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Since I saw the video of Elin Ersson preventing the deportation of a man to Afghanistan from Sweden a few days ago, I just haven’t been able to get it out of my head. When I tell people about it I get goosebumps. It gives me hope in a world where hope seems naïve.
Last night we were pleased to launch our shadow report on the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), at a reception at the Scottish Parliament hosted by Christina McKelvie MSP, newly appointed Minister for Older People and Equalities.
Imagine two women; one lives in Belfast; the other in Edinburgh. Both women have decided to terminate their pregnancy. The one in Edinburgh is covered by the 1967 Abortion Act. She’ll need to seek approval from two doctors before proceeding, and has other barriers to overcome, but she has access to a safe and legal abortion. For the woman in Northern Ireland, the situation is one of the worst in the western world. The abortion law dates to 1861, so it’s hardly surprising that terminations are heavily restricted: an abortion is only available if there is a serious, permanent or long-term risk to the life or health of the woman. For the woman in Belfast, a termination will involve extensive planning and travelling, as well as emotional and financial costs. As she cannot exercise her reproductive rights at home, she will have to leave and travel across the sea to terminate her pregnancy, purchase illegal medicine online, or continue with an unwanted or unviable pregnancy.
The images of the Yes campaign in Ireland are still imprinted in my mind: pictures of women campaigning under banners of “Together for Yes”; the bold white “REPEAL” letters on black jumpers; the red heart emblazoned with “Repeal the 8th”; and #hometovote. It was only last week that the Yes campaign won, but it already feels like an age. Almost as soon as the last constituency results were announced, our collective gaze shifted north to focus on the punitive, regressive law that remains in place in Northern Ireland. While mainstream attention to the abortion law in Northern Ireland is long overdue, confusion has set in over how women’s reproductive rights can be realised in Northern Ireland.
Engender, Rape Crisis Scotland, and Scottish Women’s Aid are disappointed by the recommendations in the inquiry’s report. The question of how to tackle misogynistic online abuse, sexual harassment in public spaces, and incitement to misogyny is one being raised worldwide. Women and girls face epidemic levels of misogynistic hate in schools, in the workplace, on city streets, and online. We called for a standalone misogynistic hate crime to be created in Scotland as a way of disrupting this epidemic.
Of their story Life, they say:
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