The Hamilton Spectator

France enshrines abortion as a right

Events held globally in order to advance women’s rights

- ANGELA CHARLTON

France inscribed the guaranteed right to abortion in its constituti­on Friday, a powerful message of support for women’s rights on Internatio­nal Women’s Day.

Justice Minister Eric DupondMore­tti used a 19th-century printing press to seal the amendment in France’s Constituti­on at a special public ceremony. Applause filled the cobbleston­ed Place Vendome as France became the first country to explicitly guarantee abortion rights in its national charter.

The measure was overwhelmi­ngly approved by French lawmakers earlier this week, and Friday’s ceremony means it can now enter into force.

While abortion is a deeply divisive issue in the United States, it’s legal in nearly all of Europe and overwhelmi­ngly supported in France, where it’s seen more as a question of public health rather than politics. French legislator­s approved the constituti­onal amendment on Monday in a 780-72 vote that was backed by many far-right lawmakers.

Friday’s ceremony in Paris, attended by around 1,000 people, was a key event on a day focused on advancing women’s rights globally. Marches, protests and conference­s are being held from Jakarta, Indonesia, to Mexico City and beyond.

The French constituti­onal amendment has been hailed by women’s rights advocates around the world, including places where women struggle to access birth control or maternal health care. French President Emmanuel Macron called it a direct result of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2022 rescinding long-held abortion rights.

Macron called for other countries to follow suit and proposed including the right to abortion in the European Union’s charter, drawing cheers from the crowd in Paris. However, such a move would likely meet stiff resistance from EU members that have tight abortion restrictio­ns, such as Poland.

Macron’s critics questioned why he pursued the measure in a country with no obvious threat to abortion rights but where women face a multitude of other problems.

While some French women saw the step as a major win, others said that in reality not every French woman has access to abortion.

“It’s a smokescree­n,” Arya Meroni, 32, said of the event.

“The government is destroying our health-care system, many family planning clinics have closed,’’ she said.

In other events Friday:

■ In Ireland, voters will decide whether to change the constituti­on to remove passages referring to women’s domestic duties and broadening the definition of the family.

■ In Italy, where the country’s first female premier is in power, thousands of people marched in Rome to protest gender-based violence. The issue grabbed public attention after the particular­ly gruesome murder of a young woman last November, which Italian President Sergio Mattarella said Friday “consumed all of Italy in horror and pain.” Data show more than half of the 120 women murdered in Italy last year were killed by their current or former partners.

At street rallies in Seoul, participan­ts had an eye on next month’s parliament­ary elections in South Korea and expressed hope that parties would prioritize gender equality.

■ In Russia, where the United Nations says human rights have deteriorat­ed since the military’s fullscale invasion of Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin saluted Russian women fighting in the war and those waiting at home for their loved ones who had been deployed.

■ Women in Afghanista­n staged rare protests against harsh Taliban restrictio­ns. The country’s rulers have banned girls and women from education above grade six and from most jobs. Females are also barred from public spaces like parks. A group of women gathered indoors in Kabul, holding up signs to hide their faces, and chanted, “No to gender apartheid” and “Afghanista­n is hell for women.”

■ Protesters in Turkey plan to call attention to violence against women, and rallies are expected in many cities. Protests in the country are often political and, at times, violent, rooted in women’s efforts to improve their rights as workers. This year’s global theme is “Inspire Inclusion.”

■ Indonesian demonstrat­ors demanded adoption of the Internatio­nal Labor Organizati­on’s convention­s concerning gender equality and eliminatin­g workplace violence and harassment. Labor rights groups in Thailand marched to the Government House to petition for better work conditions, and activists marching against violence in the Philippine capital were stopped by police near the presidenti­al palace, sparking a brief scuffle.

■ India’s government cut the price of cooking gas cylinders by 100 rupees ($1.20) with Prime Minister Narendra Modi posting on social media that the move was “in line with our commitment to empowering women.”

■ The United Nations children’s agency said in a report released on Internatio­nal Women’s Day that more than 230 million women and girls around the world have undergone female genital mutilation. The number has increased by 30 million in the past eight years, it said.

“We’re also seeing a worrying trend that more girls are subjected to the practice at younger ages, many before their fifth birthday. That further reduces the window to intervene,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell.

Officially recognized by the United Nations in 1977, Internatio­nal Women’s Day is a national holiday in about 20 countries, including Russia, Ukraine and Afghanista­n.

 ?? CHRISTOPHE ENA
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Women attend a ceremony to seal the right to abortion in the French constituti­on on Friday, Internatio­nal Women's Day, at the Place Vendome, in Paris, France.
CHRISTOPHE ENA THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Women attend a ceremony to seal the right to abortion in the French constituti­on on Friday, Internatio­nal Women's Day, at the Place Vendome, in Paris, France.

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