News from the Global South

Tamil Nadu: Sex Workers May Get Benefits, Say Decriminalisation is the Goal

Times of India - Chennai, Tamil Nadu, 11/21/2020

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has urged the states to provide temporary documents to support sex workers get health and welfare benefits. The Supreme Court had earlier directed all the states to provide dry rations to all sex workers identified by National AIDS Control Organization and legal service authorities. Rani, a 33-year old woman from Pune said that they can now expect basic healthcare and rations. She said, “Since the advisory and order, people are starting to accept that I am like everybody else.” K. Santhakumari, president of Tamil Nadu Federation of Women Lawyers, said that while this is a positive step, the ultimate goal is decriminalisation of sex work.

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Tanzanian Ban on Pregnant School Girls Challenged in African Court

Reuters - Nairobi, Kenya, 11/20/2020

A Tanzanian law that bans pregnant girls and teenage mothers from attending school is being challenged in Africa’s top rights court by Equality Now, an international women’s charity. Equality Now filed a joint petition with a local partner at the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights against the Tanzanian Government on November 19, 2020 after years of campaigning unsuccessfully for the ban to be lifted. Preventing pregnant girls and adolescent mothers from attending school denies them access to education and keeps many trapped in a cycle of poverty, the charity said. Women’s rights groups estimate that thousands of female students in Tanzania have been affected by the ban and are forced out of education every year.

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High Hopes for Abortion Rights to Expand in Argentina

Reuters - Bogota, Colombia, 11/19/2020

Argentine President Alberto Fernandez has presented a bill to the Argentine Congress that aims to legalise abortion, saying reproductive rights are a public health issue. If passed, the bill would allow women to seek elective abortions in pregnancies of up to 14 weeks and guarantee access to the procedure as part of the country’s public health care system. This effort to make abortion legal in Argentina has a better chance of success than previous failed efforts, supporters say. If the law were to pass, Argentina would become the first country in Latin America to allow abortion on broad grounds, rights groups said. In addition, Argentina could influence other Latin American countries with strict abortion restrictions.

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Thailand Approves Legislation to Pave Way to Legalise Abortions

Hindustan Times, Thailand, 11/18/2020

Thailand’s cabinet has approved amending existing legislation to pave the way to legalizing abortion in the Southeast Asian nation. The change in law, agreed to by the cabinet, came in on November 17, 2020 and aims to allow women to seek and have abortions up to 12 weeks into their pregnancy. Thailand’s existing laws do not allow terminations at all unless the woman’s life is at risk or the pregnancy is a result of rape. Currently, women seeking a termination can receive a prison sentence of up to three years and a 60,000 baht fine. Under the proposed amendment, the punishment for abortions beyond the 12-week limit would be lower – up to six months in prison, or a 10,000 baht fine, or both.

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WHO Takes Aim at Cervical Cancer to Reduce Cases, Deaths

Reuters - Geneva, Switzerland, 11/17/2020

WHO has advocated that cervical cancer, the fourth most common cancer among women globally, is a preventable disease but affects at least 570,000 each year and kills 311,000. Health ministers from WHO’s 194 member states backed a strategy aimed at eliminating cervical cancer, being launched on November 17, 2020. “With this technology, we can get a diagnosis in 20 minutes and the woman can be treated immediately on site, making it possible to have one visit in one day and to be immediately cured of this pre-cancer lesion,” Dr. Princess Nothemba Simelela from South Africa, WHO assistant director general, said.

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