On 18 July a Taliban official, Adnan Rasheed wrote a letter to Malala claiming he was shocked at the shooting and wished it hadn’t happened. He did not issue an apology and said it is up to god to decide if it was right or wrong. He also claimed Malala was targeted because she was bagging the Taliban not because she wanted an education. He advised her to return to Afghanistan and enrol in a religious school. If this is PR Taliban-style then they could sure use some advice.
Twenty-two years ago a fourteen-year-old girl was raped in Ireland and became pregnant. She told her parents she would rather die than proceed with the pregnancy. Abortion was illegal in Ireland where the Constitution has an amending clause guaranteeing the life of the unborn. The Irish state took out an injunction forcing the girl and her parents to return to Ireland and banning them from leaving for nine months to protect the pregnancy. There was public outrage and an appeal to the Supreme Court which ruled that, if the woman’s life was in danger, including from suicide, she has a right to terminate the pregnancy. In 2010 the European Court of Human Rights in the case of ABC v Ireland found that the failure to regulate access to abortion was a violation of Ireland’s human rights obligations.
On 12 July 2013 the Irish Parliament passed a law clarifying that a pregnancy can be terminated where two doctors provide a certificate stating there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the pregnant woman. The new law gives guidance to what ‘a threat to life’ means and who decides. It does very little to provide access to abortion services. In October 2012 Savita Halappanavar died in Ireland after being refused an abortion because a foetal heartbeat was detected.
Meanwhile in the Apple Isle
The Tasmanian parliament has struggled to pass its abortion law reform which would permit terminations up to sixteen weeks and thereafter with the approval of two doctors. The Bill was passed in the Lower House but stalled when it went upstairs where it was referred to a Committee.
‘Everything is Bigger in Texas’
Women opposing an anti choice law in Texas had their tampons confiscated because they were considered to be a security risk! What!! Guns were allowed but not tampons? Did they think the women might have used the tampons as bullets?
In Texas abortion is banned after 20 weeks; the new law also regulates doctors and clinics and has the potential to close many services. The Governor of Texas has described the law as, ‘the final step in our historic effort to protect life’. State Senator Wendy Davis, who spoke for over eleven hours in a bid to block the bill, has described the new law as shameful. There will almost certainly be a legal challenge to the law.
In North Dakota the United States’ most restrictive anti abortion law was stalled by an injunction issued in July. The law would have banned abortions as early as six weeks after conception.
The federal government is providing a million dollars for 15 community projects to try to end female genital circumcision (‘FGM’). The practice is illegal in Australia and the federal Minister for Health Tanya Plibersek has said, ‘the federal government’s clear position is that FGM is never justified and it will never be tolerated under any circumstances. There is no doubt that FGM is a preventable harm and a serious risk to women’s health.’ Young South Australian of the Year finalist Khadija Gbla, herself a victim of cutting, has expressed anger at what was done to her but realises the older women who did it to her were also victims (The Sunday Age 21/7/2013). See also A Tradition in Transition: Female genital mutilation/cutting. A literature review, an overview of prevention programs and demographic data for Victoria, Australia (Family Planning Victoria, March 20l3).
Swinburne University recognises and acts on domestic violence
Victoria’s Swinburne University and the National Tertiary Education Union have struck a deal which will allow workers to have an additional five days paid leave a year to help them deal with domestic violence (The Australian, 25 July 2013). Swinburne vice-chancellor Linda Kristjanson said the University recognised the ‘significant adverse impact domestic violence has on those who experience it’.
TAMMY PON is a feminist lawyer.