The Handmaid’s Tale has already come true – just not for white western women

Why, if the fate of the fictional Offred is so horrifying, is the fate of real-life women in surrogacy hostels causing so little outrage?

I suppose the main argument of these feminists would be that real-life women choose to be surrogates, whereas Offred does not. But is the distinction so clear? If Offred refuses to work as a handmaid, she may be sent to the Colonies, where life expectancy is short. Yet even this is a choice of sorts. As she herself notes, “nothing is going on here that I haven’t signed up for. There wasn’t a lot of choice but there was some, and this is what I chose.” In the real world, grinding poverty drives women of colour to gestate the babies of the wealthy. As one Indian surrogate tells interviewer Seemi Pasha, “Why would I be a surrogate for someone else if I don’t need the money? Why would I make myself go through this pain?”

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/feminism/2017/02/handmaid-s-tale-has-already-come-true-just-not-white-western-women

Poverty must stop being used as a political weapon to separate Indigenous families | Natalie Cromb | Opinion | The Guardian

The vast majority of cases where children are removed due to governmentally defined “neglect” is attributable to poverty. This is, of course, a situation that has been directly caused by colonisation, which forced us from our own country and subjected us to a foreign capitalist-driven existence without the ordinary privileges afforded to non-Indigenous people, such as the right to an income.

A better utilisation of resources could, of course, be the provision of transport to and from schools for children, medical and community support and the simple provision of affordable, nutritious groceries to rural and remote communities.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/26/poverty-must-stop-being-used-as-a-weapon-to-justify-separating-indigenous-families?

Texas Bill Could Send People to Jail for Driving a Woman to an Abortion, Lawmaker Says

The sweeping anti-abortion bill that passed the Texas House May 19 could allow nearly anyone involved in the process of an unlawful abortion to be charged with a state jail felony, Moody said. That includes the doctor who performed the abortion, but also the person who drove the woman to the clinic, the receptionist who booked the appointment and even the bank teller who cashed the check that paid for the procedure.

https://www.texasobserver.org/texas-bill-could-send-people-to-jail-for-driving-a-woman-to-an-abortion/?

New York Forces Women Like Me to Carry Nonviable Pregnancies to Term

Abortion was a criminal act in the United States in 1970 when New York state, as the local American Civil Liberties Union put it, “amended the state penal code to include a new clause allowing for a ‘justifiable abortional act,’ permitting abortions performed within 24 weeks from the commencement of pregnancy, and at any point during pregnancy when a woman’s life is in danger.”

When the law was written in 1970, this was considered progressive. Unfortunately, it was never updated after the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. So today, abortion is still a crime in New York, but with exceptions.

The Roe decision hinged on the notion of viability, only allowing states to limit abortion access after a fetus was viable, which is generally considered around 24 weeks. In our case, our baby would never be viable. Roe also protected the right to an abortion in cases where the health of the pregnant person was threatened.

This left New York’s law inadequate and technically unconstitutional. Because while federal law is supposed to supersede state law, when New York hospital lawyers open the penal code and discover this discrepancy, they conservatively advise health-care providers to steer clear of later abortions, for fear of having their doctors thrown into jail. Sure, they’re just doing their job, but this results in critical denials of federally protected care.

https://rewire.news/article/2017/05/23/new-york-forces-women-like-carry-nonviable-pregnancies-term/

The Handmaid’s Tale on TV: too disturbing even for Margaret Atwood

Even for those who have read the book, there is something raw and new in seeing Atwood’s tale on screen. Even when you know it is coming, it is hard to witness Offred – played marvellously by Elisabeth Moss – silently being raped by the commander, her head gently banging into his wife’s lap as she holds her arms down. It is tough to watch the handmaids hurry past lines of bodies hanging from walls, variously damned for being gay, Catholic, an abortion clinic worker. Women have eyes plucked from their heads, endure clitoridectomies as punishment. We are shown exactly how bad such a future would be, if it ever happened.

The novelist famously constructed her dystopian world using only historical precedents . . . Some have even praised the show for the timeliness of its adaptation, falling as it has so soon after the election of President Donald Trump. When before has America needed to take such a hard look at itself, and consider the hypocritical, misogynist prurience that seems to drive so many of its political figures? Tellingly, since the show started being promoted in America, women have been attending marches and protests dressed in the red robe and white bonnet made iconic by Atwood’s handmaids.

https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2017/may/25/the-handmaids-tale-on-tv-too-disturbing-even-for-margaret-atwood?

The 22 women on this year’s Rich List, including eight billionaires

There are now eight, billionaire women in Australia as reported by the annual Financial Review Rich List yesterday. It may sound like a huge figure, but this year 60 Aussie billionaires made the list – the highest number in the report’s 34-year history. If you can do quick maths, this means that just thirteen percent of the highest earners were female.

An honourable mention goes to Nicole Kidman for emerging as the highest earning Australian entertainer. She currently sits on a fortune of $347 million. (Not bad for a girl who started out on Aussie TV soap, ‘A Country Practice’.

https://womensagenda.com.au/latest/22-women-years-rich-list-including-eight-billionaires/

There’s still a huge gender gap in NZ’s equity partner ranks

There’s still a wide gender disparity at the most senior ranks of law firms in New Zealand. At the equity partner level, 81% are male while only 19% are female, according to a study conducted by the Australasian Legal Practice Management Association (ALPMA) and McLeod Duminy.

“There are considerably more women than men working in private practice – yet, women make up less than a fifth of equity partners and only 43% of salaried partners,” said Kirsty Spears, McLeod Duminy legal recruitment consultant. “It seems that despite women making up 63% of lawyers and solicitors, and 64% of senior management, the top position of partner is still dominated by males.”

http://www.nzlawyermagazine.co.nz/news/theres-still-a-huge-gender-gap-in-nzs-equity-partner-ranks–study-236803.aspx

Domestic violence fight: A mother’s crusade

She said despite pleas for assistance, the Australian government provided no support and left her to shoulder more than $100,000 for legal fees and support services.

“There’s financial and legal assistance available for people arrested or assaulted abroad,” Merinda said.

“But there’s an artificial boundary for vulnerable women and children on their own in another country.”

Despite multiple compelling and official reports backing Merinda’s claims of abuse at the hand of her former spouse, she said her bid for custody was denied.

After a 22-year struggle in Canada, Merinda returned home alone, “poor” and suffering from trauma-induced PTSD.

Since her homecoming, Merinda has made it her mission to prevent other innocent and vulnerable women and children from experiencing the “family, judicial and systemic abuse” that plagued her for more than two decades.

http://www.dailyadvertiser.com.au/story/4674972/domestic-violence-fight-a-mothers-crusade/

‘Stay-at-home Mum’: An archaic term ripe for extinction?

. . . the opportunity and financial cost of spending time raising children and managing a household, instead of working for pay is a huge drain on a family’s finances. So because what we do is unpaid, society in general inherently, and often subconsciously, looks down on ‘Stay-at-home Mums’ as not providing value.

But we are all painstakingly aware, both from statistics, economic modelling and experience, that this work is so hugely valuable and fundamentally important. Yet, still today, the term ‘Stay-at-home Mum’ is full of negative connotations and stigma. It implies inactivity and masks the many roles a mother actually fulfils. No other job description is so multi-dimensional. In my view, the term ‘Stay-at-home Mum’ undermines the very work we do and belies the real nature of this all consuming role. So no, I was not going to write ‘Stay-at-home Mum’ on that form.

A close friend, who has the same immigration form dilemma, shared with me her struggle with the term. “It implies that you stay at home….and do…well…not much. It has symbolised the totally undervalued, horrifically hard role that I took on for a period without properly understanding the job description.

https://womensagenda.com.au/latest/soapbox/stay-home-mum-archaic-term-ripe-extinction/

“Ask Treasury”: The Office for Women’s response to the Budget’s impact on women.

On Monday the Minister for Women and the Office for Women were asked a number of questions about this in Senate estimates. They were specifically asked about what modelling for women had been undertaken. They were also asked to articulate the Office’s efforts to meet the G20 objective of boosting women’s workforce participation.

The responses seem to reinforce the NFAW conclusion that no “gender aware” analysis of the budget took place.

https://womensagenda.com.au/latest/ask-treasury-office-womens-response-diabolical-tax-situation-women-will-face/

End the system that fosters misogyny

Today, women occupy 65% of the paid workforce, but still perform 66% of the unpaid caring work in Australia. Despite these victories, there is something fundamentally wrong with this system. Capitalism can live with women in the workforce just as long as we know our place and continue to accept the double standard and the double burden.

Imagine if quality child-care was free, there was free health, dental and hospital care for all, community restaurants provided cheap and nutritious meals, education was free and domestic chores were paid for by the state. Life for families, and especially women, would be very different. But this sort of arrangement would mean that a proportion of the profits currently pocketed by the ruling class would have to be spent on providing such services.

Neoliberalism is moving society in the exact opposite direction to this vision. We are seeing attacks on welfare, the dismantling of universal health and free education. This is putting huge strain on families and, by extension, on women. We cannot take the gains that working women have won for granted. But they are limited and temporary — just look at the attacks on penalty rates, on the right to organise in a union, the fight for equal pay.

https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/end-system-fosters-misogyny

Damning Budget analysis: Some women will be hit with an effective marginal tax rate of 100%

One of the key findings in the NFAW 2017-18 Gender Lens report, released today, is that the combination of various policy changes this year could lead to an effective marginal tax rates of 100% or higher for some women.

The “stacking together” of changes to the medicare levy, HECS and government benefits and different income tests, can create a very different effective tax rate.

Changes in this Budget mean a graduate earning $51,000 could have less disposable income than someone earning $32,000. Because women are overrepresented at lower income levels, changes to government benefits and increases in taxes have a disproportionate effect on women.

https://womensagenda.com.au/latest/some-women-to-be-hit-with-an-effective-marginal-tax-rate-of-100/
http://www.nfaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/FINAL-Gender-Lens-2017.pdf

What women should (but won’t) get in the 2017 Budget

From the mid-1980s until 2014 Australia published a Women’s Budget Statement each year which analysed the impact of a particular budget and its policies on women. This was groundbreaking when it was introduced and has been adopted by many other countries.

Since 2014, when the Federal government ceased publishing the statement, the National Foundation for Australian Women has worked with experts from a range of organisations, to undertake analysis of the implications of the budget through a gender lens.

This is critical because the consequences of some policies, whether intended or unintended, affect men and women differently. As the NFAW writes: “The impacts of public expenditure, revenue raising, and deficit reduction strategies are not gender neutral. Government expenditure and taxes don’t impact equally because men and women occupy different economic and social positions.”

https://womensagenda.com.au/latest/eds-blog/what-women-should-but-wont-get-in-the-2017-budget/

Terrifying Report Reveals That Sexual Violence At School Begins Long Before College

According to the AP’s findings, approximately one in five students reported experiencing rape, sodomy or being penetrated with a foreign object. Rape victims skewed older at an average age of 14 1/2 years old, while sodomy victims were younger at 12 1/2 years old.

Boys made up the majority of the perpetrators in all these offenses. The peak age of reported female victims was 14 and 95 percent of cases with female victims were perpetrated by males.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/terrifying-report-reveals-that-sexual-violence-at-school-begins-long-before-college_us_59135384e4b050bdca61c720

Podcast: Time warp – Lawyers Weekly

On this episode of The Lawyers Weekly Show, journalist Melissa Coade is joined by Anna Kerr, the principal of the not-for-profit Feminist Legal Clinic in Sydney.

They discuss NSW’s “archaic” abortion laws, including the recent voting down of a bill to decriminalise the medical procedure. Twenty-five NSW politicians voted against the Abortion Law Reform (Miscellaneous Acts Amendment) Bill 2016, with 14 voting for the reform.

They also question why NSW and Queensland are lagging behind the other states and territories that have updated their criminal codes to remove abortion as a crime, and emphasise the importance of lawyers’ voices in conversations about human rights.

https://www.lawyersweekly.com.au/wig-chamber/21139-podcast-time-warp

The John Laws skirt saga: why do successful women defend sexism?

This week the great relic announced in his ancient, gravel tones the women he employs must wear skirts to work to please him.

Yet there they were, excusing Laws’ sexist ways and tone and skirt diktat on TV. “He’s actually a really good, decent man,” Rowe said.

No, he’s not – he’s someone treating professional work colleagues as objects of decoration.

“He’s a lovely man,” Buttrose echoed.

This is what Laws says of ogling his female staff: “I love them to look feminine. A skirt on a beautiful body is a very, very feminine thing.”

That’s not lovely. That’s the exploitation of a power dynamic in which workers are obliged to service the skeezy pleasure of the boss on top of doing their day job. Australian law says sexual harassment is not on, and the community knows anything close to sexually questionable behaviour at work is not on.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/18/the-john-laws-skirt-saga-why-do-successful-women-defend-sexism?

France gets a gender balanced cabinet

In 2017, it’s not something we should still need to marvel at, or even notice. Yet France’s new President Emmanuel Macron’s move to appoint a fifty/fifty gender split across his Cabinet is certainly newsworthy. Macron’s centrist government aims to bring a wide range of people together (from both the left and right), and 50% of them happen to be female.

The gender split follows a similar move by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who announced a gender balanced cabinet in 2015. Asked why he did it, Trudeau famously replied: “Because it’s 2015.”

Following the Australia Federal election last year, female representation in the Coalition fell to its lowest level since the early 1990s, with just 13 women sitting on government benches in the House of Reps. Less than a quarter of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s full ministry are female.

https://womensagenda.com.au/latest/eds-blog/france-gets-gender-balanced-cabinet/

Peak Bodies Say Government’s ‘Witch-hunt’ on Single Parents is ‘Archaic’

In the 2017 budget, which aimed to “crackdown on welfare cheats”, the government announced from September 2018 single parents receiving welfare will need a third party to verify they are in fact single.

CEOs from Council of Single Mothers and their Children Victoria (CSMCV) and the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children (NCSMC) have condemned the move, calling it disrespectful, humiliating and archaic.

https://probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2017/05/peak-bodies-say-governments-witchhunt-single-parents-archaic/?

Calls to Stop Mum’s Missing Out at Work This Mother’s Day

Coinciding with Mother’s Day, Diversity Council Australia is drawing attention to the gender pay gap and the challenges mother’s face in returning to work.

DCA CEO, Lisa Annese, told Pro Bono News the “motherhood penalty” was a uniquely female experience and one Australia needed to be aware of.

“It is a very broad definition but essentially it means that women who become mothers, or really take on caring responsibilities, have a penalty in the workplace in terms of their pay, their ability to progress, sometimes their conditions of employment, and essentially it is as though your career gets derailed once you become a parent,” Annese said.

https://probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2017/05/calls-stop-mums-missing-work-mothers-day/?

NSW MPs vote down abortion decriminalisation, but change is unstoppable

Women have again been let down by the majority of MPs in the NSW Legislative Council who voted down a Greens’ bill to decriminalise abortion on May 11. The vote was 25 against and 14 in favour of Dr Mehreen Faruqi’s private members’ bill.

Faruqi said she was disappointed with the outcome and described those MPs who voted against the bill as “completely out of step with modern medical practice, community expectation and laws in almost all other states”. She said although some “politicians are completely out of step with community expectations”, the law would eventually be changed.

https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/nsw-mps-vote-down-abortion-decriminalisation-change-unstoppable

Can’t she just ‘express more milk’? The long road to a woman finally breastfeeding in the Federal Parliament

Senator Larissa Waters’ second daughter Alia made history yesterday, when she became the first baby to be breastfed in the Australian Parliament. Having only just returned to work following Alia’s birth a few weeks ago, Waters tweeted a photo of herself breastfeeding Alia, saying we need to see more babies in Parliament House.

The Parliament must be family-friendly for members. It should set an example to other workplaces, and ensure it’s as accessible as possible for women no matter what their circumstances.

https://womensagenda.com.au/latest/eds-blog/cant-just-express-milk-long-road-woman-finally-breastfeeding-federal-parliament/

Its time to decriminalise abortion

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) has expressed its strong support for decriminalisation of abortion in NSW. The Abortion Law Reform (Miscellaneous Acts Amendment) Bill 2016 introduced by Greens MLC Dr. Mehreen Faruqi is due to be debated in the NSW Legislative Council this Thursday.

The current NSW laws are archaic and not reflective of community values or of internationally recognised human rights principles. According to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Australia has an obligation to protect the rights of women and girls to access health services, including family planning and to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to the information, education and means to enable them to exercise these rights

https://alhr.org.au/time-decriminalise-abortion-nsw-protect-human-rights-3/

Time to Decriminalise Abortion

As law and criminology academics working at universities across NSW, we believe it is time for our Parliament to follow the lead of other Australian states and formally decriminalise abortion. Outdated abortion offences should be removed from the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) and privacy zones should be provided around abortion service providers and clinics.

Abortion is a health and welfare matter, not a criminal issue. People who have an abortion, and their doctors, should not face the risk of criminal prosecution.

Please support the Abortion Law Reform (Miscellaneous Acts Amendment) Bill 2016.

https://decriminaliseabortionnsw.squarespace.com/

We’re About To Have The Same Debate About Whether Abortion Should Be A Crime

Churches and anti-abortion groups have swung into action before legislation that would remove abortion from New South Wales’ Crimes Act is debated in the state’s parliament.

One of the bills, which could be debated as early as next week, was introduced by NSW Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi. It removes the procedure from the state’s Crimes Act and establishes safe access zones around hospitals and clinics where abortion is provided. It also requires doctors who conscientiously object to abortion to refer a patient to another doctor who doesn’t.

Legislation to decriminalise abortion was withdrawn from Queensland’s parliament in February after every single member of that state’s Liberal National opposition vowed to vote against it. Farqui said it was “disappointing but not entirely surprising” that the lobby was running a “scare campaign on abortion law reform based on inaccurate information”.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/ginarushton/were-about-to-have-the-same-debate-about-whether-abortion?utm_term=.gcWP1RgER#.yqzxv4754
[category: Aust, reproductive rights]

Australian politics explainer: how women gained the right to vote

Between 1894 and 1908 a wave of women’s enfranchisement swept across Australia. Beginning in South Australia in 1894 and ending 14 years later in Victoria, Australia’s six colonies allowed women to vote.

With the passage of the Commonwealth Franchise Act in 1902, Australia became just the second country in the world – after New Zealand in 1893 – to give women the vote. At the same time, the Commonwealth became the first country in which women could stand for parliament. It was this coincidence of voting and representation rights that made Australian women the “most fully enfranchised” in the world.

https://theconversation.com/australian-politics-explainer-how-women-gained-the-right-to-vote-74080

Further proof the pay gap is no myth, it’s a stubborn fact.

Whichever way you cut the ATO’s most recent release of data relating to taxable income, the gap between what men and women earn is stark.

Women in Australia are earning substantially less than men. The cost of this is compounded over the course of their working lives and it explains why the path to poverty is so crowded with women.

https://womensagenda.com.au/latest/eds-blog/proof-pay-gap-not-myth/

Nations pledge to cut women’s unpaid work and close the gender pay gap

UN member states have pledged to close the gender pay gap and reduce and redistribute unpaid care and domestic work that falls disproportionately on women.

After two weeks of intense discussions in New York, the Commission on the Status of Women ended with commitments by states to advance women’s economic empowerment by implementing equal pay policies, gender audits and job evaluations. The gender pay gap stands at 23% globally, according to UN figures.

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/mar/27/nations-pledge-to-close-gender-pay-gap-commission-status-women-un