Global Roundup: Religious Right Expands Reach in Africa; Pregnant Teen in Dominican Republic Denied Chemotherapy

Weekly global roundup: Reproductive Health Bill still looms as a promise in the Philippines; the UN hears testimony of rape in Syria; US Christian Right camps out in Africa; Abortion ban in the Dominican Republic impedes a teen's cancer treatment.

Philippines: Catholic Church vs. Reality When it Comes to Contraception

The LA Times has a series, “Beyond the Billion,” which explores population issues worldwide. This week, the long suffering Reproductive Health Bill in the Philippines, and the country’s embittered struggle to provide for its citizens’ reproductive health needs is again in the spotlight. The bill, which would provide universal access to sex education and unfettered access to contraception remains in Congress after nearly 15 years under review, and advocates are pushing hard against the stalwart Catholic leadership that largely runs the country. Yet increasingly so, it has become clear just how at odds – and out of touch – the Catholic Church is with the needs and desires of Filipinos. Advocates are hopeful that this dissonance will soon lead to a sea change in policies for the country. In 2010, President Aquino was elected in part because of his outspoken support for the bill, after decades of his outspoken opposition to it – including an executive order banning modern contraception in the capital of Manila. Eighty percent of the population is Catholic, and 70 percent support the Reproductive Health Bill. Lack of access to contraception has contributed to the poverty and ill health of the population, and continues to oppress the human rights of individuals countrywide. Abortion is also entirely restricted in the country, putting women and families in excruciating positions when it comes to determining their fertility, health, and futures. Congress has pledged to vote on the bill within the year. Via The LA Times.

Syria: Crowd-Sourced Rape Findings Presented at the United Nations

Last week, Lauren Wolfe, Director of Women Under Siege – a media and human rights watchdog focused on sexualized violence worldwide – testified at the UN on the use of rape in Syria as a weapon of war. Women Under Siege launched the crowd-sourced map to track instances of sexual violence in the country back in April, utilizing technology to uncover a real-time and evolving picture of the reality of sexual violence. The map is accessible by survivors and witnesses, and tracks where sexual violence is occurring, as well as other details such as how many people were involved and what the outcomes were. Three months later, Wolfe says:

“The major finding of our work is that Syrian government forces have allegedly carried out nearly 70 percent of sexual attacks in the country.”

Wolfe also says the map shows an alarmingly high rate of gang rape. The significance of Wolfe’s testimony and the existence of the map’s data is the probability to stem and address sexual violence as close to the time it occurs as possible. This is a major opportunity for human rights advocates and peacekeepers to challenge what has for too long been the status quo in conflict and crisis settings – that women are subjected to brutal sexual violence with little to no recourse. Let’s hope it doesn’t drift away in vain. Via Women Under Siege.

Africa Continent: US Religious Right Puppeteers Anti-Gay and Anti-Choice Policies

Political Research Associates of Boston, a progressive think tank, has released a report, Colonizing Africa Values: How the U.S. Christian Right is Transforming Sexual Politics in Africa, which details efforts of the Right to infiltrate and “strongly mentor” African religious leaders around specific policy objectives, namely anti-gay and anti-choice. It is no surprise that there’s a strong link between such efforts in the United States and in Africa, as evinced by American Evangelicals’ role in building Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” Bill, or notorious anti-choice Rep. Chris Smith’s African adventures. But the report details a broader and subtler linkage, which may be more difficult to track and ascertain. The report’s key author, Reverend Kapya Kaoma, an Anglican Priest from Zambia, describes U.S. Christian Right “store fronts,” staffed by African employees, largely to appeal to a new demographic. Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), the Catholic Church’s Human Life International (HLI) and the Mormon-led Family Watch International are all names as having launched or expanded offices in Africa over the past five years.

“By hiring locals as office staff, ACLJ and HLI in particular hide an American-based agenda behind African faces, giving the Christian Right room to attack gender justice and (the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people) as a neocolonial enterprise imposed on Africans and obstructing meaningful critique of the U.S. right’s activities,” the report said. Via AP.

Dominican Republic: Abortion Ban Denies Pregnant Teen Lifesaving Cancer Treatment

A constitutional ban on abortion in the Dominican Republic has led to a raging debate over the health and life of a 16-year old with acute Leukemia, who also happens to be nine weeks pregnant. The young woman needs chemotherapy to save her life, but which would likely result in the termination of her pregnancy. Doctors are unsure of what to do amid speculation of the implications of the country’s law, which is mostly applied as an all-out ban on abortion. Article 37 of the Dominican Constitution states that “the right to life is inviolable from the moment of conception and until death,” prohibiting abortion in all circumstances, and also outlawing the death penalty. Interpretation of the article has remained sketchy, inhibiting the exercise of reproductive rights countrywide. Hopefully cancer treatment will commence soon, and a richer debate about how to interpret this component of the constitution to protect the rights of women will commence as well. Via CNN International.