Human Rights Watch (HRW) yesterday reported that in Afghanistan’s Herat province, new restrictions on female education have been introduced, prohibiting men from teaching girls and women in private and imposing strict gender segregation in all schools. Mohammad Deen Fahim, deputy head of Herat’s educational department, last Friday justified the changes, saying that the current methods of teaching that include men teaching women and girls are “in contradiction with Islamic law,” according to HRW. Over the last several months, women and girls have been trying to make up for the lost years of schooling under the Taliban. Until last week, many in Herat attended private courses—in addition to their public schooling—in areas like foreign language and computers. Almost all of the private educational courses are taught by men.
Herat is currently under the control of the local warlord Ismail Khan, who has stifled political dissent and independent media in the province while imposing Taliban-like restrictions on women and girls. A recent HRW report entitled “We Want to Live as Humans: Repression of Women and Girls in Western Afghanistan,” found that in the Herat province, women’s rights to work, free speech, and free association continue to be curtailed. The group says situations are similar in other regions of the country.
President Bush recently signed the Afghan Freedom Support Act of 2002, which authorizes $2.3 billion in aid to Afghanistan over four years and $1 billion to expand international peacekeeping troops. The Act also includes language by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) that makes Afghan women a funding priority, earmarking $15 million each year for the Ministry of Women's Affairs and $5 million each year for the Independent Human Rights Commission. However, the Bush Administration’s 2003 budget forwarded to Congress does not include any funding for Afghan reconstruction or expansion of ISAF. This authorization is a major step in securing the funding necessary for Afghan reconstruction and security. The funds must still be appropriated by Congress.
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. . . .