On September 15, France’s Senate passed a bill banning women from wearing full Islamic face veils such as the burqa and niqab. Similar laws are being considered in other European countries. In the New South Wales Legislative Council, Christian fundamentalist MLC Fred Nile has introduced a private member’s bill seeking to ban wearing the burqa. Neither major party supporta the bill, so it is expected to fail.
Momentum is building in solidarity with a couple from Cairns who have been charged under Queensland’s anti-abortion laws (see article on page 12). The couple is to face court in Cairns on October 12, and the Pro-Choice Action collective, Women’s Abortion Action Campaign, and Radical Women have issued a call for a National Day of Action to be held on Saturday October 9. The rallies will demand the dropping of the charges, repealing of the anti-abortion laws and free, safe, accessible abortion on demand.
September 5-11 was National Body Image and Eating Disorders Awareness Week. “Awareness” about these serious and widespread issues is reasonably high these days. No young person can get through high school without being acutely aware of the pressures on physical appearance and personal image. The Mission Australia 2009 National Survey of Young Australians found that body image was the third-ranked issue of concern. A quarter of respondents (25.5%) said it was a major concern.
Liberal member for Dunkley, Bruce Billson, has been left fighting for his political life after the recent federal election. The Council of Single Mothers and their Children (CSMC) Action Group targeted his electorate during the election campaign.
The cover of the August 9 edition edition of Time magazine featured a shocking picture of Bibi Aisha, a young woman whose nose and ears had been cut off. The photo was accompanied by the headline: “What happens if we leave Afghanistan”. However, what happened to Aisha took place in Afghanistan under Western occupation. In return for allowing Time to publish her photo, Aisha was flown to the US for reconstructive surgery. However, although Time ensured her mutilated face was seen worldwide, they appear less keen for her voice to be heard.
A dozen women filled the public gallery of Whittlesea City Council chamber on July 27 to oppose an ALP council back-down on the appointment of a part-time women’s policy officer. The women were mostly part of the council-sponsored “Women Matter Two” network, which seeks to enhance women’s participation in public life and politics in Melbourne’s working-class, outer-north suburbs. In June, council voted almost unanimously to set aside $50,000 in the council’s annual budget to create this part-time position: 2010 is the Year of Women in Local Government.
The Cairns Women’s Network (CNW) has endorsed a planned national day of action for abortion rights on October 9. “We do not understand why a section of the Qld Criminal Code from 1899 is being used to bring charges against a young Cairns couple in 2010”, said Dr Carole Ford from the Cairns Women’s Network. “All people who respect a woman’s right to control her own fertility should support repeal of these archaic laws.” Ford said the CNW was planning a peaceful vigil in Cairns beginning on October 11.
Myth: Public opinion on abortion is deeply divided Australians support access to abortion — for three decades, opinion polls have consistently shown that most Australians support women’s right to choose and believe that forcing a woman to have an unwanted child is worse than allowing abortion. Myth: The charges against the Cairns couple relate to drug importation or the fact they didn’t see a doctor.
Network of Women Students of Australia is an annual feminist student conference. This years conference was held in Newcastle from July 14-18 with the theme “intersections”. Eighty students attended. Mish from sex-worker peak body Scarlet Alliance spoke about trans and sex worker rights. Rachel Evans spoke on behalf of Socialist Alliance about the same-sex marriage campaign.