One Step Forwards, Two Steps Back: Women Tango with Reproductive Rights

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 10, No. 9, September 2022

RiseUp4AbortionRights protest in Lafayette Square, September 2022. Source: Victoria Pickering via Flickr.

Stephanie Wild
University of Cape Town

It is often assumed that progress is linear. This assumption is seen when looking at human rights. The usual formula begins with an activist group. Members of civil society take action to change injustices that they see within society. At the point where civil disobedience and protest becomes unmanageable, government officials are pressured into making legislative changes. From there, a societal mind-shift occurs. At this stage, disenfranchisement becomes frowned upon. This is the formula to progress. However, the reality is not so straight-forward. Rather, progress ebbs and flows. It is in flux. 

This is keenly seen when looking at the world’s attitude towards women’s rights and bodily autonomy. For one, the US is now reversing the steps forward taken by feminist activists in the 1970s. More specifically, in 1973 the US Supreme Court ruled that the Texas ban on abortion was unconstitutional. This case, known as Roe v. Wade, paved the way forward. The ruling did not only apply to Texas. Rather, any undue state restriction on abortion became unconstitutional. On June 24th, 2022 this all changed. The US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which removed 50 years of legal protection for women seeking safe abortions. Due to legislation in place prior to the 1973 ruling, abortion was automatically outlawed in many states as a result of the overturning. Other states took action to implement bans. As a result, abortion is now banned across a number of US states, namely Idaho, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Wisconsin, Louisiana, South Dakota, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and Kentucky. The consequence is that women today find themselves fighting the same battle fought by the activists of the early 1970s.  Continue reading

China’s Sharp Power

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 10, No. 8, August 2022

A series of paintings of communist leaders lined up along a Hong Kong road, 2016. Source: Flickr.

Roman Štěpař
Charles University

If we understand geopolitics as a “representation of space”, then the Indo-Pacific region can be seen as an emerging geopolitical hotbed in which major powers struggle not only for control but also for discourse of values and worldviews. In this particular geopolitical competition of values and mindsets, a sharp power is gradually gaining prominence, and in the Indo-Pacific region, China is at the center of the action.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the lessons of Gorbachev’s “failure” were passed on to Chinese citizens. They denounced Moscow’s ideological neglect for this catastrophe and warned that it was possible that it would happen in China as well. Chinese foreign policy has as a result been transformed. After 40 years of remarkable rise, China has now clearly demonstrated its desire to lead the world by reasserting itself in a position that its leaders consider “historically correct.”

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Political Risk to the Mining Sector in South Africa

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 10, No. 8, August 2022

Randfontein Mine, Johannesburg, November 2014. Source: Paul Raad via Flickr.

Ndzalama Cleopatra Mathebula 
Institute of Risk Management South Africa

Generally defined, political risk is the expected cost or loss incurred by a business due to political decisions, events, and actions. With the evolution of the discipline, it is not only government or organizations that can generate  political risks, but also labour unions and civil society that can emanate risks. The South African mining sector includes abundant political risk yet is an attractive investment destination given its large platinum, gold, and coal reserves.

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Rape: The Russian Tool of Conquest

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 10, No. 6, June 2022

Police uncover the body of Karina Yeshiva, 22, in Bucha. Witnesses say she was tortured, raped, and shot in the head by Russian soldiers. Source: DW.

Stephanie Wild
University of Cape Town

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, at least 4,000 civilians have been killed. Moscow has therefore been accused of targeting civilians. However, this is not the only tactic emerging. Acts of rape and sexual violence are also emerging as a weapon of war. In fact, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a report on the 3rd of June stating that they had already received allegations of 124 acts of conflict-related sexual assault in Ukraine. These reported assaults have mostly been against women and girls, ranging from gang rape, to coercion, to forcibly bearing witness to acts of sexual violence perpetrated against partners and children. Concerns surrounding human traffickers exploiting existing networks are also on the rise. A United Nations Security Council meeting, in particular, brought this to the attention of the world on June 6. 

Sexual violence being heavily associated with stigma and shame, the concern is that the actual figure is much higher than 124. A more accurate idea of the actual figure will only emerge with an end to the conflict. However, considering the number of reported sexual assaults, it is clear that Ukrainian women are the victims of sexual violence perpetrated by Russian soldiers each day. This points to a weaponization of sexual violence.  

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The Old World Order Endures

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 10, No. 6, June 2022

President Joe Biden addresses the nation in the Roosevelt Room, 2022. Source: CNN.

William R. Hawkins
President of the Hamilton Center for National Strategy

President Joe Biden has been using the term “inflection point” in his speeches. At the U.S. Naval Academy on May 27 he said, “Class of 2022, you are graduating at an inflection point not only in American history but in world history. And I mean it. The challenge we face and the choices we make are more consequential than ever. Things are changing so rapidly that the next 10 years will be the decisive decade of this century, because they’re going to shape what our world looks like and the values that will guide it not just for the immediate future, but for generations to come.” Yet, he didn’t lay out what those changes would be. He moved directly to a discussion of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, “A direct assault on the fundamental tenets of rule-based international order. That’s what you’re graduating into.” He then told them “You’ll learn to crew the most advanced ships in the world, train the most elite combat units, conduct undetected submarine missions, fly the most advanced fighter planes. But the most powerful tool that you’ll wield is our unmatched network of global alliances and the strength of our partnerships.”

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