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by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 at the time of the International Population Conference in Mexico City, has been revoked by successive Democratic Presidents and reinstated by successive Republican Presidents, so Mr.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.
--------------- Alaka M. Basu, a professor in the Department of Development Sociology at Cornell University, is currently Senior Fellow, United Nations Foundation ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 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.
January 2017 Women, Law and Culture - Conformity, Contradiction and Conflict by Jocelynne A. Scutt (Editor)
Available Formats: Hardcover 95.29€ eBook 76,99 €
Topics Crime and Society Critical Criminology Criminological Theory Gender Studies Ethnicity Studies Criminal Law
Jocelynne A. Scutt is a Barrister and Human Rights Lawyer, member of the Inner Temple (London) and Victorian Bar (Melbourne), and Visiting Professor and Senior Teaching Fellow at the University of Buckingham, UK, where she teaches Criminal Law, Constitutional Law and Administrative Law, and Sex, Gender and Minorities in Law.
This book explores cultural constructs, societal demands and political and philosophical underpinnings that position women in the world. It illustrates the way culture controls women's place in the world and how cultural constraints are not limited to any one culture, country, ethnicity, race, class or status. Written by scholars from a wide range of specialists in law, sociology, anthropology, popular and cultural studies, history, communications, film and sex and gender, this study provides an authoritative take on different cultures, cultural demands and constraints, contradictions and requirements for conformity generating conflict.
Women, Law and Culture is distinctive because it recognises that no particular culture singles out women for 'special' treatment, rules and requirements; rather, all do. Highlighting the way law and culture are intimately intertwined, impacting on women - whatever their country and social and economic status - this book will be of great interest to scholars of law, women’s and gender studies and media studies.
INDEX TO CONTENTS Introduction – Jocelynne A. Scutt
Part I Identity & Representation 1. Robin Joyce, ‘It’s Time to Go’ ‘You’re Fired – Australian Big Brother (2005) and Britain’s The Apprentice (2014) 2. Anna Morcom, Modern Laws, Human Rights and Marginalisation of Courtesan and Transgender Performers in India 3. Susan SM Edwards, Targeting Muslims Through Women’s Dress – The Niqab and the Psychological War Against Muslims 4. Nahda Shehada, The Asymmetrical Representation of Gender in Islamic Family Law 5. Shadia Edwards-Dashti, War, Conflict and Gender Ideologies – Middle Eastern Images and Realities
Part II Place & Space 6. Karen Buczynski-Lee, Woman as Cabbage to Women as Prime Ministers and Presidents – Demanding Women’s Rightful Space in the Film & Television Industry 7. Gisele Yasmeen, Accessing Urban Public Space for a Livelihood – India, Thailand and Philippines in Comparative Perspective 8. Greta Bird & Jo Bird, ‘No Place Like Home’ – The Human Rights of Women in Aged-Care 9. Amy Gaudion, Defending Your Country … and Gender – Legal Challenges and Opportunities Confronting Women in the Military 10. Pragna Patel, ‘No Place for a Woman’ – Harmful Practices, Religion and State Responses
Part II Bodily & Psychic Integrity 11. Patmalar Ambikapathy Thuraisingham, ‘For the Husband is the Head of the Wife’: Ephesians 5 – Sustaining Violence Against Women – Past and Present, Law and Culture 12. Cathryn Goodchild, ‘Why Does He Abuse? Why Does She Stay?’ – Social and Cultural Roots of Domestic Abuse 13. Lynette Dumble, Commodification of Women and Girls at Home – The Festering of India’s Male Violence 14. Jeanne Sarson & Linda MacDonald, Seeking Equality – Justice and Women’s and Girls Right not to be Subjected to Non-State Torture
Conclusion – Up From Under – Women, Law, Culture - Jocelynne A. Scutt
Ten Ways to Build a Broad Progressive Movement to Defeat Trump
by Betsy Hartmann
People rally as they take part in a protest against Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump in New York on March 19,2016. (Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty) 1. Figure out the whole recipe. There are many reasons Trump won and Hillary lost. Rather than fight over what’s the most important one, it’s more productive to explore the insidious ways different ingredients -- class resentment, white supremacy, patriarchy, nativism, media bias, Clinton elitism, voter suppression, the Electoral College, to name a few -- blended together to produce such a toxic stew. 2. Cut people some slack, and network, network, network. The holier-than-thou variety of identity politics has got to go. In building a broad coalition, we’ll have to work with people who don’t always pass the ideological purity test, but who will have our backs when push comes to shove. In Trump’s America, safety will be in our numbers. Without sacrificing core principles, we need to build political bridges whenever and wherever we can. 3. In watching the circus, strip the mask off the clown. Mainstream media promoted the Trump spectacle to rake in advertising revenues. Now they’ll invite us to watch the daily circus of his blunders. As Trump acts like a deranged clown teetering on the tight rope, Steve Bannon will play the ringmaster and Mike Pence the loyal foil. But it’s not a circus and Trump’s not a clown. What’s going down is dead serious. 4. Speak the new F-word -- Fascism. While it’s too soon to say we’re definitively on the road to fascism, we need to monitor and resist the possibility at every turn. One thing is clear: right-wing populism is on the rise in the U.S. and Europe, and around the globe. White supremacist, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim forces are cooperating across national borders. As the Far Right becomes more transnational in focus and organization, so must we. 5. Support the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Bernie Sanders’ strong run in the Democratic primary is just the beginning, not the end. However, it will take sustained political pressure from inside and outside the party to dislodge the old guard and move the party forwards. Now is the time to step in, not back.
6. Create positive models for the future. While the Republicans now dominate national politics, many spaces to make change exist at the local, state and regional levels. We should prepare now for Trump’s defeat in 2020 by having progressive social, economic, labor, and environmental policies and programs in place that can be rapidly scaled up.
6. Stand up for your rights and those of others. In the face of a Trump strategy to divide and conquer, we need to make a firm commitment to the indivisibility of basic human rights and civil liberties. While each of us may have a particular set of rights we work on, we should resist the idea that we’ll be stretched too thin if we support other struggles too. In unity there is strength.
7. Prepare to defend the communities most vulnerable to right-wing attacks. The sanctuary movement is a positive example of what can be done in anticipation of Trump’s anti-immigrant crackdown. So is the strengthening of coalitions to fight hate crimes and hateful policies against people of color, Muslims, LGBTQ people, women, and people with disabilities. We need to plan now how to make critical health services, including abortion, available and accessible to people denied them.
8. Ramp up pressure on fossil fuel and other polluting industries. Even under Obama, the political power of the fossil fuel industry put a brake on climate progress. Under Trump it will be far worse. But as Standing Rock and other pipeline struggles prove, protest is powerful. We all belong in the fight for climate justice and clean air, water, and food. At the same time we shouldn’t turn our backs on workers and communities dependent on these industries. The transition to renewable energy should include new jobs for those who will lose out.
9. Revitalize the peace movement. Our country is in a state of permanent war. That wouldn’t have changed under Hillary who is more of a hawk than Obama. Trump’s national security appointments and cavalier attitudes toward torture and nuclear weapons pose grave new dangers, however. The time is ripe to come together to build a new kind of peace movement, one that opposes U.S. militarism at multiple levels – from police shootings of black people, to border enforcement, to the war on drugs, to the prison-industrial complex, to the arms and nuclear industries, to U.S. military interventions overseas. They all feed and bleed into one other. Alliances with veterans, first responders, and progressive law enforcement officials are essential. The veterans who came to Standing Rock are showing the way.
10. Stay optimistic. It sounds like a truism, but it’s true. As the late, great radical historian Howard Zinn wrote almost 30 years ago, “To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness… If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places – and there are so many – where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction…The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
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 betsyhartmann.com
A public awareness campaign with banners about ‘Vasectomy week'. (Special Arrangement )
A fortnight after the national ‘Vasectomy Fortnight', the Telangana experience reveals the gap in India's family planning programme
Sterilisation is simpler in men than women recovery time and surgical risk are smaller, complications are rare and deaths rarer. Yet, as the national ‘Vasectomy Fortnight' came to end earlier this month, the writing on the wall is clear: men are unwilling to share the burden of birth control.
The government observed ‘Vasectomy Fortnight' between November 21 and December 4 with the hope to create awareness about male sterilisation and, more importantly, to facilitate district administrations reach sterilisation targets through campaigns. Of the 40 lakh sterilisation procedures done in 2014-15, vasectomies accounted for minuscule 1.9 per cent.
Experiments in the country's youngest State, Telangana, reveal the sterilisation gap in India's family planning programme. This fortnight, five men walked into the vasectomy camp in Ranga Reddy, a district adjoining Telangana's capital Hyderabad with a 25 lakh population. The district administration managed to convince them to opt for the procedure. A second camp on December 8 found no takers and officials have renewed efforts to draw more men before the end of the financial year. With an annual target of 2,500 vasectomies this year the district's count stands at 5. Last year's numbers only seem marginally better with 37 men undergoing the procedure. The State paid them Rs.1,100 each for undergoing sterilisation while the 24,000 women who underwent sterilisation were paid Rs.880 per person.
Counselling the key "Vigorous campaigning, efficient counselling and post-operative services as well as education are real differentiators," says Renu Kapoor of the Family Planning Association of India. She pegs the lack of willingness to share the burden of contraception on a misplaced sense of masculinity.
"Men who avail vasectomies at our centres are educated and from organised work sectors. They do not require much counselling but have queries. They have heard of it from other men," Dr. Kapoor says. She stressed the importance of counselling in understanding the strong likelihood of pregnancy for three months after the procedure. Her observations suggest most men from middle- and higher-income groups who decide to undergo vasectomy arrive with their partners for counselling and the procedure; most women who opt for sterilisation, mainly from low-income groups, seek counsel of other women.
India's total fertility rate of 2.3 is expected to sink below 2 within the next decade. Telangana's fertility rate reached replacement levels before the State came into being in 2014 "replacement level fertility" is when the total fertility rate, i.e. the average number of children born per woman is the same as the dying population, implying that the population exactly replaces itself from one generation to the next. The third round of National Family Health Survey (NFHS) done a decade ago established that undivided Andhra Pradesh had recorded fertility rate of 1.8.
The latest survey in 2015 affirmed Telangana's fertility rate stood at 1.8 births per woman. "For men, concerns of losing sexual potency and physical vigour make them unwilling to discuss vasectomy," says Harish Chandra Reddy, health official in Ranga Reddy district. "A small number of unintended pregnancies and a few unfavourable post-vasectomy fallouts seem to have thrown it out of the reckoning."
Experts maintain that the gap between vasectomy targets and achievements remain unchanged over the years even as country's fertility and birth rates continue to fall, driven mainly by female sterilisation.
Tubectomies still the norm Despite aggressive promotional campaigns over the last decade, only a small proportion of couples use State-distributed condoms (0.5 per cent in 7,786 Telangana households surveyed in 2015), oral contraceptives (0.3 per cent), intra-uterine devices (0.3 per cent) and male sterilisation to prevent birth. Of the 77,000 sterilisation procedures performed in the State' s public health sector till October 2016, only 1,287 or 1.6 per cent were vasectomies. In the two years since Telangana's creation, vasectomies as a percentage of total sterilisations stood at 3 per cent, unchanged over the last decade. The State's health administration, under no pressure to reach targets given that Telangana has achieved replacement level fertility, aims to perform around two lakh sterilisations this year. If last year's numbers are any indication, one lakh more Telangana women will undergo sterilisation in the next three months.
An analysis of family health data published in 2012 reveals that up to 5 per cent women who underwent sterilisation before 2006 regret doing so, either because they feel they were too young at the time or because they opted for it without having any sons. The study noted that in States with lowest fertility rates, including undivided Andhra Pradesh, the median age of women being sterilised was around 23.
"Lack of gender equality, vulnerability of women and early marriages makes them agreeable to mass sterilisation programmes," says women's rights activist Rukmini Rao. "In rural India, women are against their husbands undergoing vasectomies fearing it may rob the family of its means of earnings and cast aspersions on them should pregnancy ensue after vasectomy."
Women's rights activists across the country had discussed and commented on the National Policy for Women when the government introduced the draft in May. Among other things, the policy envisages shifting focus of the country's family planning programme to male sterilisations but those like Dr. Rao who participated in the discussions remain highly sceptical. She believes sterilisation should be the last option of birth control.