In a landmark victory for women in Afghanistan, both chambers of the US Congress passed legislation late last night that provides $3 billion in funding for humanitarian aid and expansion of international peacekeeping forces. If President Bush signs this bill into law, the women of Afghanistan could begin to emerge from the violence that has remained since the Taliban was ousted from power one year ago.
This bill also includes an amendment that makes Afghan women a funding priority. Introduced in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the amendment earmarks $15 million each year for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and $5 million each year for the Independent Human Rights Commission.
Under the leadership of committee chairman Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE) and Boxer, the committee’s sole woman member, working with the Feminist Majority, the legislation was first passed under bipartisan unanimous support in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in August.
“This is a tremendous victory for the women of Afghanistan,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. “It could not have come a moment too soon.”
Over the past few months, a dozen girls schools have been burned, bombed or closed. Just before and after several of these incidents, fundamentalist leaflets were passed out that warned girls against going to school. Threats to Loya Jirga delegates who have spoken out for human rights, including Independent Human Rights Commission Chair Dr. Sima Samar; the assassination of two government ministers; violence against women in the Northern provinces; violence against humanitarian aid workers; and the use of tactics of intimidation against the return of girls to school show the need for expansion of peacekeeping forces both within and beyond Kabul is urgent.
Expansion of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul to its outlying regions is necessary for the newly elected Afghan democracy to maintain control over the country. Currently, there are approximately 5,000 International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) that patrol within the capital city of Kabul. Without U.S. support, expansion of these international peacekeeping forces will not be possible.
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. . . .