Yemeni women’s colourful revolution
+ the first post-Communist country to embrace equal marriage
Only have a minute to read this newsletter? Here it is in brief:
🇫🇮 Finland’s new gender recognition law.
✊ Abortion victories in Spain and Brazil.
🇸🇱 Groundbreaking equality legislation in Sierra Leone.
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FINLAND — The Finnish Parliament passed a new gender recognition law in February with 113 votes in favour and 69 against. The legislation removes the requirement for trans people to prove that they are infertile or sterile or to undergo a psychiatric examination in order to change their gender. Under the new legislation, it will be enough to submit a written declaration and then undergo a 30-day reflection period. The law, however, doesn’t cover the transition of trans children. "We will continue to call on the government to amend the legislation accordingly to ensure it advances the rights of children," said Matti Pihlajamaa, Amnesty International Finland's LGBTI rights advisor.
SLOVENIA — As of January 31, same-sex couples are able to marry and adopt children in Slovenia, the first post-communist country in Europe to legalise equal marriage. The amendments to the family code were approved by parliament in October last year. Shortly before that, in July, the constitutional court ruled that preventing gay and lesbian couples from marrying or adopting children was discriminatory and a violation of the national constitution.
Politics and Economics
DENMARK – Female Afghan asylum seekers in Denmark will be granted refugee status on the basis of their gender. On January 31, the Refugee Board announced that “the situation for a number of groups of people in Afghanistan, including women and girls, is of such a nature that it constitutes persecution within the meaning of the Refugee Convention.” The board will automatically approve the asylum cases of five female Afghan applicants and review a further ten based on the decision. It has traditionally been difficult for asylum seekers from countries like Syria to acquire refugee status in Denmark, because their cases often do not conform to the forms of persecution recognised under the 1951 Refugee Convention, which was written by and for men. Denmark has some of the harshest asylum policies in the European Union.
YEMEN — Yemeni women are using social media to defy the Houthi regime. In Houthi-controlled parts of the country, women are obliged to wear a long, black tunic, or abaya, that covers them from head to toe. But on Twitter they have begun to share images of themselves wearing colourful clothes, which used to be part of their customary dress. As in Iran, women in Yemen can be imprisoned for failing to respect a strict dress code. Human rights organisations say the Houthis systematically violate women’s and girls rights, including freedom of movement and expression, and access to health, especially reproductive health care. Women must be accompanied by a male guardian to travel, and are barred from entering cafes, restaurants or workplaces. This progressive loss of rights began when the Houthis first took the capital, Sana'a, in 2014.
SIERRA LEONE — Sierra Leone has passed the Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment Act, which reserves 30% of parliamentary seats and 30% of appointed political offices for women, as well as 30% of both public and private sector jobs. It also guarantees 14 weeks of maternity leave. The law establishes equal pay for equal work between men and women, as well as equal access to bank loans and financial services. It imposes fines and potential prison sentences for gender discrimination in the financial sector.
FRANCE — The French senate has approved the inclusion of abortion in the constitution with 166 votes in favour and 152 against. The text, which was initially passed by the national assembly in November, was modified to attract more votes in the senate. The new version establishes that "the law determines the conditions under which the freedom to terminate pregnancy can be exercised". The bill will now return to the national assembly. If it completes the legislative process, it will have to be submitted to a referendum, because the original bill was written by an opposition party. If the government adopts the bill itself, it can be passed by a 3/5 majority in parliament. According to a 2022 survey, 83% of French citizens are in favour of including access to abortion in the constitution.
US — On January 22, the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, thousands marched for abortion rights across the country. The ruling, which protected abortion at the federal level, was overturned in June last year. A day after this massive protest, the Florida Supreme Court rejected a motion to stop a law banning the termination of pregnancy after 15 weeks. In later January, the Minnesota government signed a law protecting abortion rights. In the state, abortion is legal up to the point of viability – 24-26 weeks. The state thus became the first in the country to protect abortion through legislation.
POLAND — Polish Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said he was "appalled" by the case of a 14-year-old who was denied an abortion by doctors, despite himself being part of a government that has overseen increased abortion restrictions in Poland. The girl became pregnant after her uncle raped her. But doctors at local hospitals refused to terminate the pregnancy, invoking a conscience clause which allows them to opt out of abortion care. She was eventually able to terminate the pregnancy in Warsaw with the help of the feminist NGO, Federa. Poland bans abortion except in cases of rape, incest or risk to the patient’s life. Abortion in cases of foetal abnormalities was banned in January 2021.
SPAIN — The government of the Spanish province of Castilla y León has had to back down on a plan to introduce abortion restrictions, and promised there would be no changes to its medical protocol. The vice-president of the province, Juan García Gallardo, had originally said he would change abortion protocols to oblige abortion-seekers to listen to a foetal heartbeat and have a 4D ultrasound scan before terminating a pregnancy. In Spain, the right to abortion is protected by law. The announcement raised alarm in the central government, and Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez called on the provincial government, a right-wing coalition including the far-right Vox party, to put a stop to these plans.
BRAZIL — In January, President Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva announced Brazil's withdrawal from the Geneva Consensus, an anti-abortion declaration the country signed in October 2020 under the government of Jair Bolsonaro. Lula also revoked a Bolsonaro-era regulation that required doctors and clinics to notify police when they were due to perform an abortion on a rape victim. This forced victims to file a police report, something many prefer not to do. In Brazil, pregnancy termination is permitted in cases of risk to life or rape.
BOLIVIA — A survivor of sexual violence has won major lawsuit against the state of Bolivia. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights held Bolivia "internationally responsible" for the violation of Brisa de Ángulo Losada's human rights. De Ángulo's cousin repeatedly raped her between October 2001 and May 2002, but she was unable to find justice throug the country's courts. In its ruling, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights found De Ángulo had been re-victimised during her perpetrator's trials, and had been discriminated against on the basis of her age and gender. The ruling obliges the country to adopt a new protocol for the treatment of child and adolescent victims of sexual violence. "It is a great achievement to know that thanks to this sentence, we can move towards a more humane world," De Ángulo said in a statement.