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Abortions in Belarus: Protocols of fear


Belarus has one of the highest abortion rates in the world. Tatsiana Tkachova has met women who have broken off a pregnancy - and break a taboo in the country: they openly talk about it.

Global society

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The photographer Tatsiana Tkachova was 15 years old when she learned that her mother had an abortion. At the time, that was a shock to the teenagers. She could not understand her mother. Only many years later did Tkachova address her mother again, more cautiously this time. "While my mother was talking, she did not look me in the eye." She spoke hesitantly, almost in a whisper. Tkachova understood: Her mother had never processed abortion.

Abortions are often taboo in Belarus. Only rarely is it talked about when women quit their pregnancy. They are often stigmatized.

In this case, abortions in Belarus are not prohibited. The country's abortion rate is among the highest in the world: in 2016, 24 abortions were delivered to 100 live births - not uncommon for a country formerly part of the Soviet Union. There, the demolition was long used as a form of contraception. By comparison, in Germany, there were 12.3 abortions in 2016 for 100 births.

Photographer Tkachova went in search of women who aborted like her mother. They were willing to talk about it - and have their picture taken. She was traveling for more than six months. The names of the women in this photo story are changed. "You can only show me from behind," said one of the protagonists. "We prefer to leave the face."

A violent marriage, abuse, fear of contempt

There were reports of violence in marriage, abuse, fear, contempt, or simply the financial difficulty of feeding a child. As different as the reasons may have been for women to end their pregnancies, it is always about shame and guilt, external pressure, husband, family, doctors.

"It seemed like murder," says Tamara. She became pregnant - and was afraid of her father's reaction. Her mother gave her the money for the secret abortion. Or Natalia: She became pregnant at the time of the Chernobyl disaster and drove away for fear of deformities.

"Whole generations grew up in Belarus, without talking about sexuality and puberty," says Tkachova. There is a lack of education, and there is no psychological help for women after a termination of pregnancy. "The taboo on abortion has to stop - no woman should be ashamed of it," she says.

Read the stories of women in this photo gallery.

photo gallery

12 pictures

Abortion: shame and guilt

This article is part of the project Global Society, for which our reporters report from four continents. The project is long-term and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

What is the project Global Society?

Under the title Global Society, reporters from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe will be reporting on injustices in a globalized world, socio-political challenges and sustainable development. The reportages, analyzes, photo galleries, videos and podcasts appear in the Politics Department of SPIEGEL. The project is long-term and will be supported over three years by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).

Are the journalistic contents independent of the foundation?

Yes. The editorial content is created without the influence of the Gates Foundation.

Do other media have similar projects?

Yes. Major European media such as "The Guardian" and "El País" have created similar sections on their news pages with "Global Development" or "Planeta Futuro" with the support of the Gates Foundation.

Was there already similar projects at SPIEGEL ONLINE?

SPIEGEL ONLINE has already implemented two projects in recent years with the European Journalism Center (EJC) and the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: The "Expedition The Day After tomorrow" on Global Sustainability Goals and the journalistic refugee project "The New Arrivals" Several award-winning multimedia reports on the topics of migration and escape have emerged.

Where can I find all the publications on the Global Society?

The pieces can be found at SPIEGEL ONLINE on the topic page Global Society.

Source: spiegel

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