Women’s rights to self-determination, raging fires and a doubling in aid to South Sudan. Ingunn Dorholt provides an overview of the most important news in Norway right now.
All over the world women are busy planning the V-dag (Vagina dag), which is a global event for raising awareness about violence against women. Meanwhile, this week, Norway has been said to be heading in the opposite direction – by limiting women’s rights.
A heated debate about abortion rights has been dominating Norwegian media the last few weeks. Norway has a reputation of being a forerunner for gender equality and women’s rights. Recently a political suggestion was made, that Norwegian doctors should have the legal right to protect themselves from any referral on abortion, consultancy for artificial insemination for lesbians and certain forms of contraception. This suggestion came as a result of a political agreement that the current government parties made with Venstre (a liberal party) and the Christian party (KRF) to ensure that the parties would support this minority government when their politics are to be approved in parliament.
The agreement was made in September, but has been given a lot of attention now, because a surprisingly high number of doctors have expressed a desire to take advantage of the rights they would receive from the new law.
To accommodate the high level of resistance against the law not only within the population, but also amongst members of the Norwegian doctors association, the government are now open to the possibility that the decision should be municipal. If so – it might end up being more difficult to get a referral for an abortion in the countryside of Norway than in the cities. The Christian party (KRF), who stands behind the suggestion, claims that this would mean breaking the initial political agreement.
A woman’s right to a self-determined abortion was established in 1975 in Norway. However there were cases where doctors were sending patients to colleagues in cases they were personally against. This practice was made illegal by the health department in 2011. While some claim that the doctor’s right to reservation will weaken women’s rights to self-determination, others claim that this will benefit women, since doctors that are personally against abortion are reluctant to perform such consultations. Furthermore it is claimed that is will merely work as a formality, since doctors all over the country already refuse consultations. Others, like Eline Kirkebø from the student paper “Studvest” claims that a doctors’ right to reservation would be undemocratic; “to uphold a well functioning democracy, doctors have to respect the rules and laws that have been made through democratic processes”.
Norwegian media has also been focusing on firefighters this week that have been fighting the biggest fire, in terms of damage, since the Second World War. The fire took place in Flatanger in the North-Western part of Norway. It started from high voltage wires, but due to heavy wind and the fact that the region has not experienced any rainfall since mid-December, the fire spread and the firefighters lost control of it. Heavy wind made it impossible, even for helicopters to participate in the battle against the flames. More than 90 houses and cabins were burned to the ground. Less than 24 hours after the first one, another fire started in Frøya, a bit further south where 700 people were evacuated.
All of this took place only one week after another fire devoured 30 houses and sent more than 100 people to the hospital in Lærdal, also on the west coast of Norway. The city is famous for its historical wooden village from the 18th and 19th century, which is a protected area. Fortunately no deaths have been reported from any of the fires.
Finally Norwegian media has been following the Norwegian foreign minister Børge Brende on his visit to the capital Juba of South Sudan, where he promised president Salva Kiir to double the Norwegian aid to south Sudan from 50 to 100 million kroner.