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The trampling of women's rights - Pussy Riots imprisonment, Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" comments, and abortion legislation in Ireland

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Internationally women's rights are taking a trouncing
Internationally women's rights are
taking a trouncing
In the political sphere in the last few weeks, women and women’s rights have been trampled over to such an extent it leaves me mourning the death of political enlightenment and decency (if, that is, it was ever alive at all).

In Russia members of Pussy Riot were jailed by a humorless, senseless but sadly far from powerless state patriarchy, causing uproar around the world. And in the States, the anti-abortion lobby have become terrifyingly and vocally absolutist.

Granted, America’s pro-life lobby have always been intense (some of them are so pro-life if they find a doctor who runs an abortion clinic, they’ll kill him) but at the water’s edge of the argument were always the delicate matters of life of the mother, rape and incest. Of late, that Rubicon has been crossed in dramatic, reckless fashion.

At this stage, there’s probably not a person in the world who hasn’t heard Senate candidate for Missouri Todd Akin’s thoughts on “legitimate rape”. It takes a special kind of warped to have such single-minded fidelity to a position that you’ll be willing to believe that a woman has the biological capability to shout “Halt, friend or foe” at a violent sexual attacker’s sperm. Had he just been one rogue lunatic, it would have been one thing. But then the floodgates opened.

Once Akin had a go, Republican quotes on their views about rape and abortion sort of went viral. Mike Huckabee was quoted as saying that some terrific people were born out of rape. A minor Missouri politician suggested rape victims who fell pregnant should consider their baby a gift. Even old quotes were brought to the forefront, with former candidate for Texas governor Clayton Williams’ suggestion that, if a rape was inevitable, they should “relax and enjoy it”.  And then, to add insult to injury, Vice President Paul Ryan referred to rape as a method of contraception, and the Republicans choose to codify such extreme views in their party platform.  Whatever your thoughts on the morality of abortion, when malevolence and casual lunacy such as this gets deposed into mainstream public discourse, something is badly, badly wrong.

Abortion is also finding its way back on to the discussion table in Ireland. I’ve talked a while ago about the likes of Youth Defence and their preoccupation with the unborn, and unhinged as they are at least they have conviction, unlike our craven government who have flailed around by putting an expert group together to report on how to deal with an issue that should have been legislated for 20 years ago. And then, you have Cardinal Sean Brady wading in, urging a(nother) referendum to be run on the matter, a campaign he wants to be heavily involved in. Which is a bit bloody rich, to put it mildly.

Of late, I’ve been using this column to highlight some of the things Ireland should prioritize in the future in the lead up to President Higgins’ Being Young & Irish workshops and seminar. And while I’ve been focusing on specific matters like education and employment and the diaspora, no matter what the issue at hand it should be underpinned by a rational civic and civil means of conversation where people can respectfully discuss issues honestly, without cynicism or rigidity. We need it as soon as we can because hysteria is getting us nowhere.

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