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San Marino, Tiny Nation-State May Be Next To End Abortion Ban

After Ireland, another once Catholic stronghold in Europe is challenging a longstanding law that makes abortion a crime, for both women and doctors.

At a meeting of an organization working to legalize abortion in San Marino
At a meeting of an organization working to legalize abortion in San Marino

Some of the last remaining European countries that enforce bans on abortions have sparked massive social movements in recent years: from Poland where 150,000 demonstrated last October in Warsaw after a court ruled in favor of an almost total abortion ban to the outpouring of support in Ireland for a 2018 referendum that repealed an age-old ban —even the miniature-sized British territory of Gibraltar made international headlines after a campaign recently forced a referendum that successfully scrapped the local law that punished abortions with life imprisonment.

But hidden from view, a much quieter battle is unfolding in the sloping, sleepy streets of a medieval city-state tucked inside central Italy. San Marino, population 33,000, is one of the last places in Europe where getting an abortion on request is illegal (The others are: Andorra, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco and Poland.)

A priest compared us to Nazis.

Abortions in San Marino are punished with three to six years in prison – for both the woman who requests the abortion and anyone who takes part in the operation, including doctors. The law makes no exceptions for cases of rape or fetal malformation.

That might be about to change after the Union of Sammarinese Women has gathered enough signatures to call a referendum to scrap the restrictions. Campaigners say that the country's restrictive laws are rooted in the long-running influence of the Catholic Church in the small landlocked country. Local politics "does not mirror society, while fundamentalist Catholics are over-represented in the media," Vanessa Muratori, of the women's rights union, told the Italian weekly magazine Internazionale. "A priest compared us to Nazis in World War II. But people think differently, especially among the younger generations."

Unable to have abortions in their country, women often travel to neighboring Italy, where some kinds of abortions on request have been legal since 1978, to secretly have abortions in private clinics for about €2,000. Those who can't afford it usually resort to clandestine abortions in cheaper facilities, Internazionale reports.

In many cases, the secrecy that surrounds abortions increases the social stigma and mental health toll facing women. One young woman who asked not to be named told the magazine she was advised not to say a word about it with anyone.

Women's rights groups have campaigned to scrap the ban since at least 2003, but successive attempts failed to gain the backing of the country's political forces and foundered. Now the referendum, which still must be assigned an election day, could expand Europe's growing list of pro-choice nations — no matter the size.

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Big Brother For The People: India's CCTV Strategy For Cracking Down On Police Abuse

"There is nothing fashionable about installing so many cameras in and outside one’s house," says a lawyer from a Muslim community. And yet, doing this has helped members of the community prove unfair police action against them.

A woman is walking in the distance while a person holds a military-style gun close up

Survellance and tight security at the Lal Chowk area in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, India on October 4, 2022

Sukanya Shantha

MUMBAI — When sleuths of the National Investigating Agency suddenly descended on human rights defender and school teacher Abdul Wahid Shaikh’s house on October 11, he knew exactly what he needed to do next.

He had been monitoring the three CCTVs that are installed on the front and the rear of his house — a chawl in Vikhroli, a densely populated area in suburban Mumbai. The cameras told him that a group of men and women — some dressed in Mumbai police’s uniform and a few in civil clothes — had converged outside his house. Some of them were armed and few others with batons were aggressively banging at the door asking him to immediately let them in.

This was not the first time that the police had landed at his place at 5 am.

When the policemen discovered the CCTV cameras outside his house, they began hitting it with their batons, destroying one of them mounted right over the door. This action was captured by the adjacent CCTV camera. Shaikh, holed up in his house with his wife and two children, kept pleading with the police to stop destroying his property and simply show them an official notice.

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