Category Archives: Third panel session: Gender and politics

Women’s Rights in the USA: The Influence of the Abortion Debate

Abortions are considered as a woman’s human right. However, in one of the most advanced countries, the USA, abortions were illegal in most States since 1973. The famous Supreme Court Decision, Roe v. Wade changed that. Nevertheless, the debate on abortions is still current and it has a serious impact on US politics. This year’s presidential race and especially the Republican primary election delegates gave a lot of emphasis on the debate, specifically after the new Birth Control Mandate by the Obama administration that requires all health care plans provide coverage at no cost for all contraceptive methods.

This mandate gave the opportunity to the Conservative Christian Right to influence even more the presidential race by attacking not only the Obama administration but also anyone who did not express a clear – pro – life – view on the debate. However, the main issue in the whole debate is that it undermines women’s human rights in the USA by not giving them the chance to defend their right to “decide independently in all matters related to reproduction” (Human Rights Watch). One example of that is that during the congressional hearing for the birth control mandate only male religious leaders were present.

This paper aims to introduce the audience to the abortion debate in the USA and its impact on US politics and women’s rights. First of all, it will examine the role the abortion debate has played on the 2012 presidential race with a special focus on the GOP Republican Primary elections. In addition, it will examine the way the conservative Christian Right has influenced the abortion discussion and the presidential race. Last but not least, the presentation will conclude that the debate on abortion rights during the presidential race has had a negative impact on women’s rights in the USA.

Marianthi Karakoulaki





The veil ban in Europe: A triumph of the far right

I propose a paper that examines the way far right ideas have infiltrated European mainstream politics and translated into concrete benchmark policies on the empirical basis of the ‘veil ban’ that has recently swept across Europe. The tone of this campaign corresponds to the common characteristic exhibited in far right’s platforms across Europe – the notorious preoccupation with immigration and especially immigrants of non-European Muslim origin that has framed their presence as a threat. To that end, the behaviour of the centre right has been instrumental in legitimizing aspects of the far-right agenda.

I follow the way the centre is engaging in the same discourse commonly used by the far right and explore the link between the far right’s position on the veil issue and the subsequent government initiatives using the empirical cases of four countries: France, Belgium, Italy & the Netherlands. The practical reach of the law is actually quite limited, as estimates in the countries reveal that a very small number of women are wearing a full veil in reality. Discussing the meaning of the veil as a social construction, the conception and implementation of the ban are considered a political statement of a far right character conveying a negative perception of the Muslim presence in Europe, running the risk of legitimizing in the eyes of the public a theme that is in essence part of a broader discriminatory, Islamophobic discursive practice. The law in focus here is highly significant for European political dynamics as it touches on the soft issue of culture, identity and values and thus indicates that the concept of immigrants as a threat is expanding its content and legitimacy under far right’s influence.

Dobryana Daskalova




”Women’s issues”: acknowledging reality or reinforcing hierarchy

The concept of “women’s issues” is prevalent in the mainstream-media and politics today, the prominence of policy discussions relating to childcare, education and maternity-rights is often regarded as a victory for feminism. This paper examines avenues of grassroots female contributions to public discourse, from “Mumsnet” to “Slutwalk”, and assesses whether such contemporary predominantly female groups enhance or inhibit the emancipation of women in the UK as compared to mixed groups. On a theoretical level it analyses whether “women’s issues” are a reflection of the priorities of women in today’s social world and a useful tool for politicising women, or whether implicit within the concept is the notion that women are primarily concerned with issues surrounding their traditionally assigned roles and that these are deemed comparatively unimportant. Also relevant is the extent to which areas not encompassed within “women’s issues” are viewed as the concern of the female-population, and the role of the media and political-system in endorsing prevailing attitudes.

This paper finds that the concept of “women’s issues” is destructive to the feminist cause; whilst targeting women specifically once served to politicise a gender it is now an out-dated tool, implicit in its current use is the concept that women are principally concerned with issues regarding the roles traditionally assigned to them by the patriarchal-capitalist system. It further argues that exclusively female groups contributing to public discourse often cater to a patriarchal view of women as defined by their sexuality and/or maternal instinct.
The paper concludes that the bourgeois-democratic system and the mainstream-media present “women’s issues” as secondary to the concerns of men and imply that the latter are more politically aware – focused on “human issues”. Such thinking relegates women to the position of “significant minority” and represents a barrier for female emancipation.

Laura J. Riley