The Long Fight for Women’s Rights and Legal Abortions: Illegal Abortions in South America

Within Latin America many countries have strict laws prohibiting women from getting abortions. Out of all the countries only five including Argentina, Cuba, Guyana, Uruguay, and some states in Mexico have made abortions legal, but all of the rest remain against this ‘sacrilegious’ act. Within some of these countries the government and religious groups have made getting abortions very limited. If you were among women who wanted one or stood in the streets campaigning for women rights, it would oftentimes put you in harm’s way or even subjected to judgement from other people with opposing views. In many of these countries who still restrict abortions it puts many women in positions for getting unsanitary abortions performed by non-medical personnel which can effect there health and well-being later on in their life.  

These same countries religious values and statements from the governments have also made people believe that women seeking abortions or woman that have had them are of the “lowest of the low”. This is what it is like in El Salvador. 

Christina Quintanilla being interviewed By NPR

In El Salvador the government passed a law that went out to all of the hospitals saying that if a woman came in suspected of causing a termination of pregnancy the doctors must contact the police immediately. These woman who are suspected of this or have caused abortions can face up to 50 years in federal prison. This was the unfortunate truth for a 17 year old girl, Christina, who got tangled within El Salvador’s abortion law. However, for her it was all a huge misunderstanding.

Christina was seven months pregnant with her second child and was living in her mothers apartment. One night she woke up with sharp pains in her stomach with a pool of blood surrounding her. She was miscarrying her child. She stumbled to the bathroom floor but ended up passing out from the pain the amount of pain she was in and by the time she had woken up she was in an unfamiliar hospital with doctors passing by her bed and police officers telling her she would be brought to jail once she was discharged for the murder of her child. She was stunned and had done nothing wrong but due to El Salvador’s abortion laws was sentenced to 30 years in prison. 

Pro-choice activists in Argentina celebrate the legalization of abortions up to 14-weeks 

Now, I know at the moment Latin America’s abortion laws sound dismal and in many ways un-empowering for women seeing that it has forced many women to fear medical care and voicing their opinions, but that is not the case. In December of 2020 Argentina finally legalized abortion which left their country filled with pro-choice campaigners celebrating all throughout 

the streets. This was a long time coming for argentina seeing that their “feminist movement has been demanding legal abortion for more than 30 years”. Pro-choice Civilians flooded the streets in their green attire to celebrate this immense achievemnet for their country. Women feel that now with “women’s human rights they can fulfil [their] life projects, fulfil [their] wishes and be happy.” This just shows that there is still hope for the other countries to follow in Argentina’s footsteps. 

No to Child Jockeys Yes to Robots

Countries such as The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Egypt (just to name a few) have banned child camel jockeys in the traditional Bedouin sport because human rights groups said that children were getting injured, abducted, or even sold by their families. The U.S government reported that “each year, children as young as 2 are trafficked from countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sudan for use as jockeys in the Persian Gulf States’ camel racing industry.” Good camel jockeys are small and light and this is why very young children are targeted. Often these boys come from poor families. Mr. Burney explains how children are brought into this work, “he says in some cases kidnappers grab the boys off the street, then smuggle them out of the country. Other times, well-dressed men approach poor families offering them charity.’And he will say I am a rich man and I want to sponsor some of the children,’ said Ansar Burney. ‘I want to give them education and a good future.’ But in this case, Mr. Burney says a good education means learning how to race camels.” 

Child camel jockeys are often sexually and physically abused. These children do not live in safe or healthy conditions and get strapped onto the camel in order to stay on. Camels can approach speeds of up to 40 kilometers an hour, so accidents are common. This results in boys often getting broken bones and some even trampled. A long term effect caused by all the constant friction and bouncing is kidney damage. Reporter Tom Phillips wrote that “these children were widely reported to suffer human rights abuses, and several countries – including the United Arab Emirates and Qatar – have banned human jockeys outright.” 

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 was a tool for the U.S. to combat human trafficking. The Gulf States and the United States then worked together to try to end child trafficking. June Kunigi “says the UAE has also agreed with UNICEF to establish two rehabilitation centers for former child jockeys. Doctors and social workers will help the children recover until they can be repatriated and reunited with their families.” Since the children are so young and separated from their family, living overseas, they rely on their captors to survive. 

The young jockeys, children from the ages of about 6 to 13 are actually defending the traditional ways. They claim that they are better riders than the robots. They have nothing else and need to make money for their families and this need explains why they may feel this way.

Eid Hamdan Hassan, head of the Egyptian Camel Federation, believes that soon there will be no human camel jockeys. Part of the allure to camel racing is that when a camel wins their value goes up. Now with the robots, races can still happen without harming young children. The development of these robots started in 2001 ”when Qatari authorities approached Swiss robotics manufacturer K-Team about creating an alternative to human jockeys in anticipation of a ban.” The first models of robots came out in 2003 and were awkward and heavy, the camels didn’t like them and they were hard to get. The Swiss version of the robot made its debut in 2004 and has become more widespread in the Arab world. Now the robots are more streamlined and owners can even find clothes for them to make them look like tiny jockeys. A generic model of a robot costs about $500. The use of child jockeys was banned in 2005 and it has not been completely eradicated, but the robots are a good alternative. 

When racing with robots the owners and trainers have a bit more control over the camels unlike when the children were the jockeys. The owners or trainers of the camels drive along next to the track and into a walkie-talkie they will make a throaty nose to coax the camels along. Sam Borden, author of The New York Times article “Sprinting Over the Dirt, With a Robot on the Hump” gives a detailed description of the mechanics behind the robots:

 “The Dewalt power drill is the heart and lungs of the modern robot jockey; shop workers like Raheem and Jameel order the drills in bulk and use them, and their rechargeable batteries, to construct the core of each robot. Remote-entry clickers (the kind used for cars) combine with long ribbons of plastic wrapped in cotton to make a spinning whip that can be activated from afar, and walkie-talkies allow the owner to speak to the camel from a trailing S.U.V.”

  These jockeys have been an attractive substitute to children, but there is some question as to whether or not there is some resistance and if the camels are treated well. To own a camel is expensive but the owners take pride in them and take good care of them as Mr. Borden explained, “owning a camel is an honor in many Gulf countries, and there are laws about how much tax a camel owner must pay (it depends, in part, on how many camels he or she owns). Camels can also be used to pay a woman’s dowry — prices vary — or as collateral in a trade of goods or services.” The safety and health of the camels is clearly a priority. As for the children Mr. Borden continues to say that “some owners said quietly that they still might prefer to have human jockeys, though none would say so publicly.  But a majority, perhaps recognizing the troubling perception of having children ride animals that stand 6 feet tall and can run up to 40 miles per hour, unabashedly praised the technology now widely used instead: robots.” 

It seems that this solution to a human’s right issue has been well-received and accepted by all parties. If there are people that do not like this change it appears that they are a minority and, therefore, are not speaking out against it. The camels are treated well and the children have started to be returned to their families. Hopefully the robots will continue the good work. 

Yemen’s Health Crisis: The Result of an Ongoing Civil War

Yemen is currently viewed as the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. In 2015, a Saudi and Emirati-led coalition intervened in Yemen. They supported the internationally recognized government against the Ansar Allah, more commonly known as the Houthis. This led to a civil war throughout Yemen. This conflict is just as intense today as it was six years ago. This has made it difficult to control communicable disease and chronic malnutrition, leading to the near collapse of the humanitarian response. Due to this, the country is also, for the third year in a row, at the top of the International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) annual Emergency Watchlist. 

A mobile health clinic in Yemen. Due to the ongoing fighting, it is dangerous or impossible for families to go to health centers.

The IRC’s deputy nutrition coordinator Abeer Fowzi says, “Yemen faces a triple threat from conflict, hunger and a collapsing international response. At the end of 2020, malnutrition for children under 5 was the highest ever recorded, yet, in the face of an unprecedented threat, the world has turned its back on Yemen”. Yemen has a population of 29.3 million, and 24 million of those citizens are in need of assistance. The funding for humanitarian programs has dropped significantly, forcing the scaling back and closure of 31 out of 41 major United Nations programs. The 8.5 million food rations being provided by the World Food Program has also been cut in half. This is leaving three million fewer citizens without aid each month. Along with this dire situation, in 2020, Yemen needed at least $3.4 billion, but the Humanitarian Response Plan only received $1.9 billion. 

Since the start of Yemen’s civil war up until late 2019, more than 100,000 are estimated to have lost their lives as a direct result of the war. More than 130,000 citizens have died as an indirect result of the war. These Yemeni have died from starvation and disease. The outbreak of cholera began in 2017 and has killed thousands of people, despite the disease being completely treatable. Cholera is a bacterial disease usually spread through contaminated water. This disease causes severe vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration, and, if left untreated, can become fatal within hours. There were more than one million cases of cholera in 2017 alone. There have been another 991,000 cases reported between 2018 and 2019. 

Diphtheria is also spreading throughout the country at a fast rate. Diphtheria is a serious infection caused by bacteria that produces a toxin. This infection can lead to difficulty breathing, heart failure, paralysis, and death. In Yemen there is a scarce amount of medical supplies and limited access to medical care. More than 80% of the country’s population lacks food, fuel, and drinking water. 

Yemen is currently considered one of the most dangerous places for children to live. This is due to the high rates of communicable diseases, limited access to routine immunization and health services for children and families, poor infant and young child feeding practices, and inadequate sanitation and hygiene systems. Around two million children under the age of 5 are classified as acutely malnourished. It is expected that of these two million children, in 2021 over 400,000 of them are expected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition which is deadly if they are not treated urgently. A child’s physical and cognitive development is damaged if they suffer from malnutrition during their first two years of life. 

Children in a camp who have been displaced.

More than half of the health facilities in Yemen no longer function. There is no government support towards the health system, making outside assistance the only organizations preventing total collapse. The International Committee of the Red Cross is supplying hospitals, health facilities, medicine, and emergency medical supplies to help the people in Yemen as much as they can. The IRC has been providing clean drinking water and reproductive health care services along with supporting primary health facilities, emergency obstetric and newborn care centers, and hundreds of health care workers. They also deploy mobile health teams to remote areas, run therapeutic feeding programs for malnourished children, and help with the establishment of a COVID-19 isolation unit. 

Joe Biden and his administration have a focus on ending the war in Yemen and bringing peace to one of the poorest countries in the world. Without the chance of peace, the citizens of Yemen will only continue to get sicker and the war will continue to escalate.