Once again, we've had a year of ups and downs, a year of strong stands for women's rights and crushing defeats. Here's a quick run-down of some of the most memorable moments of 2014:
- Last month, the Chamber of Deputies in the Dominican Republic put forward a measure to reinforce -- and strengthen -- the country's existing ban on abortions in all circumstances.
Thankfully, Dominican President Danilo Medina vetoed the measure, urging legislators in a letter to decriminalize abortions in cases where the woman's life is at risk or in cases of rape, incest, or fetus malformation. In his letter, President Medina stated that the fundamental right to life of the pregnant woman or girl must prevail, as well as "respect for their human dignity and their mental and moral integrity." He also highlighted the public health necessity to provide these services to reduce the country's high maternal mortality rate, as well as provide services to the most vulnerable.
Just this week, the Deputies voted to decriminalize abortion after hours of intense debate, winding back the original conservative proposal they had on the table. This is a big step forward though the fight is far from over -- thankfully, a strong civil society -- including our Member Association PROFAMILIA will be watching.
- Iran took a step back by restricting access to birth control options in the hope of increasing population growth. In August, Iran's parliament voted to ban vasectomies and all other permanent forms of contraception. Doctors caught performing the procedure could face imprisonment. This new bill marked a dramatic shift from Iran's previous progressive policies and is yet another reminder of the fragility of reproductive rights -- and the need for sustained advocacy.
- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently put his presidential foot in his mouth when he declared that women are not equal to men. At a meeting in Istanbul on women and justice, Erdogan said that women and men are created differently and not capable of doing the same kinds of work.
Erdogan added that motherhood is the highest position women can hope to achieve, stating "you cannot explain this to feminists. They don't accept motherhood. They have no such concern."
- In July, a United Nations told the Irish government to amend its abortion law, which only allows legal abortion when there is a "real and substantial risk to the life of a pregnant woman."
In its recommendations, the UN Human Rights Committee ordered the country to legalize abortion services for pregnant women facing serious health threats, as well as in cases of rape, incest and fatal fetal impairment. It also criticized the burdensome procedures women must endure to have doctors certify that the pregnancy poses a threat to their life, and cited the discriminatory and disproportionate impact the restrictive law has on women who are unable to travel abroad to access safe and legal abortion services.
The Committee reviewed Ireland as part of its oversight of states' compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a treaty obligating member states to ensure equal enjoyment of all civil and political rights, including the rights to life and to be free from torture or other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, and paid extensive attention to the very restrictive abortion law.
While Ireland has been reviewed in the past, hopefully, this most recent review will result in dignity and change for the women and adolescents of Ireland.
- While I am a fan of Russian literature, it's no replacement for sex ed. Though that's what some Russian leaders are claiming. This month, Russia's children's rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov said the country would not introduce sex ed in schools because it contradicts Russia's norms and traditions. When asked how children should learn about sex, he said that "children need to read more" and that Russian authors like Dostoevsky and Tolstoy offered children all they needed to know about sex and relationships.
Just think if you had relied on passages like the following from Anna Karenina for your sex ed:
"That which for Vronsky had been almost a whole year the one absorbing desire of his life, replacing all his old desires; that which for Anna had been an impossible, terrible, and even for that reason more entrancing dream of bliss, that desire had been fulfilled. He stood before her, pale, his lower jaw quivering, and besought her to be calm, not knowing how or why."
I for one would have questions. You?