Recent Resources for Feminists
Global: Fuck modesty to counter the religious-rights' misogyny which serves patriachy so well Print E-mail
Tuesday March 7 2017

Fuck modesty for International Women's Day on March 8!


By  Maryam Namazie

Wherever Islamism gains power and influence, it comes for women first. And it's always a sign of worse to come, hence the saying: ‘the freedom of society is measured by the freedom of women.'

Islamism but also the Christian-Right, Buddhist-Right, Jewish-Right, Hindu-Right, Sikh-Right ... have turned misogyny into an art form. They police women's behaviour and sexuality to make certain it doesn't challenge male "honour".

To ensure compliance, modesty rules are enforced by any means necessary – whether by threatening and shaming a Muslim woman twerking in public in Birmingham, spitting at an "immodest" 8 year old girl in Israel, disappearing the babies of unwed mothers in Ireland, barring women from straddling motorcycles and dancing in public places in Indonesia's Aceh province and even stoning women to death in Iran in the 21st century.

"Immodesty" – anything from singing in public, laughing out loud, gender mixing, to the refusal to veil or conform – are deemed dangerous for the family, community, nation and society and in need of suppression and control.

In this " communally-based politics ... women are seen not as individuals with rights but as bearers of their community's honour, to be protected or raped, depending who they are". ISIS' Yazidi sex slaves are the most heinous case in point.

Modesty is big business, with profits made at the expense of innumerable dissenters. Having bought into the narrative of the religious-Right, Bloomberg calls it a " modest revolution" despite the fact that there is nothing revolutionary about modesty or religion's control over women and their bodies.  

From witch-burnings, chastity belts, diagnoses of hysteria for women who had a "tendency to cause trouble" to the Iranian regime's morality police and ISIS' use of metal clippers to tear the flesh off any woman who might have forgotten to wear her gloves, religion and the religious-Right have always played a counter-revolutionary role in the service of patriarchy and profit and in favour of the status quo and women's subservient status.

The veil, for example, whilst often sanitised and fetishised here in the west, has more often than not been imposed through brute force – from acid-attacks to assassinations – with unveiled or improperly veiled women blamed for every calamity under the sun. Immodest women are the source of chaos and fitnah in society.

Add to this, multiculturalism and identity politics, which legitimise and normalise religion's "morality" that sees a woman's "place" in the home, behind closed doors, erased and disappeared from the public space. The far-Right, too, which juxtaposes its Christianity against a "foreign" Islam, spends much of its time defending "its" white women from the "other", preventing mixing, and encouraging " our womenfolk to regard home and family-making as the highest vocation for their sex".

In all religions and every religious-Right movement, the perfect "modest" and "moral" woman is the one who cannot be seen or heard.

That women refuse to comply is not thanks to religion or the religious-Right but despite all their efforts at terrorising women into submission.

That is why being a free and "immoral" woman is the greatest of "crimes" and the most potent form of resistance.

On 8 March, International Women's Day, it would do us good to commemorate the many who refuse and resist against all odds: the mothers of Khavaran, Kurdish women fighters bringing gender equality to Rojava, the unveiling movement in Iran, the fight against male guardianship rules in Saudi Arabia, those battling Sharia courts in Algeria and Britain, the women challenging Modi and the Hindu-Right in India, those fighting for secularism in Pakistan, and against gender segregation in Israel ...

Rather than veiling in "solidarity" or standing with one set of fascists against another, we should be celebrating and honouring the "bad" women, "immodest" women, "immoral" women who have refused to submit. Not just on 8 March but every day.

One of the best ways to show this solidarity, is to reiterate the wise words of women dissenters:

#FuckYourMorals (Tunisian topless activist Amina Sboui)

#StruggleNotSubmission (Southall Black Sisters and Gita Sahgal)

And #FuckModesty

Tibetan Women Empowerment Conference: Dalai Lama lauds women's role in preserving Tibet's traditions Print E-mail
 Friday February 24, 2017

Meet to promote leadership qualities of Tibetan women

 
 His Holiness The Dalai Lama speaks to participants of the Tibetan Women's Empowerment Conference in McLeodganj on Thursday. (Tribune)

Tribune News Service

Dharamsala: A three-day Tibetan women empowerment conference concluded today at Gangchen Kyishong. It was the first time that such a conference has been organised under the aegis of the Central Tibetan Administration.

As many as 340 participants, including Tibetan nuns, women and men, from the Tibetan society in exile participated in the conference. The participants also met the Dalai Lama today.

Sikyong Lobsang Sangay while addressing the conference said the organisation of the conference was a step in the right direction to carry forward the shared vision of the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration to promote leadership and compassionate qualities of women in social and political development of the Tibetan community.

He lauded Tibetan women's crucial role in safeguarding Tibet's unique and rich religious, linguistic and cultural traditions beginning from the non-violent Tibetan women's uprising against the repressive policies of the Chinese government on 12 March 1959.

Highlighting the consistent increase in representation of women in Tibetan administrative bodies, Sikyong said the vision of the conference was aimed beyond gender equality and on furthering women's role in all socio-economic and political activities.

Sikyong further said Charter for Tibetans in exile and CTA rules and regulations provide equal opportunity for men and women. Women parliamentarians were elected as early as 1964 when even some advanced economies still did not have women parliamentarians. In fact, today women constitute over 20 per cent of the elected representatives in the Tibetan parliament. Women now make up 45 per cent of the overall workforce of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA). Forty-eight and 60 per cent of the staff of education and health departments, respectively, were women. Over half of all new and incoming CTA staff was women, he said.

As part of its commitment on women empowerment, the Tibetan political leader also announced that 12 March on every year would formally be observed as 'Women's Day'. The observance of Tibetan Women's Day on 12 March will reflect the collective will of the Tibetan leadership and people to accelerate women empowerment policy agenda.

The representatives of the Tibetan government in exile said the revised seven-point women empowerment policy was drafted by a committee composed almost entirely of senior women officials of the CTA and was adopted by the Kashag following due consultations and comprehensive deliberations with women from all walks of life.

The revised women empowerment policy outlines seven key points in its stated objective of making Tibetan women equal partners in all aspects of Tibetan society. The points include women and human rights, education, health, economy, governance and leadership, social, and sexual and gender-based violence. On sexual and gender-based violence, the Kashag has promised to adopt a zero tolerance policy. It further promised to sensitise community members on SGBV and establish a redressal mechanism for those who have experienced gender-based harassment and discrimination
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~ Saturday February 25, 2017

Women make better leaders, says Dalai Lama

Tribune News Service

Dharamsala: If more countries are led by women, the world will probably be a more peaceful place. This was stated by the Dalai Lama while addressing the 300 delegates who came here to participate in the Tibetan women empowerment conference.

He said women were more sensitive to the sufferings of others in addition to great affection they provided as mothers. Human society had developed from a time when hunter gatherers simply shared what they had to the emergence of agriculture and a sense of property. This led to a need for leadership and since the criterion was largely physical strength, male dominance emerged. "Education has restored a degree of equality between men and women", he said.

Alluding to the position of women in Buddhism, the Dalai Lama said the Buddha had described men and women as having equal potential and had provided full ordination for both. He discussed the as-yet-unresolved difficulties in introducing or restoring the Bhikshuni tradition, but pointed out that a specific Vajrayana precept encourages respect for women in forbidding looking down on them. Further, in Tibet there was an established tradition for recognising female reincarnations such as Samding Dorje Phagmo, he said.

"We are all part of the 7 billion human beings alive today, but some of us are very well off, while elsewhere others are starving. I believe we can address this disparity if we work hard and develop self-confidence. That, in turn, depends on cultivating inner strength and the root of inner strength is developing compassion for others," he said

Noting that Tibetans have been in exile for almost 58 years, the Dalai Lama recalled meeting Indian leaders like Rajendra Prasad and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who, in addition to being the President and the Vice-President of the country, respectively, impressed him with their scholarship. Listening to Radhakrishnan elegantly declaim verses from Nagarjuna and Chandrakirti in Sanskrit brought tears to my eyes, he said. However, he said that he also secretly suspected that he both understood and could explain better what the verses meant. He attributed this confidence to the rigorous training he had undertaken in Tibet, which was founded on the system originally established in the 8th century by Shantarakshita. This combined an exploration of philosophy with a strict command of reason and logic. This approach encourages investigating the topic in hand from different angles, something that can be useful in any branch of education.

The Dalai Lama mentioned how he had encouraged monasteries that traditionally focussed on rituals to introduce study and education. Similarly, he had encouraged nunneries to do the same. One result, he proudly declared, was the recent award of the first Geshe-ma degrees to 20 fully qualified nuns. Addressing the three Geshe-mas in the room, he advised that it was now their responsibility to teach in their nunneries and schools.

He touched on recent proposals for the Dalai Lama Institute for Higher Education in conjunction with the University of Mysore to offer PhD programmes for the laymn to study Buddhism and the inner science of the mind.

USA: Nail in Monsanto's coffin as 2015 California ruling upheld to declare Roundup's carcinogens Print E-mail
 Tuesday February 14, 2017

Monsanto's Roundup Must Carry Cancer Warning Label, Judge Decrees

By Dr. Mercola

Story at-a-glance

  • In January, a California Superior Court Judge struck down Monsanto’s attempt to overturn California’s 2015 ruling to require Prop 65 warnings on glyphosate. Monsanto says it will challenge the ruling, if upheld
  • The Prop 65 cancer warning is based on the 2015 findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which determined glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen
  • A chemical industry front group, Campaign for Accuracy in Public Health Research (CAPHR), is seeking reform of the IARC toxicology program, arguing that independent researchers cannot impartially evaluate the industry’s products

In March, 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a research arm of the World Health Organization (WHO), reclassified glyphosate as a "probable carcinogen" (Class 2A).1,2

The decision was based on "limited evidence" showing the weed killer can cause non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and lung cancer in humans, along with "convincing evidence" linking it to cancer in animals.

The IARC is considered the global gold standard for carcinogenicity studies, so its determination was of considerable importance. It's also one of the five research agencies from which the OEHHA ­ the California agency of environmental hazards ­ gets its reports to declare carcinogens under Prop 65.

Monsanto has vigorously pursued a retraction of the IARC's damning report,3 to prevent California from pursuing a cancer warning on Roundup and other, newer weed killers in the pipeline, designed for use on the company's latest genetically engineered (GE) crops.

Monsanto Forced to Put Cancer Warning on Roundup
Their efforts have so far failed, and Fresno County Superior Court Judge Kristi Kapetan recently struck another nail in the company's coffin, striking down Monsanto's attempt to overturn California's 2015 ruling to require Prop 65 warnings on glyphosate. 4,5,6

While Kapetan has yet to issue a formal decision on the matter, Monsanto says it will challenge the ruling, if upheld. As reported by LA Progressive:7
  • "California would be the first state to order this level of labeling if this decision by the California Carcinogen Identification Committee is sustained by further court action.
  • Monsanto previously sued the nation's foremost agricultural producing state by filing court motions to the effect that California's carcinogen committee … had illegally based their decision for mandatorily requiring the warnings on "erroneous" findings by an international health organization …
  • Trenton Norris, Monsanto's lawyer, argued in court Friday that the labels would result in irreparable and immediate negative fiscal effect for Monsanto, because millions of consumers [would] stop buying Roundup because of the labels."
  • Roundup isn't the only weed killer that would have to bear the Prop 65 warning label. Glyphosate is also found in OrthoGroundclear, KleenUp, Aquamaster, Sharpshooter, StartUp ,Touchdown, Total Traxion, Vector and Vantage Plus Max II and others.

Cancer Warning Likely Boon to Cancer Patients Suing Monsanto
A Prop 65 cancer warning on Roundup would likely benefit those suing Monsanto claiming the weed killer caused or contributed to their or a loved one's cancer. There are currently at least three dozen such cases pending. As noted by LA Progressive:8

  • "Jack McCall was an avocado and apple farmer with only 20 acres and he carried around a backpack with Roundup for 30 years, and then died of cancer in 2015.
  • His widow, Terri, strongly believes that any kind of warning about carcinogenicity would have prevented his entirely avoidable death. 'I just don't think my husband would have taken that risk if he had known,' she stated."

Following the court hearing, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmental lawyer, gave a press conference, saying:9

  • "This [Prop 65] listing is not going to put [Monsanto] out of business. It's just going to warn people before they use their product that this product might cause cancer, and you better limit your use to protect yourself and to protect your families.
  • It's called a precautionary principle. Who wouldn't want to know that? Why does this company not want these farm workers to know that this chemical may endanger them and may endanger their families?
  • Why did [Monsanto] hire these great lawyers to come here to shut California up and to stop California from protecting these people?"

Advisory Panel Questions EPA's Decision on Glyphosate
Part of Monsanto's defense of glyphosate hinges on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) decision that the chemical is "not likely to be carcinogenic" to humans, issued on September 12, 2016.10

However, following strong criticism, the agency convened a scientific advisory panel to re-analyze the scientific evidence and evaluate the strength of the EPA's decision.

Subsequently, a four-day-long panel meeting was held in December, 2016. As reported by Carey Gillam, a journalist and research director for the non-profit consumer rights group, U.S. Right to Know (US RTK):11
  • "[W]hile the EPA may have hoped for resounding support from the scientific advisory panel (SAP) it assembled, from the outset of the meetings … concerns were raised by some of the experts about the quality of the EPA's analysis.
  • Some scientists were concerned that the EPA was violating its own guidelines in discounting data from various studies that show positive associations between glyphosate and cancer.
  • Several of the SAP members questioned why the EPA excluded some data that showed statistical significance, and wrote off some of the positive findings to mere chance …
  • The EPA looked at both published studies as well as unpublished studies conducted by industry players like Monsanto … The IARC review focused on published, peer-reviewed research."

Industry Group Meddled With Scientific Panel Picks
In addition to the scientific review, pointed questions were also raised about the chemical industry's influence over regulators. As a general rule, peer-reviewed, published research, especially by independent scientists, tend to carry more merit than unpublished industry research.

In this case, CropLife America, which represents Monsanto and other agribusinesses, actually demanded the EPA remove nationally recognized epidemiologist Peter Infante, Ph.D., from the scientific advisory panel, claiming he was incapable of impartiality because he would give more weight to independent research than industry studies.

The EPA complied, booting Infante off the panel. He still made an appearance at the meeting though, and in his testimony, Infante urged the advisory panel not to ignore "impressive evidence" linking glyphosate to non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Beware of the Latest Front Group Promoting Chemical Industry's Agenda
CropLife America certainly isn't the only industry group fighting for Monsanto's right to poison the unaware.

In January, a group called Campaign for Accuracy in Public Health Research12 (CAPHR) was formed, but contrary to its stated mission, this industry front group is pushing an agenda that has absolutely nothing to do with promoting "credible, unbiased and transparent science as the basis of public policy decisions."

The group was formed by the American Chemistry Council, whose members include Monsanto, and as noted by Gillam with US RTK, CAPHR's "express purpose is to discredit the IARC,"13 which notably consists of independent scientists from around the world.

More to the point, CAPHR clearly states it "will seek reform" of the IARC Monographs Program, which evaluates and determines the carcinogenicity of chemicals.

  • "Monsanto and friends have been harassing IARC … through a series of demands, threats and legal maneuvers, including lobbying the U.S. House of Representatives to cut funding for IARC," Gillam writes. "The new campaign takes the assault further.
  • On the group's new twitter account … CAPHR has posted a string of insults against IARC scientists, accusing the experts from prestigious institutions around the world of "making sensational claims," drawing conclusions "that can't be trusted" and using "questionable methodologies."
  • If CAPHR is to be believed, the public, lawmakers and regulators should not trust the epidemiology experts, toxicologists and other scientists who made up the IARC working group, which was led by an award-winning cancer expert from the National Cancer Institute.
  • No, they should look for unbiased information about the safety of the industry's billion-dollar baby from the industry itself. The chemical industry campaigners insist that the people making money off chemical sales are more trustworthy than scientists who have made a career studying causes of cancer. The rationale for the campaign is clear: It's not about protecting public health, it's about protecting corporate profits."

Why Monsanto Fights to Avoid Skull and Crossbones Label
Needless to say, Monsanto and other chemical technology companies stand to lose a whole lot more than commercial weed killer sales should Kapetan uphold her ruling to allow California to proceed with a cancer warning on glyphosate products, and that's why the corporate spin machine is in overdrive. A range of new genetically engineered (GE) plants have been made to withstand a combination of glyphosate and other chemicals such as 2,4-D or dicamba.

If glyphosate products must carry a cancer warning, all that food becomes suspect as well, since the chemical cannot be washed off. Hypothetically, California could even require food made with GE ingredients to carry a Prop 65 warning.

It's unlikely it would go that far, but even if it didn't, people might put two-and-two together in their own minds. The problem is they would have to establish a safe level for an endocrine disruptor, which cannot be done, since there is no safe level. So, if and how this situation ends up being addressed will be interesting to see.

It might also scare off farmers, making them reconsider the benefits of growing GE crops if they have to use a carcinogenic weed killer. Worse, it would provide added ammunition for nations already considering more stringent measures against glyphosate-based products. European Commission leaders met in March, 2016, to vote on whether to renew a 15-year license for glyphosate, which was set to expire in June that year.

The decision was tabled amid mounting opposition, as more than 180,000 Europeans signed a petition calling for glyphosate to be banned outright. Ultimately, more than 2 million signatures were collected against relicensing the chemical. In June, however, the European Commission granted an 18-month extension to glyphosate while they continue the review. A ruling is expected by the end of 2017.

In the meantime, new restrictions were announced, including a ban on a co-formulant (tallowamine), increased scrutiny of pre-harvest uses of glyphosate and efforts to minimize its use in public parks and playgrounds. Unlike in the U.S., where glyphosate use is largely unrestricted, "seven EU states have extensive glyphosate prohibitions in place, two have restrictions and four countries have impending or potential bans," The Guardian reported.14

Monsanto Front Group Takes Flight on Twitter With Alternative Facts

CAPHR wasted no time when it came to launching its "alternative facts" campaign. The day it was launched, the organization took to Twitter with a #glyphosateisvital campaign, proclaiming the weed killer is essential to "maintain the production of safe, affordable food." Anyone even remotely familiar with regenerative farming knows that simply isn't true. Ample amounts of food can be grown without glyphosate or any other chemicals for that matter, and that's no idle talk or theory.

Regenerative farmers around the world have repeatedly proven they can meet and in many cases outperform conventional methods. Still, that doesn't sway proponents of chemical agriculture. On the contrary, the chemical ag industry seems hell-bent on destroying the field of science altogether by insisting the only science worth paying attention to is that which companies produce for their own products.

  • "Embedded in the industry's truth-twisting tactics is the characterization of anyone who gives credence to scientific research showing problems with glyphosate, or the GMOs that go with it, as "anti-science." It's an effort to reverse reality and detract from the fact that it is industry backers, not industry critics, who deplore the findings of independent, peer-reviewed scientific research," Gillam writes.15
  • 'The pesticide industry recognizes it's on the defensive,' said environmental lawyer Charlie Tebbutt. 'It's doing everything it can to transform reality.' As the post-truth Trump team looks set to dismantle environmental regulations and the protections they bring to the public, it's likely the chemical industry will only continue to elevate alternative facts. We all will need to work harder than ever to see through the spin."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
[-] Sources and References
1 The Lancet Oncology March 20, 2015
2 Institute of Science in Society March 24, 2015
3 Reuters March 24, 2015
4 LA Times January 27, 2017
5 Organic Authority January 31, 2017
6 Investopedia.com January 30, 2017
7, 8 LA Progressive January 28, 2017
9 EcoWatch January 30, 2017
10 EPA.gov, September 12, 2016, Glyphosate Issue Paper, Evaluation of Carcinogenic Potential (PDF)
11 Huffington Post December 16, 2016
12 Campaign for Accuracy in Public Health Research
13, 15 Huffington Post January 31, 2017
14 The Guardian June 29, 2016

Betsy Hartmann: Making Music Out of the Post-Inaugural Blues Print E-mail
 Thursday January 19, 2017

Making Music Out of the Post-Inaugural Blues

by Betsy Hartmann

: Jackson Browne and Tom Morello, musicians who have made social justice and public protest central to their artistic visions, played together during a 2013 tribute to Bruce Springsteen. (Mark Davis/WireImage.com)

It's a beautiful thing, the refusal of big-name singers like Celine Dion, Elton John, and Garth Brooks to perform at Trump's inauguration.  Their absence has Trump's spin doctors grasping at straws. Inaugural committee chair, Tom Barrack, said last week that instead of trying to surround Trump with A-list acts, "we are going to surround him with the soft sensuality of the place." The inauguration, he claims, will have a "much more poetic cadence than having a circus-like celebration that's a coronation."  Really?  Isn't such a circus Trump's hallmark? As for poetic cadences - will they have the rhythm of Twitter feeds?

Trump's inauguration will largely be remembered for the opposition it inspired, not just by the famous performers who refused to perform, but by the numerous protests that will take place in the streets. With an anticipated 200,000 participants, the Women's March on Washington on January 21 is slated to be the biggest inauguration-related protest in U.S. history.  That's good news, but afterwards, when the inevitable blues of a Trump presidency set in, how do we stayed jazzed?

We need a musical score, or rather multiple ones, not just from the A-list performers but all the way down the alphabet, from the big concert stage to the smallest corner cafe.

I came of age in the sixties, at the height of the civil rights and anti-war movements. The powerful protest music of that time­from spirituals to folk to rock and beyond­was always playing in the background. The lyrics and guitar riffs expanded my universe and kept me and my friends energized for activism. The music had an appeal for many in the older generation too. I'll never forget my mother playing Bob Dylan as she did the weekly ironing.  Music broke down barriers. Impassioned chords of justice and solidarity drowned out, even if only temporarily, the discord and divisiveness of a fractured left.  We might have had a hard time talking to each other, but at least we could march and dance together. Share a little joy.    

Good politics doesn't necessarily make for good music, or good music for good politics. You can have one without the other, but how powerful it is when they come together. Music, as well as the other creative arts, can awaken new senses of possibility.  A tough challenge in the days ahead will be building a strong resistance to Trump while simultaneously constructing a hopeful, progressive vision of the future. We will have to straddle reactive and proactive ways of being and organizing. A radical flourishing of music and the arts could help by stretching the boundaries of our political imaginations so that we give ourselves the freedom to think outside the box. After all, this is a moment crying out for new ideas. And it could remind us that we not only need bread but roses to sustain us.

Such a flourishing of creativity would also help sideline Trump's creepy and seductive Reality TV aesthetic. The comedians poking fun at him are necessary but not sufficient. Laugh all we want, but he'll still occupy center stage unless his entertainment value and media ratings are forcefully and masterfully diminished by much better alternatives. Drown him out.

When I'm feeling optimistic, I imagine that future generations will look at this time as a major turning point, a sort of political and cultural renaissance when Americans joined together not just to take back their country back, but to take it forwards.  And the music was fantastic, they'll say with a hint of wistfulness, even better than the 1960s.  Wish we'd been alive.

Why not leave such a legacy? And along the way, maybe share a little joy.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
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Betsy Hartmann is the author of The America Syndrome: Apocalypse, War and Our Call to Greatness, forthcoming in spring 2017 from Seven Stories Press. The third edition of her book Reproductive Rights and Wrongs has recently been published by Haymarket Books. See HERE:
Alaka M. Basu: Women's health programmes worldwide Trumped Print E-mail
 January 30, 2017

Choked by the Global Gag Rule

By Alaka M. Basu

The Trump administration has set back women's health programmes worldwide

On his first day in office, U.S. President Donald Trump reinstated what is known as the Global Gag Rule, or the Mexico City Policy. This rule, which was first introduced by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 at the time of the International Population Conference in Mexico City, has been revoked by successive Democratic Presidents and reinstated by successive Republican Presidents, so Mr. Tump's action was not unexpected.

Very briefly, the Global Gag Rule states that U.S. government funding cannot be given to international NGOs, either directly or through U.S. non-governmental partners of these NGOs, unless these foreign NGOs sign an undertaking to not provide abortion services or even information or advocacy on abortion to their clients even in countries in which abortion is legal and even with money that does not come from the United States Agency for International Development's budget. Whenever this ruling has been in place, it has severely handicapped a host of non-governmental agencies in poor countries that provide family planning information and services to women because these agencies also often help women to deal with unplanned and unwanted pregnancies in countries where it is legal to do.

Not just about abortion

The U.S. government has every right to decide how to allocate its foreign aid and if the present one is against the use of tax dollars to promote abortion, however tangentially, that is its prerogative. But the international reproductive health community is naturally upset at an action that may be technically legal but is morally and ethically questionable in that is penalises women and organisations in ways that go well beyond abortion access ­ in principle, the ruling can cut off funds for crucial activities like HIV/AIDS prevention, contraceptive access, sexuality information, maternal and child health, and so on, simply because the agencies that work in these areas might give up working in them because of restrictions from their funding sources.

Such impacts will be particularly strongly felt in countries in Africa, where the unmet demand for health, reproductive and contraceptive information and services is high because governments do not have the resources to meet these demands.

What about India? According to the most recent survey data available (National Family Health Survey, 2005-2006), close to three fourths of Indian women get their contraceptive services from the government sector. But this is because some 67% of contraceptive use in India is accounted for by female sterilisation, which is promoted primarily by the government's family planning programme. For other temporary methods of birth control, the non-governmental sector (by which we actually mean a mix of private and non-profit agencies) accounts for more than half the contraceptive use. How this non-governmental sector will fare under the Gag Rule remains to be seen.

But there is more. Much of the assistance that the U.S. government provides to India is through what are called public-private/NGO partnerships to address the problem on hand ­ whether it is urban health or school cleanliness drives or rural child mortality. It is not clear how these partnerships will play out under the new ruling. Given that the Indian government is clearly not opposed to abortion and that the Gag Rule does not restrict aid to governments whatever their stance on abortion, the net impact might be in fact to strengthen the hand of a government that is already clamping down on NGOs in the country for its own reasons.

India could also experience other kinds of impacts of this rule because there are several aspects of sex and reproduction that the government refuses to touch for politically reactionary reasons and the NGO sector is all we have to address these. Sex education for adolescents falls in this category. An important part of such sexuality education includes explaining all the available options for birth control and if abortion is deliberately left out of this list, a disservice will have been done.

On the other hand, fairness demands that we look at the few positive features of the Gag Rule that might be good for India and its people if they are imposed on governments, NGOs and, through them, on communities and families. The Executive Order forbids aid to any entities that support coercive abortions or involuntary sterilisations ­ both actions that pop their heads repeatedly in India. Maybe USAID pressure will give a fresh lease of life and publicity to efforts to combat shameful practices ranging from tribal women being forced by government hospitals to undergo post-partum sterilisation (and sometimes dying from the hurriedly and unhygienically performed procedure) to pregnant women being forced by their families to abort female fetuses. If that happens, the Global Gag Rule might have a small bright side to it.

Important caveats
Also worth keeping in mind is that the Gag Rule only applies to the promotion of abortion as a means of family planning, not abortion after a sexual attack or abortion to save the life of a pregnant woman. Moreover the ruling does not apply to post-abortion care for women who have post-abortion complications, legal or not. These are important caveats and NGOs must not get frightened off helping such women just because of the rule. The fear unfortunately is that many NGOs will either bow to the rule by leaving abortion completely out of their ambit or will retreat from family planning related work altogether.

In any case, it is worth keeping in mind that India does not have the same tradition of pro-choice and pro-life arguments that polarise debates in the U.S. and paying too much attention to what the Trump administration decrees is not in our interest; it will be even less necessary if the effective tradition of NGO activity in India can count a little more on the active support and encouragement of the government instead of being hounded for imagined brushes with some vague law or the other.

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Alaka M. Basu, a professor in the Department of Development Sociology at Cornell University, is currently Senior Fellow, United Nations Foundation
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 Monday January 23 2017

Global gag rule reinstated: What it means for world's women

Global gag rule is back: One of Trump's first actions targets the world's women

With the global gag rule reinstated, it is more important than ever to get money to grassroots, women-led groups around the world that are filling gaps in women's health care, educating women and girls on their reproductive rights, and advocating for safe and legal abortion. This is a critical moment to get money and support to women's movements working hard to resist rollbacks around the world.

Less than 48 hours after millions of people marched for equality in cities across the U.S. and around the worldand one day after the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case that guaranteed a woman's right to have an abortionPresident Donald Trump made clear that global women's human rights are at risk.

On Monday morning, Trump reinstated the Mexico City policy, also known as the 'global gag rule', which bans U.S. federal funding for any international health organizations or NGOs around the world that counsel women on family planning options that include access to safe abortion. The result? Reduced resources not just for reproductive health information, but access to birth control, sex education, and HIV testing. Trump's reinstatement of the global gag rule means that women around the world will lack access to reliable and comprehensive health care, and will not be able to make informed decisions about their health care options when pregnant.

"This is much bigger than abortion," said Musimbi Kanyoro, President and CEO of Global Fund for Women. "The global gag rule affects family planning, maternal health, HIV prevention and services, sex education for young peopleit affects the whole of women's health care around the world. Reinstating this policy directly targets the world's women and girls, and rolls back reproductive health and rights globally."

This action stands to markedly decrease women's access to reliable reproductive health care information and services, including access to contraception and STD screenings, and means that fewer women and girls globally will be fully-informed about their reproductive rights. And while Trump's executive order was framed as a way to protect U.S. taxpayer dollars from funding abortions, the global gag rule has no effect on that; no foreign aid can currently be used to fund abortions under any circumstances under the long-standing Helms Amendment.

The global gag rule does mean that more of the world's women will be forced to seek unsafe abortionswith potentially devastating impacts on women and girls. For example, WHO research shows that Sub-Saharan Africa had higher abortion rates after George W. Bush reinstated the global gag rule, citing reduced access to contraception causing more unwanted pregnancies. Further, studies conducted by PAI show that the global gag rule often cuts off women's access to health care services entirely.

"The global gag rule undermines women's health, rights, and needs," added Leila Hessini, former Global Fund for Women Board Chair and expert on global reproductive rights. "Organizations who receive foreign assistance are unable to council, refer, or advocate for abortion even if they are using funds from other sources."

With the global gag rule reinstated, it is more important than ever to get money to grassroots, women-led groups around the world who are filling gaps in women's health care, educating women and girls on their reproductive rights, and advocating for safe and legal abortion. This is a critical moment to get money and support to women's movements working hard to resist rollbacks around the world.

Take action now: Donate to ensure global women's movements can advance rights for all. Make your voice heard by adding your own message about women's rights. Global Fund for Women will deliver your message, and the 700 we've received in the last week from women and men around the world, to the new U.S. administration later this month.

Let's create a chorus of global voices with #BuildMovementsNotWalls and ensure that we are heard.

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