BY Nana Abuelsoud
Celebrate, remember, and continue the fight for full bodily autonomy for all!
Last month was the time of the year when we remind ourselves and others of the ongoing fight for safe accessible abortion and contraceptives. In this third edition of Reflections on Our Countries, we invite you to celebrate, remember, and continue the fight for full bodily autonomy for all.
This year we celebrate the historic feminist win in Colombia to decriminalize abortion during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. We also celebrate feminist solidarity extending above and beyond the Mexico-US borders access to safe abortion services and note-sharing among feminist groups.
Abortion is not just about the right to choose. The right to safe abortion is an intergenerational feminist fight, tailing in our mothers’ and grandmothers’ stories of surprise pregnancies and exhausting domestic work. It is an ongoing fight for pleasure, autonomy, and non-reproductive sex.
The right to safe and accessible abortion is intrinsic to the right to safe and accessible contraceptives, and both are not synonyms for bodily autonomy. Bodily autonomy also includes our rights to healthy bodies, leisure, community kitchens and food sovereignty, a safe and clean environment, prisons as a distant memory, and economic systems that nurture our ecosystems and hearts and souls.
The fight for safe accessible abortion and contraceptives is also a class, race, and disability fight. History tells us horrific stories of what our great-grandmothers and parents endured as subjects under international aid programming for family planning and population control. In some parts of the world, this is still a reality. And so to realize reproductive justice, we will end the puppeteering of the International Monetary Fund of our bodies and economies.
As Juanita Williams, SisterSong founding board member, noted remarkably in one of the late 90s gatherings for women of colour organizations in the US on the then frailing infrastructure for feminist organizing shaped by available funds, “Not to sing the same song, but our individual songs together in harmony”. In this third edition of Reflections on Our Countries, we are piecing together different songs in harmony on the bodily autonomy of feminists from the global south.
Thisanthini Thiruchelvam from Sri Lanka takes us on an introspective journey on our personal value systems that transform over time. Thisanthini reminds us it takes years for people on their personal and political journeys to understand and see oppressive power dynamics that are clear as daylight. Meanwhile, an anonymous contributor from Rwanda reflects on women and girls’ bodily rights, where they originate and if these translate into their day-to-day life. She asks if respect is a euphemism for oppression: “Sometimes our culture and beliefs teach girls and women that respecting an older person, especially a male figure, is agreeing to whatever they say,” she notes
RESURJ member Shubha Kayastha from Nepal accentuates the entanglements between sexual and reproductive health and rights, and the right to data privacy in ‘Datafication, SRHR and Nepal’s Elections’. In the grand scheme of things, personal data is used to influence voters, analyze our behaviours and patterns and is ultimately profitable. Shubha invites us to contemplate how election processes can be rights-based in the age of digitalization and vast data collection.
RESURJ ally, Deaf Women Included from Zimbabwe, in a sign language poem tells a story of a deaf pregnant adolescent who got access to safe abortion services. Lisa Owino from Kenya, shares thoughts on her experience advocating for abortion at national and regional levels. With highlights of kindled energy in regional feminist organizing spaces questioning the criminalization of abortion, Lisa leaves us with a hard question: “Why ascribe legality or illegality to something so autonomous as my body?”
The criminalization of people living with HIV who are breastfeeding is a new issue as observed by RESURJ accomplice from Argentina, Mariana Iacono. She reflects on one of the conversations we had at RESURJ Cross Regional Dialogue with Feminist Lawyers and Activists last July, to challenge protectionist laws and regulations that criminalize our choices and reproductive health options. ‘Not a Criminal’ is a campaign to address stigma, discrimination, criminalization, and violence for people living with and most affected by HIV worldwide.
From Costa Rica, our comrade Shi Alarcón-Zamora shares fierce determination on abortion becoming a reality for all countries in Latin America in an excerpt from a speech addressing the Assembly of Delegates of the Inter-American Commission in Panama on Women in May 2022. Shi articulates succinctly the collective position on regressive public policies in the region: “I believe that we are not asking as a movement that people lose their personal beliefs, what we are demanding is that the personal beliefs of each person are not the basis for creating public policy or for reaching international agreements.”
Lastly, Imaan Jufeer from Sri Lanka discusses the world’s state of affairs through two pieces of art. In the painting Spur of the Moment we see depictions of the state of capitalist ecological crisis, and the effects of excessive consumption and industrial development at large. In Silent War (2021), the viewer is invited to reflect on period poverty and taboos.