Savita Halappanavar | Denied Abortion Dies from Septicemia

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The ‘War on Women” became a seminal issue of the 2012 United States presidential election. Never before had women’s issues been at the forefront of a political contest in which many men openly revealed their utter ignorance of how women’s bodies functioned, while waging an all-out campaign to eliminate the legal statutes that guaranteed the right for women to seek and secure safe abortions.

While Americans were discussing abortion rights in the abstract, last month an Indian woman living in Ireland, Savita Halappanavar, 31, died because she was not allowed to receive an abortion.

Her tragic story began when she presented to University Hospital Galway because at 17 weeks pregnant she was experiencing unusual back pain.

By all accounts Mr. and Mrs. Halappanavar were happy with the upcoming addition of a child to their family, so this sudden development was worrisome. Savita, a dentist, and her husband, an engineer, waited for the results of her internal examination, but when the doctor returned with the prognosis it was devastating. She was fully dilated, her amniotic fluid was leaking, and the child would not survive.

Doctors told her that she would miscarry in a few hours, but instead according to a report in the Irish Times today, she “died of septicemia a week later because, even after doctors confirmed that her baby would certainly die, they refused to perform a life-saving termination of the pregnancy citing the fact that Ireland is a Catholic country.

This is a clear case of when the religious beliefs of attending physicians outweighed their Hippocratic Oath. Though, the Halappanavar repeatedly begged the doctors to induce labor since it was clear that the fetus would not survive, but each time doctors refused to perform the life-saving measures required to save Savita’s life, asserting that as long as there was a fetal heartbeat they would not terminate the pregnancy.

Over the next few days medical personnel seemed to take inordinate care of the fetus, checking every few hours to see determine if its heart was still beating. Meanwhile, Mr. Halapannavar had to watch Savita deteriorate as poisonous blood course through her body. Once it was clear that they could not save her baby, Mrs. Halappanavar once again begged for the doctors to induce labor to end the pregnancy, as before, these requests by all accounts were assiduously ignored.

Mr. and Mrs. Halappanavar are Hindu and thus believed that they were not subject to the prohibition against abortions which governs the religious lives of Irish Catholics. Even when Mr. Halappanavar explained that they were neither Catholic nor Irish and that under the Irish law, a woman has a “legal right to an abortion where there is a ‘real and substantial’ risk to her life,” the doctors still refused to save her life.

Two months prior to Savita’s death, on 13 September 2012, more than 140 Irish medical professionals from the fields of obstetrics and gynecology, mental health, and molecular epidemiology attended a symposium to discuss abortion as a tool to save a mother who has a problematic pregnancy that is life-threatening.

At the conclusion of the conference the symposium issued ‘the Dublin Declaration.’ Drafted by leading medical experts in maternal healthcare the document asserts that “abortions are not medically necessary, and thus abortion has no place in treating women and their unborn children." (Source: Zenit)

Thus, Savita perished after a week of suffering and with the knowledge that she had already lost her child and that she would most certainly die.

Meanwhile, across the pond, America pro-choice supporters mounted a vigorous defense of Roe vs. Wade while combating ignorant beliefs about pregnancy espoused by many far-right conservatives like former Representative Joe Walsh.

The Illinois Rep. proclaimed that because of "advances in medicine and technology, you can't find one instance" in which an abortion would be necessary to save a mother's life. It was also his belief that the health of the mother has become a tool for abortions any time for any reason ... there's no such exception as the 'life of the mother.'

When women’s freedom and the right to self-determination is held hostage by religious beliefs, cultural bias, or patriarchal dominance, death is sure to follow. Whether by stoning or honor killings or medical neglect, the net result is women everywhere remain at risk as long as a few people can impose their will and belief system about women’s bodies on society at large.

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Mother Kills Daughter with Acid

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Acid attacks, are a heinous crime in which the perpetrator seeks to deliberately maim or kill their victim with acid so that they suffer horrendously in the short-term, and if they survive, must suffer the further indignity of being horribly disfigured.

These attacks are most common in Cambodia, Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and other nearby countries. Globally, at least 1500 people in 20 countries are attacked in this way yearly, 80% of whom are female and somewhere between 40% and 70% under 18 years of age. (Source: Wikipedia)

The recent assassination attempt of the Pakistani heroine, Malalai Yousafzi, galvanized Pakistanis who took to the streets in an unprecedented demonstration of support for Malalai. The nation and the world was swift and vociferous in the condemnation of the perpetrators, and this watershed moment seemed to mark a desire by the citizens of the country to stand up for the rights of Pakistani women and girls.

It was therefore disconcerting to learn of the murder of a young Pakistani girl who was targeted simply because she was speaking to a boy. Unlike Malalai, who was targeted by the Taliban for advocating for access to education for Pakistani girls, the young 16-year old girl who lost her life today, was victimized for no other reason than she happened to speak to a boy in front of her home.

She was the victim of an 'honor killing,' which is the murder of a girl or woman by relatives, because they perceive her actions as having brought dishonor to the family.

According to Reuters, the girl’s parents poured acid on her face and body. In this case, as in others, the mother was the main perpetrator, though usually it is a male relative who initiates and carries out honor killings.

Unlike the acid attack victim pictured above, the young 16-year old did not survive the ‘third-degree burns on her scalp, face, eyes, nostrils, arms, chest foot and lower part of legs.  According to the doctors who tried to save her life, even her scalp bone was exposed.’ (Source: Reuters)

The parents in this case have been arrested, which is unlike many cases in Asia in which the perpetrators often escape justice. In many cases the murder is viewed as a private family matter and in some conservative communities the practice is tacitly condoned.

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Taliban Shoot 14-Year-Old Pakistani Activist, Malalai Yousafzai

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Knowledge is power. Information is power. The secreting or hoarding of knowledge or information may be an act of tyranny camouflaged as humility. ~ Robin Morgan

MINGORA, Pakistan – On Tuesday, a 14-year-old Malalai Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist, was shot while boarding a school bus for home. The girl has garnered international attention and praise for her bravery in advocating for the education of girls as well as publicizing the atrocities committed by the Taliban who oppose her efforts. She was nominated last year for the International Children's Peace Prize.

Yousafzai, who lives in the Swat Valley was shot twice, once in the head and once in the neck, but miraculously has survived. The second girl shot was in stable condition, the doctor said. Pakistani television showed pictures of Malalai being taken by helicopter to a military hospital in the frontier city of Peshawar.

The attack began when a bearded Taliban man walked up to the school buses where lines of children stood waiting to board. He asked one of the girls to point out Malalai, and then he walked toward Malalai and another girl she was standing with.

After demanding which of the two girls was his intended victim, the other girl pointed to Malalai who subsequently denied her identity, whereupon the Taliban gunman shot both girls. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, calling Malalai's work "obscenity."

"This was a new chapter of obscenity, and we have to finish this chapter," said Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan by telephone. "We have carried out this attack." (Source: AP)

Malalai role as an international children’s rights activist began when she was only 11 years old. She initially began by authoring a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC's Urdu service about life under Taliban occupation.

Taliban militants began asserting their influence in Swat in 2007 — part of a wave of al-Qaida and Taliban fighters expanding their reach from safe havens near the Afghan border. By 2008 they controlled much of the valley and began terrorizing the residents with the aberrant interpretation of religion.

They forced men to grow beards, restricted women from going to the bazaar, whipped women they considered immoral and beheaded opponents.

During the roughly two years of their rule, Taliban in the region destroyed around 200 schools. Most were girls' institutions, though some prominent boys' schools were struck as well.

Then in the summer of 2009 after the Taliban was successfully rooted out and driven by from the Swat Valley by Pakistani militia, Malalai began speaking out publicly about the tyranny of militant groups and the need for girls' education.

In 2010, Malalai, then 13, chaired a children’s assembly in Swat Valley which was supported by UNICEF, during which she championed the continued progress and increased role of girls in Pakistani society.

"Girl members play an active role," she said, according to an article on the U.N. organization's website. "We have highlighted important issues concerning children, especially promoting girls' education in Swat."

Kamila Hayat, a senior official of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, praised Malalai for standing up to the militants. "This is an attack to silence courage through a bullet," Hayat said. "These are the forces who want to take us to the dark ages." (Source: AP)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5THfRXtOBrc] 

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The Rabbit Hole of 'Legitimate' Rape

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 22:22 p.m. EDT, 20 August 2012

Rape Victims in American MediaGlobally women are under assault and their rights are constantly under attack by religious extremists, misogynist, and cultures in which they are viewed as chattel.

Americans by and large think of the challenges these women face as daunting, yet far removed from the realities of most women living in the U.S. for whom protections of women’s reproductive rights has been legislated into law.

That was until Saturday, 19 August 2012, when Republican Congressman Todd Akin stated a position that is widely held by conservative Americans but rarely voiced. The belief that a woman cannot get pregnant through rape, with a subtext that is much more revealing because it implies that if a woman is raped and gets pregnant then she must have wanted it and is only afterwards crying foul.

This is straight out of the text book of religious extremists of any faith who believe that if a woman is raped she caused it by dressing provocatively, by engaging in risky behavior such as walking to her car after work, going out to have a drink with her girlfriends, coming home late, or being sexually active.

When the Afghanistan Taliban executed a woman last month because of accusations of adultery, the world was outraged, but it was expected as par for the course for those ‘crazy Muslims who treat their women like animals and make them completely cover up.’

But, there is no difference between the Taliban and the Republican conservatives who are running for election during this 2012 American election cycle who hold extreme views on women's reproductive rights and in particular the rights of rape victims. The definition of rape has been continuously narrowed and defined by them as ‘legitimate or forcible,’ which can be extrapolated to exclude statutory rape, date rape, and incest.

Thus, by this definition any woman who cannot prove that she has been raped by a preponderance of evidence of being physically and violently assaulted is deemed to be lying and therefore not deserving of the assistance. In fact, according to Akin, if a woman is raped and conceives then she can’t possibly have been raped.

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare…If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. Let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work, or something, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.” ~ Republican Congress Todd Akin

Under this premise, not only should the woman suffer further indignity by carrying to term the child of the man who raped her, the child must come into the world baring the stigma of being the product of rape, and thus the woman and the child are given a lifetime sentence simply because they were the unfortunate victim of a sexual assault.

According to the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network (RAINN), “In 2004-2005, 64,080 women were raped. According to medical reports, the incidence of pregnancy for one-time unprotected sexual intercourse is 5%. By applying the pregnancy rate to 64,080 women, RAINN estimates that there were 3,204 pregnancies as a result of rape during that period.”

1996 study by the American Journal of Obstetricians and Gynecologists found “rape-related pregnancy occurs with significant frequency” and is “a cause of many unwanted pregnancies” — an estimated “32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year.”  (Source: The New York Times)

The only thing that makes this case more alarming is that it revealed the extent to which women’s rights in this country have been under quiet but aggressive attack by a group of men who desire to control women’s reproductive rights. There is no difference between these American politicians and members of the Taliban and other extremists who believe that a woman does not have the inalienable right to self-determination and reproductive choice.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dw6j-weI5FE]

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Video Captures Taliban Executing Woman

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 00:31 a.m. EDT, 9 July 2012

Iconic Photo Taliban Executing Woman, Photo Courtesy Jonathan NarveyKABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban has reasserted its hold on the Afghan people and is exacting horrific punishment against those whom they have accused of moral turpitude. As in prior years when the Taliban's power was at its height, the predominant victims of their extrajudicial sentencing continues to be women.

Recently, Afghans officials have confirmed the veracity of a video circulating the internet which depicts a woman being executed by a Taliban who shot her in the back of her head then continued firing into her dead body several more time. Even more disturbing, the video captured both Taliban and villages watching and cheering.

The execution occurred on 23 June 2012 in the Shinwari district of Parwan Province which is located in central Afghanistan. The province is roughly an hour from Kabul, and the video is reminiscent of the public executions that occurred in packed stadiums during the Taliban's bloody five-year reign from 1996 – 2001.

The video below was apparently taken by one of the witnesses of the execution. It is believed that one of the Taliban captured the bloody incident with his cell phone hence the poor quality.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlAmF7CAfJ8&feature=related]                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   There has been speculation that the woman was in a relationship with some of the Taliban. Given the utter lack of freedom Afghan women possess in every area of their lives, it is ludicrous to think that this woman could have willingly engaged in a consensual relationship with not one but two men in addition to her husband.

Reuters news agency reported that the “Taliban members can be heard saying that the executioner is the woman’s husband, though Afghan officials offered conflicting accounts of what transpired in the village, Qol-i-Heer.

Colonel Masjidi said the woman’s real husband was a member of a village militia that had slain a local Taliban leader. The 20 year old woman, named Najiba was executed in revenge on trumped up charges of adultery, he said.”

Adultery is a common accusation leveled against women by extreme Islamists. It is particularly effective because it is a charge against which the woman is powerless to defend herself and confers upon her an automatic death sentence. She can expect little to no sympathy for her plight because everyone in the community, men and women alike, either tacitly or openly support her execution.

In the video, “One of the Taliban says the Koran prohibits adultery. Killing the woman is ‘God’s order and decree,’ he says. ‘If the issue was avenging deaths, we would beg for her amnesty. But in this case, God says, ‘You should finish her. It’s the order of God, and now it is her husband’s work to punish her.” (Source: Reuters)

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Waris Dirie | FGM vs Circumcision

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 16:00 PM EDT, 3 May 2012

Waris Dirie

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is currently one of the most egregious women's rights abuses occurring globally. It is a subject that is hard to discuss because of its intimate, sexual and graphic nature.

However, it is exactly because of the life-long psychological and physical effects this barbaric practice has on its innocent and unwilling victims, that it is incumbent upon us to publicize this abuse until it is eradicated.

This issue was first brought to the public's attention by Waris Dirie, Somalian author, activist, and victim of FGM, when she published her memoir titled 'Desert Flower.' The book was subsequently made into a movie in 2009, and Liya Kebede, an Ethiopian supermodel, played Waris Dirie in the heart wrenching but ultimately victorious story of survival.

Initially, when we featured a post about this topic, a number of readers commented about male circumcision and how this is just as barbaric as FGM and should also be classified as a human rights abuse.

Though it is true that any type of unwanted genital mutilation is a crime, the major differences between male circumcision and FGM are as follows:

    1. Most boys are circumcised at birth, or in the case of Jews and some Muslims, on the 8th day of life;
    2. Men who are circumcised later in life often elect to have this procedure for personal, religious, or health reasons;
    3. The surgery is performed in a sterile environment, usually under anesthesia;
    4. Male circumcision is usually performed in a non-invasive manner that ultimately results in few, if any adverse psychological effects.

By comparison, FGM has more in common and correlates best to physical castration in men.

    1. Girls who undergo FGM (aka female circumcision) are forcibly mutilated anywhere between 13 and 15 years of age;
    2. The 'procedure' occurs without anesthesia in unsanitary environments;
    3. Rusty razor blades, old knives, or shards of glass are used to cut the flesh;
    4. The clitoris and the inner and outer labia are torn away;
    5. Finally, the wound is crudely stitched together and must be cut open for sex and childbirth.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are benefits to men and boys becoming circumcised particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.

"Strong evidence from Africa indicates that circumcision reduces the risk of HIV infection in heterosexual men by 38-66%, and studies have concluded it is cost effective in sub-Saharan Africa. The World Health Organization (WHO) currently recommends circumcision be recognized as an intervention as part of a comprehensive program for prevention of HIV transmission in areas with high endemic rates of HIV." (Source: WHO)

The effects of FGM are profoundly debilitating and deleterious to women's reproductive health and serves no useful purpose. It is a practice deeply rooted in misogyny, tyranny and the concept of women as chattel.

Men who have been circumcised can still enjoy a robust sex life filled with numerous encounters, whereas women who have undergone FGM must suffer immense pain to remove the sutures, and as one can imagine, sexual intercourse thereafter would be excruciating.

In the Europe between the 16th and 17th centuries the 'Chastity Belt' was developed to prohibit women from having sexual intercourse. This device was also a contrivance of men desiring to control the sexuality of the women in their societies.  In comparison to FGM, a 'Chastity Belt' was infinitely less egregious, but definitely a women's rights violation.

Surprisingly, FGM procedures are on the rise in Western nations such as the United Kingdom.  It is easy for most people to acquiesce in the face of such a daunting problem that is occurring half-way across the world. It is also more comfortable to believe that this is an Islamic problem though FGM is no prescribed in the Quran.

It is easiest to effect change in one's backyard, and thus, in Western societies where there are no health reasons to recommend FGM it is up to the medical establishment and authorities to intervene and halt these procedures.

Misogyny like rape, is less about the object of abuse, in this case, women, and more about control. The net result of FGM is that it diminishes all women everywhere even if it hasn't personally impacted your life or those of your friends and family.

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