Jan 272010

In this excellent piece, Masum Momaya has put together a look back at women’s rights gains and losses:

In January, Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States. He quickly revoked the global gag rule, restored funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for access the sexual and reproductive health and, in spite of Pope Benedict’s pronouncement in Africa against the use of condoms, acknowledged the need to rapidly and systematically address the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

The same month, more affirmation for sexual and reproductive rights came as Bolivians approved a new constitution with a dedicated chapter to women’s rights.

At the international level, in April, the UN Commission on Population and Development passed a resolution placing an unprecedented emphasis on human rights, including in regard to sexuality. The resolution made a commitment to comprehensive education on sexuality and gender equality, access to male and female condoms, reproductive health services for adolescents, and the importance of sexual and reproductive rights to HIV/AIDS.A few months later, maternal death and illness were finally recognized as pressing human rights concerns by the UN Human Rights Council.

Mexico City decriminalized first-trimester abortions, which triggered a backlash of restrictions as states across Mexico quickly passed anti-abortion legislation. Meanwhile, Nepal enacted a more permissive abortion law, making the procedure more accessible.

Youth activists made significant strides this year, advocating on behalf of the largest generation of youth ever at high-level international conferences, including the International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, the Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights, and the NGO Forum on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Development as well as the Internet Governance Forum, where they advocated for policies based on agency and consent rather than victimization and repression of sexuality.

You can read the rest of this  informative piece here. Also of interest, IPS interviews Charlotte Bunch, Founder of the Center for Global Women’s Leadership for her thoughts on Obama’s commitment to women’s human rights.  Here are some of her thoughts and you can read the complete interview here:

So far the Obama administration has done pretty well in advancing women’s rights through their foreign policy. The most substantial evidence of this is the increase in money that the State Department is now allocating to women’s concerns.

According to a recent report by Women Thrive Worldwide, the budget for women’s rights has dramatically increased from the Bush years. Their analysis of the State, Foreign Operations budget for FY10 found an increase of 1.66 billion dollars more than FY09 to the tune of nearly 8.0 billion dollars for global development.

Also important to note is the focus on women’s empowerment and gender integration across the foreign aid programmes which will be applied to 16.5 billion dollars in funding. The Congressional bill also included 3.1 million dollars for the newly created Office for Global Women’s Issues at the State Department.

Of course, the State Department budget still pales in comparison to the Defence Department, but the allocation of more dollars does signal clear intention of U.S. foreign policy to empower women and improve their rights…

As for disappointment, escalating the war in Afghanistan isn’t improving the situation for Afghan women, men or children. And although they have made development in Afghanistan a priority, it still doesn’t balance the damage and destruction that will be wrought from more militarised violence. Similar questions could be raised about continuing U.S. military activity in Iraq and other places…

Whether or not the Obama administration views women’s rights as a priority in a larger geopolitical and military context is questionable. For example, the White House has talked of working with “moderate” Taliban-despite its abhorrent record of abusing and oppressing women-as acceptable to achieving their objectives in Afghanistan…

Another measure of how much political capital the Obama administration is going to wage on advancing women’s rights will be whether they are going to pursue the ratification of the Convention the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). There are 186 signatories to the international treaty, but the United States, along with Sudan and Iran, are among the very few countries that have not ratified it.

 January 27, 2010  Posted by on January 27, 2010

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