Tunisia is often portrayed as the poster-child of the Arab Spring as the revolution was peaceful and a relatively open democracy has been formed by the Tunisian people. As with many countries in North Africa, a key problem that has dogged their societies has been how women have been treated by regressively-minded citizens and conservative figures of authority. However a democracy can only truly function if all members in that society are free to express themselves without fear of repercussions. This requires a raft of civil liberties that are inalienable and defended by the judiciary and so long as women are subject to coercion and prejudice, Tunisia will not represent the views of all its citizens. Thankfully action has been taken.
In the last few years that has been an increase in public awareness about the so-called ‘tampon tax’. The tampon tax is not actually a specific tax on tampons, but a decision by the Treasury to classify tampons as ‘luxury items’ and thus liable for VAT. Although I am not a woman, I am somewhat aware of what my sisters go through on a monthly basis and to say that tampons are a luxury item is fucking ridiculous. However to add insult to injury, it has been revealed that some of the money from the Treasury has been funneled into the coffers of the anti-abortion group Life. Unacceptable doesn’t cover how unjust this situation is.
Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster has been facing heat, pun intended, over her handling of the RHI scandal. The RHI scandal concerns a renewable energy scheme that was set up in 2012 to lower greenhouse gas emissions. The scheme was the responsibility of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) and the minister responsible was Arlene Foster. The questions that people are asking are whether or not the scheme was an example of incompetence- and as such the person in change shouldn’t be First Minister- corruption, or unavoidable. The scandal is the largest financial cock-up in the history of devolution because it came in £490 million over budget. Unfortunately Foster has now claimed that calls for her resignation, even though she is clearly culpable, are misogynistic, but what she’s actually doing is seeking an electoral example.
Poland has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the developed world, however this has not stopped the government wishing to introduce an even more restrictive law which seeks to ban abortion in all cases including rape and incest. The ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) is seeking to introduce the law but the prospect of this even stricter legislation being passed is on a knife edge due to parliamentary realities. The women of Poland have not delayed and have taken to the streets in protest around the country to make the issue as politically toxic as possible. Firstly I’ll look at how these courageous women are fighting before going ascertaining whether or not this law will pass.
After being derided for years as lacking clarity, Germany’s controversial rape law may be on the verge of significant change. The motivation behind the change was the explosion in sexual assaults in recent months, and whilst this was a tragic set of incidents, the change in the German penal code would be a way of closing this chapter with a positive outcome. As I said the change is welcome but the existence of the current law points to an existing societal problem.
Sierra Leone’s parliament unanimously passed a bill that would have legalised abortion up to 12 weeks and also up to 24 weeks in cases of rape, incest, and foetal impairment. This legislation, it is important to add, would enable women to have access to procedures that in many cases can save lives. Unfortunately President Ernest Bai Koroma has vetoed the prospective law, demanding that the bill should be put to a referendum. As for now the fight for women’s reproductive rights in this area goes on.
Feminism has become one of the most controversial political labels of recent years. Indeed people all over the world have their own conceptions of what feminism is, and more importantly what it isn’t. As a consequence gems of statements like ‘I support women’s rights but I’m not a feminist’ have become increasingly common. To be perfectly honest I’m not surprised that this situation has arisen because we in the feminist movement have not challenged the media enough to educate people on what we are calling for or what we believe. Unfortunately this is because the feminist movement, much like any other political ideology like socialism or liberalism, is in essence an umbrella term for lots of different beliefs, and when these views contradict each other the average person remains unaware of what feminists stand for.