All posts by Claire Quinn

Green Party Candidate to propose Legislation which will see Men Prosecuted for Illegal Abortions

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South Belfast Green Party Candidate Clare Bailey has said that if elected in the upcoming Assembly Election, she will put forward legislation which will see men face prosecution if their sex partners seek illegal abortions.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where the 1967 Abortion Act does not apply and as many as 1000 women travel to other parts of the UK to seek terminations. However, many cannot afford this and are forced into other ways of ending un-wanted pregnancies.

Clare voiced her intentions after a 21-year-old woman was given a suspended sentence at Belfast Crown Court in April this year, for buying abortion pills online and using them to induce a miscarriage.

To find out more about this case please click below:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-35962134

I caught up with Clare to find out what her reasoning is behind bringing men into this issue and what the proposed legislation will entail.

“I am absolutely outraged that in this day and age we are still convicting women and passing a sentence that she will have for the rest of her life”.

“My challenge to the legislature is that we need to sort this issue out because it’s not going away. Putting this legislation forward is an effort to change people’s thinking. I have yet to meet a woman who got herself pregnant so why are we only convicting one person in a criminal justice system? Why are men not equally responsible for their lack of reproductive choices? Here we have a young woman convicted with no mention of the male involved.”

However, many have said that this proposed legislation is nonsense as the decision to seek is an abortion is solely down to the woman. Furthermore, many have argued that women have fought for so long to gain control over their reproductive rights, so I asked Clare if am woman has control over her own body should she therefore not have full responsibility for what she does with it?

“I absolutely do, but if we as a society are going to convict her for what we believe to be a crime in our law – she didn’t get pregnant on her own so why is there not two people being held responsible for that crime?”

“My challenge for the next 108 MLA’s is for them to take this issue very seriously because I believe that the current law we are convicting women under (Section 58 of the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861) is gender discrimination.”

Abortion in Northern Ireland is still a very contentious issue. There have been many cases in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (where it is also illegal) that have raised the debate on both the pro-choice and pro-life sides. I asked Clare why she thinks abortion continues to be such a sensitive and polarising topic.

“I think it’s largely because we have the conversations wrong and it’s a cultural understanding of what’s going on. I think we as a society still believe that women are irresponsible and get themselves pregnant because they’re just having casual sex and it’s an easy choice to go for an abortion when the reality is something very different.”

“We need to break the silence on this issue. What we don’t know is how many women are buying abortion pills online, this is the modern day equivalent of back-street abortions and our law is not stopping women needing this health care. The challenge with this legislation is to change conversations, to focus minds, and really putting a challenge out to the electorate.”

The Green Party is the only party in the assembly which is for the 1967 Abortion Act being extended to Northern Ireland.

“Many MLA’s claim to be pro-choice and want this issue to be resolved but the 1967 Act is not the way forward because it’s a flawed law and it over 50 years old. Well we are operating under acts which are 150 years, that were in place before women had the vote, before women could run for office so I believe that the extension of the 1967 to Northern Ireland is the quickest way to face up to the problem that we’ve got.”

The Assembly have debated on certain aspects of abortion such as in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities or when a pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, however actual legislation regarding these issues has yet to be passed through.

“I don’t believe these debates are enough when it comes to this issue. Many women who seek abortions need it because of their own health reasons, through poverty, they may already mothers and know what it means to have a child, or for many other circumstances which would make raising a child very difficult.”

“It’s good that these debates are happening because we really need to move on. Women are suffering and are taking high risk strategies to sort themselves out because our MLA’s fail them every single time.”

If elected in the upcoming Assembly Elections, Clare plans to change the conversations surrounding this issue and promises that as an MLA she will do everything she can to ensure that women are no longer criminalised.

To see Clare’s letter to the editor, which brought her opinion on this issue to light please click below:

http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/clare-bailey-stormont-once-again-fails-to-bring-clarity-on-abortion-1-7297778

Furthermore, to find out more about the Green Party and it’s policies please click below:

http://www.greenpartyni.org/

Women In the Creative Industries

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On Friday 22nd April three inspiring women hosted an event as part of the Belfast Film Festival, which demonstrated how women are treated and portrayed in this particular medium.

First to speak was Fiona McElroy, the Creative Enterprise Manager at Ulster University since 2006. Fiona founded the Honeycomb Creative Works project, a £3.58m program targeted at the digital content sector across the INTERREG IVA region of Northern Ireland, the six border counties of the Republic of Ireland and the western seaboard of Scotland.

She spoke about the work Honeycomb has done for women in particular. It conducted 19 research reports examining discrimination, bullying and sexism in the creative industries. It also works closely with women who want to either break into or get back into this kind of work. It is a particularly difficult place for young females as it is seen as a predominantly patriarchal occupation and Honeycomb helps them to find their niche. Furthermore, for women who have taken time out from the industry to have children and raise a family, the project works with them so they are not overwhelmed with having to re-join the workplace.

Honeycomb does this by nurturing talent and holds various workshops in order to build leadership skills and confidence as this is a tough industry and one must develop their own identity if they are to prove themselves.

To find out more about the Honeycomb Project please click below:

http://thehoneycomb.net

 

Next to speak was Sarah Edge, a professor in gender and film studies at Ulster University. She jokingly remarked that her course used to be called “feminism” but changed it to “gender studies” so as to attract more male students.

Sarah began by saying that in her opening class she asks her students to go out and ask others what a feminist is. Over the years the answer has gone from an ugly man-hating lesbian, to a ball-breaking career bitch who puts down other women who stay at home, then to a ladette, then finally the modern idea is a woman who simply wants equal rights for men and women.

Sarah gave an audiovisual talk, which explored how feminism has been portrayed in popular films over the decades and how the female role has changed throughout the post-feminist era.

The first films to be examined were Fatal Attraction (1979), Baby Boom (1987), Working Girl (1988), and Pretty Woman (1990). All of these films were released when the idea of feminism was a new concept. Each depict the clash between the new modern woman who is powerful and sexually liberated but is either damaged or un-fulfilled; and the ideal image of femininity which is what men really want.

Then after the year 2000, there were films like Miss Congeniality (2000), Legally Blonde (2001), Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) and The Devil Wears Prada (2006) which featured women who have to alter themselves in order be successful, find romance, or be happy. Feminism is hinted at in each of these films but the women are not feminist characters even if they first appear to be.

Finally, with more recent films like Up in the Air (2009) and The Intern (2015) there is the introduction of the father figure. In each film the older man teaches the younger woman how be successful and happy in life, which presents the idea that women still need guidance from men.

 

The final speaker of the night was Margo Harkin, an award winning filmmaker from Co. Derry. Her work has spanned across many genres including documentary and feature films.

She spoke in detail about her lengthy career and said she wanted to become a filmmaker after Bloody Sunday as she felt the real stories weren’t being told on screen. Margo explains that workplace was “unbelievably sexist” when she started out and that “women were viewed in a suspicious light by men in the industry”. However, as she and her female colleagues proved themselves in their work it became a more supportive profession.

To find out more about Margo and her projects please click below:

http://www.besomproductions.co.uk/margo.html

 

One of the main objectives of this talk was to open up a dialogue between feminist researchers, academics, and women working in the creative industries themselves. It certainly was a superb demonstration of how far women have come over the years, and also how feminism has evolved in both the creative workplace and the work it produces.

For more info on the Belfast Film Festival please click below:

https://belfastfilmfestival.org

Ham Sandwich Rocks Belfast

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Irish indie rock band Ham Sandwich made their first appearance at The Belfast Empire Music Hall on Saturday 16th April and showed audiences they’re far more than a funny name.

The band who hail from Kells, Co. Meath formed in 2003 and consist of Niamh Farrell (lead vocals), Podge McNamee (vocals, guitar), Brian Darcy (guitar), David McEnroe (bass), Ollie Murphy (drums).

I first came across them on a sweltering hot day in July 2013 when they supported Mumford & Sons at their concert in Phoenix Park and was instantly drawn to their high-energy stage presence, interesting indie rock style, and not to mention the rare sight of a female at its fore front.

They have released three studio albums since their formation – Carry the Meek (2008), White Fox (2010), and most recently Stories from the Surface (2015), which reached No.1 in the Irish album charts. All of their albums were released on the band’s own independent label – Route 109A Records.

The band stands out from a visual perspective because of its petite pixie-like vocalist Niamh Farrell, with her powerful yet sweet vocals and commanding presence. She certainly proved on Saturday’s gig that she can hold her own while sharing a stage with seven big bearded men.

Watching them onstage reminded me of the female-fronted bands that were heavily prevalent in the 90’s, such as the Pixies, Letters to Cleo, The Cardigans, No Doubt, and the Cranberries (to name but a few) all featuring powerful charismatic women in bands where all the other members are male. The genre of rock music is definitely lacking its power queens so seeing a female commanding the room with haunting vocals is certainly refreshing.

Playing a mix of old singles and new releases, Ham Sandwich showcased their distinctive version of indie rock. Their singles “Ants”, “The Naturist”, and “Models” are always great crowd pleasers; but they introduced their newer music with songs “Apollo”, “Fandingo”, and “Illuminate” from the new album. These are songs I hadn’t heard and was really impressed with the new material.

The audience also got a treat when the band covered Donna Summer’s 1977 hit “I Feel Love” which suited Farrell’s vocal style perfectly and gave the audience the feeling of being in a funky 70’s disco – but without the tack & cheese!

I was a fan before this gig and Ham Sandwich definitely did not disappoint.image

To see more of Ham Sandwich please click below:

http://www.hamsandwichmusic.com

http://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/Ham-Sandwich-tickets/artist/1424213

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZdvFFXOWkvU