Women’s rights are heavily centered on the idea of bodily rights. Not often does the government tell men what to do with their bodies — that is an issue for women. The protest slogans “No man will tell me what to do with my body” and “keep the government out of my uterus” are ubiquitous in protests and debates. But ironically (and hopefully), in the past two weeks men in the government have been playing a pivotal role as champions for women, both in California and Texas.
On Aug. 28, the California State Legislature passed Senate Bill 967 to address sexual assault on college campuses. The majority male senate passed this bill unanimously.
The bill replaces the dated notion of “no means no” with an affirmative consent standard, dubbed “yes means yes.” California campuses are required to adopt the new standard as well as prevention and outreach programs if they wish to receive state funding for student financial aid.
Some have criticized the idea of affirmative consent saying that sex isn’t something so straightforward when in the heat of action. TIME’s Cathy Young presents the argument that there is now a “burden of proof” for the accused and states that we don’t necessarily need government regulation over our sex lives.
Critics are right: Sex is highly intuitive and the act relies heavily on non-verbal cues of consent. But this bill is not asking you to set up cameras and capture the moment of consent, nor does it state the consent must be verbal. It is however, protecting victims of sexual assault particularly in a campus setting where the risk of rape is greatly elevated.
The bill not only protects rape victims who can’t say no due to intoxication or unconsciousness, but it establishes the firm idea that “a lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent.” It will furthermore help to reduce the mishandling of sexual assault cases as was reported in 55 institutions by the Department of Education.
The bill hands integrity back to the victims of sexual assault. Whether the victim of sexual assault was intoxicated or not, accusers should not be obliged to scramble for an excuse for their rape. Neither should female college students be compelled to anticipate the inevitable by wearing so-called “Anti-Rape” nail polish. College campuses should become advocates for the abused.
Another hot topic for women’s rights activists is abortion. And where better for the media to focus on abortion than in Texas. Last week U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel blocked two provisions of a new state abortion law due to unconstitutionality.
Texas House Bill 2 would have closed dozens of the state’s abortion clinics (see map at the bottom of this post) on Monday and required clinics to meet the caliber of ambulatory surgical centers — basically raising abortion providers to hospital-like standards. These standards are too costly for most of the state’s clinics to implement and include building code requirements, surgical procedures and general anesthesia, which are not essential for abortions.
According to the Houston Chronicle, an emergency motion to overturn the decision was filed to the U.S. Court of Appeals by Attorney General Greg Abbott. On Sept. 12 in New Orleans, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear the arguments over abortion providers and will consider the constitutionality of the provisions.
If Judge Yeakel’s decision to overturn the bill is not upheld, Texas would only be left with abortion clinics in and around its three larger and more affluent cities: Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. These unfair closures would force women to drive up to hundreds of miles to receive abortions.
Critics of the bill claim abortions are for all women and not just those with the means to acquire them. Judge Yeakel even criticized the bill as being “a statewide burden” for women.
Hopefully in the coming months, more men like Judge Yeakel and the legislature of California will begin to stand up for women’s rights. It’s refreshing to see advocacy for women’s rights move outside of gender confinements.
View Abortion Clinics – Fund Texas Women in a larger map