Monthly Archives March 2019

Reclaiming control of Indonesia’s oceans by Salena Tramel

Reclaiming control of Indonesia’s oceans by Salena Tramel

At once unexplored and overexploited, the oceans surrounding Indonesia represent neoliberal development’s final frontier. But Indonesian activists are building a global movement to resist the financialisation and privatisation of the ...

Urban heteronormativity and the queer city in Brasília, Brazil by Juliana Grangeiro

Urban heteronormativity and the queer city in Brasília, Brazil by Juliana Grangeiro

Brazil leads the numbers when it comes to LGBTQ+ death rates. Stories of prejudice against LGBTQ+ persons dominate newspapers and social media daily. But what about Brazilians building local social ...

Women’s Month 2019 | ‘Empty’ laws and Peruvian women’s ongoing struggle for therapeutic abortion by Zoya Waheed and Romina Manga Cambria

Laws and regulations are policy tools that are seen as strong and effective in securing rights, but should we assume that this is always the case? Looking at therapeutic abortion, evidence from Peru leads us to believe otherwise. Legislation of protection laws often fails to be translated into practice.

In 1924, a therapeutic abortion law was passed in Peru. Ninety-five years later, this law, which allows for legal abortions when the physical or mental health of the mother is at stake, only exists on paper. There are many reasons why this law has not been implemented, ranging from a lack of awareness of the existence of the law to ambiguity when it comes to the law’s contents. While progress of some sort has been made over the last five years with the introduction of guidelines for abortion providers, it is important to understand that much more progress is needed for these women in Peru and elsewhere, as access to safe therapeutic abortion is still limited.

K.L and L.C: Keystone cases in the struggle for safe therapeutic abortions

The Human Rights Watch indicates that women across the world often opt for unsafe procedures because legal abortions are seldom provided in public healthcare facilities. Additionally, due to the uncertainties in the circumstances under which abortion is legal, healthcare providers fear punishment if they were to carry out a therapeutic abortion. Women are also often unaware of their right to therapeutic abortion, and in the cases they are, they’re refused the abortion due to the fear carried by healthcare providers. In other cases, women are refused legal abortions due to the bias carried by some healthcare professionals, who may not always agree that the mother’s life is in danger, and would thus see the abortion as unnecessary. Additionally, due to the social stigma attached to abortions, women may not want to get an abortion due to the fear of being judged.

Two cases were particularly relevant for discussion in Peru. In 2001, K.L., a 17-year-old Peruvian girl, was forced to carry an anencephalic fetus to term, a condition that made unviable the life of the fetus after being born. She gave birth and was forced to breastfeed the baby for four days until it finally died. These events caused her severe depression that required psychiatric help.

In another case in 2006, L.C. was a 14-year-old girl that fell pregnant after being raped repeatedly, which led her to attempt suicide. She survived, but woke up quadriplegic. Her mother requested a therapeutic abortion in order for her spinal column to be operated on to try and regain mobility of her body, but it was denied. Doctors claimed it was prohibited because the pregnancy no longer posed a threat to her physical health, so she was forced to continue the pregnancy.

After the cases of the K.L. and L.C., the Peruvian state was internationally condemned by the ONU´s Human Rights Committee for denying therapeutic abortion to these teenagers. As a response, in June 2014, the Peruvian Ministry of Health published the “Guía Técnica Nacional para la interrupción del embarazo por indicación terapéutica”, or the National Technical Guide for the Pregnancy Interruption by Therapeutic Indication, approved by a Ministerial Resolution Nº 486-2014/MINSA. This guide was looking to standardise the procedure and give more information to the health practitioners about it.

Despite its approval, there are still a lot of medical practitioners that refuse to implement it. As an example of this, in 2017 the Committee on Consumer Protection had to sanction a private healthcare facility with a fine for not approving a therapeutic abortion request, despite the evidence of mental health damage.

Persisting barriers (read: failures)

Despite the clarity of the law, it has not been implemented to the extent it should have. Often, people assume that passing a law and putting it in the penal code is enough to implement it. But when those responsible for implementing it don’t know enough about it, how is it supposed to protect those it aims to safeguard?

Even after the introduction of the guidelines, it is evident that the application of the law is scarce. Additionally, there isn’t much knowledge to be found on the application after the guidelines were created. The state is not taking the responsibility it should by ensuring medical facilities fully implement the law. Even though the discussion has been opened again, it’s clear that it’s not enough. A transformation in the norms and values that surround the topic of abortion must be addressed if the application of such laws is to be successful.

This article is part of the series `Women´s Month 2019´, in which members of the ISS gender committee reflect on women´s issues on Bliss. Other articles of this series can be read here.

Image Credit: openDemocracy. The image has been cropped.

zoyaAbout the authors:

Zoya Waheed is a Pakistani SJP student at ISS. She is the secretary of the Gender committee and is committed to women empowerment.



Romina Manga Cambria is a Peruvian GDP student at ISS. She’s inherited her feminism from her mother. She’s part of the Gender committee.

Striking for a transformative university by Karin Astrid Siegmann and Amod Shah

Striking for a transformative university by Karin Astrid Siegmann and Amod Shah

Budget cuts in higher education limit universities’ transformative potential. A big strike is therefore planned in the Netherlands for all sectors of education on 15 March 2019. This strike follows ...

No choice but to grow: debt and economic growth in rural Colombia by Lorenza Arango Vásquez

No choice but to grow: debt and economic growth in rural Colombia by Lorenza Arango Vásquez

A majority of Colombia’s rural areas now hold large levels of interest-bearing debt as a result of the increased popularity of bank credits. This article through interviews with debtor peasants ...

Women’s Month 2019 | Seed keepers, memory keepers: native women and food sovereignty by Leila Rezvani

When North America was colonised, the relationship of indigenous people with food was also colonised. But a group of women acting as seed keepers for their communities are fighting back, practicing decolonisation in their daily work and addressing the legacy of food colonisation through the reclamation of seeds and the traditions, practices, and affective relations that nurture human-plant-environment relationships and keep Native communities thriving, healthy, and connected.

Understanding the colonisation of North America begins with understanding food. Europeans thought that Natives could be ‘civilized’ through their stomachs. Targeting Native diets and methods of food provisioning was a way to control and disempower. Native populations of humans, non-human animals, and plants were decimated due to disease and violence. In what is now called the United States, native groups were forced onto individual allotments, often marginal land away from ancestral homes. Sedentary farming was viewed as the rational form of land use, shaping the native in the white yeoman farmer’s image.

And in residential schools, Native languages, dress and diets were forcefully repressed and replaced with English, European clothing and foods like wheat and dairy, which were largely absent from Native diets previously (Vernon 2015).

The legacy of this physical and cultural violence is clear: today, at least 60 Native reservations struggle with food insecurity, and Native families are four times as likely as other US families to report having not enough to eat (PWNA 2017). This places many Native communities in a relationship of dependence with the US Government: the USDA provides canned goods, powdered milk, processed cheese and white sugar, contributing directly to high rates of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity (Vernon 2015).

Fighting back

Native women are addressing the legacy of food colonisation by asserting their communities’ right to grow food for themselves—food that nourishes human bodies, cultural tradition, and the wider web of non-human species and environments. These women and the groups they work with not only promote food sovereignty but practice it: Winona La Duke of the Anishinnaabe founded the White Earth Land Recovery Project, which bought back 1,200 acres of tribal land that had been appropriated by the US government and began a project to revive the collection of wild rice, an important traditional food.

Rowen White of the Mohawk Nation founded Sierra Seeds, a company selling locally adapted and heritage varieties, and directs the Indigenous Seed Keepers Network (ISKN). In the winter of 2018, the ISKN came to an agreement with Seed Savers Exchange, a public access seedbank of rare and heritage varieties, to identify and rematriate[1] varieties of corn, beans and squash that originated in Native communities (White, n.d.).

Rufina Juarez, a Chicana Indigenous woman, helped organise the 14-acere South Central Farm, maintained by 350 primarily Central American families as a space to grow culturally appropriate, nourishing food in 20-by-30-foot plots. The farm was a haven for immigrants to grow food that connected them to the places they left behind: nopales, corn, squash, tlapanche and papalo greens, lettuces, strawberries, cabbages (Mark 2006). The farm was bulldozed in 2006 even after farm advocates were able to raise money to meet the $16 million asking price. (Juarez 2010, Gordon 2006).

And still, new challenges constantly arise: climate change alters traditional migratory routes of important game animals like caribou, land grabbing for industrial monocropping or extraction removes land from indigenous stewardship, and biopiracy[2] and corporate consolidation of the seed industry deteriorates crop biodiversity (Cultural Survival 2013). Native women continue to organise in the face of these challenges, recognising that colonisation is an ongoing, evolving process, deeply tied to the machinations of globalised capital.

Enduring practices

The work of seed keeping and the maintenance of community tradition it entails is often, but not exclusively, spearheaded by women. Collaboration between many stakeholders, Native or not, young and old, male, female, or otherwise, is key. I chose to highlight these initiatives because women are central and powerful, but are not burdened with speaking for ‘nature’, from an essentialised, gender-based position. Rather, their work builds on traditions of care, affectivity, and community network building that women and others have performed for generations, throughout the trauma of colonisation and the attempted, but unsuccessful, erasure of native foodways.

[1] “Rematriate” means returning the seeds to their place of origin. “Repatriate” is more commonly used, but here I chose to retain the word used in White’s article, which consciously imputes a feminine quality to the seed and the land to which it is returning.

[2] Biopiracy describes the process by which biological or genetic material (commonly from medicinal or crop plant or animal species) is obtained and exploited for commercial use without the knowledge or consent of the original ‘owners’ or stewards of the material. The most common situation is multinational pharmaceutical or agrochemical/seed companies using indigenous plant knowledge to locate commercially valuable species, stela them, and then patent them so they become exclusive property of the corporation. The term was originally coined by Pat Mooney of the ETC Group and popularized by Vandana Shiva of Navdanya.

‘Combating Food Insecurity on Native American Reservations'(2017) , pp. 1-4Partnership with Native Americans and Northern Plains Reservation Aid.
‘Maintaining the Ways of our Ancestors: Indigenous Women Address Food Sovereignty’ (Last updated 13 October 2013) (a webpage of Cultural Survival). Accessed 16 February 2019 <>.
Alvarez, L. (Last updated 2019) ‘Colonization, Food, and the Practice of Eating’ (a webpage of The Food Empowerment Project). Accessed 13 February 2019 <>.
Gordon (14 June 2006) ‘LA’s South Central Farm Shut Down and Bulldozed’ Tree Hugger. Accessed 16 February 2019 <>.
Mark (9 June 2006) ‘Could the battle for South Central Farm be coming to a close?’ Grist. Accessed 25 February 2019 <>.
Juarez, R. (2010) ‘Indigenous Women in the Food Justice and Sovereignty Movement: Lessons from the South Central Farm’, NACCS Annual Conference: Chicana/o Environmental Justice Struggles for a Post-Neoliberal Age, 1 April 2010. San Jose State University pp1-10.
Vernon, R.V. (2015) ‘A Native Perspective: Food is More than Consumption’, Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development 5(4): 137-142.
White, R. ‘Indigenous Seed Keepers Network: The Long Way Home; Seed Rematriation at Taos Pueblo’ (a webpage of Native Food Alliance). Accessed 13 February 2019 <>.

This article is part of the series `Women´s Month 2019´, in which members of the ISS gender committee reflect on women´s issues on Bliss.

Image Credit:

About the author:

leilaLeila Rezvani is a Master’s student in the AFES major. She comes from Southern Vermont, USA, and is interested in the politics of scientific knowledge production, seed systems, plant breeding and thinking about how the agro-food system could be more just for plants, people and non-human animals. She misses the mountains and hopes to work for a small seed company or farm someday (soon).  


Kidnapping in the Eastern Congo: ‘Grievance-oriented’ struggles and criminality? by Delphin Ntanyoma

Kidnapping in the Eastern Congo: ‘Grievance-oriented’ struggles and criminality? by Delphin Ntanyoma

From August to November last year, 83 cases of kidnapping were reported in Ruzizi Plain alone, part of Uvira territory in the Eastern Congo. While kidnapping can be viewed as ...

Distorted anti-Semitism allegations in UK’s Labour Party are a cover for Israeli apartheid by Jeff Handmaker

Distorted anti-Semitism allegations in UK’s Labour Party are a cover for Israeli apartheid by Jeff Handmaker

On 18 February 2019, Luciana Berger and six other British Members of Parliament (MPs) left the UK Labour Party. The most prominent reason provided by the departing MPs, led by ...

The New World “Order”: Brexit, Trump and the Developing Countries by Peter A.G. van Bergeijk

Deglobalisation is not the mirror image of globalisation. The losers of globalisation will thus not be the winners of deglobalisation. Indeed, the vulnerable and poor will be the big losers of deglobalisation both in the Global North and Global South.

In the world economy, the guards are changing: we see the emergence of China as the major trading economy of the world continue and at the same time the crumbling of the economic power of the United States of America. Handing over world economic leadership is always a painful process, and it is certainly not a new phenomenon. The rise of the British Empire ended the period of Dutch hegemony. After the Second World War, the USA became global leader, and now we see China emerging on top of many economic rankings. Both before and during these phases of geo-economic transformation, similar processes occurred that reflected shifts in the costs and benefits of hegemony.[1]


A non-contested hegemon has significant market power and can appropriate a substantial part of the benefits of the rules and regulations of the world order. These benefits enable the hegemon to finance the costs of world order maintenance. However, when an emerging economic power contests the incumbent, the balance of costs and benefits shifts to the detriment of the hegemon. It also becomes apparent that the division of the benefits of the world order are not proportional to the costs. Clearly, US actions currently are being fed by popular sentiments (and also feed these sentiments!), but a rational explanation of what we see happening is certainly not beside the point. Modelling exercises of a great diversity of trade disturbances and trade wars show that the United States hurts itself, but that China has to pay a higher price (Figure 1).

Figure 1

Source: J. Bollen and H. Rojas-Romagosa, 2018, ‘Trade wars: Economic impacts of US tariff increases and retaliations. An international perspective’, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Analysis, The Hague.

Making America the Greatest Again can be done in two ways: either by putting more effort into improving the US economy, or by trying to hurt China more. In the current context, the outcome of the second option is more certain, especially in the short run. Economists therefore cannot but conclude that this form of neomercantilism for the United States in a political sense is quite effective. A trade war that involves the United States, China, and the European Union (the blue bars in figure 1) consistently finds that the negative impact in other regions is always larger than for the United States. For an all-out trade war of the US with all advanced economies (the orange bars in Figure 1), a somewhat different picture emerges, but still China is hurt most.

It is important to recognise that the current context extends well beyond trade disturbances and that this is part of a new long downward phase. Indeed, an important empirical finding is that Make America Great Again and Brexit should be seen as symptoms rather than causes of deglobalisation: already long before the elections and referendum, a significant break could be observed in the pace and direction of internationalisation of leading democratically oriented economies.[2] It is not obvious that a change can be expected with respect to these trends in the near future. Indeed, policy uncertainty is on a clearly upward trend and has entered uncharted territory (Figure 2). This increase in uncertainty already has a negative impact on investment decisions of firms and consumers. Certainly, deglobalisation has a much broader palette than the trade disturbances that presently make the headlines.

Figure 2 Global policy uncertainty (monthly data 2000-2018)


Source: S. J. Davis, 2016. “An Index of Global Economic Policy Uncertainty,” Macroeconomic Review, October,

The impact of deglobalisation goes further and also includes development cooperation and other international flows. Attacks on global institutions and multilateral agreements is an essential element of neomercantilism and its impact is felt all around the globe. A comprehensive deglobalisation scenario of the International Futures Model shows that the long-run losses are large and always negative (Table 1). The impact in the US in this scenario is relatively limited, and strong losses in income level appear on other continents. A recent study of the German Institute for Development has analysed the impact of Brexit and finds that losses outside the UK are important. In particular, the impact on the least developing countries is significant.[3]

Table 1 Estimated impact of deglobalisation on per capita income in 2035


Source: Hillebrand, E. E., 2010, ‘Deglobalization scenarios: who wins? Who loses?’ Global Economy Journal 10 (2) article 3 available at:

The European Union can make a difference here. It is clear that developing countries are not part of the conflict between the big powers and that their plight is due to collateral damage. The European Union has always supported trade as a means to achieve development. It should step up efforts to facilitate trade and help the least-developed countries to divert their trade so as to make up for the losses caused by the deglobalisationists.

[1] Z. Olekseyuk and I.O. Rodarte How Brexit Affects Least Developed Countries, Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik, Briefing Paper 2/2019

[2] P.A.G. van Bergeijk, On the brink of deglobalization … again, Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society 11, 59–72. In the same vein China’s support for the multilateral trade and investment system did not come unexpectedly.

[3] P.A.G. van Bergeijk, Deglobalization 2.0: Trade and openness during the Great Depression and the Great Recession, Edward Elgar Cheltenham 2019.

In 2018, Bliss Blog featured a series on deglobalisation. Articles of this series can be read here, here and here.

About the author:

pag van bergeijk

Peter van Bergeijk ( is Professor of International Economics and Macroeconomics at the ISS.