was a “drunken Indian.”
Children’s Aid Society continues to show up at Rogers’ door. She plans on joining the class-action lawsuit against birth alerts and just began her journey to seek documents about her case.
I'm just one of the many stories that this has happened to. The truth needs to come out. -Kathleen Rogers
Neecha Dupuis was five months into her high-risk pregnancy in 2011 when a nurse asked her if she drank or did drugs. Prior to getting pregnant, she had taken medical cannabis for her degenerative disk disease. When she was discharged after giving birth, the nurse told her Children's Aid Society red-flagged her. A local Indigenous women's support centre advocated for her and helped her leave the hospital with her baby. This summer, she wrote to the hospital to get records of what happened 11 years ago. She was asked to pay a fee to formally request information, which she sees as “another blockade.”
For more than 50 years, Audrey Redman, 71, has carried the trauma of losing her baby for 10 days after she gave birth. After she gave birth in 1972, the hospital told her they would not let go of her son until she had a home – at the time, she was travelling across North America. For 10 days, Redman and the baby's father frantically searched for a rental nearby
Trauma doesn't go away. Trauma is embedded in us. We carry it with us. -Audrey Redman
When Redman thinks about obtaining documents about her situation, as she considers participating in the proposed class-action lawsuit, she feels it is another way the system devalues and excludes Indigenous women. She said if Canada is committed to reconciliation, institutions should proactively provide them to women who have experienced birth alerts, for free.
A man writes a note at Sindang Station in Seoul, South Korea, where a woman was fatally stabbed, allegedly by her stalker.CW: gender-based violence. Photograph: Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Imagesvia The Guardian
CW: gender-based violence
The murder of a 28-year-old South Korean woman who had been stalked by her alleged killer for years has sparked outrage and demands for changes in the law to better protect women.
The woman’s murder in a bathroom at the subway station where she worked earlier this month has shocked South Korea, coming a day before her alleged attacker, named by police as 31-year-old Jeon Joo-hwan, had been due to be sentenced for stalking her.
South Korean media reports alleged Jeon had begun harassing the woman after they began working for Seoul Metro in 2019. He reportedly called her hundreds of times begging her for a date and threatened to harm her if she refused. After the victim reported Jeon last October he was dismissed from his job and arrested, but released on bail. Like many other stalking suspects, he was not subjected to a restraining order. Jeon was arrested on charges of murder, and the ruling on his stalking indictment has been postponed until September 29.
The woman’s death has triggered anger and accusations that South Korean authorities are failing to take violence against women seriously. The country’s gender equality and family minister, Kim Hyun-sook, was heavily criticized after she said she did not believe the woman’s murder was a gender-based hate crime. Speaking in the national assembly this week, Kim sparked more fury by suggesting that the crime could have been prevented had the victim sought advice from a ministry helpline and taken other preventive measures.
An anti-stalking law carrying a maximum three-year prison sentence that was passed last October has been condemned as flawed, since it permits police to take action only with the consent of the victim. That loophole, according to critics, gives stalkers the opportunity to pressure their victims into dropping their complaint. Since the law came into force, police have made 7,152 arrests for stalking, but only 5% of the suspects have been detained.
A recent report by the Korean National Police University found that almost four in 10 murders of close partners were preceded by stalking incidents. After this horrific incident, pressure is mounting on the president, Yoon Suk-yeol, to strengthen the law amid evidence that stalking often precedes more serious crimes.
LGBT activists and supporters marched in the city's Pride parade in Budapest, Hungary, July 2021. Anna Szilagyi/AP Images via Open Democracy
Erin Kilbride writes about how Hungary should guarantee safety of lesbian activists during DykeMarch. Hungarian lesbian activists are set to hold their second DykeMarch in October on the final day of the EuroCentralAsian Lesbian* Community (EL*C) Conference in Budapest. This year’s conference, “Lesbian Resistance,” will open two weeks after Serbia initially banned EuroPride 2022.
The EL*C conference and DykeMarch come amid ongoing government harassment of lesbian activism in Hungary. In February, an appeals court ruled against Labrisz Lesbian Association, finding that an article in a pro-government newspaper likening lesbian activists to pedophiles did not injure their reputation. This reversed a lower court decision, which deemed the article to be unfounded and offensive. In June 2021, a Hungarian law criminalized showing “any content portraying or promoting sex reassignment or homosexuality” to children, falsely conflating LGBT rights with pedophilia.
In August 2021, a government decree restricted customer access to the children’s book “A Fairytale for Everyone”, published by Labrisz Lesbian Association in 2020, under a new requirement that children's books seen to “promote homosexuality” be sold only in “closed wrapping.” The Labrisz book retells traditional fairytales with queer, feminist characters.
Having the conference in Budapest means a lot to us. Labrisz has been fighting against the political oppression of sexual minority women since 1999. Under the current government, we work harder than ever. We hope the Conference will signal to the government that lesbian resistance is powerful and won’t be silenced. -Dorottya Redai, activist with Labrisz
The EL*C conference and DykeMarch take an intersectional approach, demanding rights for migrants, refugees, Roma communities, and other minority groups. As such, organizers could be at risk vis-a-vis Hungary’s sweeping criminalization in 2018 of migrant and refugee rights defenders. That law, condemned by several United Nations Special Rapporteurs and held by the Court of Justice of the European Union to violate EU law, remains in effect. Though the government has shown persistence in trying to silence the LGBTQ community, they remain determined to fight against the oppressive legislation.
Photo: David McNew / Contributor (Getty Images) via The Root
Today, Black women from several reproductive and racial justice organizations are challenging Americans to put down their work and come together for a collective day of action they are calling a #DayWithoutUs. They will be skipping work and their “routines” to attend an all-day digital teach-in session. There will also be in-person pop-up sessions throughout the day in Washington, DC, New York City, Atlanta, Chicago, and other cities throughout the country.
The event, which is being organized by advocates at The FrontLine, Netroots Nation, and several other national advocacy partners, also marks the 46th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment – which blocks federal Medicaid dollars (along with all other federal funds) from going towards abortion care, meaning Medicaid recipients have to pay out-of-pocket for care. Many Black reproductive advocates argue that keeping Hyde in place makes abortion care cost prohibitive for lower-income people, who simply cannot afford the hundreds or even thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs for abortion care.
Leslie Mac, one of the event organizers, says the day will not just be about abortion care. Mac says they will discuss other issues as well, including climate change and gun control.
Our opposition is united, and we need to be just as united. [We can’t] just talk about abortion here or just talk about the climate there. -Leslie Mac
Tiffany Flowers, another event organizer and Campaign Director for The Frontline, says she is well aware of the fact that many marginalized people will not be able to afford to take off an entire day of work. But, she hopes that people will be able to tune in when they can throughout the day. She says there will also be information on their website.
To help more people attend, the organizers have also teamed up with corporate partners, including the ice cream company Ben and Jerry’s, who will be closing its public offices to allow employees to attend the #DayWithoutUS. Mac says they have also challenged more companies to give their employees the day off to participate in the teaching sessions.
Samiha Hossain (she/her) is a student at the University of Ottawa. She has experience working with survivors of sexual violence in her community, as well as conducting research on gender-based violence. A lot of her time is spent learning about and critically engaging with intersectional feminism, transformative justice and disability justice.
Samiha firmly believes in the power of connecting with people and listening to their stories to create solidarity and heal as a community. She refuses to let anyone thwart her imagination when it comes to envisioning a radically different future full of care webs, nurturance and collective liberation.