Hi again, this is Jacqui presenting the Upside, episode number 9, a show that highlights some of the positive developments in recent events from around the world. It’s nice to be back in the studio. However, before I go on, I want to take a moment to address something: while I definitely intend this show to bring some degree of happiness to everyone listening by focusing on stories that tend to be different from those the regular news reports on, this doesn’t happen in a vacuum. And ooh boy, last week was a particularly difficult one for me. I realise that not everyone pays so much attention to the news, and specifically to news from the United States of America, as I do. However, I think a significant number of you listening are aware of major developments in the world including the US, and would of course know of the recent rulings on gun control and reproductive rights by the American Supreme Court.
That being said, I hope you take care of yourself, and remember, you can always take a break from the news. I had to learn to do that after twenty years spent working in newsrooms in New York and London and if I can do it anyone can! So!
For this week’s Upside, we’ll be hearing some much needed good news on a variety of topics from, as always, around the world. I will also give a round-up of places where the right to choose is still protected by law, unlike the sad state of affairs in my supposedly free home country. Stay tuned to hear three different stories, at 2:30, 3, and 3:30pm.
2:30pm Milestone EU Conservation Law
Now, onto our first story: I realise that all of the stories from last week’s episode were related to conservation, but more good news on this front is always welcome. New proposed legislation by the European Commission aims to “restore damaged ecosystems and bring nature back across Europe.” (Source: EC Press Release)
This proposed Green Deal will halve chemical pesticide use by 2030, which will hopefully reduce native pollinator (aka bees) loss. The legislation also includes a “Nature Restoration Law” aiming to preserve or reclaim ecosystems including wetlands, rivers, forests, and grasslands. The goal is to promote biodiversity and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
All member states of the EU will have new legally binding restoration targets and obligations as part of this new set of laws that will “cover at least 20% of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030 with nature restoration measures, and eventually extend these to all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050.” (Source: EC Press Release)
It is part of the European Green Deal, which has Europe aiming to be the “first climate-neutral continent,” and Europe’s contribution to the proposed Global Biodiversity Framework that will be discussed and adopted at COP15, the United Nations convention on biodiversity, which was recently rescheduled for Montréal this December (due to COVID, this conference was delayed for 2 years).
You can find out more about the European Green Deal and this most recent set of draft legislation at https://ec.europa.eu
3pm Reproductive Rights
For our next story, a look at the state of reproductive rights around the world. While yes, the news on this topic out of the United States is utterly dismal and devastating, all is not lost when you look at the rest of the world. The US is definitely an outlier in its very recent restrictions on reproductive freedoms.
The Center for Reproductive Rights website has an updated map showing the status of abortion access around the world, categorizing each country according to the grounds an abortion is allowed: from the freest (“on request”) to the most restrictive (“prohibited altogether”).
According to this map, a significant portion of the world legally allows abortion on request, with varying term limits, usually 12 weeks, applied in each country. This freest form of reproductive rights affects 590 million women of reproductive age and includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and recently Argentina. The next category, “broad social or economic grounds,” permits abortion under a range of circumstances to 380 million women of reproductive age and includes the UK, Finland, and India. 240 million women of reproductive age live in countries that permit abortion for health or therapeutic reasons including Peru, Saudi Arabia and many countries throughout Africa. 360 million reproductive-aged women live in countries where abortion is only permitted to save the woman’s life, leaving 90 million women of reproductive age in the few countries that prohibit it altogether. This isn’t all of the US, at least for now.
Lawmakers in France have started working on a bill to add the right to abortion to the country’s constitution; perhaps other countries will follow if this right isn’t already enshrined in local laws.
To summarise, the situation is grim in the US but most of the world is in a far better situation. Reproductive rights are human rights; pregnancy should be a choice. When it is, it’s a wonderful, amazing experience that should be celebrated and respected. Restrictions on the right to choose impact all aspects of life, even those you wouldn’t necessarily expect, such as fertility treatments. And of course, restrictions on this right impact those already suffering from low socioeconomic status due to poverty or other conditions, which, at the risk of sounding trite, is incredibly unfair. We are lucky to live here in Australia where the right to choose, where the life of women, is respected.
3:30pm Human Rights News
For our final story, moving from reproductive rights to human rights in general, a round-up of some good news from around the world.
The death penalty has been abolished in the Central African Republic. Al Jazeera reports that lawmakers in the country, which hasn’t executed anyone since 1981, “approved new legislation making death sentences illegal” there in late May.
And while stopping short of a total ban, Malaysia has restricted the use of the death penalty as well. As reported in The Diplomat, Malaysia is now giving “judges discretion in sentencing and offering a range of substitute sentences for crimes that carry a mandatory death sentence.”
Currently 170 countries have banned or severely curtailed the use of the death penalty worldwide.
The Supreme Court in Mexico recently ruled that so-called “random” immigration checks were illegal. Human Rights Watch reported that this court decision “came after years of litigation by human rights groups and could have a profound impact on Mexico’s enforcement-heavy immigration policy, driven by pressure from the US to stop migrants from reaching the border.” The policy had largely targeted Black, brown and Indigenous people in Mexico and involved stops and checkpoints in a variety of places.
The Guardian reports the Minister for Equality in Spain, Irene Montero, announced that, “From today, Spain is a freer, safer country for all women. We are going to swap violence for freedom, we are going to swap fear for desire.” Spain’s parliament approved “only yes means yes” legislation that will require consent to be a key consideration in all rape cases. It also creates “a network of 24-hour crisis centres for survivors of sexual assault and their family members.”
Thailand and the Czech Republic each appear one step closer to legalising same-sex marriage. The US has moved closer to prohibiting the use of landmines globally. Governments met at the UN in Geneva a couple of weeks ago and finalised a draft of a declaration called “Protection of Civilians from the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas.” According to Human Rights Watch, this agreement would have “governments commit to avoid bombing and shelling populated villages, towns, and cities.”
And finally, a brief round-up of animal news: the monarch butterfly is doing better than anticipated in North America, the endangered mynah bird in Bali is making a comeback, courts in the US state of Montana have restored protective status to the wolverine, New York has banned puppy mills, one of the toughest bans on the sale of elephant ivory has taken effect in the UK, and the golden lion tamarin is saved from extinction in Brazil.
You can find all of the songs played in this episode of The Upside on Spotify – including new tracks by Stella Donnelly, Julia Jacklin, and King Princess.