Afghan Women Run for Office Amid Increasing Intimidation and Threats
Nearly 600 Afghan women are running for office in the country's first legislative elections since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. In an important step forward for women in Afghanistan, the constitution approved last year reserved 25 percent of the lower parliamentary seats for women, with a similar percentage of seats reserved in the 34 newly forming local councils, reports BBC News. However, women running for office in Afghanistan face a myriad of obstacles, including lack of information about election and campaign procedures, lack of free movement and other travel restrictions on women, fewer financial resources than men, and an increasing lack of security, according to a report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) yesterday. Afghanistan’s month-long campaign period began yesterday, with women accounting for only 12 percent of the lower parliamentary candidates and 8 percent of local council candidates.
The Taliban and other insurgent forces and warlords opposed to the elections and to women’s participation in particular pose a serious threat to women’s political participation, HRW reports. Through intimidation, threats of violence, and violent attacks targeting women, these groups have contributed to what HRW calls a “pervasive atmosphere of fear” making it even more difficult for women to run for and fill the reserved parliamentary and council seats. HRW reports several incidents in the month of July in which women candidates or election officials were threatened or attacked.
Human Rights Watch has called on international agencies and the government of Afghanistan to do more to protect women running for office. Security in Afghanistan has been deteriorating for months now, and the increasing need for more peacekeeping troops has not been met. Women’s and human rights organizations, including the Feminist Majority, have continued to demand more funding for security and humanitarian aid in Afghanistan. HRW is urging immediate funding for security and also for Afghanistan’s election budget, which falls far short of the resources needed to provide basic election security measures, implementation of fair election procedures, and much needed protection to women candidates.
“Hundreds of women have chosen to brave risks to their personal safety in order to have a voice in the country’s emergency political institutions. The Afghan government, domestic and international observers, and the international community must work together to support Afghan women’s political participation,” concludes the HRW report.
8/31/2015 Chicago Activists Continue Hunger Strike to Save Predominately Black Public High School - Chicago residents have entered the second week of their hunger strike protesting the closure of Dyett High School, in the predominately African-American Bronzeville neighborhood located on the South Side of Chicago.
Parents and community members are calling on the Chicago Board of Education to keep Dyett - the only open-enrollment, neighborhood school in its area - open and accept a community plan to revitalize the school with a focus on science and green technology. . . .
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. . . .