Last Tuesday, Lithuania took its first step towards forbiding abortion. At the same time the government of Macedonia put forward a draft law to the parliament with the purpose of restricting the abortion right. Women’s rights organisations are now mobilizing to stop the proposal.
The draft law was put forward without any heads-up and is being pushed through in a speedy procedure, making it difficult to have a public debate about it. If the law is adopted, women will have to write to a committée appointed by the Minister of Health, to get approval to have an abortion. The father will have to be informed ahead of the procedure and the woman will not be allowed to have another abortion within the same year.
Campaigning for more children
At the same time, the Macedonian government is campaining for families to have more children, trying to persuade them by using financial benifits as incentive. The Orthodox church recently made a public statement accusing women who want to work to cause divorce. In the eyes of the church, women should stay at home and take care of reproduction and family.
“The draft law is very worrying. It limits women’s right to decide over their own bodies. If the law is adopted there will be an increase in the number of illegal abortions, which means great risks for women’s health” says Emilija Dimoska, working for the Swedish women’s rights and peace organisation The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation in Skopje, Macedonia.
Demonstration outside parliament
Last Wednesday, around 100 people demonstrated outside the parliament against the law. Among them were women’s rights activists that The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation supports and cooperates with. Due to the swift and forceful mobilization of civil society, NGOs have managed to get a meeting with the ministry next Wednesday, to discuss the draft law.
The right to legal abortions is constantly being questioned. This past year there have been states who have put ”traditional values” high on their agenda. After an initiative from Russia, the UN Human Rights Council last autumn adopted a resolution putting traditional values in the center of the work for human rights. Among other things, the resolution highlights the role of the family and traditional values’ importance for humanity. Human rights organisations fear that this will have negative consequences on the work for women’s and LBGT persons’ human rights.
Annika Flensburg/Malin Ekerstedt
On the one hand there is a beautiful, new arena and a glittering spectacle for European music lovers. On the other hand there are women being beaten and discriminated and an alarming increase in child marriages. When Azerbaijan hosts the Eurovision Song Contest next week, activists hope that the media circus won’t only be reporting about which artist that wore what.
Pervana Mammadova, Yuva. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation/Sara Ludtke.
The music festival Eurovision Song Contest, with European and neighbouring countries as contenders, takes place in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku. A magnificent, new stadium – Crystal Hall – has been built for the event and the Eurovision Song Contest’s official website paints a picture of Baku as a modern city. But a look behind the beautiful facades, gives a more complicated story.
– Yes, on the surface, it is the true picture. The reality is however different. Azerbaijan is rich in oil, but oil money that could be used to improve the situation of the population are instead used on beautiful new buildings and renovations in downtown Baku. The government forgets the real problems, like violations of human rights, gender violence and child marriages. This is the real situation behind the beautiful facade, says women’s rights activist Pervana Mammadova.
Women controlled by their families
Pervana Mammadova is the founder of the youth organization YUVA that works with empowering young women. They organize group discussions and offer seminars on gender issues,as well as training in leadership and human rights.
– Gender is a complex issue in Azerbaijan. We have laws that says that women and men enjoy equal rights and that prohibits domestic violence. But in reality, the implementation is inadequate. The patriarchal structure permeates the entire society, and young women’s lives are controlled by their families. For these women life is first and foremost about getting married and having children.
Abortions of female fetuses
Although the situation for women has improved in recent years, through the adoption of laws that strengthen women’s rights and a greater representation of women among politicians at local level, there are also many negative trends in the country. The number of child marriages are increasing and so are the number of abortions of female fetuses. And there are more girls dropping out of school. Some of these impairments may perhaps be explained by the religion’s growing influence on issues concerning women’s rights.
Doesn’t want boycott
But although the real situation of Azerbaijan’s population is at risk of being neglected during the big Eurovision event, Pervana Mammadova doesn’t want a boycott of the song contest.
– This is a great opportunity for us to raise awareness about the situation in Azerbaijan. When reporters and fans are traveling to Baku, it is important that they talk to the locals. Ask them if they have access to the beautiful buildings, or the Crystal Hall. Also make a trip outside of the contest area, to experience the real Azerbaijan, she says.