March 30 – April 5 2015
The Week in Review is a weekly column that highlights some interesting, depressing, and heartwarming events and stories that took place or were published in the past week. Its ambition is not to be exhaustive or to recap major political events; it’s more of a personal take on news or stories that made the author strongly react.
Picture of the week
An Indonesian surfer, Dede Surinaya, surfs in trash-filled water in Java (Indonesia), as shown in the Guardian’s photo series on overpopulation and overconsumption.
Discovery of the week
Scientists have discovered ancient clusters of galaxies that could help better understand the formation of the Universe. Scientists from the European Space Agency (ESA) combined data from Planck and Herschel, two space-based observatories, to obtain more detailed pictures of these proto-galaxies. What this discovery could be instrumental in understanding is how stars and galaxies starting forming vast clusters ‘separated’ from one another by vacuum, rather than matter being spread around the universe more or less uniformly. The role of dark matter, which is present in huge quantity within the clusters of stars and galaxies, could also potentially be better understood thanks to these observations.
Outraging news of the week
This week, Purvi Patel, a woman living in Indiana (United States), was sentenced to 20 years in prison for feticide and child neglect. She had taken abortion pills and effectively aborted while she was within her 23rd or 24th week of pregnancy. While the right to abort after a certain point in time can be debatable, what was shocking in Ms. Patel’s trial was how she was accused both of of killing a fetus and of child neglect on the count that the fetus was probably born alive (which has only been deduced from the application of a 17th century test performed on the corpse of the fetus).
Besides, what remains problematic in our societies’ dealing with abortion is how women who inflict great pain on themselves and face great risks to rid themselves of an unwanted fetus end up publicly shamed and pilloried for trying to regain control of their lives. The underlying problem remains: why do women continue to be in this situation where they have a baby that they are not ready and/or able to bring to the world, and where is the man who conceived this baby? There is still a lot of deep-rooted psychological, material, and emotional misery in our western societies; ignoring that many people remain confronted with this multi-faceted misery in their everyday lives is the real problem, the one that endangers the lives of children, women and men alike.
Let’s not forget that when a woman goes through an abortion this late into pregnancy, she does not do it out of pleasure or because she wants to go party instead of having to be pregnant. Most often it is a desperate recourse to a desperate situation. It does not mean it is right, or that it is desirable. But it means that while condemning one woman for what she did, we also need to condemn those around her for what they did not do – giving her the care and love she deserved, or the material and emotional support she needed -, and we also need to condemn our societies which are content with having a minority bathing in wealth while at the other end of the spectrum people can sink to the bottom of helplessness without anyone noticing.
Heartwarming news of the week
Malta, one of the most catholic states of the European Union (with 93% of the population reported as being of catholic confession in 2006), has made a major step forward for transgender and intersex rights. The 2015 Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act “[provides] a simplified procedure which respects the privacy of the person requesting that one’s official documents be changed to reflect the person’s gender” and also states that “gender identity is considered to be an inherent part of a person which may or may not need surgical or hormonal treatment or therapy”. It also says that the “sex characteristics of a person vary in nature and all persons must be empowered to make their decisions affecting their own bodily integrity and physical autonomy.” (Source: Human Rights Watch)
The adoption of this Act owes a lot to the tireless struggle of one woman, Joanne Cassar, who fought for 9 years for her right to marry her boyfriend, which the Marriage Registrar refused to grant her even after she had legally changed her gender to female. The two lovers were finally able to get married.
Read the full story at Human Rights Watch: http://www.hrw.org/news/2015/04/01/dispatches-malta-s-inspiring-gender-recognition-law
Video of the week
This week’s video comes from Alison Teal, an environmental activist who films her own adventures across the globe to emphasize the need to protect the Earth’s ecosystems. In this episode, Alison returns to the Maldives to warn against the amount of plastic waste dumped in the sea that ends up on the island’s beaches.