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“Global gag rule: America has failed women”
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“Global gag rule: America has failed women”

Ros Limbo picA hastily-signed American executive order will have far-reaching impact on vulnerable women around the globe, writes Ros Limbo, 26, a Correspondent from Windhoek, Namibia.

2016 was a year of uncertainty and fear for many people around the world. Although not American, Hillary Clinton’s election loss made me upset.

It showed that even in the first world, patriarchy is still an issue. How did someone who, when discussing women said he would “grab them by the p***y”, become the president of the United States of America? The most powerful man in the world showed little to no respect for women and no one seemed concerned.

No one, except the women of the world.

On the 21st of January 2017, thousands of women took to the streets of Washington DC. Twitter showed that millions more joined them to march against everything patriarchy stands for. Women of all races, culture and class banded together to fight for female reproductive rights, LGBTQIA rights, equality and respect amongst other things.

This march, that was supposed to inspire and evoke positive change, was met with silence from the new government. On January 23rd, two days after the women’s march, President Trump signed the “Global Gag Rule”.

According to USAID (United States Agency for International Development) the Global Gag Rule, also known as the Mexico City Policy, is a policy that requires all foreign nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) to certify that they will not perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning using funds generated from any source as a condition for receiving USAID family planning assistance. There has been an unsupported claim that this policy reduces the number of abortions and thus keeps women safe. On the contrary, the Global Gag Rule reduces NGOs’ ability to provide adequate family planning services to women who often don’t have access to good health care.

Suzanne Elhers, CEO of the global reproductive health organisation PAI, says that the impact of the gag rule will not be limited to abortions. The reduction in funding due to the gag rule means that various programmes such as the provision of contraceptives and HIV prevention programmes will be affected.  The results will not be a reduction in abortions, as they would like to believe, but will result in an increase in unwanted pregnancies.

Poor availability of contraceptives and access to Planned Parenthood programmes means that more women will be faced with unplanned and unwanted pregnancies. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has shown that the rate of abortions increased during the period of Bush’s presidency when the gag rule was reinstated. Women, especially those who are in countries where abortion is illegal, are now at a higher risk of undertaking unsafe abortions. In countries like Namibia where baby dumping is already an issue, the prevalence is going to rise.

The gag rule can be seen as an indication that President Trump is serious about his fight on abortion. The precedent he is setting makes it difficult for NGOs and human rights groups in other countries to fight for female reproductive rights that will give women autonomy over their bodies. Not only will they  no longer have the backing of the most powerful country in the world, they will no longer have the funds to fight for women whose voices have been ignored by their governments.

photo credit: American Life League Carmody-4.jpg via photopin (license)

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About me: I’m a young Namibian working as an auditor in the country’s capital. I am an unapologetic feminist who loves to write and practice yoga. Mental health awareness is something close to my heart; I advocate for ending stigma and creating better care facilities for those with mental illnesses. In future I hope to become a fulltime writer on issues surrounding feminism and mental health.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/

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