Welcome back to Through the FCIL Lens! I recently won an award as the FCIL-SIS Blog Post of the Year for this series (YAY!). I’m honored by this award and it gives me motivation to continue writing. As I finish teaching my Foreign, Comparative and International Legal Research class at the University of Arizona College of Law, I always introduce this concept of constant change taking place in foreign countries and how relevant it can be to your legal research. A student of mine mentioned two incredibly important words: intentional and flexible. That is exactly the frame of mind that I’m trying to cultivate in my class and in this series.
Given the audience of this blog, the summaries of domestic situations I include here are packed with information and other sources which can be further developed, if needed. The intention here is to make the FCIL experts aware of these rapidly-evolving situations and events happening in flashpoints happening around the world, mostly the Global South.
For this post I have chosen events that took place over the past two months, March and April 2023 in the following countries: Honduras, Sudan, Uganda, Georgia and Kuwait. As in previous posts, these summaries aim to be descriptive, introductory, and to provide a stepping stone for further comprehensive research. Each summary also includes at least three important authoritative secondary sources.
Honduras President, Xiomara Castro Lifts Ban on Contraceptive Pills
On International Women’s Day (3/9), Honduras’s first female President, Xiomara Castro signed an executive order that lifted a longtime ban on emergency contraceptive pills. President Castro, who took office in 2022, has promised to relax Honduras’s restrictive reproductive rights laws. Against local critics, especially from the mighty Catholic Church in the country, government officials in the Castro administration pointed out to the WHO’s policy recommendation that state, “All women and girls at risk of an unintended pregnancy have a right to access emergency contraception and these methods should be routinely included within all national family planning programs.” Honduras was the only nation in the Americas to have an absolute ban on the sale or use of emergency contraception, also known as morning-after or “Plan B” pills. Honduras moved to ban emergency contraception in 2009, as the country went through political and social upheaval. Its supreme court affirmed the ban in 2012. Since 1985, it also prohibits abortion in all cases, punishable by up to six years in prison. At the same time, violence against women in Honduras has long been at a crisis level. According to the Gender Equality Observatory for Latin America and the Caribbean, Honduras had the highest rate of femicide of any country in the region in 2021, the most recent year tabulated on its website.
- Garibotto, V. (2022). Uneven Reproductive Landscapes: The Abortion Documentary in Latin America. Latin American Research Review, 1-9.
- Sosa, E., Menjívar, C., & Almeida, P. (2022). Elections and Social Movements in Honduras in the Central American Context. Revista Mexicana de Política Exterior, (122), 43-61.
- Taylor, L. (2022). How South America became a global role model for abortion rights. bmj, 378.
Two Rivals Prompt Threats of Civil War in Sudan
Since 2019, when a popular revolution toppled Sudan’s dictator of 30 years, Omar al-Bashir, a transition to democracy had been stalled by a pair of ruthless generals – the army chief, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the paramilitary leader, Lt. Gen Mohamed Hamdan. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, 62, is a four-star general, trained in Egypt and Jordan, who has commanded troops in Sudan’s grinding counterinsurgency campaigns in the south and west of the country. Mohamed Hamdan, widely known as Hemeti, is in his late 40s and is a camel trader turned militia commander with a reputation for ruthlessness who steadily acquired riches and influence. The two generals forged their careers in the early 2000s in the violent crucible of Darfur, the western region where a tribal rebellion had erupted. As two generals with a longstanding rivalry vie for dominance, the clashes between a paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces and the Sudanese Army have reordered the country with breathtaking speed. The army had promised to hand over power on April 11, the fourth anniversary of Mr. al-Bashir’s ouster. But that transition depended on the two generals who run the country keeping their simmering rivalries in check. Foreign envoys held long meetings with the two generals in an effort to get an agreement. Promises were made, concessions extracted immediately before the current crisis exploded on April 15.
- Atta-Asamoah, A., & Mahmood, O. S. (2019). Sudan after Bashir-regional opportunities and challenges. ISS East Africa Report, 2019(23), 1-20.
- Bassil, N., & Zhang, J. (2021). The post-Bashir era in Sudan: tragedy or remedy?. Australian Journal of International Affairs, 75(3), 252-259.
- Grewal, S. (2021). Why Sudan succeeded where Algeria failed. Journal of Democracy, 32(4), 102-114.
New Bill in Uganda Becomes One of the Harshest Anti-LGBTQ+ Legislation in the World
On a vote of 387 to 2, Uganda’s Parliament approved the so-called, Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2023. The bill in its current form imposes death penalty and life-imprisonment sentences for gay sex, up to 14 years for “attempted” homosexuality, and 20 years in jail for “recruitment, promotion and funding” of same-sex “activities”. Most of these acts are already crimes regardless of gender under the Ugandan penal code, but the death penalty has been added to this bill to target cases in which the perpetrator and victim are of the same sex. President Museveni congratulated lawmakers and religious leaders on what he called their “strong stand” against LGBTQ+ people. However, he sent the bill back to Parliament for changes, specifically to offer an “amnesty” for those who “renounce” homosexuality and seek “conversion”. The international community has vehemently criticized this bill as much as they did the previous Anti-Homosexuality Bill which was struck down by the country’s Supreme Court in 2014. These developments unfold as anti-gay policies and discrimination have been on the rise in several African nations, including Kenya, Ghana and Zambia.
- Amusan, L., Saka, L., & Muinat, O. A. (2019). Gay Rights and the Politics of Anti-homosexual Legislation in Africa. Journal of African Union Studies, 8(2), 45-66.
- Jjuuko, A. (2021). Global struggles, local consequences: the impact of internationalisation on local LGBT struggles in Uganda. Critical Studies on Security, 9(3), 250-253.
- Xie, N. (2010). Legislating hatred: Anti-gay sentiment in Uganda. Harvard International Review, 32(1), 6-7.
Georgia’s Foreign Agents Bill Gets Shelved Amid Massive Protests
On March 10, Georgia’s Parliament dropped plans for a “foreign agents” bill that triggered a major domestic political crisis and threatened to derail the nation’s bid for closer ties with Europe. The proposed law, “on transparency and foreign influence,” would have required civil society groups and news media outlets to register as “agents of foreign influence” if they received more than 20 percent of their funding from “a foreign power.” Failure to do so would have resulted in fines of up to $9,600. Opponents said the bill was reminiscent of a 2012 Russian law that the Kremlin has used extensively to crack down on civil society and independent media. The plans, pushed by the governing party, bolstered domestic criticism of the government as being too close to Moscow, in contrast to Georgian public opinion, which is fiercely anti-Russian. The government had defended the law as necessary to increase transparency in the funding of non-government organizations and unmask critics of the powerful Georgian Orthodox Church. It rejected comparisons with Russian legislation.
- Fawn, R. (2020). The Price and Possibilities of Going East? The European Union and Wider Europe, the European Neighbourhood and the Eastern Partnership. Managing Security Threats along the EU’s Eastern Flanks, 1-29.
- Kakabadze, S. (2020). The East in the West: South Caucasus Between Russia and the European Union. Polity, 52(2), 273-287.
- Oravec, P., & Holland, E. C. (2019). The Georgian Dream? Outcomes from the Summer of Protest, 2018. Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization, 27(2), 249-256.
Yet Another New Kuwaiti Parliament and Government
On March 19, Kuwait’s Constitutional Court threw out a 2022 election for parliament, citing “discrepancies” in the decree dissolving the 2020 parliament for its ruling. That briefly reinstated the former lawmakers for about a month. Kuwait’s Crown Prince, Sheikh Meshal al-Ahmad al-Sabah said in April 17 that the parliament reinstated based on a Constitutional Court ruling last month would be dissolved and that new legislative elections would be called in coming months. Kuwait bans political parties but has given its legislature more influence than similar bodies in other Gulf monarchies, and political stability has traditionally depended on cooperation between government and parliament. This political “stability” has come to a standstill as the country faces its seventh government in three years. Last year, Kuwait’s crown prince also dissolved parliament and called early polls in an effort to end prolonged domestic political feuding that has hindered fiscal reform. The 2022 September polls – the most inclusive in a decade – saw opposition members clinch 28 out of 50 seats, giving them a parliamentary majority. The vote marked a victory for opposition figures, many of whom had stayed out of elections in the past decade over what they alleged was meddling by the executive authorities over parliament. Political bickering and institutional gridlock have hampered investment and reforms aimed at reducing its heavy reliance on oil revenues.
- Chay, C. (2020). Parliamentary Politics in Kuwait. In Routledge Handbook Of Persian Gulf Politics (pp. 327-345). Routledge.
- Gavrielides, N. (2021). Tribal democracy: the anatomy of parliamentary elections in Kuwait. In Elections in the Middle East (pp. 153-191). Routledge.
- Mesbah, H. (2022). Tweeted Attitudes towards Women Parliamentary Candidates in Kuwait: A Social Dominance Perspective. Journal of Digital Social Research, 4(1), 98-127.