Jul 232010

No the blog has not gone cold.  After spending a week at the beach with my family, I came home happy but worn out and for the next few weeks will be honoring a need to take a break to focus on other issues and to enjoy the company of my youngest son who will soon be leaving for college while I transition to the empty nest phase of life.  While I feel ready for this phase, as it is finally arriving, it is clear that it is a major change that needs to be honored and attended to, so for the next few weeks I will only be blogging sporadically, however I am still posting links of interest to our Facebook page.

 July 23, 2010  Posted by on July 23, 2010 Comments Off on In Case You’ve Been Wondering
Jul 082010

When military conflict occurs, just because the fighting ends does not mean the war is over for the people who live there as these two articles about Iraq so sadly illustrate:

Three decades of wars, massacres and sectarian killings have left Iraq with as many as a million widows, by Iraqi government count…

…In 2008 the government set up the Directorate of Social Care for Women that is now gradually taking over the payment of stipends from the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, which was widely accused of inefficiency and corruption.

However, Hameed, the directorate’s chief, complains that she lacks the funds to efficiently serve areas beyond the capital and lacks the authority to introduce reform and eradicate corruption in the ministry departments handling widows…

…poverty is driving some Iraqi women into prostitution, both in Iraq and in neighboring Jordan and Syria, home to the Arab world’s largest Iraqi refugee communities.

“Many of Iraq’s neighbors are exploiting Iraqi women,” said activist Suzan Kazim Kashkoul.

Also, she and other advocates say, the post-U.S. invasion violence has shrunk the pool of potential husbands for widows as well as single women over 30, and in the sectarian-charged postwar atmosphere, Sunni-Shiite marriages have become rare. The economy is in trouble yet the housing market is hot, making housing unaffordable for many.

And then there is this horrific study documenting what activists have feared in the aftermath of the use of toxic weaponry:

Results of a population-based epidemiological study organized by Malak Hamdan and Chris Busby are published tomorrow in the International Journal of Environmental Studies and Public Health (IJERPH) based in Basle, Switzerland. They show increases in cancer, leukemia and infant mortality and perturbations of the normal human population birth sex ratio significantly greater than those reported for the survivors of the A-Bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

Results of a survey in Jan/Feb 2010 of 711 houses and more than 4000 individuals in Fallujah show that in the five years following the 2004 attacks by USA-led forces there has been a 4-fold increase in all cancer. Interestingly, the spectrum of cancer is similar to that in the Hiroshima survivors who were exposed to ionizing radiation from the bomb and uranium in the fallout. By comparing the sample population rates to the cancer rates in Egypt and Jordan, researchers found there has been a 38-fold increase in leukemia (20 cases) almost a 10-fold increase in female breast cancer (12 cases) and significant increases in lymphoma and brain tumours in adults.

Based on 16 cases in the 5-year period, the 12-fold increases in childhood cancer in those aged 0-14 were particularly marked. The cancer and leukemia increases were all in younger people than would normally be expected. Infant mortality was found to be 80 per 1000 births which compares with a value of 19 in Egypt, 17 in Jordan and 9.7 in Kuwait. An important result is that the sex-ratio, which in normal populations is always 1050 boys born per 1000 girls was seriously reduced in the group born immediately after 2005, one year after the conflict: in this group the sex ratio was 860.

 July 8, 2010  Posted by on July 8, 2010 1 Response »
Jul 072010

From its inception, the Feminist Peace Network has been a strong supporter of CEDAW, the Convention on All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which defines violence against women as a violation of women’s human rights and is often described as an international bill of rights for women. It is a travesty that belies the U.S.’s rhetoric on human rights that this convention has yet to be ratified by the U.S., one of only a small handful of nations that have not. Hopefully this new campaign to raise awareness about CEDAW will move that process along. Cross-posted with kind permission from the National Council for Research on Women:

The United States remains one of only seven countries that have not ratified CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women).  CEDAW is an international agreement on basic human rights for women and the most broadly endorsed human rights treaty within the United Nations, having been ratified by over 90% of UN member states. CEDAW outlines human rights such as the right to live free from violence, the ability to go to school, and access to the political system. It is clear that CEDAW is working in countries such as Australia, South Africa and Uganda who have incorporated CEDAW provisions into their constitution and domestic legal codes, and Egypt, Jordan and Pakistan, who have seen increased literacy rates amongst women in their countries after ratifying CEDAW. And yet, CEDAW has failed to make progress in the United States. Despite the fact that CEDAW was adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly and has been voted on favorably twice since then on a bipartisan basis by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, CEDAW has never been brought to the Senate floor for a vote. It is time to act, as our window of opportunity is rapidly closing.

In the spirit of action, the CEDAW Task Force of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, co-sponsored by Citizens for Global Solutions, the National Women’s Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the YWCA , has declared this week a Week of Action on CEDAW to push for ratification. In its call for action, the Task Force released the following statement:

Time and time again President Obama has declared his support for women worldwide and announced that the ratification of the CEDAW Treaty was an important priority. Now we need him to show leadership in advancing women and girls’ rights around the world. As women and men who believe in the basic rights of women and girls worldwide – the right to live free from violence, the ability to go to school, and access to the political system – we need President Obama to send a strong and urgent signal to the Senate that ratification of CEDAW is vital.

Read more here.

Clarification:  An alert reader pointed out that U.S. ratification of CEDAW is actually complicated by the fact that over the years, assorted reservations have been added to the U.S. version of the treaty which would have the effect of potentially being more damaging than not ratifying at all.  As I’ve said before, FPN’s and my personal support is  for ratification without the addition of any reservations.  For a better understanding of this issue, read Janet Benshoof’s analysis here.

 July 7, 2010  Posted by on July 7, 2010 Comments Off on There Is NO Excuse For Not Ratifying CEDAW–The Time Is Now
Jul 012010

As Words Of Choice found out recently, Amnesty International apparently does not consider reproductive choice to be a human right.  Cross-posted with kind permission: 

Words of Choice learned a painful lesson this spring: Amnesty International, one of the most important human rights organization worldwide, does not support reproductive rights.

Amnesty International USA singled out Words of Choice at the First Amnesty International Human Rights Art Festival, and insisted that a speaker be present at Words of Choice events to announce that Amnesty did not support the messages of the play (no representative had seen it or spoken with us).

Amnesty’s position on abortion, we later learned, is exceedingly narrow. It supports a woman’s right to make a decision about pregnancy termination only if she is a victim of rape or incest, or if the life or health of the mother is at stake. It also opposes prison for women who have abortions and supports post-abortion care for botched abortions.

I’ve delayed telling this story because it hurts. Here are the details:

In late April, Words of Choice set out to participate in the Amnesty International Human Rights Art Festival in Silver Spring, Maryland, which was organized by Tom Block, a visual artist. Words of Choice signed up in October 2009; over 150 artists and arts groups joined in.

At the beginning of the year, Words of Choice blogged about the promise of the event, fusing social justice and the arts.

Dates were set, money raised, rehearsals held, venues scheduled, travel plans made. After months of planning, Words of Choice arrived in Silver Spring in April. That afternoon, Block sent an email:

An Amnesty International representative will be onsite at both of your events to state at the beginning that the views of Words of Choice do not represent the official position of Amnesty International, as officially, Amnesty takes no position on abortion rights.

It is either this or cancel your event.Thomas Block

This was unusual because no Amnesty representative had seen the play, and no other artist that we know of received a similar demand. Nonetheless, we welcomed participation, especially since Words of Choice is meant to open up discussions about reproductive rights.

Our first event at the Human Rights Art Festival was a Creativity Workshop at Pyramid Atlantic art center. Folabi K. Olagbaju, (above,left) Director of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Office of Amnesty International USA, arrived while we were in process. He described, at length, Amnesty’s position — supporting the legal access to abortion only in cases of rape, incest or grave threat to life or health.

He later sent an email further explaining the position of Amnesty and it is reprinted in full here.

Olagbaju writes that Amnesty’s current policy enables it to:

1. Support women who seek a safe, early medical termination of pregnancy in cases of rape, incest or when a woman’s life or health is at grave risk.
2. Urge governments to make medical care available to women who suffer complications from unsafe abortion; and
3. Oppose imprisonment or other criminal penalties for abortion against women or their providers.

Olagbaju described the adoption of this policy, dating only to 2007, as a step forward, despite the fact that Amnesty’s policy is approximately equivalent to an abortion ban proposed in South Dakota in 2008 (and voted down).

On its website, the Amnesty policy can be found on fact sheets and descriptions of Sexual and Reproductive Rights. Of particular interest is a FAQ on Sexual and Reproductive Rights.

Olagbaju said in person and by email that our events would not have been cancelled.

Note:  Here is the specific wording of AI’s position on abortion.  I have always considered their work to be of the utmost important and their organization to be a significant ally on women’s human rights issues.  While I continue to believe that they do valuable work, this incident and their stated position is extremely disturbing and I will not promote contributing to their work until that stand changes.

AI takes no position on whether abortion is right or wrong, nor on whether or not abortion should be legal.  The particular right AI works to protect is the right of all women to be free of any form of coercion, discrimination or violence as they make and put into effect informed decisions regarding the regulation of their fertility.

AI’s sexual and reproductive rights policy emphasizes access to contraceptive services and to sexual health information so that the risk of unwanted pregnancies can be reduced.

4.  Does AI promote “abortion as human right”?
No. Some media reports and individuals have claimed that AI promotes a “human right to abortion.” This grossly misrepresents AI’s policy on sexual and reproductive rights.

5.  Is it accurate to say that Amnesty International has a neutral position on the abortion question?
AI takes no position on whether abortion is right or wrong. AI has long opposed forced abortion, sterilization and contraception in all circumstances. AI currently does not take a position on laws regulating the termination of pregnancy other than in cases when pregnancy results from rape, sexual assault, or incest or where it poses a risk to the woman’s life or a grave risk to her health.

 July 1, 2010  Posted by on July 1, 2010 Comments Off on Amnesty Says Claims That It Promotes Abortion As A Human Right “Grossly Misrepresents AI’s Policy” – Say What?