On May 11th 2018 Guatemala Together for Yes, held our first and only event, in solidarity with the referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment of the Irish consititution. The Irish community in Guatemala is small and disperse but we managed to gather for one night to share our stories and perspectives about how our lives and the lives of people we love have been impacted by the 8th Amendment. None of the Irish present in Antigua, Guatemala that night would be #hometovote, having lived a broad for so long. Nevertheless, the message from all was clear, the 8th Amendment is a remnant of an Ireland that is long gone, an Ireland dominated by a rigid Catholic morality that left little compassion or understanding for anyone who strayed, willingly or otherwise, off the path of the righteous, it must go.
These are the messages from the Irish in Guatemala about why it’s time to repeal the 8th Amendment and why we need you to be our yes:
Leah Desmond, Cork of Doctors for Choice “I was 17 when the Divorce referendum was held in Ireland. I was working as a doctor in rural Malawi when the Marriage equality referendum was held. Now, a referendum on a topic I have campaigned and advocated for for years is being held and I am on the other side of the world in Guatemala. I’m devastated that I can’t stand on the streets of Cork with my Together for yes T-shirt on but I have so much belief in the wisdom and compassion of the Irish people that ultimately where I am won’t matter a bit.”
Neal Hegarty, Cork, Permaculture Farmer in Tzununá Guatemala: “It is tough to be away from Ireland for such an important vote. It was very moving to go to this event in Antigua Guatemala, and hear the testimonies of different women all effected by a law which in my opinion violates the human rights of women all over the world. Its one thing to intellectually understand the repercussions of the 8th amendment and similar laws in other countries, but its quiet another to hear first hand, heart felt testimony.
We heard from a Guatemalan doctor, who treats women who have suffered brutalities like having corrosive liquids injected into them by backstreet illegal clinics, we heard the tale of a Guatemalan woman, who when living Ireland fell pregnant. Young alone and afraid she turned to a supposedly anonymous helpline for guidance. After admiting that she wished to terminate the pregnancy she had to suffer brutal and relentless harassment from a priest, who resorted to sending her baby cloths and a plastic foetes, calling her a whore and calling the abortion clinic under the pretense of being her boyfriend to try to cancel the procedure. We heard these stories and many more, and we knew that we had not even scratched the surface. I felt grateful to be in the presence of such strong women, but I also felt a sense of powerlessness. Powerless to prevent the wave of propaganda that tells us that women’s bodies are not their own, powerless to alleviate the needless suffering of millions of women because of attachment to some antiquated belief. And, that is the worst thing about being away from home, I cant vote. So, if you read this, and your on the fence about voting, please take the time. Go and vote and stand in solidarity with our sisters and mothers all over the world. Thank you.”
Tom Smith, Tipperary a writer and editor currently working in Guatemala’ : “The event that was held in Antigua was a strong reminder that Ireland has to throw off the shackles of nonsensical, misogynistic laws, and re-join the rest of Europe in protecting human rights. Not being able to be at home for the vote is frustrating, but I have a lot of hope for the activism that I’ve seen going on, on the ground. I’m proud of the friends who’ve been involved, day after day. Ireland really needs to reclaim some leadership and not just be ruled by an outdated document and outdated male-dominated institutions, none of which are fit for the 21st century.”
Andrea Ramirez, from Guatemala but lived 9 years in Ireland and has participated in the Xile project: “I believe that it was a very interesting forum to share information and experiences between Guatemalan and Irish people that are affected and involved in the issue, to learn from each other. It is important to have these solidarity forums to connect people with the same purpose in different contexts. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to have my picture taken last year to be part of the X-ile project. I was very happy to participate in such a meaningful initiative that is helping to destigmatize abortion in Ireland”
Caroline McGowan, Sligo, currently travelling in Central America with her friend Ciara Egan, Laois: “For both of us here in Guatemala, not being able to vote in this referendum means that we have no voice or no say in the outcome regardless of how strongly we feel. Not being able to vote by proxy means that thousands of Irish people, who I’m sure will return home some day, have no input into the outcome of a referendum which has the possibility of changing Ireland for the better: for our right to choose what we do with our bodies.”
And the final reflection from me: “The fact that I cannot participate in the #HomeToVote movement is frustrating to say the least. Catholic Ireland alienated me to the degree that as soon as I was old enough, I left. Now the Church’s last bastion of power over Irish life could finally be broken, and I do not have a say. I do my best from far away, blogging, writing, tweeting and retweeting, donating what I can to the Repeal/Together for Yes campaigns and ARC, even organising the Guatemala Together for yes event on May 11th, but it never feels like enough. Enough would mean I was at home canvassing, having the difficult conversations with friends over cups of Barry’s Tea and a digestive. But life had had other plans so for the moment I do what I can on the sidelines. I am hopeful that on the 25th of May, 35 years later Irish people will put rights before dogma, equality before fundamentalisms and compassion before fear. I am hopeful that I will be returning to a country where I will no longer feel like a second class citizen and where my right to bodily autonomy is finally respected. Where there is no longer the possibility of another Ann Lovett, Joanne Hayes, Miss X or Savita Halappanavar. Repealing the 8th is a vital step towards justice for Irish women.”
Guatemala Together for Yes on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GuateTogether4Yes/
Guatemala for Repeal on Twitter: @Guate4Repeal