The United Nations announced last week that unless Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban militia group abolishes its decrees restricting the freedom of women and girls, U.N. aid agencies working in the nation will cease. U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Carol Bellamy said, “We have sent a clear and strong message expressing a common United Nations position.”
Bellamy recently returned from Afghanistan where she engaged in talks with Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Rabbani in preparation for U.N. talks that were to be held earlier this week. Bellamy said Taliban representatives asked that the U.N. make an effort to understand their customs and said that Western ideas could not be forced on them. Bellamy told IPS news, “I told them I was representing the United Nations, and wasn’t advocating a Western model, or any particular model they should adopt.” She added, “The U.N. message was not a Western message.”
Bellamy told the Taliban officials that she was not aware of any other country, Islamic or otherwise, that denied girls access to education. While UNICEF and other U.N. humanitarian agencies are still operating in Afghanistan, the UNICEF education program has been suspended.
The U.N. declined to meet with Taliban and other Afghan group officials after Taliban representatives refused proposed talks to be led by U.N. office for humanitarian aid to Afghanistan head Alfredo Witschi-Cestari.
Last month, Witschi-Cestari ordered the temporary termination of aid to Afghanistan as a protest to the Taliban's harassment of U.N. workers, treatment of women and decrees that foreign Muslim women must be accompanied by a husband, brother or son while in public.
U.S. government narcotics experts met with Taliban officials today to discuss the poppy cultivation in Afghanistan. Afghan farmers produced more than 2,800 tons of opium, which can produce 280 tons of pure heroin, in 1997. Taliban officials said that they would be willing to end poppy production in areas of the 85 percent of Afghanistan they control, but that they would need aid to develop new crops. Although possession and trafficking of drugs is punishable in Afghanistan, production of poppy is permitted.
10/31/2014 Federal Judge Exempts Another Catholic University from Birth Control Coverage - A federal judge ruled Tuesday that Ave Maria University, a Catholic university in Florida, does not have to comply with federal rules meant to ensure that covered employees can exercise their right to obtain birth control at no cost.
The Affordable Care Act requires all new health insurance plans to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives - such as the pill, emergency contraceptives, and IUDs - without charging co-pays, deductibles or co-insurance. . . .
10/31/2014 Women of Color in Tennessee Are United in Opposition to Amendment 1 - Just days before the general election in Tennessee, a coalition of community leaders, clergy, and advocates led a press conference encouraging women of color to vote no on Amendment 1, a dangerous and far-reaching measure on the state's ballot.
SisterReach, a grassroots organization focused on "empowering, organizing, and mobilizing women and girls in the community around their reproductive and sexual health to make informed decisions about themselves," organized the press conference "to call attention to the unique concerns Black and poor communities throughout Shelby County and across the state of Tennessee face on a daily basis" and to emphasize how the upcoming election "could further limit [black women's] reproductive, economic, political, and social autonomy."
"We assemble today to impress upon black women and women of color, many of whom are heads of households, to get out and vote," said SisterReacher Founder and CEO Cherisse Scott at the event.
SisterReach has been educating voters about the particularly dangerous impact of Amendment 1 on women of color. . . .
10/30/2014 Medication Abortion Access Threatened by Oklahoma Court Ruling - An Oklahoma state district court judge has refused to block a state law restricting medication abortion, clearing the way for the law to go into affect on November 1.
The Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, together with a local abortion clinic in Tulsa, challenged HB 2684 in September, arguing that the law was an unconstitutional restriction on non-surgical abortion in the earliest weeks of pregnancy. . . .