Afghan Human Rights Office Opens in Herat; Gender Advocacy, Security Needed
The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, led by former women's affairs minister Dr Sima Samar, opened its Herat office today—the first beyond Kabul. Among those attending the inauguration ceremony were Herat Gov. Ismail Khan and UN and government officials. The Associated Press reported that after the ceremony, an Afghan journalist working for a US government-supported radio station was arrested, beaten, and then released. The Commission is expected to investigate the case. The warlord Khan is notorious for stifling political dissent and independent media throughout the province while imposing Taliban-like restrictions on women and girls.
International donors this week answered a call Monday from Afghan Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani requesting $2.25 billion in foreign aid for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins Friday. Pledging $2 billion, the countries reiterated their commitment to assist in Afghanistan’s reconstruction. The US exceeded its earlier pledges with a promise of $820 million, while Japan and the European Union agreed to give $500 million over the next two and a half years and $432 million until 2005, respectively, according to Reuters. Afghan officials said $1.7 billion would go towards infrastructure redevelopment and other areas targeted for funding would include boosting security and combating the re-burgeoning opium industry.
The stream of foreign aid entering Afghanistan suggests that much work remains to be done. Last November, the US, Japan, and Saudi Arabia pledged aid to resume construction of the critical Kabul-Kandahar-Herat highway. Earlier this year, Japan donated US$35 million toward an UN-supported disarmament program, reported the Associated Press. Last week, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced $60 million to print textbooks and rebuild schools throughout Afghanistan.
Nonetheless, progress remains slow. A report released by the International Crisis Group (ICG) entitled “Afghanistan: Women and Reconstruction” argues that sustainable improvements will require an institutional and cultural overhaul, “mainstreaming gender issues in the development process as a whole,” stated the organization’s press release. ICG Senior Analyst in Afghanistan, Vikram Parekh stated, “…many women activists operate in a difficult environment and some report being threatened. ICG has consistently argued for the extension of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) beyond the capital and this is just as important in this context, so that Afghan women activist can operate effectively.”
Meanwhile, 15 women remain imprisoned in Kabul’s jail—mostly on charges of petty crimes, such as adultery or refusal to marry with parental consent. Last November, in celebration of Ramadan, Afghan President Hamid Karzai granted amnesty to 20 women jailed in Kabul.
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. . . .
10/30/2014 UPS Switches Pregnant Worker Policy Ahead of Supreme Court Case - The United Parcel Service (UPS) is changing its policy on light duty assignments for pregnant workers, even though the company will stand by its refusal to extend accommodations to a former employee in an upcoming Supreme Court case.
UPS announced on Monday in a memo to employees, and in a brief filed with the US Supreme Court, that the company will begin offering temporary, light-duty positions to pregnant workers on January 1, 2015. . . .
10/30/2014 North Dakota Medical Students Speak Out Against Measure 1 - Medical students at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences are asking North Dakotans to vote no on Measure 1, a personhood measure on the state ballot this fall.
The students issued published a letter in the Grand Forks Herald stating that they opposed Measure 1 in part because they are against "the government's taking control of the personal health care decisions of its citizens." Nearly 60 UND School of Medicine students signed the letter, citing concerns over the "very broad and ambiguous language" used in the proposed amendment, which has no regard for serious and life-threatening medical situations such as ectopic pregnancies.
Measure 1 would change the North Dakota state constitution to create an "inalienable right to life" for humans "at any stage of development" - including the moment of fertilization and conception. . . .