Posts Tagged ‘reproduction’


Máiréad Enright is a lecturer at Kent Law School and is completing a PhD at University College Cork which examines the legal treatment of questions in Muslim divorce practice in the UK and the United States from the perspective of a multiculturalist feminism.


Mairead Enright Post

Power is cautious. It covers itself. It bases itself in another’s pain and prevents all recognition that there is “another” by lopped circles that ensure its own solipsism.’ – Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain

 Ireland was examined by the UN Human Rights Committee under the ICCPR last week. The state’s response to the Committee’s follow up questions has been published online. These written answers supplement the oral presentations made by the Minister for Justice and civil servants at the hearings in Geneva. This document is useful as a time capsule of the government’s position on redress for institutional abuse of women and children, because it contains several pages of defence of the official position on reparations for survivors of symphysiotomy. Symphysiotomy is a childbirth operation, which involves breaking a woman’s pelvis, usually before or during labour. It was revived in Ireland in the 1940s by a small group of conservative Catholic doctors, working in state-run or state-supervised hospitals, as an alternative to Caesarean section and was performed in hospitals all over Ireland into the 1980s. (If you need a reminder of the violence and abuse which characterised its practice in Ireland, see here.) On July 1, the Government published Judge Yvonne Murphy’s Independent Review of Issues Relating to Symphysiotomy (the Murphy Report) which outlines a possible redress scheme for survivors. The scheme draws on Professor Oonagh Walsh’s final Report on Symphysiotomy in Ireland 1944 -1984 (the Walsh Report) published on the same date. It is important to stress that the fine print of the symphysiotomy redress scheme has not yet been made public. The State’s written response to the Committee, unfortunately, has introduced yet more ambiguity into an already murky public discussion. Hundreds of women who are members of Survivors of Symphysiotomy, disappointed by the government’s approach to redress, have begun High Court litigation against the hospitals which performed their symphysiotomies, and against the State (invoking the law of negligence and the principles established in O’Keeffe v. Ireland at the ECHR).



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Wei Wei Cao

Wei Wei is a PhD candidate in biomedical law and ethics at Keele University. You can contact her at: rainbowvivi@msn.com.

Background Information

The idea of ‘family planning’ was officially introduced into the Chinese political and the legal systems at the start of the post-Maoist era. The introduction of and explanation of this idea were significantly affected by Malthusian demographic theory in China. (Lee and Wang 1999) To justify implementing a strict birth control plan, the first post-Maoist government advocated a Malthusian argument: economic production cannot keep pace with population growth without family planning. Thus, reducing the national birth rate was treated as essential to the development of the state’s economy. Deng, the first president in the post-Maoist era, claimed that the state must fulfil the birth control task, which was of major importance for the national economy. In order to achieve this population goal, the government stated that all married citizens must take up family planning and downsize their families.

Women’s Citizen Duties in the Chinese Family Planning Context

In the Chinese family planning context, post-Maoist governments impose the duty to take up family planning mainly on wives, and most of the compulsory birth control methods are also targeted at them. (more…)

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