What happened in October 2020?

  • Poland’s constitutional tribunal has ruled that abortion due to foetal defects is unconstitutional. The right-wing Law and Justice Party (PiS) government previously attempted to ban all abortions in 2016 but scrapped the plan following the Black Protest, when women nationwide took to the streets wearing black, with many striking on Black Monday. Poland is a predominantly Catholic country, and already had some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe, with around 2,000 abortions annually in a population of 38 million. Once the ruling goes into effect, abortion will only be legal on the grounds of pregnancy resulting from criminal activity, or if it can be proved that the mothers life is in danger. Currently, abortions due to these two permissible reasons make up only 2% of all abortions in Poland. Already, hospitals are beginning to turn away mothers seeking abortions for reasons of fetal defects. There are fears that women will increasingly turn to the black market and illegal abortions, or be forced to travel abroad – women’s groups estimate that 200,000 such abortions already take place annually. The ruling has sparked huge protests across Poland.   
  • Petra  De Sutter has been appointed as deputy prime minister in Belgium, making her the highest-ranking transgender politician in Europe. She has previously broken new ground for the transgender community, by becoming the first Belgian transgender women on the parliamentary list for a political party, and then by becoming the first openly transgender Belgian MP. Upon her appointment, she tweeted that she was proud that in Belgium and most of the EU, gender identity was not considered to define a person. She hopes that her appointment can trigger a debate in countries where this is not the case.
  • Kabyle women, from Kabylia in the Algerian mountains, organised a 100% female football match in order to claim their rights. Kabyles are Algeria’s largest group of Berbers, and along with other Berber groups, have fought against the marginalization of their cultural identity since Algeria’s independence from France. The tournament was organized to raise awareness of women’s rights in the region and aimed to break taboos and encourage the integration of women into sports. To see a tournament of this size without men is exceptional in the region. 
  • In Egypt, Faiza Heidar has become the first woman to train a male professional football team in her country. She was previously the captain of the women’s national team but has now taken up her coaching position with the professional club l’Ideal Goldie in Gizeh.
  • In Lyon, Maëlie Bertoncini, a medical tattoo specialist, is using 3D tattoo techniques in order to reconstruct the nipple following mastectomy. This new technique aims to provide better results than previous reconstructive surgeries. While it is a cosmetic procedure, Bertoncini hopes it will help the women to rebuild their lives following such long periods of illness. 
  • In Spain, the regulations around the gender pay gap have become stricter. All companies must now publish the salaries of employees according to gender. If they fail to comply, they will be fined. 
  • For the occasion of Pink October, 12-year-old Christophe Maleau, swum 40km in 13h47 in support of breast cancer’s prevention and treatment in Martinique. Maleau’s own mother is sick with breast cancer, prompting him to both show support and raise awareness. Pink October is a global movement aiming to raise awareness about breast cancer.
  • In Saudi Arabia, imprisoned women’s rights activist Loujan AL-Hathloul is starting a hunger strike in protest at her detention conditions. She was imprisoned in 2018 for defending women’s rights with at least dozens other human rights activists. In Saudi Arabia, feminism is seen as an extremist movement to be punished. 
  • A number of women were forced to get invasive gynecologic inspections in Qatar after a newborn was found in the toilets of the airport. Women on up to 10 flights leaving Doha airport were involved, with New Zealand slamming the action after revealing one of their citizens was subjected to the examinations. Australian, French and British nationals were also affected. The women were led from planes onto ambulances on the tarmac, where the examinations took place. 
  • This October was exactly 31 years ago that the first all-female flight crew took off in The Netherlands. The pilot of that flight, Liz Jennings Clark, retired this month as well. She had hoped that by her retirement a female pilot would be completely normal. Though the responses did become more positive over time, there are still -after 31 years- many people surprised by the fact that some pilots are female. 


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