Ms. Global: Increasing Access to Contraceptives in Sub-Saharan Africa, Taliban Demands Afghan Women be Left Out of U.N. Conference, and More

The U.S. ranks as the 19th most dangerous country for women, 11th in maternal mortality, 30th in closing the gender pay gap, 75th in women’s political representation, and painfully lacks paid family leave and equal access to health care. But Ms. has always understood: Feminist movements around the world hold answers to some of the U.S.’s most intractable problems. Ms. Global is taking note of feminists worldwide.


Afghanistan

+ Taliban demands that women are excluded from UN conference on Afghanistan on June 30

June 8 marked 1000 days since the Taliban has banned female students in Afghanistan from going to secondary school. Since their takeover, women’s access to freedom, employment and education have been heavily restricted. According to The Guardian, “it was reported that they would reintroduce the public flogging and stoning of women for adultery in March.”

On June 30, UN leaders will meet in Doha to discuss the international community’s strategy for Afghanistan. The Taliban have demanded that no Afghan women be allowed to engage in this conference.

There are growing concerns from NGOs that the international community is not doing enough to support Afghan women, and there are calls for the Doha meeting to “support Afghanistan’s peace, security, democracy and human rights for all citizens” while also “reject[ing] the normalization of Taliban policies and policies of gender apartheid and oppression.” Many NGOs, such as Human Rights Watch and the Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, have demanded that the conference include Afghan women and girls.

This picture taken on December 25, 2022 shows student Marwa protesting alone against the ban on women’s higher education, outside the Kabul University as members of Taliban stand guard in Kabul. (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

United States

+ The Biden administration recommits to a historic consensus on women’s reproductive rights, providing funding for healthcare of women, girls and LGBTQI+ persons

On June 14, the Biden administration released a statement confirming that they would implement and uphold the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Consensus. The consensus, created in Cairo in 1994, recognized “reproductive rights as human rights” and confirmed that “women’s health is essential to global prosperity and opportunity for all.”

Through the ICPD Programme of Action, the Biden administration has announced new initiatives to support sexual and reproductive health, improved access to family planning, prevention of child mortality, and the combating of gender-based violence. 

They will do so through increased funding, investments, and data collection within the country and internationally, working with the UN. The caucus aims to “promote the rights of women, girls, and LGBTQI+ persons, particularly those who face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.”

Sub-Saharan Africa

+ Increasing access to long-term contraception in Sub-Saharan Africa allows women more freedom, safety, and economic well-being 

Birth control methods, such as hormonal implants and injections, are reaching remote areas of Sub-Saharan Africa where only 26 percent of women use a form of contraception.

Still, due to increased education, a wider range of affordable contraceptives, and improved infrastructure, contraceptive use in the area is up almost 50 percent in the last ten years. Of the 66 million women who use it, most opt for options that are reasonably priced and discreet. 

 “[The women] like the implants and injections best of all,” Beatrice Nyamekye, a nurse at a community health center in Ghana, told The New York Times. “It frees them from worry, and it is private. They don’t have to even discuss it with a husband or a partner.”

The population of Sub-Saharan Africa is the world’s youngest and most rapidly expanding, expected to reach 2.5 billion by 2050. While much progress has been made, shortage of supplies and financial constraints often occur. In order to continue to improve contraceptive access, continued investment and education is necessary. 

Bulgaria 

+ Bulgaria holds mass protest against recent femicides 

A widespread protest against gender-based violence took place in front of the Palace of Justice in Sofia, with the slogan “Not One More” on June 25. Activists voiced their alarm over four recent femicides.

This protest follows the killing of Sylvia K., a Ukrainian woman murdered by her partner, Orlin Gigov, on June 20 in Sofia. Earlier in January 2023, police questioned Gigov for assaulting Sylvia while intoxicated, and reports indicated a history of violence against women. The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee labeled this an “institutional failure,” as Gigov had faced charges ten times in the past three years.

In January, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mariya Gabriel reported that 20 women had been killed in 2023, alongside over 1,400 recorded cases of intimate partner violence.

“We refuse to accept the killing of women as just a part of the everyday experience. We reject the tendency for the victim always to be blamed! We need a mass act of solidarity and a societal rejection of patriarchal violence and harassment,” declared a statement from the protest, organized by the feminist collectives Feminist Library and Levfem.

The protest drew several hundred participants, where women shared personal stories about the effects of domestic violence and the inadequate institutional support for recovery.

Serbia 

+ Belgrade activists demand Serbia recognize wartime rape survivors as civilian victims

Activists in Belgrade rallied on the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict on June 19 to urge Serbian authorities to grant legal recognition for wartime rape survivors. 

Serbia is the only country in the former Yugoslavia that does not officially recognize survivors of wartime sexual violence as civilian victims. Serbian feminist organizations Women in Black and the Autonomous Women’s Centre, the organizers of this protest, are advocating for changes to the Law on the Rights of Veterans, Disabled Veterans, and their Family Members to rectify this omission.

Sanja Pavlovic, an activist with the Autonomous Women’s Centre, told Balkan Insight that they aim to draw attention to the global issue of sexual violence in wars and conflicts, emphasizing that even 30 years after the wars of the 1990s, victims in Serbia remain unrecognized by authorities.

Changes to the law would include legal amendments to recognize victims of sexual violence, regardless of nationality, to provide them with welfare benefits and support from the state. 

Poland

+ Poland moves closer to easing abortion laws

Poland took a significant step toward easing its strict abortion laws last month, as a parliamentary commission recommended decriminalizing the procedure within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. 

This move marks a departure from the near-total ban imposed by the previous ruling party, Law and Justice, in October 2020, which only permitted abortions in cases of rape, incest, or threats to the woman’s life, Politico reports.

A picture of a deceased woman, named Agnieszka, is hold during a protest in front of the Law and Justice (PiS) ruling party office against the abortion ban. Krakow, Poland on January 26, 2022. Agnieszka, a 37-year-old woman pregnant with twins, died on January 25th after she was admitted to the hospital in Czestochowa, where the first of her sons died on December 23. (Photo by Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The current government, led by former European Council President Donald Tusk, has been pushing to liberalize the country’s abortion laws, reflecting a broader shift toward more progressive policies. 

In April, the Polish parliament tasked a special commission with reviewing four competing proposals on abortion law reform. Today, the commission adopted one of these proposals, recommending full decriminalization of abortion assistance within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The proposal will now be brought before parliament for consideration later this year.

South Korea

+ 4B movement challenges South Korea’s patriarchy

The 4B Korean feminist movement, which began on Twitter in 2019, has been gaining traction on TikTok. Coined by author Cho Nam-Joo, 4B encompasses four key principles: rejecting heterosexual marriage (bihon), no childbirth (bichulsan), avoiding dating men (biyeonae), and abstaining from heterosexual sexual relationships (bisekseu).

@wtfaleisa

Replying to @user9720585462941 its my roman empire

♬ original sound – wtfaleisa

Also known as the “birth strike” and “marriage strike,” 4B challenges South Korea’s deeply entrenched patriarchy and misogyny.  Among all countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), South Korea is at the bottom in gender income disparity rankings, with a glaring 31 percent difference in pay between men and women despite its high GDP and standing as a developed country.

President Yoon Suk-Yeol has vowed to dismantle the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, claiming it treats men like “potential sex criminals,” reports the publication Service 95. In November, reports indicated that his administration had removed phrases like “gender equality” and “sexual minorities” from school textbooks.

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About and

Wakaba Oto is an editorial intern at Ms. and is completing her undergraduate degree in English and journalism at Fordham University. She is passionate about investigative journalism, with a focus on uncovering misconduct in government and corporate sectors. She has roots in Amsterdam and Tokyo.
Clara Scholl is a Ms. editorial intern and is completing her undergraduate studies at New York University. She is the arts editor for NYU's independent student newspaper, Washington Square News. Clara has previously worked as a girl advocate with the Working Group on Girls at the UN Commission on the Status of Women from 2018 to 2021. You can find her on Twitter @scholl_clara.