Leno Testifies Against Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan
Mavis Leno, member of the National Board of the Feminist Majority, today testified at a Capitol Hill forum sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to call attention to the extreme human rights violations being committed against women in Afghanistan.
Senator Dianne Feinstein spoke of gender apartheid and violations of human rights by the Taliban. “Where is the world’s outrage?” she asked. Feinstein questioned witnesses on how the United States government and the public could take a greater role in ending the Taliban’s regime and the loss of Afghani “economic and fundamental human rights.”
Since gaining power, the Taliban militia group, which now controls much of Afghanistan, has placed Afghan women under virtual house arrest. The Taliban has decreed that women and girls can no longer attend school; women are banned from employment; women are not allowed to leave their homes unless accompanied by a husband, father, brother, or son; women who do leave their homes have to be covered from head to toe in a "burqa,” with only a mesh opening to see and breath through; the windows of homes with women occupants are required to be painted opaque so the women inside cannot be seen; women are prohibited from being treated by male doctors; and women are banned from wearing white socks and shoes that make noise as they walk.
"We all took pride when the platform of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 reaffirmed that human rights are women's rights and that violence against women is a violation of human rights. Yet what good are these lofty declarations if we do not free the women of Afghanistan?" Leno declared.
In her testimony, Leno also expressed grave concerns about the planned building of a multi-billion dollar gas and oil pipeline from energy-rich Turkmenistan, through Afghanistan to Pakistan. California-based UNOCAL, a U.S. energy company, holds the largest stake in a consortium to build the pipeline. An Argentinian company, Bridas, which is in part owned by Amoco, is also vying for the pipeline. According to some estimates, the Taliban stands to gain as much as $100 million a year from the pipeline.
Judy Benjamin, Senior Technical Advisor for the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children, also testified. Benjamin spoke of her recent trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan. She relayed interviews of Afghani women who said that they “live like birds in a cage.” Benjamin spoke of the Afghani orphanage being run by a director with no previous experience, and of the frequent rapes of both boys and girls.
Other speakers included: Theresa Loar, Senior Coordinator for International Women’s Issues at the State Department, Lea Browning of We Are for Human Rights and the Working Group, Zieba Shorish-Shamley of the Women’s Alliance for Peace and Human Rights in Afghanistan, and a guest appearance by T. Kumar of Amnesty International.
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Media Resources: Feminist Majority - March 2, 1998
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