Girlie Marches and Wins

Merry Christmas, Hannah Kar, Rama Dunn

Polish Women on the Warpath

Women in Poland went on strike this October to protest against their government’s planned law which would have totally banned abortion. Hundreds of thousands of women joined the series of strikes, dressed in black, beginning on what they called Black Monday. The existing Polish abortion laws are very restrictive with abortion allowed only where there has been incest or rape, or the life of the pregnant woman or the foetus is under threat. The proposed laws would have removed even those exemptions and have been described as barbaric. Jail sentences of five years would have applied for women choosing abortion and there would also have been jail sentences for doctors involved. (Rick Noack, The Age, 11 October 2016, reprinted from the Washington Post and New York Times). An organiser, Kamila Majer said, ‘We’re fighting for a secular state, the right to contraception and equal pay among men and women among other things’. Fellow organiser Bozena Przyluska said, ‘Right now the Church interferes in politics and the law. It blackmails political parties and meddles in things that shouldn’t concern it’.

The strike succeeded with the embarrassed Polish government withdrawing the proposal. Government Minister Jaroslaw Gowin said that the protests ‘caused us to think and taught us humility’.

Daysy Days

The oral contraceptive pill (‘the pill’) dramatically changed the lives of women from the time of its introduction in the 1970s. For the first time women had a reliable way of controlling their fertility and were given the freedom to choose the way they lived their lives. Some Catholic doctors refused to prescribe it on religious grounds. Over the years the amount of hormones in the pill were dramatically reduced making it a much safer method while still preventing fertilisation. Fast forward to 2016 and women have many more choices. The Daysy is a new US invention that relays a woman’s temperature to an app to determine the days she is most fertile so she can avoid intercourse. And when all else fails the Pope has given priests permission to ‘forgive’ repentant women who have had an abortion. Wow!! That should make a huge difference to women’s lives.

Women in Law Awards

The Lawyers Weekly Women in Law Awards recognise the achievements of women who have challenged, influenced or changed the practice of law in Australia. Girlie’s personal favourite Award categories are Law Student of the Year, Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year and Mentor of the Year.

Worldly Women

‘Women Around the World: This Week’ is an online series highlighting noteworthy news related to women and US foreign policy. It is compiled by Rachel Vogelstein with a little help from her friends. Recent features include a landmark bill in Tunisia that introduces new provisions to combat violence against women and girls, including criminalising marital rape, eliminating pardons for perpetrators of violence who marry their victims, and incorporating definitions of gender-based violence into existing law. Another feature is marital naming law in Japan. Japanese women have been speaking out following a Supreme Court decision which upheld a 19th century law requiring married couples to share a surname. While the law technically allows the woman’s surname to be used this is rarely done with 96 per cent of marriages having the husband’s surname. Japanese opponents say keeping a given surname is a fundamental right, critical to independence. A recent case involved a married teacher who argued she should be able to retain her own surname as she had built relationships and published using it. The all-male panel of three judges ruled the law was neither a violation of the teacher’s rights nor of the Japan Civil Code.

An unedifying election

Following the election of a man with hair like a corn cob, concerns have been expressed in the United States about women’s access to health benefits. Brenda Goodman (Women brace for changes to health benefits, Web MD, 11 November 2016) says that Trump and other Congressional leaders have promised to prioritise the overturning of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. This could see women losing access to birth control, breast pumps, maternity care and childbirth services. While the full repeal will require an act of Congress ‘the coverage for women’s services and contraceptives could disappear with the stroke of the new president’s pen’. On social media, women are being advised to get relevant reproductive services now rather than waiting. Trump had also vowed to appoint an anti-abortion judge to the Supreme Court to overturn the 1973 decision of Roe v Wade. Asked what women requiring abortion would do, he said they could go to another state. Does he mean Mexico? It seems that all Girlie and friends can do is to wait, hopefully, for the eventual ascension of President Michelle Obama.

Stop Press: Inspirational Susan Kiefel appointed Australia’s first woman High Court Chief Justice. And about time too. Long gone are the days when women were kept out of high office because there were no female dunnies; Girlie has a letter penned by Justice Mary Gaudron following her appointment to the High Court testifying that there are, indeed, Ladies’ Facilities at the High Court.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, HANNAH KAR and RAMA DUNN are feminist lawyers.

(2016) 41(4) AltLJ 284
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