Category Archives: Asia News


Rahaf al-Qunun: Unpicking the tweets that may have saved her life

By Emmanuel Justices

On the evening of Saturday, 5 January, a desperate situation began to unravel on a newly created Twitter account.

Fleeing her Saudi family in Kuwait, Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, sent out a series of tweets pleading for help from an airport hotel room in Bangkok.

At the time she had 24 followers.

“I’m the girl who ran away to Thailand. I’m now in real danger because the Saudi embassy is trying to force me to return,” her first-ever tweet in Arabic read.

Then she said something that would be hard to ignore: “I’m afraid. My family will kill me.”

People noticed and the first tweet with the hashtag #SaveRahaf was sent out.

Within minutes of that, Egyptian-American activist Mona Eltahawy translated the Arabic tweets into English and sent it to her hundreds of thousands of followers.

A few hours later that tweet caught the attention of Human Rights Watch and eventually Phil Robertson, its Bangkok-based Asia deputy director, who sent this out.‏

By the early hours of Sunday he was engaged in a direct Twitter message exchange with Ms Mohammed al-Qunun, guiding the young woman in her dealings with authorities at the airport.


Despite that she kept up her barrage, live tweeting every minute of her ordeal and putting out videos that showed everything that was happening to her at the airport. Over the course of Sunday, her posts became more and more fevered.

The fear and desperation she conveyed through the tweets drew sympathy and support from the Twitter community.

Tweets carrying the #SaveRahaf hashtag continued to gain momentum and by mid-Sunday afternoon, it was in more than half a million tweets, according to Twitter.

An unknown teenager from Saudi Arabia that no-one had ever heard of had gone from 24 followers to more than 27,000 in the span of less than 24 hours.

The story of Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun

“When I heard Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun’s public statement that she renounced her religion, I knew things would go very bad for her if she was sent back to Saudi Arabia,” Human Rights Watch’s Phil Robertson told BBC News.

“At that point, there was no question in my mind – she needed our help.”

Renouncing Islam, or apostasy, is a crime punishable by death in Saudi Arabia.

The movement to help Ms Mohammed al-Qunun’s life gathered huge momentum, particularly in Australia, where her case is now being referred to for possible resettlement.

“Twitter aims to provide a platform where marginalised voices can be seen and heard. This is fundamental to who we are and crucial to the effectiveness of our service,” an official statement to the BBC read.

This is where it gets dramatic

On Monday morning, the situation took a turn for the worse, with the arrival of Thai immigration authorities at Ms Mohammed al-Qunun’s hotel room to deport her to Kuwait.

Following their direct message exchange on Twitter, Ms Mohammed al-Qunun heeded the advice of Human Rights Watch not to surrender her mobile phone under any circumstances.

And it proved to be a crucial piece of advice.


End of Twitter post by @DrTalebJawad

The frantic teenager barricaded herself in with Australian journalist Sophie McNeill, refusing to board the flight. Instead, she relentlessly continued documenting the ordeal on Twitter.

After that her followers doubled in number to more than 66,400.

The BBC’s South East Asia correspondent Jonathan Head, who was part of a network of foreign journalists closely charting Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun’s case, said the enormous publicity driven by social media was a big factor in what happened to her.

“Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun was a frightened, young woman. Interest in Rahaf’s plight drove her own Twitter following up by the time Thai authorities planned to deport her on Monday morning.

“This was a very powerful human story happening in real time, whose ending was uncertain.”


End of Twitter post by @pakhead

“In building support and response to crisis situations, Twitter was the perfect social media tool for Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun because it enabled the rapid sharing of information,” Phil Robertson added.

“The surge of support on Twitter [not only] caught the attention of reporters and editors, it helped engage the mainstream Thai media.

“Her tweets also attracted attention from local diplomats as well as the highest levels of UNHCR and governments to the situation.

“This was all pivotal in prompting Thailand to re-think their approach once it was clear that Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun would not go quietly.”

“As of Sunday night Thai officials were adamant she would be sent back and Thai media had still not reported the story, by Monday morning that had changed,” said the BBC’s Jonathan Head.

Today Ms Mohammed al-Qunun is safe, having been declared a legitimate refugee by the UN.

Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun is escorted by Thai immigration and UN officials at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi international airport in Bangkok
Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun flanked by immigration and UN officials at Bangkok’s airport

Young and social-savvy, Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun was able to take things into her own hands by successfully mobilising a solid online campaign to protect herself.

She has come out of this ordeal with 126,000 followers on Twitter in the five days her account has been active.

In another case where social media was used in a similar way a Syrian man stranded at a Malaysian airport for months managed to successfully seek asylum in Canada after campaigning for his cause on Twitter and Facebook.

But not everyone facing a threat to their life has been as lucky.

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Kim Jong-un leaves China with ‘backing for second Trump summit’


After his surprise visit to China, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un left with backing for a possible second summit with US President Donald Trump, state media said.

Mr Trump and Mr Kim first met last June, but progress over denuclearisation has since stalled.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said he hoped the two leaders “meet each other halfway”, Xinhua news agency reported

China is the North’s main ally and key trade partner.

Mr Xi said China supported North Korea and the US “holding summits and achieving results, and supports relevant parties resolving their respective legitimate concerns through dialogue”.

He also said China would be ready to play a “positive and constructive role” towards maintaining peace and achieving denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula, reported Xinhua.

Mr Kim made what is believed to be his first official trip outside North Korea to China last year, even before meeting South Korea’s President Moon and Mr Trump. The recent visit is Mr Kim’s fourth to China in less than a year.

A train believed to be carrying North Korean leader Kim Jong Un leaves Beijing Railway Station in Beijing, China, January 9, 2019, in this still image taken from Reuters TV footage.
A train believed to be carrying the North Korean leader departs Beijing Railway Station on Wednesday

During his three-day visit to China, Mr Kim and his wife Ri Sol-ju were welcomed by Mr Xi and his wife with a banquet and an art performance. He also visited a pharmaceutical plant specialising in Chinese medicine.

The trip is believed to have taken place over Mr Kim’s 35th birthday.

Mr Xi accepted an offer to visit North Korea, state media said. It is still unclear when this would take place.

‘Concern’ over denuclearisation

Mr Kim had said in his annual new year’s speech in January that he remained committed to denuclearisation , but warned that he would change course if US sanctions remained.

According to North Korean’s official KCNA agency China supported the North’s position.

“Xi Jinping said that the legitimate issues raised by the DPRK are rightful demands and that he fully agrees that the DPRK’s reasonable interests should be justly resolved,” it said, using the official country name the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

It is not clear when or where a possible second Kim-Trump summit would take place, though South Korean president Moon Jae-in has said it will happen “soon”.

Mr Moon, who has over the past year played mediator between North Korea and the US, said at a news conference on Thursday that Seoul would cooperate with the US in resolving the issue of sanctions on North Korea.

Donald Trump (R) gestures as he meets with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (L)
Mr Trump and Mr Kim met in Singapore last year

There has been little progress made between the US and North Korea since the historic Singapore summit in June – the first ever meeting between a North Korean leader and a sitting US president.

Both parties signed a pledge at the time to denuclearise the Korean peninsula, though it was never made clear what this would entail.

Pyongyang wants Washington to lift the sanctions the United Nations imposes on the country because of its nuclear and missile programmes.

North Korea argues that the US needs to match the steps it has taken towards denuclearisation, namely dismantling a nuclear testing site and a key missile engine facility.

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Is affirmative action in India becoming a gimmick?


India’s affirmative action programme is one of most comprehensive in the world.

It is built into the country’s 68-year-old constitution, and reserves seats in parliament and state assemblies for the country’s most socially disadvantaged groups, as well as government jobs and places in educational institutions.

“Reservations” or quotas have been given to the caste-based groups – mainly Dalits (previously known as “untouchables”) and tribespeople – to rectify historical wrongs perpetrated by the country’s harsh and toxic Hindu caste hierarchy. There’s ample evidence to prove that these quotas have helped to empower and uplift the socially deprived.

The programme is also controversial. Identity and caste-based groups clamour for fresh quotas as formal jobs and quality education remain chronically scarce. This has forced the Supreme Court to cap reservations at 50% of the total jobs and seats. No wonder affirmative action has become a tool for politicians to win quick votes.

Earlier this week, fresh evidence of this surfaced when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP-led government proposed that 10% of government jobs and seats in educational institutions should be reserved for economically-backward upper caste citizens – those who earn less than 800,000 rupees ($11,500) annually and own less than five acres of land.

Since all parties are complicit in mining caste to dole out patronage, few MPs resisted this move. A bill to amend the constitution to allow for the new quotas was passed by the lower house in a record 48 hours. The upper house passed it late on Wednesday.

The timing of the move is evidently suspect.

The BJP is facing crucial general elections in a few months. The shock defeat of the ruling party in three major states recently has energised – and united – the often fractious opposition ahead of the summer elections. Mr Modi, a charismatic campaigner and his party’s prime vote-getter, no longer looks unbeatable. Formal jobs have dried up, and farmers across the country are struggling because of poor crop prices.

“This is an eleventh-hour ploy to shape a pre-election economic narrative,” says Milan Vaishnav, a senior fellow and director of the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Indian women from the 'dalit' or 'lower caste' shout slogans during a Dalit Dignity Rally against Congress-led UPA government near Parliament House in New Delhi on December 6, 2013. Hu
India’s historically deprived communities have been the main beneficiaries of quotas

It is difficult to argue otherwise. India’s economy may be reasonably buoyant, but the rising tide is no longer lifting all boats. Put simply, there aren’t enough jobs.

To make matters worse, the country lost 11 million jobs last year, according to a startling report by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy. People in both cities and villages have been hit. Two-thirds of Indians live in villages, where the majority of the job losses have taken place. Even people belonging to politically influential, upper caste groups have fallen upon hard times.

Wooing back voters

Mr Modi’s party hopes that this quota announcement will help it woo back the upper castes – traditionally the party’s faithful base – who are now economically struggling because of a lack of jobs and a sluggish business environment. But, as Pratap Bhanu Mehta, vice-chancellor at Ashoka University, says, announcing a quota to tackle what is essentially a dire jobs crisis is “cynical politics, cynical policy”.

Many believe it is cynical because it will be difficult for Mr Modi’s government to honour this promise. For one thing, there isn’t enough time to enforce it before the elections, which must be held by May. Secondly, this move may still run into legal challenges, and the top court may yet strike it down. Thirdly, it could trigger another wave of affirmative action demands from other groups like minorities and women.

A member of the Indian 'Jat' community smokes a hukka pipe as activists take part in a protest in New Delhi on March 15, 2011.
India’s top court in 2016 struck down a government move to reserve jobs for the powerful Jat caste

Most importantly, there aren’t enough government jobs to honour the quota. There were 17 million jobs in the government in 2012, down from 19 million in 1991.

“The fact is that an increasing number of people in India are clamouring for a consistently shrinking number of government jobs. More people want a slice, but the pie is getting smaller each year. This may be good politics, but it also reflects a sense of desperation about India’s jobless growth trajectory,” says Mr Vaishnav.

The summer elections will prove whether it’s good politics. After all, as political scientist D Shyam Babu says, Indian voters are astute. “They are very suspicious of pre-election promises of this kind”.

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Black Nazarene: Thousands join annual statue parade in Manila

Vast crowds of people have turned out on the streets of Manila in the Philippines for the procession of the Black Nazarene.

The annual event sees hundreds of thousands of people trying to catch a glimpse of the historic statue of Jesus of Nazareth.

The Black Nazarene is carried into place by devotees in Manila (9 Jan 2019)
The statue was carved in Mexico and arrived in the Philippines in the 17th Century, surviving a fire on board a ship on the way. It is one of the Philippines’ most revered devotional objects.

Crowds in Manila surround the Black Nazarene statue (9 Jan 2019)
It now resides for most of the year in a church in Quiapo district. But every January it is carried on a 7km (4.5 mile) route through the streets of the capital.

Catholics stand on each others' shoulders to try to touch the statue in Manila (9 Jan 2019)
Hundreds of thousands of people turn out to see it. Devotees – who go barefoot – believe touching or being close to the statue can cure illnesses or bring good luck.

A man's face is seen among a pile of people in Manila, Philippines (9 Jan 2019)
The Philippines is a deeply Catholic country, and many devotees are prepared to risk serious injury for a chance of getting close to the Black Nazarene.

An unconscious devotee is carried through the crowd on a stretcher (9 Jan 2019)
The Philippine Red Cross said that by mid-morning they had treated more than 600 people for conditions like breathing problems, fainting and bruises. Three people were taken to hospital.

A man holds a replica of the Black Nazarene in Manila (7 Jan 2019)
the days before the procession, the statue is blessed at the church in Quiapo. Many people bring along their replicas for blessing too.

Catholics holds up a replica of the Black Nazarene at a blessing in Manila (7 Jan 2019)
Church officials say the procession is a sign of the thriving faith of Catholic Filipinos and that amid the chaos there is also a sense of serenity, AFP reports.

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US and North Korea negotiating location for second summit – Trump

Image captionEPA
President Trump spoke to reporters before leaving for Camp David, Maryland

US President Donald Trump has said that a location for another summit with North Korea is being negotiated.

Mr Trump told reporters in Washington DC that “a good dialogue” was taking place with North Korea, but sanctions on Pyongyang would remain in place.

Mr Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last June, the first such meeting for a sitting US president.

No tangible progress has been achieved so far on the main US goal: North Korea’s denuclearisation.

President Trump said last week that he had received a “great letter” from Mr Kim, although he did not reveal its contents.

“We are negotiating a location,” he told reporters at the White House on Sunday.

“It will be announced probably in the not too distant future. They do want to meet and we want to meet and we’ll see what happens.”

He said the US had “a very good dialogue” with North Korea, adding that he had “indirectly spoken” with Mr Kim.

Mr Trump said US sanctions would remain “in full force and effect” until the US saw “very positive” results.

Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump at the June summit in Singapore
AFP Progress has stalled since the Singapore summit

At the June summit in Singapore, the two leaders signed an agreement to work towards the denuclearisation of the peninsula. But it did not include a timeline, details or any mechanisms to verify the process.

In a closely watched New Year’s Day address, Mr Kim said he was still committed to denuclearisation but warned that if the US did not lift sanctions he would consider taking a different path.

The North reacted angrily last month when the US slapped fresh sanctions on three senior officials, after a report revealed a raft of human rights abuses.

Pyongyang expressed “shock and indignation” at the new US measures, saying that the US policy of “maximum pressure” would be its “greatest miscalculation”.

North Korea is also subject to various sets of United Nations Security Council sanctions related to its banned nuclear and ballistic missile weapons programmes.

Van ploughs into Tokyo pedestrians headed for New Year’s prayers

AFPPolicemen stand next to a car which ploughed into pedestrians on New Year day in Tokyo, Japan, January 1, 2019.
A male student is in critical condition after the incident

A small van has ploughed into pedestrians celebrating the new year on one of Tokyo’s most famous streets.

The man driving the car fled the scene but was later arrested by police for attempted murder.

Nine people were injured, one seriously, by the attacker who struck in the Harajuku fashion district shortly after midnight.

The street, which was sealed off to traffic, was packed with people heading to a shrine for New Year’s prayers.

The 21-year-old driver of the van was identified as Kazuhiro Kusakabe.

Police told broadcaster NHK that he initially told them he had conducted a terrorist act, but then later claimed it was related to executions. It was not clear if he was referring to a specific execution or capital punishment in general.

Kyodo news agency cites investigative sources saying a tank of kerosene had been found in his car and that he had allegedly planned to burn down the vehicle.

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AFPTakeshita Street sign with ambulance in the background

Takeshita Street in Shibuya ward is a popular shopping area known for its quirky fashion and youth culture. It also attracts international tourists in large numbers.

NHK footage showed the van with a smashed front and paramedics carrying the injured on stretchers into ambulances.

Eight people were hit by the car with one of them, a male student in critical condition in hospital.

A ninth person was assaulted by the driver after he got out of the vehicle.

Anak Krakatau: Indonesia flights rerouted as volcano alert level raised


This picture taken on December 26, 2018 shows the Anak (Child) Krakatoa volcano erupting,
There are still fears that another eruption could happen

The alert level for Indonesia’s Anak Krakatau volcano has been raised to the second-highest level possible, after a series of eruptions.

All flights around the volcano have been rerouted and a 5km (three-mile) exclusion zone has also been imposed.

Indonesia’s disaster management agency (BNPB) said the alert level had been raised from level two to three because of the increased volcanic activity.

Last Saturday, the volcano triggered a tsunami which killed hundreds.

“The volcanic activity of Anak Krakatau continues to increase,” said BNPB in a press statement, citing data from the Volcanological Survey of Indonesia.

“The danger zone [has been] extended from 2km to 5km… people and tourists are prohibited from carrying out activities within a 5km radius.”

Yuni was forced to run from the water
Yuni was forced to run from the water

How are flights being disrupted?

Air traffic control agency AirNav Indonesia said it was closing flight routes because the volcanic ash Krakatau was spewing meant the situation was on “red alert”.

An AirNav operations manager told the BBC that between 20 and 25 flights were affected, including some international flights to and from Australia, Singapore and the Middle East.

He said that the disruption was likely to be minimal, although passengers may experience longer journeys and aircraft may need more fuel because of the diversions.

BBC map

What is happening with the volcano?

Authorities say that Anak Krakatau has become increasingly active with what are known as Strombolian eruptions – short-lived, explosive blasts of lava – being emitted.

BNPB has now imposed a 5km exclusion zone around the volcano, which rises from the sea in the Sunda Straits between Java and Sumatra.

Nobody is believed to be inside that danger zone, but residents that live on both sides of the strait are being told to stay away from beaches due to fears of another tsunami.

Strong winds are carrying thin volcanic ash spewed by the volcano to neighbouring areas, but authorities have stressed this is “not dangerous” and are advising residents to wear masks and goggles.

The volcano has been rumbling on and off since July but has been particularly active since last week.

The agency adds that there may be a new crater hole under the sea and that explosions are ongoing, with eruption sounds heard several times a minute.

What happened with the tsunami?

On Saturday, vast waves engulfed coastal towns on the islands of Sumatra and Java leaving at least 430 dead and more than 150 missing.

It destroyed hundreds of buildings, sweeping away cars and uprooting trees in several popular tourist destinations.

At least 16,000 people still remain displaced and rescue workers are struggling to reach remote areas of the country that have been hit by the tsunami.

Thousands of people are living in temporary shelters like mosques of schools, with dozens sleeping on the floor. A state of emergency will stay in place until 4 January.

Residents evacuate from Sebesi Island at Tennis Court Kalianda in South Lampung, Indonesia on December 26, 2018
Thousands have been displaced and are living at makeshift shelters

According to some evacuees, clean water, fresh clothes and blankets are in short supply.

Aid is only starting to just reach the town of Sumur that was cut off by the tsunami, with volunteers having to piece together makeshift bridges out of concrete blocks to reach the area, reports say.

It is believed that volcanic activity from Anak Krakatau set off undersea landslides which in turn generated the killer waves.

tsunami graphic

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Indonesia is prone to tsunamis because it lies on the Ring of Fire – the line of frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that circles virtually the entire Pacific Rim.

In September, more than 2,000 people died when a powerful earthquake struck just off the central Indonesian island of Sulawesi, setting off a tsunami that engulfed the coastal city of Palu.

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Anak Krakatau tsunami: The moment a child was swept from her mum27 December 2018

Is Catholic Church’s influence in Philippines fading?

Catholics hold up statuettes of Jesus
The Roman Catholic church has deep roots in Philippine society

The Catholic church plays a powerful role in the Philippines but last month it lost a significant battle in its bid to prevent a government-backed family planning programme. Aurora Almendral asks if the church is losing its grip on the islands.

In the last five years, Jennievic Betana, who is just 24 years old, has been pregnant four times.

She lives with her three surviving children in a small, crumbling cement-block house together with two brothers and husband, Buboy, in the vast slum of Bagong Silang in northern Manila.

Buboy, a barber, earns about 300 pesos (£4, $7) a day, two-thirds of which goes to feeding the family. The burden of the extra mouths to feed is considerable.

To avoid adding to their family, Jennievic and her husband rely on the calendar method, an arrangement that nevertheless resulted in the last two unplanned pregnancies.

A practising Catholic, Jennievic knows that contraception is a sin in the eyes of the church, but says she is willing to take the spiritual risk for more immediate financial concerns.

“I want to use birth control,” Jennievic says, “but after paying for food, electricity and water, there’s nothing left. I’ll use it, even though I know it’s a sin.

“If [the Church] were to help us once the children are here, then sure, I’ll have more children. But they don’t.”

Jennievic’s story is typical of many in the Philippines which has one of the highest population growth rates in Asia.

Currently, the country is adding nearly two million people every year to its 100-million-strong population. This is putting a massive strain on resources, especially for the poorest among whom much of the recent growth has been concentrated.

There is also the issue of illegal abortions, of which there are an estimated 600,000 a year. Some 90,000 of the women having these procedures are later hospitalised and about 1,000 die.

Jennievic Betana
ennievic Betana and two of her children

Ugly episodes

This issue was recognised many years ago, when the Reproductive Health Bill was introduced in the Philippine congress back in 1999.

Its aim was straightforward, to provide contraceptives to those who wanted and most needed them. But it has proved to be one of the most divisive issues to have been debated by congress in recent history.

Conservative politicians opposed the bill and were backed by a horrified Catholic Church which fought against contraceptives from the pulpit and in the streets.

“There were some ugly episodes,” says Risa Hontiveros, a former congresswoman, women’s rights activist and prominent supporter of the bill.

Priests denied communion to community health workers, campaigned against politicians supportive of the bill, and even threatened President Benigno Aquino III with excommunication.

The ensuing battle dragged on for years.

With 81% of Filipinos defining themselves as Catholic, the country’s culture and society is intimately intertwined with the teaching of the church.

Laws are often framed around Catholic values. Alcohol and cigarettes are taxed for being “sins”.

Protestors in Philippines in favour of a bill providing contraception to the poor
The battle over legislation providing contraception to the poor was hard-fought

Abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage are deeply frowned upon, and the Philippines is the only country in the world, besides Vatican City, where divorce remains illegal.

Fight from the pulpit

The Church has long wielded much more than spiritual influence.

In a show of formidable political power, the Church rallied the faithful to help overthrow Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, a feat it repeated in 2001 to oust then-president Joseph Estrada.

When the church’s final legal challenge to the bill was overturned, the defeat had some in the Catholic Church, worried.

Archbishop Oscar Cruz, who has twice served as president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, the church’s governing body, admits that the passing of the bill “shows that the church is losing influence over its members”.

According to Allen Surla, professor of political science at De La Salle University, a Catholic institution, this is to do with the changing media landscape.

Under the Marcos dictatorship, he says, the pulpit was the main source of information, dissenting or otherwise.

Nun protesting the reproductive bill in Philippines
The church campaigned against the bill in the pulpit and the street

These days, the church’s teachings are vying for influence with many other sources of opinion in newspapers, radio, TV and the web.

“People are much more socially aware now than they were 20 or 30 years ago,” says Prof Surla.

Church ‘too controlling’

Despite its efforts to demonise contraception, widespread support for the church’s position never materialised. A poll taken in 2010 found that 70% of Filipinos supported the bill.

Corazon Quinalayo, 52, a homemaker just leaving mass at Quiapo Church, one of Manila’s most holy sites, says she does not support the reproductive health bill, but nor does she agree with the church hierarchy.

She believes making contraceptives available for free is an endorsement of promiscuity and a waste of government funds.

But she says the church is “being too controlling. It’s like they’re not giving people their freedom.”

Quinalayo adds that, however misguided, “the government is just trying to help”.

The 9 April decision of the Philippine Supreme Court to unanimously uphold the constitutionality of the law is seen as a victory in the eyes of women’s rights activists and other supporters, who rallied outside the courthouse.

Risa Hontiveros says the mood after the announcement was “ecstatic”.

“There was cheering, crying and unadulterated joy. This was the fight of our lives,” she says.

Big fights ahead

As a Catholic herself, Hontiveros says it was painful to see the church try to assert its power over women’s bodies, but says she never felt conflicted about her support for the bill.

“This will assist the majority of Filipinos who are poor,” she says.

“They won’t be overwhelmed by too many children. They won’t be snowed under by the demands of the every day. It will improve maternal health and allow women to pursue more education or livelihoods.”

Meanwhile, the church, licking its wounds, is looking ahead to other battles to fight.

“Contraception is no longer the issue. It’s passe,” says Archbishop Cruz, predicting further fights over divorce, abortion and same-sex marriage.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he says, “because it’s going to be a big fight.”

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