On September 27th 2017, RHM’s Director, Dr Shirin Heidari, participated in the panel discussion “Contextualising Populism and its Effects on SRHR” during the 2017 EuroNGOs Conference in Brussels, Belgium, where she talked about the causes and consequences of rising right-wing populism, particularly in Europe, and discussed the political implications for SRHR.
Dr Heidari situated reactions to progressive change against a background of growing economic inequalities, as well as a progressive shift in cultural values, which is believed to have unleashed these renewed attacks on women’s and LGBT rights. She went on to discuss the term, “gender ideology” invented by anti-feminist forces, explaining how it has served populist rhetoric to oversimplify complex matters related to gender, sexuality and reproductive rights, while reinforcing the binary opposition of “us vs them” used by populists. The attempted One of Us Initiative, the rejection of the Estrela Report on SRHR and the renewed Global Gag Rule exemplify the anti-feminist climate, with implications for women’s SRHR, as well as democracy. At the same, there has been an unprecedented reaction to these backlashes from leaders and governments, illustrated by efforts such as the She Decides Initiative as well as unparalleled mobilisations at the grassroot level. There is also more visible high-level resistance, with more and more politicians and governments endorsing feminist politics and standing up for women’s rights and SRHR. This resistance, Dr Heidari concluded, is partly a result of SRHR gaining a “more visible and prominent place in the SDGs, pointing to the recognition that realizing sexual and reproductive health and rights are imperative for meeting our development goals.”