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What Will 2023 Look like for Women Around the World?

Updated: Sep 13, 2023

By Sara Campeti

In 2022, women’s rights have been challenged all around the world. Iran has been protesting for months, Afghanistan is banning women from education, and the US and Poland are taking reproductive rights away from women. 2022 saw a decline in global female rights, so can 2023 be any better?

The Decline of the Right to Abortion

The overturning of Roe v. Wade in the US can be characterised as one of the largest changes in abortion legislation of the twenty-first century. The right to abortion was no longer a federal right, and so, states were free to adopt new rules: Alabama, Arkansas, and Missouri banned abortions with no exception to rape or incest.

Abortion legislation is now different all across the country. A deeply divided nation is the result. The hard-fought right to abortion was gained through many years of activism and social action in the US, which women profited from for decades. Roe v. Wade made an abrupt end to this.

In Europe, a similar issue has arisen in the past two years. Poland imposed a complete ban on abortions and created a politicized judiciary system after the victory of the currently ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS). Last year, several Polish women died because abortion healthcare was inaccessible and doctors have been sent to jail for performing abortions on women with high-risk pregnancies.

This ban has caused tensions and protests in the country, similar to the “my body, my choice” movement in the US. Polish women even protested for their right of choice at the house of PiS’ party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

On 11 November 2023, Poland will have parliamentary elections, which could bring a drastic change to the Polish political scene. In turn, the judiciary and the treatment of women have the potential to reiterate in case another coalition is formed.

The European Commission and the European Parliament have criticised the PiS’ actions regarding the abortion ban but are yet to enact any sanctionary action. Altogether, 2023 could be the year in which Poland will again see the right to abortion.

Increased Violence Against Women

The year 2022 saw another particular decline in women’s rights in two countries: Iran and Afghanistan. Increased violence against women was especially noticed here.

The situation in Iran has been worrying since September, since the death of Mahsa Amini. Female protesters have faced beatings and sexual violence, and protesters are regularly executed by the state or murdered by the police. The increasing violence and the government's reaction do not indicate that peace will come anytime soon.

Women’s rights are being violated and, in addition, the entire population of Iran is silenced; the already little freedom of protest or speech is now reduced to rubble. The police and state are executing protesters regardless of gender, broadening the issue from women’s rights to an urge for liberty.

As concerning as Iran’s current situation is, the worst women's rights violations of 2022 were enacted by the Taliban rulers in Afghanistan. Their return to authority has led to the banning of women from primary, secondary, and higher education: little Afghan girls are not being taught how to read and women are forced to quit university education.

These harsh measures do not indicate that this year will be any better. Taliban rule in Afghanistan is nothing new; it is a simple repeat of the same pattern against Afghan women as present during the 1990s.

Can we Still Hope for 2023?

In 2022, women’s rights have deteriorated in Iran, the US, Poland, and Afghanistan. These four countries do not show a positive prospect for women in those regions and for women who are strongly affiliated with them.

The decline in women’s rights has caused numerous casualties worldwide, especially in Iran but also in Poland. In addition, it is expected that the US will begin witnessing the potentially lethal consequences of unsafe abortions due to the defederalisation of the right to abortion, similar to Poland. Afghanistan will no longer see women pursuing a career, causing educated women to leave the country.

Many feminist waves took years to accomplish their goals, meaning it will be hard to hope for change already in 2023. To illustrate: the second American feminist wave took around three years to gain enough support that it led to the passing of Roe v. Wade in 1973.

Even though it might be hard to remain hopeful, history can be just as much a circle as a constant fluctuation of surprising events; in the present-day globalised era, anything can really happen.

Sources: The NY Times, European Comission, Human Rights Watch, Euronews, Politico, BBC, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian

Written by Sara Campeti

January 2023

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