Croatian politicians were left in no doubt about the strength of feeling on the subject of abortion in the country, after remarks in pre-election debates prompted a backlash visualised by perhaps the most defiant gestures of all – the middle finger.
Miroslav Skoro of the Homeland Movement and Goran Jandrokovic of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union, both right-of-centre political forces, agreed on the issue in a TV programme ahead of the parliamentary election in July.
“In my opinion life begins at conception and should be protected”, Mr Jandrokovic said, arguing that “we should work on education to reduce abortions to the smallest possible number”.
The reaction was swift and took the form of a body-language salute by many prominent women, supported by men, to convey the offence caused.
Among the first to post an image of herself and her middle finger was the deputy mayor of the Croatian town of Osijek, Zana Gamos.
“My dear, here is a lady’s response to the gentlemanly thinking of geniuses who have advice about what a raped woman should do. Go get some advice!”, she posted on Facebook along with #mistressofmyownbody.
Former President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic also used the gesture to express her feelings: “I am joining all the women who are showing their stance with this ‘impolite’ gesture and raising their voice against those trying to take us back centuries. The times when a woman sat in the corner and waited for what the ‘guy’ would say are well and truly gone.”
Abortion is legal in Croatia but there are fears it is becoming less available under pressure from the Catholic Church and activists.
After the Constitutional Court gave the government a two-year deadline in 2017 to draft a bill outlining new regulations on the right to abortion, as the current law drawn up in former Yugoslavia has been in force since 1978, the bill is still being debated in parliament.
Recommendations by a working group which looked at the legal framework in other EU countries include safeguarding a woman’s right to abortion, possibly increasing the deadline for termination from the current 10 weeks to 12 weeks, and enshrining the conscientious objection in law.
The abortion rate in Croatia has fallen considerably, from over 25,000 in 1993 to 2,558 in 2018, something that has prompted concerns about the erosion of women’s rights.
This update is an excerpt from a BBC article.