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Saudi Women Drivers, Pussy Riot, Pro-Hijab Activists: Five Women's Movements to Watch

At Bustle, we’re excited about Saudi women's driving rights, Amira Osman Hamed's desire to go outside with her hair uncovered, and any number of the other women's movements taking the world by storm. Now, we know it’s fun to talk about Femen’s topless protests and latest scandals — after all, getting media attention and publicity is one of the reasons for the group’s notoriety. The group recently further expanded internationally, opening offices in the United Kingdom and in Turkey to recruit more women for its topless provocations. But what’s not clear to us is what Femen wants, other than publicity, and why the group often goes out of its way to tell women around the world that it knows what’s best for them.

So instead, we decided to bring you five other women’s movements worth watching. We don’t want to call them “feminist” because some of these groups might not identify as such. But each movement embodies a fight for women to be the primary decision-makers over what happens with their bodies and their lives, according to whatever traditions or mores they subscribe to. From imprisoned punk-rock feminists to the fight for the hijab in France, here are five battles for women’s rights that you should be paying attention to.

Chile's Abortion Rights Struggle

In July, Chilean president Sebastian Pinera came under fire from women's rights groups when he said that an 11-year-old who had been raped and impregnated by her mother's partner showed "depth and maturity" for wanting to carry the pregnancy to term.

Chile has some of the world's most restrictive abortion laws in the world, and the procedure is illegal under all circumstances. After this highly-publicized incident there was a renewed push for abortion rights in the largely-Catholic Latin American nation, including massive protests. Chile is one of only two South American nations where abortion is illegal under all circumstances. The country legalized divorce in 2004.

Photo via Flickr user Santiago Times.

Girls Like Us

Former People.com editor Janet Mock came out as transgender in 2011, in an essay for Marie Claire. Mock said she made the decision to come out after a string of suicides by queer youth. Her high-profile coming out raised awareness for the transgender civil rights movement and gave newfound visibility to trans women of color.

After revealing her story, Mock became an outspoken activist and started a Twitter campaign with the hashtag GirlsLikeUs to connect and empower women with similar stories.

Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Hair Covering Battles

In Ethiopia and in France, women are fighting battles over what they are allowed to do with their hair.

In Ethiopia, Amira Osman Hamed was sentenced to 40 lashes for walking around with her hair uncovered — something forbidden by Ethiopian law. Before, she had already been in trouble with the law for wearing trousers. But Hamed says the law is unjust and not uniformly enforced, often targeting poorer, more vulnerable women.

France, on the other hand, has a ban on the niqab, or full face veil, in public, and a ban on the hijab in public schools. This comes into conflict with the beliefs of parts of France's Muslim population, some members of which believe that the hijab or niqab is a religious requirement for women going out in public. Though women in the two countries are fighting opposite fights, at the core both want the desire to express themselves as they see fit.

Bruno Vincent/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Driving Rights in Saudi Arabia

Saudi women are set to take to the streets in cars on Saturday to fight for driving rights in the Gulf nation. The country has no way for women to get driving licenses, and just recently a Saudi cleric even claimed that driving hurts women's ovaries.

In April, Saudi Arabia allowed women to ride bicycles — but only for recreation, not as a means of transportation.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Pussy Riot

The feminist group-cum-punk rock band earned the ire of Russian authorities for speaking out against government repression of all stripes, as well as for women's and LGBT issues.

Two of its members are currently serving out the tail ends of their prison terms for filming a music video in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The song's lyrics included a chorus that went, "Virgin Mary, Mother of God, become a feminist. Become a feminist, become a feminist."

Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
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