Afghanistan: Constitution in the Works, Fighting Persists
An eight-member committee created last October to write a new constitution for Afghanistan submitted a draft last week to President Hamid Karzai, reported the Associated Press. While details have yet to be disclosed, the general framework is expected to be based on the 1964 Constitution, incorporate some elements of sharia (Islamic law), and resemble an Islamic democracy with a strong president and weaker parliament—all with terms lasting four to five years.
A president-appointed 30-member commission will gather “public” comment from select Afghans including professors, elders, and religious leaders. Already, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and Ministry of Women’s Affairs have made several recommendations to the commission to improve the status of women, including provisions to guarantee women’s rights, give women full citizenship, increase the age for marriage, and implement compulsory education for girls and boys. In addition, the institutions are urging that the constitution serve as the law of the land, above custom or local rule. The loya Jirga will debate the final draft in October.
Meanwhile, security remains an issue throughout Afghanistan. Last month, two US soldiers were killed when Taliban fighters attacked their convoy. Khalid Pashtoon, spokesman for Gov. Gul Agha Shirzai (Kandahar) told the Washington Post, “The last few weeks the situation in Kandahar was getting worse day by day… The increase in violent incidents started five months ago, but became more common after [the start of] the Iraq war.” Last Sunday, Islamic extremists, under the leadership of former Afghan premier Gulbuddin Hekmatyar are suspected of launching the rocket attack on International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) headquarters in Kabul, according to Agence France Presse. The Feminist Majority has been leading the call for ISAF expansion, increased reconstruction funding, and for more resources to support the work of the Ministry of Women's Affairs and the Independent Human Rights Commission.
When command of ISAF in Afghanistan transferred from Turkey to Germany and the Netherlands in February, German Defense Minister Peter Struck called for NATO to assume larger responsibility for peacekeeping after their six-month command term. This week, the 19 NATO members asked military planners to consider the issue, with the alliance taking charge of the 4,000-person peacekeeping force.
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. . . .