Last week Ireland overwhelmingly voted in favour of a change to their constitution that will allow same-sex couples the same marriage rights as others. They were the first country to do this by vote which is both odd but also encouraging. Go, Ireland!
Victories like this one should be celebrated and cherished even though gaining the right to marry doesn’t solve all of the issues LGBT people face. I don’t believe that anyone who campaigned for the change to the constitution believed it would, but it’s a good start.
It didn’t surprise me to see people jumping on the celebration of this victory to point out how there were still other injustices in existence. Rebecca Watson, for example, sent out this tweet:
Good job on same sex marriage, Ireland. Shame you’d still rather see a woman kill herself than abort a zygote.
— Rebecca Watson (@rebeccawatson) May 23, 2015
I understand fully where Watson is coming from with this but the timing is pretty bad and it doesn’t read well. The tone suggests that those who campaigned for same-sex marriage don’t care about women having access to legal abortion and I’m sure that isn’t what Watson was suggesting, but that’s how it reads.
Personally I support campaigns for same-sex marriage, access to safe reproductive health care, access to education, evidence-based sex education in our schools, science education not interfered with by religious texts and much, much more… and just because I might talk about one aspect of a campaign I support at one given time, or just because on campaign might have been successful and I celebrate that doesn’t mean I don’t also care about those other campaigns too.
It’s easy to become frustrated, but I sincerely believe that the success of the vote in favour of same-sex marriage in Ireland should give us hope that the campaign for a referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment to the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland which criminalises abortion by equating the right to life of a pregnant woman with that of an embryo or foetus will be successful too.
Seeing people discuss the tweet from Watson reminded me of a recent tweet from Graham Lineham that also disappointed me:
Dunno why there’s not more anger amongst UK feminists about abortion law in NI. I guess the fight for a female Doctor Who takes precedence
— Graham Linehan (@Glinner) April 23, 2015
I’ve debated people on several occasions about how a female Doctor in the Doctor Who series would be great, and a few months ago I was also called onto the radio several times to talk about the all-female Ghostbusters movie because I’m an actual female ghostbuster, but I would happily see the Doctor remain a man if it meant that women in Ireland could gain access to safe and legal abortions. Suggesting otherwise is quite insulting… BUT I GET THE ANGER.
I GET IT. Of course we should be angry! We should be angry because Ireland just had to vote in marriage rights for gay people and there are people elsewhere in the world who don’t have those rights, or worse, get killed for simply being LGBT. This shouldn’t need campaigning. It should just be normal.
Women in Ireland have their lives put at risk by the archaic constitution that doesn’t see their worth beyond that of a vessel and women elsewhere experience worse. Here in the UK we just had to deal with MP Fiona Bruce MP’s trying to push through an amendment to Part 5 of the Serious Crime Bill is an attempt to undermine the 1967 Abortion Act and women’s access to reproductive healthcare. Now we’ve got to worry about the Human Rights Act being replaced.
We all have our battles to fight and not all of these fights are done in public. Since being trained as a campaigner by Oxfam I have written so many letters and emails to politicians and MPs about such causes that I’ve had to create a special filing system just for the replies I get. None of this is done in public which is proof, surely, that although gaining publicity for a campaign is a good way to gain support, sometimes campaigning happens away from social media too.
Let’s not fall into the trap of thinking that because people don’t seem to care about the cause you support it doesn’t mean that don’t care at all. We have to be really careful to not allow our anger to turn this into an Opression Olympics. We have to turn our anger into determination and we have to keep fighting the good fight.
I also don’t think it’s truly possible to order injustices in a rank of most worthy or needing of support. How do you compare women not being able to gain safe health care with secular bloggers being hacked to death? How do you compare gay people being attacked and killed with countries torturing and killing alleged criminals? How do you compare systematic child abuse within a religion with the church interfering with AIDS treatments? You can’t. To do so would be unfair because they’re all desperate issues that need our support.
So let’s feed off of the Irish victory from last week and allow it to help us push forwards and make this world a better world for everybody. Tweet, write blogs, donate money, write letters, go to protests, put a sticker on your car, talk to your family and your colleagues, vote when you can. It all matters. I may sound like a massive lefty but I can’t help it. Ireland just achieved something incredible and it makes the other challenges we face seem less impossible somehow.
Abortion Rights Campaign, Ireland
Abortion Rights, UK
British Humanist Society
Good Thinking Society
Human Rights Watch
Terrance Higgins Trust
They Work For You (track your MP)