Afghan Human Rights Official Calls for More Peace Troops
Speaking before a conference of human rights defenders at the Carter Center in Atlanta, Dr Sima Samar, Chair of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, called for an expansion in the size, range, and mandate of international peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan in order to secure women's rights and human rights.
"Even in Kabul, it is not safe and human rights violations are constant," said Dr. Samar. Samar's Human Rights Commission has documented over 2,000 human rights violations in the past 15 months, including illegal detentions, forced evictions, rapes, kidnapping, trafficking, and attacks on girls' schools. "There is still no respect in Afghanistan for human rights or for human rights activists. Talking about human rights in our country was a crime in the past and continues to be a crime today," said Samar.
For two years, the Afghan government, the United Nations, and human rights and women's rights organizations have requested expansion of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, which has been limited to some 5,500 troops in Kabul. With the re-emergence of the Taliban and recent bombings, factional fighting, and the murder of aid workers, the US and the international community have indicated possible shifts in their positions toward ISAF expansion. In recent months, NATO, which commands ISAF, and the United Nations Security Council authorized the deployment of peace troops beyond Kabul.
Even with these new commitments to ISAF expansion, concerns remain over whether the size of the expansion will be large enough and whether the troop size in Kabul will be reduced, a move that many experts say would destabilize the already fragile Afghan central government. The mandate of peace troops also must be expanded to include disarmament and intervention to prevent human rights abuses and threats to peace, urged Samar.
Samar also said that increased resources for reconstruction, particularly for education and health care, are necessary to create an environment for women's rights and human rights, and that the draft constitution for Afghanistan falls far short of providing guarantees of full equal rights for women and minorities.
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. . . .