WORLD: Some governments are using coronavirus to restrict women’s rights

Classing abortions as ‘non-essential’ is cruel and an assault on the rights of women to bodily autonomy.

 

By Claire Provost

 

Al Jazeera (14.04.2020) – https://bit.ly/3abWECf – Women are prominent on the front lines of the world’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Globally, most of our health workers are women. They also do most of the world’s unpaid care work – even in “normal times” – taking care of relatives and helping them recuperate both from extraordinary illnesses and everyday exhaustion.

 

And yet, the rights of these women are coming under historic attacks even now.

 

Back in early March, a potentially historic bill to liberalise abortion in Argentina was an early casualty; its review has been indefinitely postponed along with many other democratic debates.

 

In the US, conservative states from Texas to Indiana are now banning most abortions during the pandemic. By classifying them as “non-essential”, they are arguing that abortions can be delayed so that all doctors focus on COVID-19 first.

 

Across the Atlantic, in Poland, a bill to further restrict abortion has been revived and will be heard in Parliament next week. When this first happened, in 2016, it was met with mass protests – which are currently prohibited under coronavirus emergency measures.

 

Are governments and anti-abortion campaign groups taking advantage of the crisis to further restrict women’s rights?

 

It would not be the first time. Around the world, organised ultra-conservative movements are looking for ways to use this moment to achieve what they always wanted; fewer rights for women over their bodies.

 

Anti-abortion activists in Slovakia, Italy and the UK are also campaigning for abortions to be suspended during the pandemic, arguing that all resources must be focused on the coronavirus right now. They do not want women to have these rights after the crisis, either.

 

Others are celebrating the closure of clinics amid emergency measures that have already taken a drastic toll on access to abortion as well as contraception, HIV medicine and domestic violence services.

 

This pandemic is also exacerbating and shining new light on the astonishing amount of red tape that has long limited women’s access to abortion in places where it has been legal for generations.

 

In Italy, doctors can refuse to perform abortions (and up to 90 percent do, in some areas). Medical terminations (consisting of two pills, taken across several days), are only available during the first seven weeks of pregnancy, rather than nine as in many other European countries. And these pills must be taken in hospitals, unlike in other countries, where they are also available at clinics.

 

These details are crucial. Abortions are by definition time-sensitive procedures. Even before the coronavirus, women in Italy struggled to access them.

 

Now hospitals are overwhelmed by the coronavirus and this access is increasingly impossible. As a result, women are being forced to endure unwanted pregnancies for longer and to have surgeries they do not want as medical abortions have been largely suspended.

 

In other countries, restrictive red tape includes mandatory counselling, waiting periods or requirements that two doctors sign off on an abortion.

 

Such rules vary across borders but their effect is the same; making difficult experiences for women even harder, even in “normal times”, and exacerbating these challenges today.

 

These restrictions have other things in common, too. Neil Datta at the European Parliamentary Forum on Sexual and Reproductive Rights told me they stem from compromises made when abortion was first legalised, which happened in the 1970s in Italy, for example. At that time, some doctors were still “diagnosing” women with hysteria.

 

In other words, there is nothing enlightened about this red tape. And what ultimately lies beneath these restrictions is the toxic, patriarchal idea that women cannot be trusted to control their own bodies and make their own choices.

 

Today, women’s reproductive rights are being sidelined – again. For its part, the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued guidelines about domestic violence, contraception, childbirth and breastfeeding amid COVID-19.

 

But so far, it has been noticeably silent on safe abortion during the pandemic.

 

Thankfully, this is not the full picture. Big changes are also happening in response to the public health crisis and its fallout in all aspects of our lives.

 

Some US cities have suspended evictions of renting tenants, for example. In Iran, thousands have been released from prison. Many things that would have seemed impossible a year ago, do not any more.

 

And we are seeing some evidence of this for women’s right to choose, too. England and Wales, for instance, have issued new rules to enable women to take medical abortion pills at home and via telemedicine appointments. Ireland and France have done similar. Germany has at least made its mandatory counselling available online and by phone.

 

These practical moves are victories for sensibility amid crisis. They uphold rights and public health. If women do not need to travel to multiple appointments, this can help limit the spread of coronavirus and get us out of this emergency faster.

 

Indeed, during crises change can happen quickly. Archaic red tape can be cut. Toxic distrust of women could give way to a new common sense that prioritises rights and health over politics. And those who were afraid of women’s autonomy might not find it so scary now that they have witnessed something a lot more frightening – a historic pandemic threatening lives, health systems and democracies worldwide.




EU: Coronavirus puts women in the frontline

EIGE (25.03.2020) – https://bit.ly/2R0DBUz – In Europe, we are all adjusting to new ways of living because of the effects of the coronavirus. We are learning what it means to self-quarantine, work from home, home-school children, lose a job or even a loved one. Each person’s situation is different, but for sure, the coronavirus will reveal the different realities of women and men.

 

At the frontline of this coronavirus pandemic are the healthcare workers who are working around the clock and putting themselves at risk to care for patients. Most of the nurses and healthcare workers in the EU are women. Their workload is very demanding, often taking an emotional toll. Yet their profession is one of the most undervalued, and under-paid jobs in the EU.

 

Men’s mortality rate is higher

 

Preliminary figures show that women and men are being infected by the coronavirus in about equal numbers, but the mortality rate is higher for men than for women [1]. The World Health Organization recommends to keep up healthy food and exercise habits to boost the immune system and avoid unhealthy ones such as smoking and consuming excessive alcohol. More men smoke than women and are therefore more likely to be at risk of developing a serious disease if infected with the virus.

 

Extra challenges for public transport users

 

Our Gender Equality Index findings show that women rely much more on public transportation than men. This puts women at greater risk of coming into contact with the virus, when they have to either get to work, visit a doctor or do the grocery shopping. This is especially the case with single parents, who are less likely to have a car due to financial reasons. 18 % of them say that public transport is the only method of transport available to them. In countries where restrictions on movement have tightened, public transport has been reduced or even shut down. This makes life more difficult for people who rely on these services and still need to get to work, visit a doctor or do the grocery shopping

 

Concern for severe job losses in women-dominated professions

 

The closure or near-closure of many businesses could have a severe effect on many women-dominated professions. Flight attendants, tour operators, sales assistants, hotel cleaners and hairdressers are often already in precarious jobs and will probably not be paid nor entitled to paid sick leave. These people are likely to have difficulty paying for basic necessities such as groceries, rent and bills in the coming days and months. EIGE’s research shows that a quarter of women employees across the EU are in a precarious job. For migrants, the situation is even worse. Nearly one in three non-EU born women (35 %) and one in four men (24 %) work in precarious jobs.

 

Unpaid care work will increase

 

Even without a crisis, caring responsibilities usually fall heavily on women. Now with the closure of schools and workplaces, their unpaid workload is likely to further increase. If older relatives get sick, they will also need looking after. The situation for single parents can be even more difficult, especially when options for informal childcare are unavailable.

 

Physical distancing is not an option for everyone

 

In the EU, nearly a quarter of households depend on informal care from relatives or friends. As physical distancing and confinement measures become the norm, it will become harder for family, friends and neighbours to provide or receive such care.

 

There are also many people in our society, for whom physical distancing is not an option. We have 61 million women and 47 million men with disabilities in the EU. Many of them depend on help from others to eat, dress or shower, which makes physical distancing almost impossible. Across the EU, most of the professional carers working with people with disabilities or older people are women (83 %).

 

Domestic abuse increases in times of crisis

 

These times of social isolation increase the risk of domestic abuse. Women in violent relationships are stuck at home and exposed to their abuser for longer periods of time. This makes it very difficult for them to call helplines as the perpetrator is always around. It can also be harder for women to leave their abuser once the crisis is over, due to the financial insecurity that might follow.

 

Neighbours or relatives can have an important role in contacting the police if they suspect that violence is occurring, especially when the victim is not able to call for help.

 

Where are women decision-makers?

 

While nurses are working non-stop behind the scenes in hospitals to look after patients, we mostly see men out in the public domain, making the news headlines. They are the ones who hold most of the positions of power in our society. In this crisis, it is usually men who are making all the important decisions, which affect the everyday lives of citizens. This imbalance of decision-making power means that women are left out from shaping the decisions that affect their own lives.

 

Policy measures must consider the different needs of women and men

 

The response from policymakers must consider the different experiences faced by women and men during a pandemic to ensure that everyone gets the help they most need. There is a big need for sex-disaggregated data to fully understand how women and men are affected by the virus. Not only for infection rates, but also the economic impacts, the distribution of care work and the extent of domestic violence. It is also time for leaders to recognise and give more value to the important work done by those who are in the frontlines of a health crisis, such as healthcare workers, home carers and domestic workers.




Coronavirus, a chronology: the CCP is responding. Evidence.

– If you need a smoking gun, here it is. A timeline of delays, cover-ups, and fake news proving that the world should indeed blame the CCP for the deadly epidemic.

 

by Massimo Introvigne

 

*This chronology is partially based on one compiled by the Daily Wire, to which we have added additional events and links.

November 17 (2019): The first case of what was later identified as COVID-19 was detected in Wuhan.

December 10: 57-year-old Wei Guixian, a merchant in the seafood section of the Wuhan Animal Market, reported sick with what were later identified as COVID-19 symptoms.

December 26: Wuhan patients data were sent to several Chinese genomics companies, which were supposed to detect new viruses. Reportedly, at least one of these companies was ordered to stop the tests and destroy the material.

December 27: Zhang Jixian, a doctor from Hubei Provincial Hospital of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine, told China’s health authorities that he believed the disease was caused by a new coronavirus.

December 31: Chinese officials told the Country Office in China of the World Health Organization (WHO) that cases of a “new form of pneumonia” had been reported in Wuhan. At the same time, CCP Internet censorship started preventing searches for “Wuhan Unknown Pneumonia,” “SARS Variation,” “Wuhan Animal Market,” and similar.

January 1 (2020): Eight doctors who had alerted about an epidemics caused by a new coronavirus in Wuhan, including Dr. Li Wenliang (1986-2020), who will later die of the disease, were detained and questioned by the CCP police for “spreading false statements.” Li was forced to sign a letter of apology.

January 1: The Hubei Health Commission ordered all genomics companies that had been contacted on December 26 to stop their tests and destroy the materials they received (which would have proved that data about the virus were already available from late December).

January 1: Authorities closed the Wuhan Animal Market, without swabbing individual animals and their cages and without drawing blood from everyone working there or otherwise checking who might have been infected.

January 3: China’s National Health Commission issued a national gag order, preventing all medical institutions in the country to disclose information about the disease.

January 5: Professor Zhang Yongzhen of the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center provided the genomic sequence of the virus to Chinese authorities.

January 5: Wuhan Municipal Health Commission stopped releasing daily updateson new cases of the disease.

January 9: WHO released a statement about the situation in Wuhan, suggesting a new coronavirus was at work.

January 10: China Central Television broadcasted a statement by Wang Guangfa, a prominent government medical expert, stating that the “Wuhan pneumonia” was “under control” and mostly a “mild condition” (11 days later, Wang reportedly tested positive himself)

January 11: The Shanghai laboratory of Professor Zhang Yongzhen, who had provided the genomic sequence of the virus, was shut down for “rectification” by the Shanghai Health Commission, after Zhang had posted his data online to put them at the disposal of the international scientific community. Only after he did it (and was consequently punished), China’s National Health Commission announced it would share the sequence (which was by then already online) with the WHO.

January 12: The National Health Commission shared the virus genomic information with the WHO for the first time. It had been available from January 5.

January 14: WHO (rather than the Chinese authorities) advanced the hypothesis that the virus was spreading through human-to-human transmission.

January 14: Journalists trying to cover the outbreak at Wuhan’s Jinyintan Hospital were stopped by the CCP police, and their cameras and phones were confiscated.

January 15: China answered the WHO through a statement by Dr. Li Qun, head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Emergency Center, who claimed that only a “low” risk of human-to-human transmission of the virus had been detected.

January 17: The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission resumed its daily updates on new cases of the coronavirus, which had been stopped on January 5.

January 18: Despite the virus outbreak, the city of Wuhan hosted a potluck banquet attended by more than 40,000 families, so the city could apply for a Guinness world record for most dishes served at an event. Wuhan authorities also announced they were distributing 200,000 free tickets to residents for festival activities during the Lunar New Year holiday.

January 20: Dr. Zhong Nanshan, an authority on SARS said in a TV interview that person-to-person transmission was a fact, and that authorities had been negligent in disclosing information about the virus.

January 20: Wuhan Mayor Zhou Xianwang admitted that he had not released all the information the city had on the virus, but said he was just following “Beijing rules.”

January 23: The lockdown of Wuhan was finally ordered, but only after about 5 million people had already left the city without being tested.

February 6: President Xi Jinping personally ordered increased censorship of the Internet on all news about the virus, and to close the WeChat accounts of those criticizing the authorities.

February 6:  Attorney and “citizen journalist” Chen Qiushi, who had posted on the Internet footage showing overcrowded hospitals and panicking families in Wuhan, “disappeared.”

February 7: Dr. Li Wenliang, the doctor who had sounded the alarm on the new coronavirus (and had been detained for this), died of coronavirus. A debate followed whether Li, who had joined a Christian chat room, had in fact converted to Christianity.

February 9: Another “citizen journalist” who had posted unauthorized videos on the epidemics, Fang Bin, “disappeared” in Wuhan.

February 15: President Xi Jinping made censorship on the Internet on anything concerning the virus even stricter.

February 15: Human rights activist Xu Zhiyong, who had publicly asked President Xi Jinping to apologize for his cover-ups about the virus and resign, was arrested.

February 16: Academic Xu Zhangrun was put under house arrest and banned from using the Internet after publishing an essay claiming that, “The coronavirus epidemic has revealed the rotten core of Chinese governance.”

February 16: A paper posted by two Chinese scientists, Dr. Botao Xiao from South China University of Technology, Guangzhou, and Dr. Lei Xiao, from Wuhan University of Science and Technology, on the international scholarly database Research Gate, suggesting that the virus may have originated from bats from two Wuhan laboratories (rather than from wild bats), “disappeared” from Research Gate.

February 19: China expelled three Wall Street Journal reporters who were covering the epidemics.

February 26: The State press agency Xinhua announced the publication of a book by the CCP’s Central Propaganda Department, which will be translated in six languages and explain how President Xi Jinping’s “outstanding leadership as a great power leader” defeated the virus.

March 8: Reportedly, Chinese embassies throughout the world were instructed to promote the theory that the virus did not originate in China.

March 12: Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian publicly stated that the virus did not originate in Wuhan, nor in China, but came from the United States through American soldiers who participated in the Wuhan Military Games in October.

March 14: Chinese tycoon Ren Zhiqiang “disappeared” in Beijing after posting critical remarks on how President Xi Jinping handled the coronavirus crisis.

March 18: China announced that another 13 journalists from The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal will be expelled.

March 19: Wuhan Public Security apologized to the family of Dr Li Wenliang, admitting his detention was “inappropriate” and stating that two officers who “mishandled” the case had been disciplined.

March 22: The CCP-controlled Global Timesmisquoting a statement by Italian pharmacologist Giuseppe Remuzzi, claimed that the virus did not originate in China (nor in the United States) but in Italy.




Coronavirus lockdown exposes LGBT+ people to family abuse in the Middle East

LGBT+ groups are stepping up online and phone support for people trapped in abusive homes or struggling with isolation during coronavirus shutdowns.

 

By Ban Barkawi

 

Thomson Reuters Foundation (18.03.2020) – https://bit.ly/2QBpJA3 – With phone counselling and emergency deliveries of HIV drugs, LGBT+ groups across the Middle East are stepping up support for gay and transgender people trapped with abusive families or struggling with isolation under coronavirus lockdowns.

 

With more than 40 confirmed coronavirus cases in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Authority said on its website that it has closed places of worship, urged people to limit contact, and enforced a curfew in the city of Bethlehem.

 

“The environment we live in unfortunately can be aggressive toward LGBT+ people,” said Omar Al Khatib of the Palestinian LGBT+ group alQaws, which is based in Jerusalem where gay and trans people often live with families that do not accept them.

 

“Staying at home can eliminate their access to private spaces and increase bullying,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

 

Acceptance of sexual and gender minorities is low across the largely conservative Middle East. Same-sex relationships are illegal, often risking fines, jail or even the death penalty, according to Human Rights Watch.

 

As coronavirus restrictions push more gay, bisexual and trans people into lockdown and close off social spaces that usually offer some respite, like coffee shops and clubs, escaping the pressure at home is no longer an option.

 

As businesses have been forced to close, money worries are also on the rise for LGBT+ people who live alone – often because they have been rejected by their families – Al Khatib added.

 

“The state of quarantine creates a feeling of isolation and fear, and that they are completely on their own so it’s not safe for them,” said Khatib, whose group used Facebook on Monday to urge people who were lonely and anxious to call its hotline.

 

The hotline is open on Wednesday and Sunday evenings and usually receives about 500 calls a year, with noticeable spikes during times of crisis, alQaws said.

 

Frustration

 

Further north, Lebanon – the first Arab country to celebrate Pride in 2017 – has recorded about 130 coronavirus cases. Lebanon announced this week that it would shut its borders, banks and most public institutions until March 29.

 

The advocacy group Proud Lebanon has organised a task force of volunteers to deliver medication to people with HIV who cannot or will not leave their homes.

 

“They are afraid to come take their medication,” said the organisation’s director Bertho Makso in the capital Beirut.

 

“They are afraid there will be shortage of medication and they can’t go out because there is no public transport.”

 

Remote support has been ramped up in Tunisia, which had its first openly gay presidential candidate last year, although he was later forced to flee the north African country after death threats from Islamist elements.

 

With about 30 cases of coronavirus, authorities have suspended prayers at mosques, closed cafes in the afternoons and banned all cultural, sports and economic gatherings.

 

The LGBT+ group Mawjoudin has stopped giving face-to-face counselling services and closed the common room at its centre in the capital Tunis where people usually spend their free time or meet with friends in a safe setting, away from the public eye.

 

Calls to Mawjoudin’s hotline have increased in recent weeks, said Hana, who declined to give her full name as LGBT+ activists face harassment in Tunisia where gay sex is punishable by up to three years in prison.

 

“They have been expressing their frustration,” she said.

 

“When they go out alone, they have the freedom to not lie anymore to their families and now they don’t have it.”




Don’t blame ‘China’ for the coronavirus — blame the CCP

– By Josh Rogin, Columnist

– Washington Post (19.03.2020) – https://wapo.st/2UrZltj –  It’s crucial for our health and safety that the United States push back against the Chinese government’s efforts to rewrite the history of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s also crucial we don’t fuel racism or stigmatize Chinese citizens or Chinese Americans while doing so. The key to accomplishing both goals is to separate the way we talk about the Chinese people from the way we talk about their rulers in Beijing.

President Trump insists on calling coronavirus “the Chinese virus.” His rationale for doing so is simplistic but technically accurate: Chinese officials are intentionally spreading the lie the virus may have originated in the United States to deflect blame from their own early failings. “It’s not racist at all, not at all. It comes from China, that’s why. I want to be accurate,” Trump said Wednesday.

As many have noted, accuracy is not the only consideration the president should take into account. Trump is ignoring the history of racism against Asians and Asian Americans in this country and neglecting vital context: a real rise in racist incidents against ethnically Asian people in this country since the crisis began.

An Asian American reporter said a White House official used the term “Kung-Flu” in her presence. That’s unacceptable. The Asian American Journalists Association asked news organizations not to use the term “Wuhan virus,” in accordance with World Health Organization guidelines warning that referring to the geographical origin of an illness in the name stigmatizes the people there.

Surely, many who are using “Chinese virus” or “Wuhan virus” are not racist. And surely, some are. For the person on the receiving end, there’s no difference. But there’s a well-founded way to honor the truth about the virus and hold those responsible to account without causing undue offense.

We must all be specific in blaming the Chinese Communist Party for its actions. It was the CCP that hid the virus outbreak for weeks, silencing doctors, jailing journalists and thwarting science — most notably by shutting down the Shanghai lab that publicly released the first coronavirus genome sequence.

The Chinese people are heroes in this story. Chinese doctors, researchers and journalists risked their lives and even died fighting the virus and warning the world. The Chinese public’s community solidarity holds lessons for us as our own situation worsens. The Chinese are also victims of their own government’s draconian measures, which caused massive extra suffering.

“It is critical to remember that the Chinese people have no meaningful say in the measures taken by their government,” said Christopher Walker, vice president for studies and analysis at the National Endowment for Democracy. “In the haze of authoritarian information curation and disinformation now coming from Beijing, we can’t lose sight of the massive authoritarian governance failure at the global pandemic’s point of origin.”

This is not just about the coronavirus, it’s a crucial point relative to our whole approach toward China. Our beef is not with the Chinese people, our problem is with the CCP — its internal repression, its external aggression, and its malign influence in free and open societies.

Part of the CCP’s strategy is to divide us along political, ethnic and racial lines. Chinese officials routinely toss out the racism accusation to rebut criticism of their government. They also accuse the United States of racism to distract from their own horrendously racist policies, such as jailing millions of innocent people in Xinjiang on the basis of ethnicity.

In the United States, most people aren’t attuned to this dynamic. In Australia, the political class has been debating CCP influence operations for several years. One report put out by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute suggested some clear guidelines on how to avoid the trap. The report states that we should avoid generalizations, clearly distinguish between the Chinese government and the Chinese people, and take care not to alienate ethnically Chinese citizens at home. In turn, we must also be careful not to attribute racist motives (unless justified) to those who criticize the Chinese authorities.

“Above all, the CCP has engaged in wedge politics to undermine legitimate public debate on Chinese Government policy and conduct within Australia,” wrote John Fitzgerald in the report. That’s happening in the United States, as well.

This is not political correctness run amok. This is about recognizing when an authoritarian regime is using our sensitivity to racism against us. We must avoid making accusations against the Chinese government unless supported by evidence. We must continue to press Beijing for more transparency and truth, which are crucial to stopping the spread.

Have we learned nothing from the Russian interference in 2016? We must not aid and abet the CCP’s efforts to stoke internal divisions and spread disinformation. Have we learned nothing from the post-9/11 demonization of Muslims? Chinese and Chinese Americans need our support during this crisis and bring great strength to our response.

Let’s stop saying “Chinese virus” — not because everyone who uses it is racist, but because it needlessly plays into the Chinese Communist Party’s attempts to divide us and deflect our attention from their bad actions. Let’s just call it the “CCP virus.” That’s more accurate and offends only those who deserve it.