Her Side of the Story
Week of October 9
A basic overview of current events this week involving women’s and gender issues in a social justice context.
- Please click on hyperlinked titles for original articles. Each blurb is a paraphrased summary of the hyperlinked article.
- *** Starred stories contain disturbing content relating to sexual assault and violence.
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A bill that would have banned abortion in Poland was voted down by parliament this week after 100,000 people — mainly women — protested across the country on Monday. Protesters wore black, boycotted work and classes, and marched with signs.
Poland already has the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe, banning the procedure except in cases of rape, incest, or serious health threats. These laws will stay in place. The proposed abortion ban was initially supported by the right wing and religious leaders in the Catholic country, but bishops proclaimed that they did not support jailing women who had abortions and many government officials were persuaded by the Monday protests.
Pakistani lawmakers passed a bill this week that increases mandatory prison sentences for those convicted of “honor killings,” a practice in which family members of a woman kill her for eloping, talking to men, or other inappropriate behavior. About 500 women are murdered in honor killings every year in the country. Women’s rights activists in Pakistan have celebrated cautiously, noting that judges can still decide whether a murder counts as an honor killing or not. One conservative senator decried the law as an imposition of western values and argued that parliament should focus on preventing women’s scandalous behavior — such as elopements — instead. Another bill increasing rape sentencing requirements and mandating DNA tests was also passed. The conviction rates for rape in Pakistan is currently close to zero percent.
On Thursday, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Bob Paulson issued an official apology to female “Mounties” and announced a compensation package for women who suffered the RCMP’s culture of harassment and discrimination. Female Mounties have for decades complained of “‘sexist comments, sexual pranks, verbal abuse and double standards’” as well as sexual assault on the job by supervisors.
American chess champion Nazi Paikidze-Barnes has announced a boycott of the 2017 Women’s World Chess Championship because of women’s rights in Iran, specifically Iran’s requirement that women wear hijab. Paikidze-Barnes claims that she is not anti-Islam or anti-Iran, but believes that hijab mandates are sexist. Iran’s top female chess player, however, says the boycott will be harmful to Iranian women because the chess competition is a rare opportunity for women in Iran to “show their strength.”
An Indonesian extremist group called the “Islamic Jihad Front” recently shut down Al Fatah, Indonesia’s Islamic boarding school specifically for transgender students. Despite a rise in transphobic violence, Al Fatah’s students have resumed meeting every week in order to “‘prove that Islam accepts transgenders, that Islam is a blessing for all mankind.’” Although the students’ home of Yogyakarta is considered a progressive city, some residents point out a growing trend of religious conservatism and intolerance. Islamic groups in Indonesia have also recently targeted churches and closed down women’s festivals.