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.
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .