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feminist wire | daily newsbriefs

August-26-03

Bush Administration's Rhetoric Does Not Match Reality on Global Women's Rights Issues

Lack of Funding, Security Result in "F" Grade on Afghanistan
Inaction Causes "Incomplete" Grade on CEDAW Ratification


WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Feminist Majority, Women's Environment and Development Organization, and Center for Health and Gender Equity today issued a Global Women's Issues Scorecard on the Bush Administration, revealing a wide gap between rhetoric and reality on the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan and CEDAW (the International Treaty for the Rights of Women).

"A year ago President Bush declared that women's rights had been restored in Afghanistan and that girls had returned to school," said Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal. "Last week we learned that because of the worsening security situation in the country more girls' schools have been set on fire by fundamentalist extremists. Because the Bush Administration refuses to support expansion of international peace troops beyond Kabul, girls' schools are under attack, regional warlords are able to impose Taliban-like restrictions, people who speak out for women's rights and human rights receive threats, and many women still wear the burqa out of fear."

"The Administration's words are very good, but the reality in Afghanistan today is a far cry from these promises," said Smeal. "Almost two years since the Taliban was removed from power, the rights of Afghan women and girls remain in jeopardy with a resurgence of fundamentalist extremists."

Smeal also pointed out that President Bush's April 2002 promises of a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan have not been fulfilled. "Today, because of the lack of U.S. and international resources devoted to reconstruction, much of the country remains in ruins-– without roads, schools, and health care facilities and without jobs for either women or men."

The Global Women's Issues Scorecard gave the Administration a "B" for its rhetoric and a "F" for reality because of the dire security situation and the small amount of U.S. reconstruction funding thus far. Ratings were based on the level of reconstruction funding; support for Afghan women-led institutions such as the Ministry of Women's Affairs; expansion of international peace keeping forces beyond Kabul; support for inclusion of women in the new Afghan constitution; and support for women's rights to education, health care, employment, and political participation.

As an example of the difference between rhetoric and reality, Smeal cited that President Bush signed the Afghan Freedom Support Act of 2002, which passed with unanimous bi-partisan Congressional support, into law in December. But then the Administration neither requested the specified funding levels nor took action to expand international peace keeping forces beyond Kabul as the Act authorized.

"Without action from the Bush Administration to provide adequate funding and to expand peace troops, the possibility that women will ever be able to exercise their rights and that democratic elections will occur in June 2004 grows fainter by the day," said Smeal. Referring to recent reports that the Administration is now considering a $1 billion reconstruction package, Smeal stated, "We are dangerously close to too little, too late. But the Administration still could salvage the future of Afghanistan, the rights of Afghan women, and its own scorecard grade, if it immediately devotes significant resources to reconstruction and Afghan women-led institutions, supports women's rights in the new Afghan constitution and the safety of women’s rights advocates at the October Loya Jirga, and achieves country-wide security through peace troop expansion."

On another key global women's rights issue, the Bush Administration received "incomplete" grades for both its rhetoric and reality on CEDAW. The "incomplete" grades stem from the Administration’s refusal to endorse Senate ratification of the women's rights treaty, at the same time that it articulates support for women's righ

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