More Peacekeeping Forces Desperately Needed in Afghanistan
Conditions in Afghanistan are described by international aid workers as dangerous and unstable. Delegates returning home from last week’s loya jirga have reported threats and intimidation especially to women. In light of these circumstances, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) restated a continued plea last night to the Bush administration and Congress for expanded US peacekeeping presence in Afghanistan – especially in the areas outside of Kabul. For the past several months, the Feminist Majority and other women’s organizations as well as the United Nations and the interim Afghan government have asked the Bush administration to expand US peacekeeping troops from 4,800 to 25,000 in order to protect the Afghan people.
“The Bush administration has refused to expand the international security assistance force beyond Kabul. The restoration of democracy and of rights for women in Afghanistan depends on maintaining security, reestablishing democracy, and creating a functional central government that can provide services and oversee reconstruction to that country,” Reid said, urging Bush to provide full US support to the war-torn nation. “To do less is to indicate that we do not care about Afghanistan and to underscore that we do not care about what is happening to the women of Afghanistan.”
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Peter Kessler described an “extremely precarious” situation in Afghanistan - exacerbated by the scarce and rapidly dwindling supply of food, water, and healthcare, according to the Dawn Group of Newspapers. Kessler said the agency was not encouraging refugees to return home: “The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has done a great job in Kabul but there are still security problems in many parts of the country.” There are an estimated 3.7 million Afghans still sheltered abroad, with approximately 2 million in Pakistan. Since March, about 940,000 Afghan refugees have returned home from Pakistan. Sixty-eight non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have written to the UN Security Council demanding expansion of peacekeeping forces, according to the Deutsche Welle newspaper. With ISAF presently limited to Kabul, foreign workers in other areas of the country are being targeted in robberies, assaults, and rape. Afghan women and children are especially vulnerable to such dangers. Some relief groups such as Northwest Medical Teams have evacuated due to attacks on foreigners.
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. . . .