International Women's Health + Human Rights

We are a global community dedicated to education and collaborative action on issues of International Women's Health & Human Rights. This is the Tumblr page for the massive open online course (MOOC), featuring Anne Firth Murray, the founding president of the Global Fund for Women and an educator at Stanford University. Visit for more information.
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Thousands of Turkish women took part in a Twitter campaign to voice outrage at men who invade their personal space by spreading their legs while sitting next to them on buses and trains. Turkish tags #bacaklarinitopla, “Stop Spreading Your Legs,” or #yerimisgaletme, “Don’t Occupy My Space,” reverberated on the social network as women joined in to share their experiences.

“When a woman is put in this situation, it is intimidating to warn the man because she doesn’t know what kind of reaction she will receive,” says Tugce Sarigul, a member of the Istanbul Feminist Collective, the group which started the campaign.

Read more via The New York Times.


In honor of Earth Day, we do not support the potential mining of Snake Butte on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation. We understand previous mining has already done permanent damage and know that the extractive industry is inextricably tied to environmental, sexual, physical, spiritual, and reproductive violence against us.


Louisiana Taking Away Medicaid Lifeline for Disabled, Other Vulnerable Residents

Two years ago, Donna Risso and her friend Michael were living under a bridge in New Orleans. They were struggling not only with homelessness, but also with Donna’s mounting health problems, which included hepatitis C, cirrhosis of the liver, encephalitis, pancreatitis and chronic anemia. Donna was a “frequent flyer” at the emergency room, often five to 10 times a month, but her health was getting steadily worse.

Social workers using federal and state resources helped Donna find housing and got her on a state program called “disability Medicaid,” which covers health care costs for people who meet federal disability criteria but are not yet on the federal program. This important initiative, common in many states, is a bridge to health services for people applying for federal benefits, which can take years.

Although the program was a lifesaver for Donna, Gov. Bobby Jindal terminated “disability Medicaid” in Louisiana as of Jan. 1, leaving 9,200 people across the state with no coverage.

Read more.

Photo: An outreach team from Unity Of Greater New Orleans counsels a homeless man on housing options, January 2011. © 2011 AP Photo/Gerald Herbert


Following up to Bambu’s tweet.

Women who barter sex for food and water remain a major concern, officials said. To combat the rise in trafficking that has occurred in past disasters in the Philippines, the American agency has increased its funding to programs that warn families about the dangers. The goal, Ms. Lindborg said, is “so they’re not taken in by that great job offer in Manila that your 16-year-old daughter is being recruited for.” Even before the typhoon, an estimated 375,000 women and girls in the area — about 10 percent of women of childbearing age affected by the storm — would have likely experienced sexual violence in their lifetimes, United Nations officials said. Based on studies of emergencies, they said that Haiyan’s aftermath could add another 65,000 victims of sexual assault.

Effort to Help Filipino Women Falters, U.N. Says

Climate change cannot be explained without mentioning coal. And in recent years, the Philippines has become more dependent on coal in generating its power supply. The Aquino government is guilty of increasing the number of coal projects across the country – 17 ongoing construction of coal plants and 10 slated for expansion. In his 2012 state of the nation address, Aquino singled out the oppositors of the Subic coal plant project for blocking the progress of the local economy.

The government’s addiction to coal reflects several fundamental wrongs in governance: Dirty development model (focus on extractive activities), contradictory laws (Mining Act vis-a-vis total log ban), and privatized energy sector. The Philippines pioneered renewable energy legislation in the region but the government abandoned power generation and left it in the hands of a few favored family tycoons. Naturally, the latter preferred cheap but dirty coal over renewable sources which are abundant in the country.

Disaster risk reduction and preparedness would be rendered meaningless if coal addiction is not eliminated. The ‘No Build Zone’ policy is presented as if coastal habitats pose the greatest danger to the lives of our people in the Visayas. What about large-scale mining, expanding plantations, and coal pollution?

Coal policies should make us more aware of the other manifestations of climate injustice. In the Philippines, it is reflected in the suffering of poor farmers and fisherfolk who have to survive the adverse impact of coal projects on their health and livelihood. It is evident too in the displacement of marginalized communities caused by development aggression and pollutive industries. Worse, the poor are often blamed for choosing to settle in critical habitats and high-risk areas.

The Philippines’ addiction to dirty coal and dirty politics 


The impact of war on health and the environment especially is an oft forgotten issue. More than two decades of American war on Iraq has resulted in sharp rises in congenital birth defects and illnesses that were not previously seen in Iraq affecting the kidney, lungs, and liver, as well as total immune system collapse. Scabies and cholera, for example, were foreign to Iraq and now they are a significant health problem. Localized disease like malaria also began appearing in regions previously free of it. There has also been a steep rise in Leukaemia, renal and anaemia, especially among children. Miscarriages and premature births have also spiked, most notably in areas like Fallujah and Basra, sites of heavy US military operations. And of course, lung and bone cancer rates soared.

Prominent doctors and scientists all contend that these increases are the result of contamination from Depleted Uranium munitions and other military-related pollution. Before the Gulf War, cancer rates in Iraq were 40 out of 100,000 people. The biggest concern for pediatricians was childhood obesity. In 1995, after a few years of Clinton’s bombardment, cancer rates had increased to 800 out of 100,000 people. In 2005, it had increased to 1,600 out of 100,000 people. Estimates show a rising trend that continues to this day. It should also be noted that these statistics are likely much lower due to inadequate research (the WHO has also been accused of suppressing information).

Dr. Savabieafahani, a toxicologist in Ann Arbor, found that the majority of the population remained in contaminated homes and buildings where exposure to lead, uranium, mercury and other metals continue. Many others built on top of the contaminated rubble and used materials savaged from the site.

It has been found that between 2002 and 2005, the US armed forces expended more than six billion Depleted Uranium bullets in Iraq, but that is on top of the 6,000 sorties and 1,800 bombs dropped during Clinton’s administration which dusted Iraq with Depleted Uranium for nearly a decade (at least a million of Depleted Uranium bullets were used during the Gulf War, and untold numbers used after up until 2002 as well). This has caused considerable damage in farming areas around Basra, for example, contaminating the food and water supply and it will continue causing environmental and health problems in Iraq years after the United States leaves (if they ever do). Because of this contamination babies are being born missing eyes, with numerous tumors, deformities, two heads, arms sticking out of their chest, crippling and complex nervous system problems… Democracy Now has a report.

During the Gulf War, 88,000 tons of explosives were dropped on Iraq (equivalent to nearly five Hiroshima-sized bombs). The energy released from these bombs caused an ionization of the Iraqi atmosphere resulting in toxic free radicals. When inside living cells these cause life threatening diseases and depletion of the immune system, leading to the spread of infectious diseases. This is but one of the many reasons, along with cruel economic sanctions leading to malnutrition, that child health problems went from obesity to death from simple diarrhea in such a short time frame.

Acid rain has plagued many parts of Iraq due to indiscriminate bombing of infrastructure like oil wells, storage facilities, delivery vehicles and more, releasing toxic chemicals into the air, soil, and water. The air quality was close to soot at times, and the rain was black as sulfuric and phosphoric acids, ammonia, insecticides, and heavy metals fell from the sky. Pollution levels are 1,000 percent higher than those recommended by the World Health Organization.

Environmental stability has been threatened as bombardment led to significant destruction of Iraq’s flora, fauna, and life cycle. Many arable regions have become unusable as damages led to massive alterations in soil composition and plant cover. Sand storms have raged across the country covering arable land and creating new sand dunes, as well as covering roads and buildings. The reason why this is the military’s fault is because bombs and military traffic destroy the hard sand cover preventing loose sand from being picked up. These problems cannot be addressed because Iraq’s power plants, drainage systems, sewage and water treatment centers, desalinization stations, and other farming equipment have been destroyed in whole or part, time and time again. Biodiversity is changing as rats and scorpions have dramatically increased, bringing with them their own problems. And other animals have been destroyed in large numbers.

The brutal occupation, crippling sanctions, and war on Iraq from the Clinton administration until today has resulted in the slaughter of more than 2 million Iraqi civilians. Under Bush’s war alone, the conservative mainstream media estimate is that 4% of Iraq’s population is dead from US sanctions and war. Had a foreign nation slaughtered 4% of the population in the United States that would be 12 million dead. This is an American genocide of the Iraqi people.


by Ana María Pizarro

CAWN Newsletter, Spring 2014, p.10-11

In Nicaragua, abortion has been a crime in all its legal history. The legislation banning abortion is one of the most violated in the country; all citizens – including the religious hierarchy that persistently convinces their followers in the National Assembly – know that the law is violated daily with serious consequences for poor women and for the rule of law.

In September 2006, the law authorizing therapeutic abortion – inscribed in legislation since 1837 – was repealed by parliament and, consequently, the absolute criminalization of abortion has been maintained, being the worst post-Cairo indicator. Women are completely unprotected when pregnancy complications endanger their life or health, which is a cruel form of violence.

Like in every place where it’s penalised, abortion is an issue of double standards where the word hypocrisy prevails, as we feminists have been denouncing for more than 30 years. In addition to the total outlaw of abortion, Nicaragua has passed a law – unprecedented in the country – granting the embryo legal rights, which undermines the constitutional rights of already born women. This decision was promoted by religious leaders with such force that the new Penal Code, adopted in 2008 during the Sandinista government, is based on the Presidential Decree of the Unborn Children’s Day.

The new Penal Code maintains the illegality of abortion for health professionals, who risk imprisonment of 2-8 years, promotes clandestine practices, threatens the health and lives of women, and makes abortion a business for those who practice it illegally. On top of that, it leaves women’s lives at the mercy of embryos.

Since any possibility of terminating the pregnancy has been take away, even in the most dire circumstances, and the “physical or psychological harm to the unborn” is penalised, health professionals – regardless of their specialty – are exposed for prosecution when assisting a woman at any stage of her pregnancy.

Given the demands by the international community, the Ministry of Health has published protocols of assistance that do not have law status; in 2009 Amnesty International published the testimony of a Nicaraguan doctor: “The Ministry of Health (MINSA), by forcing me to fulfil their protocols, is instigating me to be a criminal (…). It’s asking me to continue obstetric protocols, which I know don’t have the same status as law, and the problem is that if I do not comply with these protocols, the MINSA will punish me, and if I meet the protocols, then the State will punish me”.

At a time when the international community monitors the implementation of the ICPD Action Programme, in Nicaragua the situation is not headed in a clear or firm way to implement the changes required by its population. 51.9% of the population are women, most of them young, poor and with few opportunities. A good part of them suffers from violence or dies in the hands of their partners, or because of cancer, AIDS, preventable complications of pregnancy or abortions performed under unsafe conditions.

Births between girls aged 10 to 14 years have increased significantly; by July 2012 the UN Population Fund reported an increase of 47% in 9 years, from 1,066 in 2000 to 1,477 in 2009. Before and after therapeutic abortion was made illegal, girls have been forced to carry on with pregnancies produced by rape, since it shouldn’t go unnoticed that these girls cannot have agreed to have sex at that age, given their emotional immaturity, who have ended up being raped and pregnant.


In November 2011, it was reported the rape and subsequent pregnancy of a 12 year old indigenous girl in the Autonomous Region of Atlantic North; the situation was publicly known only by the time she was 36 weeks pregnant. According to the media, she was in a “dramatic situation” in the Bertha Calderon Hospital in Managua. Her parents had asked the authorities for an abortion since she presented symptoms of eclampsia (seizures); the girl arrived to the hospital with vaginal tears and had to undergo surgery due to an advanced state of malnutrition and sepsis. The authorities were obliged to act on the evidence of the rape and pregnancy. However, the birth of the baby despite the grave risk of death of the abused girl was considered “a miracle and a sign of God’s blessing” by the authorities.

Nine feminists denounced for abortion advocacy

The violation of the secular state is another key factor for the subjection of women to religious precepts that go against their own lives. In October 2007, the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights, sponsored by the Episcopal Conference and members of the Ministry of Family, filed a complaint with the Public Prosecutor against 9 feminists for “offences against the administration of justice, cover up of the crime of rape, unlawful association to commit a crime and for advocating abortion”, which is considered a crime in Nicaragua.”

The Prosecutor’s Office conducted an investigation for two and a half years before dismissing it for lack of evidence. The “crime” was to denounce and then facilitate the termination of the pregnancy of a 9 year old girl, raped in 2003, when the legislation still allowed therapeutic abortion.

By 2003, the Ministry of Education removed by order of Catholic pressure groups the “Manual for Life”, of sex education for teachers. The so-called catholic “pro-life” groups, evangelical groups and the archbishop made an intensive campaign against it for “promoting abortion, homosexuality and intending to dissolve families”. The Cardinal announced he had “a committee of theologians and moralists” to redo the document. Ten years later, in the “revolutionary” government, teachers have a guide on sexual education but don’t know it or apply it because it has not been sufficiently distributed. Ignorance on sexuality and reproduction is perpetuated in educators and learners. Nicaragua holds the first place in the rate of pregnancies in under 19 throughout Latin-America.

Between 2006 and 2008, 25 women died by a cause directly related to abortion – such as unplanned pregnancy. 70 % of the “suicides” amongst women were teenagers and young women, all of them pregnant, under 20 weeks, and all used chemicals – such as organophosphate pesticides – to try to terminate their pregnancy. The State continues to “not study” this phenomenon and excludes these deaths from statistics. What’s worse is that girls, teenagers and adult women keep dying as a result of the latter, while the competent authorities do not take any decision on how to solve this.

An indifferent society that devalues women, considers them disposable, dispensable and interchangeable, can only provide negative responses, restrictive laws, petty policies and selfish decisions, because it expects that women will accept them without hesitation.

The legalisation of abortion permits an honourable solution to the multifaceted problems of combating restrictive reproductive laws, that are limited and consequently abusive to women as these laws sustain hypocritical patriarchal values and limit the applicability and development of women’s human rights.



Turkish Women’s Groups Gird for Abortion Rights Battle
Dorian Jones

ISTANBUL - Women rights groups demonstrated in Istanbul earlier this month in support of abortion rights, accusing state institutions of complying with a government campaign to systematically curtail the practice.

Now the protests are continuing across the country as activists claim the government is using back-door methods to ban abortions.     more…