People's Stories Democracy

View previous stories

Ireland overturns abortion ban in historic vote
by Euronews, Irish Independent, DW, agencies
Ireland has voted overwhelmingly to repeal its ban on abortion in a referendum the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar described as a “quiet revolution.”
The result was a landslide 66.4% ''yes'' vote against 33.6% who voted ''no''.
Voters were asked if they wished to scrap the eighth amendment, which gives an unborn child equal rights to life as a pregnant mother.
Currently, abortion is only allowed when a woman''s life is at risk, but not in cases of rape, incest or fatal foetal abnormality.
Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who campaigned to repeal the laws, had called the vote a once-in-a-generation chance.
“What we see is the culmination of a quiet revolution that has been taking place in Ireland over the last couple of decades,” Varadkar told journalists in Dublin.
"The wrenching pain of decades of mistreatment of Irish women cannot be unlived," Mr Varadkar said. "However, today we have ensured that it does not have to be lived again.. The Vote shows the electorate''s concern "for the next generation".
Over two million people turned out for the polls on Friday, with voter turnout reaching 64%, which is one of the highest for a referendum in Ireland.
Tributes were also paid to Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year old Indian dentist, who died in 2012 after developing sepsis following a miscarriage.
Voters backed the ban by two-to-one, a far higher margin than any opinion poll in the run-up to the vote had predicted. The result allows the government to bring in legislation by the end of the year.
Lawmakers who campaigned for a “No” vote said they would not seek to block the government’s legislation.
Amnesty International, welcomed the referendum result as "a victory for equality, for dignity, for respect and compassion."
The Irish vote could put the spotlight on Northern Ireland, which has highly restrictive abortion laws. Northern Ireland will soon become the only place in the UK and Ireland – and most of Europe – where terminations are outlawed apart from in the most exceptional circumstances.
May 2018
Ireland has voted overwhelmingly in favor of abolishing the total abortion ban in its constitution. The result is a triumph for women in Ireland and a victory against populism, writes Barbara Wesel from Germany (DW).
It is such a resounding victory that campaigners in Ireland are weeping with joy. After a tense last few days when the referendum seemed too close to call, it turned out to be a landslide result. Irish people voted overwhelmingly in favor of abolishing the total abortion ban in the constitution. And with this amendment, the last part of an oppressive system that subjugated women in Ireland for centuries has gone.
They have achieved what has long been the norm in other European countries: giving women the right to decide for themselves whether they feel capable of having a child or not. And, a woman''s right to get medical help in her own country, without having to travel to Britain as hundreds of thousands of Irish women have done over time.
With this referendum, the Catholic Church has lost its influence in defining Irish social mores. Throughout the last 20 years, as the wrongdoings of clerics and bishops were uncovered, the nation increasingly turned away from its teachings and from the whole intertwined system of state and church. Scandal after scandal of child abuse involving priests was uncovered.
The horror of children''s homes where small boys and girls were mistreated and broken was made public. And finally, there was the investigation of the unspeakable Magdalene laundries, where unmarried girls were incarcerated when they became pregnant, were beaten and enslaved, their babies taken from them by force.
This whole system of abuse, this vicious cycle of oppression, was run by the Catholic Church. And it was largely, if not exclusively, directed against women. Ireland has throughout the last 20 years uncovered this dark past and publicized these horrors. The Church subsequently has lost its status in the Irish state and in society.
The constitutional amendment completely banning abortion, even risking the life of the mother, was their last bastion. In the end, the Church hardly dared to defend it. The clergy understand that it would have riled people even further and that they have lost their hold over morality and law in Ireland.
It has taken two decades for the Irish people to shake off the old rules and abuses. And after the sensational vote for gay marriage in the referendum three years ago, they have now finally liberated Irish women from centuries of misogyny. The draconian amendment to the constitution had only been adopted in the 1980s, but since then, the country has fundamentally changed. Ireland has become more open, inclusive, and liberal. And it has finally shown compassion and granted the right to self-determination to Irish women.
The victory is even greater, because the results show not a divided but a largely united country. Irish men voted in large numbers for their wives, girlfriends, colleagues, and neighbors to have control over their own bodies and to get the medical help they need.
Maybe it was the death of Savita Halappanavar from sepsis in an Irish hospital after she was denied medical help during a miscarriage that triggered the change. This scandalous case occurred in 2012 and led to public outrage. Women finally decided that enough was enough. Their campaign grew over the last few years and they also initiated a public debate about sexuality, violence and other issues that had forever been unmentionable in the country.
In the end, thousands of Irish people, both women and men, felt mobilized to fly home from all over the world, from Canada to Australia, in order to cast their votes. Liberating women from the abortion ban — this was really something that a large majority of Irish people wanted to do. And they were supported by a prime minister who staked his political future on the outcome of this referendum and who himself is an embodiment of the new tolerant Ireland.
Foreign advertising was forbidden during the referendum campaign, but it still appeared on the internet. And money as well as campaigners — mostly from US anti-abortion groups — flowed into the country. There were serious attempts at meddling. And they worked with the same mendacious and misleading arguments that were used in the Brexit campaign or in the Trump election, trying to stir up distrust against the Yes camp, against politicians and the so-called establishment.
The vote in Ireland must be seen in the context of a global rollback on human rights, of populism and propaganda. And it is therefore an encouragement for women in Poland or the United States, where their reproductive rights are currently under threat through a reactionary backlash.
But the result is also an encouragement to all who feel disheartened by the seeming inevitability of the current march of populism. Take heart, it can be defeated if women and men put up a strong fight as they did in Ireland. They won and did away with a gross injustice, and this is a good day.

Visit the related web page

As Colombia prepares for elections, thousands suffer from violence
by Christian Visnes
Norwegian Refugee Council, agencies
22 May 2018
The candidates in Colombia’s presidential election must make victims of ongoing violence their top priority, argues the Norwegian Refugee Council.
On 27 May, the first stage of the presidential election in Colombia will kick off. “It should be a top priority and obligation for the new President to end the massive suffering across Colombia, and ensure peace talks lead to concrete results,” said Christian Visnes, country director for the Norwegian Refugee Council(NRC) in Colombia.
Since the peace agreement signing between FARC-EP and the government in November 2016, over 150,000 people have been displaced – the equivalent of one person every 4 minutes.
In addition, Colombia is witnessing alarming levels of abuse by armed groups, including disappearances, sexual violence and child recruitment.
“Despite the peace agreement, people continue to be displaced from their homes, and lose their belongings, their land and livelihoods. Many have lost close family members, friends and neighbours to the violence. How much longer must we wait before we see an end to this conflict?” asked Christian Visnes.
“I was displaced, but I don''t want to go back because there is a lot of violence and I don''t want to expose my children to the dangers,” a newly displaced mother of two told NRC. She is one of over 10,000 people recently displaced in Catatumbo, a region located north-east of Colombia.
Over 7.3 million people are internally displaced in Colombia today. Already vulnerable, many displaced become victims of deliberate attacks, threats, forced recruitments and killings perpetrated by some seven armed groups who continue to openly challenge international humanitarian law.

Visit the related web page

View more stories

Submit a Story Search by keyword and country Guestbook