The Gender Beat: Polish Women Protest Abortion Ban Proposal; Transgenders Could Face Trouble Voting in US Polls

A round-up of what’s happening in the worlds of gender and sexuality.


The aim of the Internet Saathi initiative is to give rural women a taste of the internet. Credit: YouTube

Google is empowering rural women in India through digital education

In her article in the Wall Street Journal, Newley Purnell writes how Google is delivering internet to millions of women in small towns and villages in India in the most unconventional way – by bicycles.

As part of a project called Internet Saathi, the technology giant has partnered with Tata Trusts to deploy an army of thousands of female trainers to remote corners of the country on bicycles – with a box filled with internet-enabled smartphones and tablets.

The saathis (partners) then travel from village to village and provide instructions to women there. The aim of the project is to give women of rural India – who are often barred from using technology – a taste of the world wide web.

According to the article, Google claimed that since the program’s launch last year, about 9,000 guides have helped reached 1 million women and noted that the program fits its mission of helping expand internet access globally.

At an event in New Delhi, last week, Google executives announced their plans of expanding their efforts to reach Indians with products and features like a new version of its YouTube app designed to work even on India’s often sluggish mobile networks.

Black Monday: Women in Poland strike against proposal for abortion ban

Polish women poured into the streets in large numbers on Monday, wearing black and waving black flags, to protest a legislative proposal for a total ban on abortion.

In a pro-choice march on what they called “Black Monday,” women marched through the streets of the capital, Warsaw, stayed away from work and school, and refused to do domestic chores, BBC reports.

Their protest was inspired by a women’s strike in Iceland in 1975.

Women shout slogans as they gather in an abortion rights campaigners' demonstration. Credit: Reuters

Women shout slogans as they gather in an abortion rights campaigners’ demonstration. Credit: Reuters

According to Reuters, in addition to the strike and marches, there were blood-donation drives and book readings, and some teachers taught classes while wearing all black.

Meanwhile there were counter protests and special Catholic masses held to support the proposal, the Associated Press reports, and the Polish foreign minister said the protests were “creating artificial problems.”

According to ABC News, under the existing law, abortion is banned except in cases where the woman’s life is in danger, the fetus is irreparably damaged or the pregnancy results from rape or incest.

The new proposal – now being examined by a parliamentary commission – would make all abortions illegal, even in cases of rape or when the woman’s life is at risk, with prison terms of up to five years for women seeking abortion and doctors who perform them.

Demonstrations were held in solidarity in other European cities as well, including Berlin, Brussels, Dusseldorf, Belfast, London and Paris.

Pope Francis calls gender theory a part of a ‘global war’ on marriage and family

Pope Francis has recently warned of a “global war” against traditional marriage and the family, saying both were under attack from gender theory and divorce, Reuters reports.

Pope Francis visits the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Mtskheta, Georgia, October 1, 2016. REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili

Pope Francis visits the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Mtskheta, Georgia, October 1, 2016. Credit: Reuters/David Mdzinarishvili

On Saturday, October 1, Francis made his comments in an impromptu response to a question at a meeting of the small Catholic community in the ex-Soviet republic of Georgia.

According to Reuters, the pope said in response to a woman who had asked about gender theory being taught in schools, “You mentioned a great enemy of marriage: gender theory,” and did not elaborate.

Gender theory is broadly the concept that while a person may be biologically male or female, they have the right to identify themselves as male, female, both or neither.

“Today, there is a global war out to destroy marriage,” Francis said. “Not with weapons but with ideas … we have to defend ourselves from ideological colonisation.”

Francis – who has been more accepting of homosexuals than his predecessors, but opposes gay marriage – also said that the growing acceptance of divorce was another threat to family.

Transgender voters could face trouble exercising their franchise in US election, activists say

In an article in Reuters, Sebastien Malo wrote that that according to advocacy groups, up to 34,000 transgender people could face problems in voting in the upcoming presidential elections in the US because their ID cards do not match their gender.

“A transgender voter may show up at the poll with a valid ID, however if they have not been unable to update the gender marker or photo on that ID, a poll worker may be confused and refuse them a ballot,” said Arli Christian, spokeswoman for the National Centre for Transgender Equality (NCTE).

The transgender voters are thus being urged to use a postal vote instead.

“It’s a shame that a trans person would have to put themselves at risk of scrutiny, harassment, discrimination to exercise something as basic as their right to vote,” Christian told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

According to a report by the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, 34 states in the country have passed voter identification laws, with eight having strict versions requiring the voter show a government ID with photo.

According to Reuters, a survey conducted by the NCTE and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in 2011 claimed that 40% of transgender respondents said they were harassed when they presented an ID that did not match their gender identity.

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