Afghanistan: Hearing Calls for Expansion of Peacekeeping Troops
At a House hearing held yesterday on Afghanistan's reconstruction, Representative Tom Lantos (D-CA) called upon NATO, which recently agreed to take over the 4,500 person peacekeeping force in Afghanistan (ISAF), to double the size of ISAF. He also called for NATO to expand its mandate to provide greater security throughout the country and "to prevent acts of banditry, human rights abuses and intimidation." Lantos said that the current ISAF presence in Afghanistan is an "insufficient response to meet the security needs even in Kabul," which is the only city in Afghanistan with an ISAF presence.
Dr. Barnett Rubin of the Center on International Cooperation at New York University acknowledged the presence in the audience of dozens of women's rights activists organized by the Feminist Majority wearing "Expand ISAF for Afghan Women" stickers. He said that security was the number one issue for women and that "if women are not secure enough to go around and to go to school then all other things we are talking about will have no effect."
Reps. Diane Watson (D-CA) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) protested the absence of women from the two panels of the House hearing. One "mistake we have is putting a panel on like this without one woman on it...if this government is working for its people it needs to liberate its women," said Watson.
A report recently released by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Asia Society criticizes the Bush Administration peacekeeping policy as failing "to address the growing security challenge that [President Karzai's] government faces." The report calls for an increase and expansion of peacekeeping troops outside of the capital, for the disarmament of local militias, for increasing the Afghan National Army force to 27,000, and for the US to provide at least $1 billion in reconstruction aid each year over the next five years.
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. . . .