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Colombia’s new abortion law and 3 other global news stories about women

We’re sharing news from around the world, especially stories affecting women globally.

1. Paris attacks have roots in decades-old Islamic terrorism

Manal al-Sharif made the history of Islamic terrorism clear in a rare speech when she accepted the Oslo Freedom Forum award.

Al-Sharif– received the award because in 2011 she drove her car to a medical appointment. Saudi religious leaders had declared that women driving cars was a taboo. She did it anyway. With a small group of supporters, a video of her at the wheel was shot, posted on YouTube and went viral. She was arrest by religious police. Later, she received the Oslo Prize for activism, lost her job for the speech she gave at the ceremony and was forced to go into hiding to avoid death threats that she knew could become reality.

In her speech, al-Sharif gives a vivid description of the 1979 takeover of her homeland by Islamic extremists (known as the Wahhabi or the Salafi) that spawned the armed spin-off led by Osama bin Laden. Chased out of Saudi Arabia for his terrorism, bin Laden traveled to Afghanistan and helped create a similar band of murderous zealots called the Taliban. Both preached global jihad and both made the extreme restriction of women a centerpiece of their domestic policies. Bin Laden is now dead, but his mission and the related violence is far from over.

Her Twitter handle is @manal_alsharif (she posts in Arabic).

2. A domestic violence law in Papau New Guinea remains in limbo

A two-year-old law that sets tough penalties for perpetrating domestic violence and provisions that could make it easier for victims to get protection orders and services has yet to be used by the nation’s police or judges. The government claims it needs to draft regulations first before the law is enforced.

In the meantime, survivors have no recourse as the government continues to ignore them. The United States is the fourth-largest bilateral donor to Papua New Guinea, and should be doing more to urge its government to move ahead on curbing domestic violence, Human Rights Watch argues.

“I went to the police 17 times. I went every week for the last month. They said this is a domestic problem,” one survivor told Human Rights Watch investigators. “They just told my husband not to do it again.”

3. More of us are living through child birth

Several major international agencies, including UNICEF and the World Bank, reported last week in a joint press release that maternal deaths worldwide have dropped 44 percent since 1990. Maternal death is defined as the death of a woman during pregnancy, childbirth or within six weeks after birth.

Maternal deaths around the world dropped from about 532,000 in 1990 to 303,000 this year, lowering the maternal mortality ratio to 216 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Six nations have reduced their maternal death rate by 75 percent: Bhutan, Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Iran, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Maldives, Mongolia, Rwanda and Timor-Leste.

In the United States, however, the maternal mortality rate is actually going up. One factor is the high percentage of caesarean births and the high mortality rate among African-American women. New York City reported that the maternal death rate for white women dropped significantly but remained high for African-American women. NYC’s death rate due to pregnancy is 12 times as high for African-American women as that of the city’s white women. In Georgia, African-American women die four times as often as white women from pregnancy-related causes. The United States is the only developed nation with a rising maternal death rate.

4. Colombia Attorney General says he plans new abortion law

Colombia’s attorney general, Eduardo Montealegre, said he would put a draft law before Congress this week that would ease restrictions on abortion. In Colombia, abortion is permitted only in cases of rape, incest, fetal malformation or if the life of the mother or fetus is in danger. The bill he is proposing would allow women to have a termination in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy without any restrictions. Latin American nations have some of the most punitive laws regarding abortion including criminal prosecutions of women.

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