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Tags Current Affairs

Green handkerchief and pro-abortion movement

Date: 03 January 2021 Tags: Miscellaneous


Argentina recently became the largest Latin American country to legalise abortion up to the 14th week of pregnancy.



The decision is ground-breaking given that the majority Roman Catholic country had some of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws.



  • While Argentina’s president Alberto Fernandez gave the final push to the bill, the legalisation of abortion is a victory of a growing grassroots women’s movement.

  • Thousands of pro-abortion supporters waved green handkerchief, which had become a sign of resilience and grit across Latin America. It is called ‘La Marea Verde’ or the ‘Green Wave’.

  • Although it isn’t clear exactly when the pro-abortion movement in Argentina became associated with green handkerchiefs, over the years, as the movement gained momentum and spread across Latin America, the two have become intrinsically linked.

  • In 2018, when the Argentine Congress was to consider the bill to legalise abortion, the country had seen thousands of women of all ages taking to the streets — with green handkerchiefs, green posters, green flags — as they demanded the passage of the bill.


Earlier movements

  • Prior to that, pro-choice activists had campaigned for years to change the abortion laws that date from 1921, adopting a green scarf as their symbol.

  • Worn as a mask, head-scarf, or around the wrist, the green colour symbolises the fight for women’s rights and autonomy.

  • It is also said that the handkerchief as a symbol of women’s rights and resistance was inspired by the grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo at Buenos Aires in Argentina, who donned white kerchiefs to protest against the killings and kidnappings during the dictatorship.


Significance of the new law

  • In Argentina, prior to the passing of the bill, terminations were allowed in only two instances: rape, and danger to the mother’s life.

  • The new bill provides for a greater autonomy and control for women over their own bodies, their reproductive rights, and also provides better healthcare for pregnant women and young mothers.

  • Before this historic judgement, females had to undergo illegal and unsafe procedures for abortion clandestinely. 


Situation in other countries of Latin America

  • In most countries, such as Brazil, abortions are only permitted in extremely limited circumstances such as rape or risk to the mother’s life, while in some, such as the Dominican Republic, they are banned altogether.

  • In El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, women can even be sentenced to jail for having a forced abortion and even miscarriage.

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