Patriarchy is pervasive and entrenched in Mozambican society. Women face restrictions and discrimination throughout their lifetime and in every sphere of life. The feminization of poverty and the greater incidence of HIV/AIDS without proper health care, prevent women from enjoying their rights. While important strides have been made by Mozambique as reported on during the UPR, much more still needs to be done.
In this context, also in Latin America, neoliberal, conservative and anti-gender actors, within and outside the state, were very active in attacking policies and legislation that could advance sexual rights and rights to equality, including gender equality, to create barriers in their implementation or to establish measures of state control and authoritarianism. Although it is important to note that the ferocity of such measures was not as much as in Latin America as in Eastern European countries, Egypt or Russia, it is nevertheless true that these groups found new arguments during the pandemic to add to those they already used. They took advantage of measures adopted by governments to disseminate their perspectives in different ways; from demonstrations to social networks and other virtual media, their speeches included allusions to different conspiracy theories, invocations to restrict rights and distributed false information, all combined to confuse audiences.
Initially, in our quest to delve into the subject matter of wellbeing and wellness, we mistakenly used the two words interchangeably. Now, we only use the term wellbeing. This is because ‘wellbeing’ refers to the more holistic aspect of one’s life rather than just the physical health, which is what ‘wellness’ tends to encompass. It was important for us to recognise and appreciate that people’s welfare is affected by so much more than physical health, so many intangible factors like racism, sexism, patriarchy and capitalism that disproportionately affect LBQ women, activists and human rights defenders mobilising on the continent. Our hope is that these groups of people are holistically well.
The revolution is feminist in its postulates as well and the key demand is the dismissal of the government. However the Women’s Strike, which organised the protests, formulated five key areas for change; these are: full spectrum of access to SRHR, a secular state, implementation of the Istanbul Convention, improvement of the material conditions of women and making Poland an inclusive and non-discriminating country.
At SRI, we believe that it would be foolish to treat COVID-19 as a temporary hiccup in a generally progressivist tale of the inevitable triumph of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) as universally upheld human rights. Experience teaches us to always prepare to have SRHR gains be stalled, coopted, or deprioritized in a crisis, any crisis. The SRHR priority going forward must, therefore, be a refusal to accept “the new normal” – the normal of denial, deprivation, and discrimination – and recognize that the “war” that has been declared on the virus masks another war, one on fundamental and interconnected human rights. The further disempowerment of the impoverished, the unhoused, of gender and sexuality minorities, women in rural areas seeking abortion, adolescents in need of comprehensive sexuality education, sex workers, and women forced into marriage and childbearing – particularly in low-income countries and in low-income communities in wealthy countries – will be written off as the collateral damage of this war. Accepting the war analogy and the discourse of securitization that accompanies it means acceding to the logic of the necessary sacrifice of “foot soldiers” (frontline workers, in this case) and of the weak and most vulnerable among us, and provides a convenient distraction from the impact of the prioritization of military spending and of neoliberal policies of austerity and privatization on health systems and social security nets worldwide that have led us to this crisis. Research from different parts of the world clearly shows that there needs to be a joint, speedy, and concerted effort to catch the backsliding on women's rights, including SRHR, and we can expect that economic recession will be used to justify what the nationalist warcry might fail to.