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Women’s Rights: The Decline And The Fight Back

Even though their rights have been weakened in some countries, women continue to make headway in traditionally male-dominated fields.


(FILES) This file photograph taken on November 1, 2018, shows a neon sign depicting Rosie the Riveter at TheWrap’s Power Women Summit in Los Angeles. – The colour purple, a fist in the Venus symbol, triangles, Rosie the Riveter or women’s hymns such as the Chilean ” el violador en tu camino” are part of the symbols of feminism, as the 8th of March is set to see demonstrations around the world for International Women’s day. (Photo by VALERIE MACON / AFP)

 

 

 

Activists are mobilising to reverse what they warn is a stark decline in women’s rights in the run-up to International Women’s Day on March 8.

Abortion is under attack in the United States and parts of Europe, while gender violence is growing in war-torn Ukraine, revolt-hit Iran, and Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

Here is a rundown of the burning issues as well as a few bright spots:

Battle for abortion rights

Women are mobilising this year more than ever to defend the right to abortion, which is either non-existent, threatened or challenged in many countries.

The United States became an emblematic example when the US Supreme Court last June overturned Roe v. Wade, its 1973 landmark ruling conferring on women the right to choose an abortion.

Since then, around 20 of its 50 states have either banned abortion or sharply limited it.

In the European Union, abortion rights have been eroded in Hungary and Poland.

Abortion remains “significantly hindered” in Spain and Italy where many doctors are refusing to carry out the procedure on the grounds of conscience or religious belief, according to the group “Abortion in Europe, women decide”.

In this context, activists are appealing to enshrine the right in France by writing it into the constitution. A bill is under debate.

Latin America, on the other hand, is liberalising abortion legislation. Early last year, Colombia legalised abortion up to the 24th week of pregnancy, no matter the reason.

 

 

(FILES) A demonstrator holding a placard with the Fist-Venus symbol attends a gathering during an International Women’s Strike at Union Square in New York, March 8, 2019. (Photo by Don EMMERT / AFP)

 

Afghanistan under the Taliban

Activist groups are sounding the alarm over the deterioration of women’s rights in Afghanistan since the Taliban returned to power in August 2021.

Amnesty International has recently urged the international community to develop a robust and coordinated strategy to put pressure on the regime.

The Taliban, it said, have increased measures to remove women from public life, banning them from particular jobs. And girls have been excluded from secondary schools and higher education.

Amnesty said: “Women who peacefully protested against these oppressive rules have been threatened, arrested, detained, tortured, and forcibly disappeared.”

 

(FILES) A wave of unrest has rocked Iran since 22-year-old Amini died on September 16 following her arrest by the morality police in Tehran for allegedly breaching the country’s strict rules on hijab headscarves and modest clothing. (Photo by – / UGC / AFP)

Iran revolt

Women are at the heart of the unprecedented protest movement that has shaken Iran since the death in September of Mahsa Amini.

The 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman died three days after her arrest by the morality police, who accused her of violating the Islamic Republic’s compulsory dress code.

Young women spearhead the protest movement, shouting “Women, life, freedom”, and some removing or burning their headscarves as they defy the authorities on video.

The protest for women’s liberation has gradually turned into a larger movement against Islamic rule.

Human Rights Watch accused the authorities in Tehran of violently enforcing “discriminatory” dress codes for women and of “unlawfully using excessive and lethal force against protesters”.

 

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 24, 2022 Olena Kurylo, a 52-year-old teacher stands outside a hospital after the bombing of the eastern Ukraine town of Chuguiv as Russian armed forces attempt to invade Ukraine from several directions, using rocket systems and helicopters to attack Ukrainian position in the south, the border guard service said. (Photo by Aris Messinis / AFP)

 

War in Ukraine

Women have been living in exile or confronting daily violence at home following Russia’s invasion a year ago.

The war has had “devastating” consequences for women and girls in Ukraine, UN Women said in a report.

“The report shows that there are alarming increases in gender-based violence; transactional sex for food and survival; sexual exploitation and trafficking,” the group said.

It also highlighted “early, child, and forced marriage as a result of these worsened living conditions in conflict, crisis, and humanitarian contexts worldwide”.

NGOs accuse Russian forces of resorting to rape as a “weapon of war”. The European Parliament condemned the practice in May.

Despite the war, Ukraine was able to last year ratify the Istanbul Convention, the first international treaty to set legally binding norms to prevent violence against women.

 

(FILES) In this file photo taken on December 5, 2022 French European Space Agency’s (ESA) Astronauts Class of 2022 Sophie Adenot poses after meeting with the press at the Cazaux Air Base 120, a French Air and Space Force base, in Cazaux, southwestern France. (Photo by Philippe LOPEZ / AFP)

 

(FILES) In this file photo taken on December 10, 2022 French writer Annie Ernaux poses after having been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature 2022 during the Nobel Prize award ceremony at the Concert Hall in Stockholm. (Photo by Christine OLSSON / TT NEWS AGENCY / AFP)

 

 

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 23, 2022 ESA newly recruited class of career astronaut, Britain’s Rosemary Coogan, poses during a ceremony to unveil the European Space Agency new class of career astronauts in Paris. (Photo by Joël SAGET / AFP)

 

 

(FILES) In this file photo taken on December 10, 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2022 winner US chemist Carolyn Bertozzi poses during the Nobel Prize award ceremony at the Concert Hall in Stockholm. (Photo by Christine OLSSON / TT NEWS AGENCY / AFP)

 

 

(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 5, 2022 Ukraine’s Maryna Viazovska presents her medal after receiving the 2022 Fields Prize for Mathematics during the International Congress of Mathematicians 2022 (ICM 2022) in Helsinki, Finland. (Photo by Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva / AFP)

 

Role models

Even though their rights have been weakened in some countries, women continue to make headway in traditionally male-dominated fields.

Ukrainian mathematician Maryna Viazovska last year won a prestigious Fields medal, the second woman to have won the honour since its creation in 1936.

Two women are among the 10 winners of the last Nobel Prizes: Frenchwoman Annie Ernaud for literature and American Carolyn Bertozzi for chemistry.

And two women recently joined the European Space Agency as career astronauts: Rosemary Coogan, a 31-year-old Briton, and Sophie Adenot, a 40-year-old French woman.

 

 

(FILES) A woman holds a placard picturing a raised fist within Venus symbol during a rally in solidarity with the Women’s March taking place in Washington and many other cities, in Lyon, southeastern France, on January 21, 2017, one day after the inauguration of the US President. – The colour purple, a fist in the Venus symbol, triangles, Rosie the Riveter or women’s hymns such as the Chilean ” el violador en tu camino” are part of the symbols of feminism, as the 8th of March is set to see demonstrations around the world for International Women’s day. (Photo by JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK / AFP)