Death of Mahsa Amini: How Governments are Denying Women’s Right to Choice?
Millions of Muslim women proudly wear Hijaab as a symbol of their religion. What makes them different from those protesting against obligatory hijab in Iran is the women’s right to choose.
But when you widen your horizon, you’ll realize that the dilemma of women’s right to choose is apparent across borders. Be it Iran, India, France, or the US, women are constantly fighting for control of their bodies.
The History of Pro- & Anti-Hijab Protests in Iran
Looking at Iran today, it can be hard to picture that only four decades ago, Iranian women were protesting for the right to wear hijabs. The pro-hijab movement sparked when Iran’s Reza Shah Pahlavi government outlawed any type of veil or head scarfs in an attempt to westernize the country.
At times, the government even forced a complete ban on hijabs, with police scrapping off women’s hijabs in public. During this period of Iranian history, the hijab becomes the symbol of freedom, revolution, and democracy.
The pro-hijab uprising brought down Shah’s government and put Ruhollah Khomeini in office. The Khomeini government, however, was far from ideal. By 1983, the new administration mandated the hijab for Iranian women.
Women were now forced to wear headscarves to an extent where they were punished with prison and even lashes for not abiding by the dress code. The worst phase started after 2005 when Dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad introduced the Morality Police; a police department made up of both men and women to keep an eye on women’s clothing in public.
All this brings us to 13 September 2022, when Mahsa Amini, a 22-years old Iranian Kurdish woman, was arrested for violating the hijab code. In police custody, she was subjected to brutal violence that ended up taking her life three days later, on 16 September.
And it was her horrific death that sparked Iran’s historic anti-hijab protest we are witnessing today.
Women’s Right: The Death of Mahsa Amini & the Dirty Politics
The death of Mahsa Amini has sparked unprecedented protests in Iran. Despite a visible crackdown by the Iranian security forces, which includes mass arrests and internet interruption; women are taking the movement to the streets at a scale never seen before.
However, let’s put protests aside for this article. Because what’s happening in Iran right now is much more than just women fighting for their right to choose.
There has been no shortage of individuals, groups, and foreign entities weaponizing these protests to push their political and geopolitical goals.
Many gulf countries, for example, are using these protests to push back the nuclear deal. Backing on the demonstrations, the Western governments, including the US and EU, are considering further sanctions on Iran — even though the economic sanctions have already caused more than enough problems for Iranian women and their families.
And above all are Islamophobes who are using the protest to criticize hijabs, Muslims, and Islam in general. But how is any of this going to help the protesting women in Iran?
Everybody is currently striving to further their agendas, while Iranian women are risking their lives on the street.
Iran and the US: Not So Different Countries for Women’s Rights
Although the US and the Iranian government have polar ideologies, the US is in no state to police Iran morally regarding women’s rights.
It is the US, where a 10-year-old victim of rape from Ohio is not allowed to go through an abortion because of the new state law. Women in the US are protesting against the blanket ban on abortion, with no hope for reforms.
On the other hand, the anti-hijab protest in Iran has reignited the hijab debate in India. Why is it so difficult for the Karnatak government to respect the choice of Muslim women students to wear a hijab to college? It’s absurd that these students have to fight their own government for their choice to be respected.
But be it Iran, Pakistan, India, or the USA, the debate remains the same: do women have the right to choose? Or is the word choice totally non-existential for women?
The Courageous Women of Iran
Women protesting in Iran are not again the hijab but against the imposition of the hijab. But when religion takes over governments, it creates an illusion of unlimited power. This is the case of Iranian authorities who are practicing absolute power by virtue of morality police.
But is it acceptable to restrain women against their will like literal goons?
The protest that started with the death of Mahsa has now become an international movement for women’s right to choose. And, make no mistake, women are not alone here. Most Iranian male population stands with courageous Iranian women on the frontline against injustice in the name of religion.
Let Women Exercise their Right to Choice
Yes, when it comes to hijab rights in Iran, India, or the US, choosing the right side is not always straightforward. It’s complicated with numerous factors, including individuality, choice, and religion, at play.
We should stand with Iranian women protesting for their freedom, fundamental rights, and liberation. I will continue to speak against governments banning women from wearing hijabs and against regimes that force them to wear them.
Hijab or no hijab: how about we let women everywhere have the right to choose?
US Supreme Court Overruled Constitutional Guarantee of Abortion Access in Roe v Wade
In a landmark ruling on June 24th 2022, the US Supreme Court overruled the constitutional guarantee of abortion access in the US in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health by overturning Roe v Wade.
Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization
Six out of nine Supreme Court justices voted to uphold Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization. This case revolved around legislation passed by Mississippi in March 2018, banning the termination of pregnancy after 15 weeks. This ban came with no exceptions for instances of rape or incest. Dobbs argued that Mississippi should enforce an abortion ban. Furthermore, Dobbs argued that the constitutional abortion rights set down in Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood v Casey should also be revoked. By ruling in favour of Dobbs, the Supreme Court removed federal protections for abortion rights provided by these cases. Consequently, individual states are given complete control over which abortion laws they wish to establish.
Furthermore, this ruling reverses nearly half a century of court protection of this fundamental right. This decision will fundamentally change the US’s political, social and legal landscape.
The decision held:
“The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled, and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives.”
What Happened in Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood v Casey?
Roe v Wade is a landmark case of a Texas woman, Norma Mc Corvey. Under Texan law in 1969, women could only terminate a pregnancy if their lives were in danger. Thus, Norma became pregnant but was unable to access an abortion.
Moreover, Roe v Wade was brought before the US Federal Court against the local district attorney Henry Wade. The defendant argued that Texan abortion laws were unconstitutional. The District Court for the Northern District of Texas ruled in her favour. However, Mr Wade appealed against the decision at the US Supreme Court. Subsequently, seven out of nine judges voted in favour of Roe. This ruling gave everyone in the US the constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy within the first 12 weeks.
In 1982, Planned Parenthood v Casey added additional abortion rights into the US constitution. The ruling held that states could have their own abortion laws. However, these laws could not create any ‘undue burden’ or ‘substantial obstacle’ to women seeking abortions up to 24 weeks.
What is the Immediate Impact of the Overturning of Roe v Wade?
50% of US States Expected to Pass Total or Partial Bans on Abortion
States are poised to ban abortion through pre-existing bans or “trigger laws” that will now go into effect following the overturning of Roe. According to the Guttmacher Institute, more than 10 million people will cross state borders to access abortion in the nearest state where it is legal. According to the US Centre for Reproductive Rights, 24 states will likely pass near-total or partial bans on abortion in the coming days.
These states are:
Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Justice Samuel Alito stated that “the constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision”. The ruling came from conservative Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.
Liberals Raise Concerns Over A Wider Rights Backslide
Liberal justices raise legal concerns over the majority’s ruling over abortion. Thus, liberals argue that this threatens the initiation of a broader rights backlash undermining several other constitutional rights.
Roe v Wade had reasoned that a right to abortion stems from a right to privacy. This right is grounded in the first, fourth, fifth, ninth and 14th amendments. Worryingly, by overturning Roe, the Constitution mentions no explicit right to privacy. Therefore, this dangerously suggests that a myriad of laws based on the right to privacy are erroneous.
Moreover, this ruling could facilitate the deprivation of further rights. Overturning Roe v Wade creates an opportunity to create new bills based on the right to privacy. Thus, restricting access to birth control, gender and marriage equality, as well as other anti-discrimination laws.
Additionally, liberals highlight how the ruling fails to consider the 14th amendment. This amendment upholds that no state shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”.
US Maternal Mortality Crisis Expected To Worsen
The US has the highest maternal death rate in the developed world, with this crisis steadily growing in recent years. Therefore, widespread abortion bans will deepen the US maternal mortality crisis. Health care experts raise concerns that closing abortion clinics, setting early gestational limits or outlawing the procedure altogether will increase the US maternal death rate.
Furthermore, a 2021 American Journal of Public Health study showed how states with restrictive abortion laws had a 7% higher maternal mortality rate. In 2020, the American Journal of Preventative Medicine held that states with gestational limits saw a 38% increase in maternal mortality deaths.
Amnesty International has stated that the recent ruling will force women to seek unsafe abortions. Therefore, maternal mortality and morbidity will rise, disproportionally affecting Black people and people living in poverty.
Women who seek illegal abortions are subject to life-threatening consequences such as eclampsia and postpartum haemorrhaging. Additionally, women are susceptible to chronic conditions such as migraines and persistent joint pain. Numerous aid groups have advocated for legal abortion on the grounds that restricting abortion would only make it less safe.
International Leader’s Perspectives On Roe v Wade Decision
The Supreme Court ruling drew unusual criticism from some of America’s closest allies.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the decision would have huge impacts worldwide. “I think it’s a big step backwards. I’ve always believed in a woman’s right to choose, and that’s why the UK has the laws it does”.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the decision. “No government, politician, or man should tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her body”.
French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his “solidarity with women whose freedoms are today challenged” by the overturning of Roe.
Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said that “depriving women of their rights is a backlash against decades of hard-fought work”.
US President Joe Biden heavily criticized the ruling stating that “the United States is an outlier among developed nations in the world”.
In stark contrast, former President Donald Trump praised the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe, stating that this “will work out for everybody.”
Coincidently, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, an ally of former President Donald Trump, posted on Twitter hours before the decision to criticize an abortion carried out on an 11-year-old girl who was pregnant as the result of rape. This response showcases the Brazilian President’s view on abortion laws.
Despite the deeply divided personal views on the morality behind abortion, research has indicated that criminalizing abortion does not prevent them from occurring. Banning or restricting abortions means many women will seek illegal and unsafe ways to terminate pregnancies. This is putting millions at risk of severe health complications.
Death and injury from unsafe abortions are entirely preventable. Hence, access to safe abortions is a human right under international human rights law. International law provides everyone with a right to life and health. Furthermore, everyone has the right to be free from discrimination, torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Forcing women to carry out unwanted pregnancies and seek unsafe abortions violates their right to privacy and bodily autonomy.
In conclusion, providing access to safe abortion protects and upholds the human rights of women, girls and others of reproductive age. Therefore, the US Supreme Court has destroyed protections for a fundamental right closely linked with gender equality, racial justice, and fundamental economic and social rights.
Finally, this ruling and precedent will profoundly impact women’s lives in the US and worldwide.
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