Afghanistan: US Role Expected to Increase, Girls' School Burned Down
As the Bush administration continues to consider plans to increase aid and peacekeeping troops in Afghanistan, another girls' school was burned down last week. The incident at a tented school 30 miles south of Kabul follows the arson of another school for girls located in a neighboring district, according to the Associated Press. Letters were distributed by extremist Islamic groups taking credit for the arsons, saying that they did not want girls' schools and threatening to kill those who work for the Afghan government, AP reports. These recent events follow the same pattern as the more than a dozen schools that were burned down or bombed last fall.
Even after the fall of the Taliban, women and girls face restrictions on their rights. The security situation in the country is so unstable that many women are afraid to leave their homes. The Christian Science Monitor reports that even in Kabul, the only area of the country with international peacekeeping troops, women who have shed the burqa are still wearing a long shawl called a chador out of fear of being harassed or attacked by soldiers and police. "When I did not put on a burqa, my problems started as soon as I stepped outside of the house," Rahila Khan, a student at Kabul University, told the Monitor. "People in the neighborhood taunted my parents, policemen and soldiers called me a prostitute, and I was sexually harassed on several occasions."
Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that, after pressure from members of Congress and women's and human rights groups, the Bush administration over the next few weeks will announce a plan to increase reconstruction aid, to double the size of the national army, and possibly expand peacekeeping forces to other major cities in addition to Kabul. Similar plans to possibly expand troops were announced last August as well, but one year later, the 4,800-member peacekeeping force is still the same size and remains limited to Kabul. The US has only distributed $900 million in aid to Afghanistan since October 2001, and most of that aid has been emergency humanitarian and food assistance rather than the kind of major reconstruction aid needed to rebuild the country. In addition, only 16 percent of the aid has gone directly to the Afghan government, according to CARE International. Most of the aid has gone to international nongovernmental organizations and United Nations agencies. A recent report by the Rand Corporation found that Afghanistan has received only $52 of per capita external assistance, compared with $1,390 for the first two years of conflict in Bosnia and $814 in Kosovo.
The Feminist Majority is leading the call for International Security Assistance Force (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.
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. . . .