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STOKING FIRE: Increase in Legal Abortions in South Africa Galvanizes Anti-Choicers

9:33 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Eleanor J. Bader for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

South African woman

American right-wing groups support a war on women in South Africa.

Eighteen years ago, people everywhere cheered as apartheid fell. But despite the collapse of the despised regime, conditions in South Africa remain bleak and large segments of the population continue to live in abject poverty, with little access to healthcare or schooling

According to The Lancet, under ANC rule life expectancy for both men and women has plummeted to age 60. HIV/AIDS is at epidemic levels, with 5.5 million of the country’s 50 million residents living with the virus. In addition, the injury death rate, 157.8 per 100,000, is twice the global average. What’s more, each year 23,000 newborns die within the first four weeks of life and an additional 23,000 births are stillborn. Other health problems including diabetes, cardiovascular and kidney disease, and mental illness are also on the rise. And then there’s domestic violence. The Lancet highlights the fact that the nation’s female homicide rate is six times the world average, with 50 percent of victims killed by partners with whom they’d once been intimate.

Abortion, however, has been legal since 1997. Although 14 African nations presently outlaw the procedure, South Africa — along with Cape Verde, Tunisia, and Zambia — has liberalized its law to allow women to terminate unwanted pregnancies — for any reason during the first trimester and in specific circumstances later on.

Aaron Motsoaledi, the country’s health minister, reported that 77,771 legal abortions were performed in 2011, a 31 percent increase over 2010. This statistic has rattled South Africa’s growing anti-abortion movement, sending it into a frenzy of activity to roll back the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act passed 16 years ago.

Not surprisingly, this pleases the U.S. antiabortion movement and they’ve primed their African allies to organize Life Chains, rallies, marches and picket lines in front of the clinics and hospitals that offer abortion care. But that’s not all. Heartbeat International,  a 41-year-old anti-abortion group that is headquartered in Ohio, is one of several groups that have assisted the troops in establishing a network of nearly 100 Crisis Pregnancy Centers throughout the country. Their ethos? Opposing not only abortion, but contraception, too. According to Heartbeat International’s website, their mission is to “promote God’s plan for our sexuality: Marriage between one man and one woman, sexual intimacy, children, unconditional/unselfish love, and a relationship with God.” Consider them cookie-cutter replicas of their U.S. counterparts — luring women into mock health centers through offers of no-cost pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, and counseling.

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Police Abuse of Sex Workers: A Global Reality, Widely Ignored

11:46 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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Written by Chi Mgbako for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

December 17th is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

When we think of violence against sex workers, we conjure up images of dangerous clients and serial killers who target prostitutes.  Indeed, the origins of the International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers, observed on December 17, lay in the decades-long serial murder of sex workers by the Green River Killer.  While these are heartbreakingly real forms of violence against sex workers, one area that receives scant public attention despite its entrenched global reality is police abuse of sex workers.

The illegal status of sex work in most countries has not eradicated prostitution.  Instead, criminalization has increased sex workers’ vulnerability to human rights abuses and created fertile ground for police exploitation, especially of street-based sex workers.

For example, in South Africa, where sex work has been illegal since the former apartheid regime criminalized it in 1957, police officers often fine sex workers inordinate sums of money and pocket the cash, resulting in a pattern of economic extortion of sex workers by state agents.  For some sex workers, the cost of a police bribe to evade arrest can equal an entire night’s worth of work.  In other instances, police have exhibited shameless levels of exploitation: In one reported example, a police officer in Cape Town demanded a sex worker give him money in lieu of arrest; when the sex worker told him she possessed only a meager 10 South African rand, or the equivalent of $1.25, the police officer even pocketed that pittance. Read the rest of this entry →

Keeping Health Systems Accountable: A Critical Component of the Every Woman, Every Child Campaign

10:50 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Agnes Odhiambo for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Abeba M., an Ethiopian refugee living in Port Elizabeth, a small coastal town of South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province, developed severe high blood pressure during her pregnancy. She went to a district hospital for treatment of this dangerous condition, but left because “the nurses and doctors did not treat me well,” she told me. She had to return when her condition worsened, though, and was admitted. Instead of getting the help she needed, she experienced treatment delays, abuse, and negligence.

A vital scan to check if her baby was alright, a precondition for further treatment, was delayed for 10 days because “the doctor kept saying he had forgotten.” When she complained about severe pain one night, a nurse who Abeba said “was playing a gospel song on her cell phone and dancing” retorted: “I know, and what do you want me to do?” She did not help Abeba and instead “continued whistling and dancing.” Abeba was ordered to clean up her “mess” when she bled on the floor.

Abeba’s daughter was born prematurely in an emergency caesarean section. Although she was able to take her baby home two weeks later, her wound from the surgery became septic and did not heal for three months. ””It was the worst time of my life,” She told me about her treatment at the hospital.

Sadly, Abeba’s case is not uncommon in South Africa. She was one of the 157 largely poor, rural and refugee women I interviewed between November 2010 and April 2011 in Eastern Cape about their experiences with maternity care in government facilities. Women and other witnesses described chilling scenes of humiliation, neglect, and verbal and physical abuse by health workers. Read the rest of this entry →