Women continue to be denied their reproductive choices by some doctors and pharmacists who claim to have conscientious objections to abortion and RU486. They are supposed to refer women to other practitioners who do not have such objections but in practice this does not always occur. Girlie knows of one woman who was obliged to have an abortion because a pharmacist denied her the Morning After pill. Not sure how you wrap your rosary beads around that one.
During the last two weeks of April, women around the world performed Eve Ensler’s play The Vagina Monologues. Under the terms of the licence to perform it, all proceeds must go to a charity dedicated to preventing violence against women. In Wangaratta the Monologues were performed at the CWA Hall and in Melbourne a group of prominent women lawyers starred at the Melbourne Town Hall Supper Room. Girlie got a chuckle out of the timidity of Wangaratta Tourism’s website reticence. Details of The Vagina Monologues were not displayed and instead it was listed as an ‘ineligible event’.
The cast in Melbourne included County Court judge Liz Gaynor, well-known and loved former Equal Opportunity Commissioner Moira Rayner, retired Health Services Commissioner Beth Wilson AM, ethicist Leslie Cannold, industrial lawyer Taboka Finn, barrister and author Hilary Bonney, community based lawyer, and convenor of Emily’s List, Tanja Kovac, and Helen McKelvie of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine. The two shows they performed on 30 April were a sell out, audiences loved it and a substantial amount of money was raised for CASA House and the V-Day Campaign.
On 3 May 2013 the Annual Human Rights Dinner was held in Melbourne. Fresh from moaning in the Monologues, Beth Wilson introduced herself to a distinguished looking man called Edwin, and told him about the show and the surprise triple orgasmic vaginal moan in which she was assisted by Moira Rayner and Helen McKelvie. She then asked Edwin where he was from. ‘Johannesburg,’ he replied. ‘Oh, whoops,’ moaned Wilson, ‘if I’d known you were our guest speaker, I would never have talked about the moans.’ The good Justice Edwin Cameron (described by none other than Nelson Mandela as one of South Africa’s modern heroes) used this conversation to open his inspirational address, saying how good it was to be in a city where he was not known, ‘because people tell you things they wouldn’t otherwise’. He then made the blushing Beth (when has Wilson ever blushed?) take a bow.
Well, I guess any progress is progress?
In Saudi Arabia, change for women comes slowly but it is coming. AAP reports that Saudi girls are now allowed to play sport in private schools for the first time. They must however play in accordance with Sharia law and adhere to ‘decent’ dress codes. Sounds a bit like being a ventriloquist in burka.
‘Sweet Sixteen’ and back in class again
Brave, inspirational Malala Yousafzai will celebrate her sixteenth birthday in New York addressing the United Nations. Among the audience will be 4000 other young people. Malala survived a Taliban sniper who shot her in the head for daring to promote education for girls. She survived following surgery in Britain and has been described by UN Special Envoy and former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown as, ‘a shining beacon for girls’ education around the world’. In Malala’s own words, ‘I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor. All I want is education. And I am afraid of no one’.
To the grim reality of women too scared to speak out
Samantha Robinson, in an exclusive for The Weekend Australian (4–5 May 2013) reports on the imprisonment of Aboriginal women who are victims of domestic violence and who retracted their claims against their abuser. Robinson reveals that there are 20 cases in which 19 Indigenous girls and one 17-year-old girl from Walgett to Wagga Wagga were prosecuted with three being sent to prison by local magistrates, one for an eighteen-month term. The sentences were overturned on appeal. Robinson points out that the sentences fly in the face of NSW’s recently rolled out domestic violence strategy which aims to ensure women have confidence in the justice system and are empowered to participate.
One courageous woman 44-year-old Allyson Sullivan from Gilgandra has spoken publicly about the 20 years of violent assaults she endured at the hands of her de facto partner. A mother of three, she was given an 18-month sentence after retracting her statement — this is the second harshest for the offence in recent NSW judicial statistics. She now feels let down by the justice system and has no faith in it.
JENNY TAYLIER and MADGE EINER are feminist lawyers