Global Roundup: Fighting Against Coercion and Reproductive Restrictions in Spain, China and Namibia

Weekly global roundup: Namibian High Court says forced sterilization violated women's human rights; Spain is looking at tougher abortion restrictions; the world witnesses China's one-child policy and a gruesome forced abortion; gender equity in New Zealand still not up to snuff.

Namibia: Court Rules Forced Sterilization Violated Human Rights

The human rights of three HIV-positive women were violated by forced sterilization, the Namibian High Court has ruled. Doctors told the women, who elected to have caesarean sections in order to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to their newborns, that sterilization immediately following the procedure was compulsory. The Southern Africa Litigation Centre filed the case back in 2009, and the ruling was handed down just this week. While the court affirmed that the women’s human rights were violated, they did not agree that the women were coerced based on their HIV status, which amounts to only a partial victory in the eyes of women’s rights advocates. Forced sterilization remains one of the most pernicious violations of a woman’s human right–and is often used to oppress already-marginalized groups such as indigenous or HIV-positive individuals. Last month, a North Carolina court decided that living victims of state-run forced sterilization programs would receive $50,000 in compensation. Via IRIN.

Spain: Threat of New Abortion Restrictions

Spain’s Justice Minister, Alberto Ruiz Gallardon, has announced he will push Parliament to tighten the country’s current abortion law, restricting abortion in the case of fetal malformation and introducing new parental consent rules. The news angered reproductive rights advocates, who rallied in Madrid this week in protest. The planned restrictions are the architecture of the more conservative government voted in after last November’s elections. In 2010, the socialist-led government eased abortion restrictions in the majority-Catholic country, including allowing the procedure up to 14 weeks. As the political pendulum swings back and forth, women remain caught in the middle, their reproductive rights unduly dependent on the religious and political motivations of those in charge. Via CBS News.

China: Forced Abortion Charges Reignite Outrage at One-Child Policy

Feng Jianmei is the new face of China’s one-child policy. The 22-year old mother made global headlines last month after photos and video of the forced abortion of her seven-month old fetus were circulated. Apparently, her family could not afford the fine imposed by the state’s one-child policy following her second pregnancy, and so she was taken into custody to abort. After global coverage and outrage, the government has agreed to pay the family $11,200 and several officials involved in the abortion have been fired. The gruesome details of her ordeal have unveiled just how extreme the treatment of women and reproductive rights in China is. She was blindfolded, drugged, and chemical injections led to the stillbirth of her daughter days later. But it also highlights the growing class inequities, as many families wealthy enough to afford state-imposed fines have second and even third children without issue. The account of abortion coercion, may have another more pernicious effect, which is to re-ignite alarmism over global family planning programs in China. A very ill-informed article in USA Today suggests that the U.S. Government has been tacitly supporting forced abortions in China through the funding of the United Nations Population Program (UNFPA) a global family planning program. This claim is outdated, wholly debunked, and depressing to see still kicking around. Clearly more open and informed debate at this point is necessary. Via New York Times.

New Zealand: UN Report Says Gender Equality Still Elusive

This week the United Nations Committee on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) issued a report castigating the New Zealand Government for its lack of attention to ensuring women’s rights in the country, and called out its sluggish implementation of the committee’s previous recommendations to the same end. Among the persistent issues, the report notes the under-funded Ministry of Women’s Affairs, the proliferation of violence against women countrywide, and the continuation of gender discrimination in pay, despite it being specifically illegal. For a developed country like New Zealand to remain under public scrutiny for its progress in addressing gender gaps – however large or small – is significant, and highlights that political will and public accountability on these issues are paramount no matter how wealthy or stable a nation is. Via Xinhua.