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5/18/2001 - Taliban Terrorizes Hospital to Stop Women and Men from “Mixing”

Members of Taliban “religious police” yesterday raided the first independently run hospital in Taliban-held areas of Afghanistan, claiming that male and female personnel were “mixing” illegally. Twenty armed soldiers stormed the new Emergency Surgical Hospital in Kabul, surrounded doctors and staff at lunch in the cafeteria, and proceeded to beat and harass them. The charge was that male and female staff members were allowed to eat together, something strictly prohibited by Taliban rule. Hospital staff claims that a curtain divided the cafeteria. In protest, hospital management discharged all of its patients with cash and medicines.


5/18/2001 - PHR Reports Afghans Oppose Taliban’s Restrictions on Women

The rights of women are strongly supported by more than 90% of the Afghan women and men included in the recent survey conducted in Afghanistan by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR). Women’s Health and Human Rights in Afghanistan: A Population Based Assessment, is the first study to systematically assess human rights concerns of a large Afghan population.

The study found that the women surveyed in areas controlled by the Taliban "almost unanimously expressed that the Taliban had made their life ‘much worse’, attributing their declining mental and physical health to Taliban policies." When the women living under the Taliban are compared to women living in non-Taliban controlled areas, they report significantly worse physical and mental health, including much higher rates of major depression and suicide.

Another significant outcome of the survey is the Afghan people’s disagreement with the Taliban regime’s claims that the restrictions they have imposed on women are dictated by Islamic Law. More than 80% of the men and women surveyed believe that the teachings of Islam do not restrict women’s human rights.

Based on their findings, the PHR report calls for the end of the "systematic discrimination against women" by the Taliban. Among its other recommendations, PHR calls for the international community to increase humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people, while also reporting that more than a third of the women surveyed said that Taliban policies restricted their access to humanitarian assistance.

Read the complete report



5/7/2001 - French Parliament Hears Plight of Three Afghan Women

Three Afghan women, traveling under pseudonyms and wearing the all-enshrouding burqa, visited the French parliament last week in their campaign to raise international awareness about gender apartheid in their country. The women has visited the European parliament earlier that week, and visited France at the invitation of the President of the French Assembly, Raymond Forni. The women spoke of the atrocities committed against the women and girls of Afghanistan by the terrorist Taliban regime, including the story of a woman whose feet were beaten until they bled because the was wearing white shoes – the color of the Taliban flag. They pleaded that the visit be just the first step in a political campaign against the Taliban, and called for the French to exert pressure on Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, which support the Taliban, and the United States. ““We took a risk coming here,” said one of the women, “but we don’t care because what we go through every day is like death, so real death doesn’t scare us. How else could we continue our struggle for the women of Afghanistan?”

TAKE ACTION! Urge the Bush administration to continue U.S. opposition to the Taliban.

TAKE ACTION! Urge the United States to provide emergency assistance to Afghan refugees.


5/7/2001 - Namibia Makes Homophobia National Policy

In late March, Namibian President Sam Nujoma issued a statement ordering the purging of homosexuals from his African nation. “The Republic of Namibia does not allow homosexuality or lesbianism here,” Nujoma said. “Police are ordered to arrest you, deport you and imprison you.” Nujoma made similar remarks in 1997 at the Swapo Women’s Council Congress, saying, “Homosexuals must be condemned and rejected in our society.” Nujoma also argues that pushing for the inclusion of gays and lesbians under human rights campaigns is part of “foreign influence,” and that Namibian citizens are not part of the effort to gain rights for the LGBT community. The Namibian Society for Human Rights and the Rainbow Project, a coalition of Namibian gays and lesbians, are call the policy “unconstitutional,” and have spoken out against Nujoma.

Learn more about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights worldwide at the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.


5/3/2001 - UPDATE! House International Relations Committee Approves Bill to Reverse Global Gag Rule

In a bi-partisan 26 – 22 vote, the International Relations Committee approved a bill introduced by Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) that would effectively overturn President Bush’s reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy or “Global Gag Rule,” that prohibits recipients of U.S. international family planning assistance from counseling women on abortion or engaging in political speech on abortion. Republican Congressmen Benjamin Gilman (R-NY), Amo Houghton (R-NY) and Jim Leach (R- IA) joined committee democrats in support of overturning the “Gag Rule.” Rep. Lee’s bill included two provisions: Foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) cannot be denied funding based on the medical services they provide, including counseling and referral services. Foreign NGOs, as a condition of eligibility for U.S. development assistance need not sacrifice their right to use their own funds to engage in free speech and assembly activities any more than U.S. based groups are asked to do. The bill must come to a vote before the entire House, as well as the full Senate, before becoming law.

LEARN MORE Click here to read women's narratives about barriers or successes in accessing reproductive health and family planning services.


5/3/2001 - Catholic Church Policy Forces Filipino Women into Unsafe Abortions

Women in the Philippines are trapped in an unbearable dilemma: the Catholic Church, whose influence over the country is strong, prohibits all forms of contraception, but extreme poverty prohibits large families. As a result, the Philippines has a very high abortion rate: 20-30 out of every 1,000 women of childbearing age have had an abortion, despite its illegal status. Filipino women, in an effort to keep their abortions secret, use crude methods, such as inserting sharp objects into the uterus or drinking toxic chemicals. The problem is so severe that illegal abortion is now the fourth leading cause of death among Filipino women.

The Alan Guttmacher Institute shows that the primary factor determining a country’s abortion rate is not the legal status of the procedure but the rate at which women experience unintended pregnancies. With no access to contraception, Filipino women are then forced into unsafe illegal abortions. The death rate associated with abortion is hundreds of times higher in developing nations where abortion is often illegal. In Latin America, the abortion mortality rate is 119 deaths per 100,000 abortions, compared to just .02-1.2 deaths per 100,000 abortions in developed nations. The Philippines is also facing a high population growth rate that, if it is not stopped, would double the small nation’s population in the next 35 years. Former President Joseph Estrada saw this, coupled with the high abortion mortality rate, as a reason to defy the long-endured Catholic Church. The church’s anger at his decision to make contraceptives available was a major factor in his forceful oust from power in January of this year.

For more information on the Catholic Church and its repressive policies and influence worldwide, visit Catholics for a Free Choice and their See Change” Campaign.

LEARN MORE Click here to read women's narratives about barriers or successes in accessing reproductive health and family planning services.


5/2/2001 - 13 Senators Urge Powell to Send Emergency Funds to Afghanistan

Led by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), 13 U.S. senators joined in a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell urging the U.S. to immediately send $30 million in emergency relief funds to aid the hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees, primarily women and children, who have fled their homes to escape the brutal rule of the Taliban regime, a total lack of food, and the worst drought to hit Afghanistan in 30 years. As many as 800,000 internal refugees seek relief within Afghanistan; hundreds of thousands have crossed the border to neighboring Pakistan in search of relief, only to find death and starvation in refugee camps.

In addition to Sen. Feinstein, Senators Joseph Biden (D- DE), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Russell Feingold (D-WI), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Patty Murray (D-LA), Harry Reid (D-NV), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Paul Wellstone (D-WI) also signed the letter to Sec. Powell.

The Feminist Majority Foundation has led the effort to increase funding to assist Afghan women and girls. Take Action Today! Demand Immediate Emergency Assistance for Afghan Refugees.


5/2/2001 - Congresswoman Lee Introduces Legislation to Reverse Global Gag Rule

Today Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) will introduce legislation to the House Foreign Relations Committee that could reverse President Bush’s re-instatement of the Mexico City Policy, or “Global Gag Rule,” that prohibits recipients of U.S. international family planning assistance from counseling women on abortion or engaging in political speech on abortion. The legislation has two primary provisions: Foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) cannot be denied funding based on the medical services they provide, including counseling and referral services. Foreign NGOs, as a condition of eligibility for U.S. development assistance need not sacrifice their right to use their own funds to engage in free speech and assembly activities any more than U.S. based groups are asked to do.

U.S. international family planning assistance is crucial to lives of millions of women. Denying women the information they need about family planning and abortion forces them to seek unsafe illegal abortions. Re-instating the “Global Gag Rule” was President Bush’s first executive order and “demonstrates that he will use his presidential powers to undermine the reproductive rights of the worlds’ women,” said Lee.

LEARN MORE Click here to read women's narratives about barriers or successes in accessing reproductive health and family planning services.


5/1/2001 - Pakistan Increasing Support for Taliban

The U.S. State Department’s new report by the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterroism demonstrates that Pakistan has increased its support of the fundamentalist Taliban regime, which has forced the women and girls of Afghanistan into a state of virtual house arrest. Reliable reports have confirmed that Pakistan provides the Taliban with material, fuel, funding, technical assistance, and military advisers.

This aid to the Taliban comes at a time when the people of Afghanistan are suffering from the most severe drought the region has seen. The situation is exacerbated by the Taliban’s violent actions and draconian edicts. The United Nations Commissioner for Refugees visited Afghanistan this week, and declared the situation catastrophic. With tens of thousands of Afghans being turned away by neighboring countries and the water supply dwindling, Afghanistan now has more internal refugees than any other country. International aid is desperately needed.

Take Action! Ensure that the United States continues to refuse to recognize the Taliban.

Urge the U.S. to provide emergency assistance to Afghan refugees and displaced persons.


4/27/2001 - Special Issue of Elle Magazine Focuses on Women in Afghanistan

The most recent issue of the French women’s magazine Elle is completely devoted to covering the women of Afghanistan, the abuses they suffer under the ruling Taliban regime, and the dehumanization they endure. The cover of the fashion magazine shows an Afghan woman, completely covered in the traditional burqa, with a thick piece of mesh over her face through which she must see and breathe. In the Elle interview French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin said that until peace returned to Afghanistan, "Afghan women will continue to be at the mercy of a power which has imposed itself by force." Marie-Francoise Colombani of Elle expressed concern that the world showed united outrage over the destruction of the Buddha statutes, but not on the treatment of women.


Learn more about the Taliban's abuses against women in Afghanistan.

Take Action!Urge Bush Administration to Oppose Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan


4/25/2001 - UN to Increase Appeal for Aid to Afghanistan

The United Nations (UN) has decided to revise it’s appeal for 2001 far beyond the $250 million it earlier requested to aid the hundreds of thousands of starving, displaced people in Afghanistan after examining the country’s current humanitarian crisis.

The original $250 million appeal was mainly for programs within Afghanistan and did not include funds to alleviate the suffering of Afghan refugees who have fled to Pakistan and are living in desperate conditions. The UN has only received 15% of the funds and aid requested, and the situation in Afghanistan is worsening daily. At least 700,000 Afghans are displaced—the highest rate of population displacement in the world. People are fleeing their homes to escape the drought, fighting, and the brutal terrorist Taliban regime. People have also left their home in search of aid in refugee camps in neighboring Pakistan—some campus receive up to 2,000 new refugees every day, and cannot support the influx.

The worst drought in 20 years has nearly killed crop production, and this year’s dim prospects for harvest could mean an even worse situation in the future. Over 10 million people—half of Afghanistan’s 21 million-person population—have been affected by the drought. The World Food Programme projects 3 million people are completely depended on food assistance.

Take Action today to save the lives of women and girls! Demand that the United States stop ignoring the brutality, starvation and death occurring in Afghanistan. Urge immediate emergency funds to help the millions of Afghan refugees.

Demand Immediate Emergency Assistance for Afghan Refugees!


4/6/2001 - UN Blames Pakistan For Blockage Of Aid To Afghan Refugees

In a statement released by the United Nations, “Pakistan has reneged on an agreement reached last month with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to allow adequate UN relief supplies to be delivered to the 70,000 Afghan refugees in the Jalozai refugee camp.” One of the most desperate camps for Afghan refugees is located in the Pakistan city of Jalozai. Repeatedly Pakistani government officials have refused to grant access to United Nations aid workers and other humanitarian observers into the camp.

As time passes, the situation for Afghan refugees living in the Jalozai camp grows more severe. Inclement weather, including heavy rains, has destroyed 60 latrines and some 3,150 refugee tents, 18,000 refugees out the total 70,000 population now face death, and the UN has declared that “children are dying unnecessarily” all within the Jalozai refugee camp. Due to Pakistan’s refusal to allow vital humanitarian aid to reach Jalozai, aid groups are only able to provide less than half the amount of clean water needed per person daily making “sunstroke, skin diseases and waterborne diseases inevitable by the end of May.”


4/6/2001 - Women Building Peace Campaign Delivers 100,000 Petitions To UN

On International Women’s Day 2001, over one-hundred-thousand signatures, from 140 countries, were presented to the United Nations, urging the international community and governments to honor the commitments they made in Beijing in 1995. To recognize the role of women peacemakers, to include more women in peace negotiations and reconciliation processes and to ensure that women’s organizations gain the resources they need to build peace.

Despite their effectiveness in peace building at community and grassroots levels, women are persistently excluded from negotiations and decision-making forums in post conflict situations. The international campaign Women Building Peace: From the Village Council to the Negotiating Table, launched in May 1999, aims to highlight and strengthen the role of women in peacebuilding and conflict transformation processes. It was initiated by the UK-based conflict resolution and human rights organization, International Alert and involves over 300 women’s organizations worldwide.

“The sheer numbers and diversity of people that have signed the petition show the strength of feeling around the world to change the status quo. They are demanding that more women be included in peace processes. Why should the views of 50 per cent of the population continue to be ignored when it comes to making peace?” says Eugenia Piza-Lopez, Head of Policy and Advocacy, International Alert.

For more information about the Women Building Peace Campaign, visit International Alert.

Sign the Global Petition online or print out a copy to circulate.


4/4/2001 - French Parity Law Doubles Number of Women Elected

As a direct result of a new French law requiring 50% of candidates on municipal election ballots to be women, the number of women municipal officeholders more than doubled from 22% in 1995 to 47.5% in 2001. At the county level, where there was no candidate parity requirement, the number of women officeholders grew only from 7% in 1998 to 9% in 2001. The March 18 election was the first time the gender parity law was in place.

The new measure goes further than any other in the world to ensure equal representation of men and women in politics and enjoys strong public support. According to a February 4 New York Times report, sixty-three percent of people polled believe the law will provide a better choice of candidates and will result in better governance. Sixty-five percent voiced a desire for a woman mayor in their town. Eighty percent believe a woman in office would result in improved education, social services and health programs and 60 percent thought women political leaders would bring about improvements in the economy, transportation systems and sports.


4/3/2001 - U.S. State Department Says Taliban Unable To Govern

The Taliban have demonstrated that they unable to effectively govern, said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Alan Eastham. Eastham cited the Taliban's refusal to address the needs of the Afghan people and the fact that the Taliban have not taken into account the wishes of the international community with respect to terrorism, narcotics, and protection of human rights. “We feel strongly that a country which discards half of its population, which rules out any productive role outside the home for half the population, the female half, is not doing itself much of a service,” Eastham said. “If you deny the ability of half of the population [to be] educated, you're condemning the country to backwardness essentially. That is the point of dispute with the Taliban. It's not a question of disputing their basic societal tenets or even debating Islam with them. It is that to become a country which participates in the world, Afghanistan needs its women. That is our point on human rights.” Eastham also cited the Taliban’s role in opium production and terrorism as further evidence of their inability to govern.

The Afghan people are currently living under a brutal system of gender apartheid and ethnic and cultural genocide, and the situation is further exacerbated by the region’s most severe drought, which has left thousands of people without adequate food, water, and shelter.

TAKE ACTIONUrge the U.S. to devote emergency funds to help Afghan refugees and displaced persons.


3/30/2001 - Repatriation Too Dangerous for Many Afghan Refugees

Thousands of unregistered Afghan refugees living near Peshawar, Pakistan, could be deported back to Taliban-controlled Afghanista, where gender apartheid and ethnic and cultural genocide are devastating a population already strained by a severe drought. Pakistan’s decision would directly affect more than 80,000 refugees living in Jalozai, a makeshift camp in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan, and would affect any future refugees seeking to enter Pakistan. While the NWFP governor denied that deportation would put thousands of Afghans at risk for persecution at the hands of the Taliban, International Rescue Committee leader Sigurd Hanson confirmed that “many [Afghan refugees] would be at serious risk for reasons of gender, ethnicity, or politics. These groups should not be sent back.” The majority of refugees are women and children, and most of the refugees who have recently arrived in Pakistan are members of minority ethnic groups who are persecuted by the Taliban.

Take Action to help Afghan refugees by urging the United States to respond to this devastating humanitarian crisis with the release of emergency assistance funds.


3/30/2001 - Crisis in Afghanistan Deepens

One million people are at risk for famine in Afghanistan and millions more are in the most desperate poverty imaginable, according to the United Nations. The Taliban’s barbaric rule, the most severe drought in decades, sub-zero winter temperatures, military incursions which have displaced hundreds of thousands of people, and a lack of humanitarian aid have created a catastrophic humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

This crisis has been exacerbated further by Pakistan’s and Tajikistan’s closing their borders with Afghanistan, preventing the entry of the tens of thousands of refugees who are trying to escape gender apartheid, genocide, starvation, and disease. Thirteen thousand Afghan refugees are stranded on a river island between Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Pakistan is threatening to expel 100,000 Afghan refugees.

Meanwhile, most of the world, including the U.S., have admitted only small numbers of Afghan refugees into their countries. The U.S. admitted no Afghan refugees in 1996 or 1997, 88 in 1998, and, after extensive pressure, 396 in 1999, and a projected 1500 for 2000.

Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority, said that this situation “brings back haunting memories of the ship of Jewish people who had no place to land” during World War II. “Hundreds of thousands of people are living in camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan with virtually no shelter, food, healthcare, or sanitation, and hundreds are dying daily. Yet there seems to be more worldwide outcry about the Taliban’s destruction of the buddha statute than the human disaster,” added Smeal.

The Feminist Majority has called upon the U.S. government to provide emergency assistance in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Feminist Majority is working with members of Congress to develop legislation to respond to the immediate humanitarian crisis and to improve the lives of women and girls in Afghanistan and those living as refugees in Pakistan. The Feminist Majority is seeking to codify U.S. opposition to recognition of the Taliban until the rights of women and girls are fully and permanently restored and to increase health, education, and income generation programs for women and girls.

The brutality of the Taliban continues unabated with the recent hangings of two women accused of prostitution and the ethnic killings of hundreds of civilians in central Afghanistan. The U.S.’s newly released Human Rights Report documents the Taliban’s continued bans to women’s and girls’ employment and education as well as their summary execution of civilians. According to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, hundreds of civilians, including humanitarian aid workers and even patients in medical facilities, mostly of the Hazara ethnicity, were killed by the Taliban when they took control of key cities in Central Afghanistan.

The Taliban also has demanded the destruction of historic Buhhdist artifacts, including two massive 120 foot ancient Buhhdas carved into the sandstone hills of Bamiyan. The Buhddas, which are dated to 200-300 AD, have been a presence in Afghanistan longer than Islam.

At his confirmation hearing, Secretary of State Colin Powell condemned the Taliban’s treatment of women in Afghanistan as “appalling…bordering on barbaric” in response to Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)’s question about whether he would continue to make the restoration of the human rights of Afghan women and girls a policy priority. The Feminist Majority is working to ensure that Secretary Powell’s condemnation of their treatment by the Taliban is reflected in policies and actions that help to stop gender apartheid and restore women’s human rights.

To learn more about the Feminist Majority’s Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid and to take action and urge the United States to respond immediately to this humanitarian and human rights crisis visit www.feminist.org


3/30/2001 - Bush Global Gag Rule Sentences Young Women to Death

President George W. Bush declared war on women’s reproductive rights globally on his first business day in office with his reinstitution of the “Mexico City Policy.” Also known as the “Global Gag Rule,” the policy denies U.S. funding to programs in developing nations that provide counseling, information, or referrals about abortion, even if the funds for those programs are their own or are provided by other countries.

President Ronald Reagan first enacted the “Mexico City Policy” in 1984. A decade earlier the 1973 Helms Amendment barred the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) from supporting or encouraging abortion with any funding that the agency awards. Bush reenacted the Global Gag Rule on the 28th anniversary of Roe v. Wade in a deceptive statement claiming that taxpayer funds should not be used to pay for or advocate abortions, funding which is already prohibited by the 1973 Helms Amendment.

President Clinton reversed the Mexico City policy shortly after taking office in 1993, allowing international family planning programs to provide counseling on a full range of reproductive options. The Helms Amendment has remained in place.

In a strong bi-partisan response to President Bush’s restoration of the global gag rule, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Representative Nancy Johnson (R-CT) denounced Bush’s action and introduced new legislation that would prevent the U.S. from imposing restrictions on the ability of family planning programs to provide reproductive health services.

According to the United Nations, of the estimated 50 million abortions performed each year, 20 million are unsafe and pose serious health risks that may cause death. More than 78,000 women die each year as a result of unsafe abortions. President Bush’s reinstatement of the “Mexico City Policy” endangers the health, futures and lives of millions of women and girls around the world who rely on reproductive health treatment that includes abortion counseling.

LEARN MORE Click here to read women's narratives about barriers or successes in accessing reproductive health and family planning services.


3/29/2001 - Taliban Publicly Lashes Woman Accused of Extra-Marital Sex

The terrorist Taliban regime publicly lashed a woman accused of having sex with a man who was not her husband. The woman received 100 lashes with a leather strap this week; the man involved had been punished earlier. The lashing is punishment under the Taliban’s strict Islamic Sharia law. Since taking control of Afghanistan in 1996, the Taliban has issued a series of draconian edicts stripping women and girls of their rights to education, work, and mobility.


3/28/2001 - Germany Condemns Taliban; Amnesty International Confirms Massacre of Civilians by Taliban

During the six-week session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer condemned the Taliban for “completely depriving” Afghan women and girls of their human rights, and for destroying ancient Buddha statues in the region. Italy is expected to issue a resolution against the Taliban before the session ends.

The Taliban, a fundamentalist militia that controls 90 percent of Afghanistan, has stripped women and girls of their rights, including the rights to education, work, and mobility. Amnesty International released a report earlier this week detailing the January massacre committed by Taliban forces against 300 unarmed men and a number of women and children in the Yakaolang district. Eyewitnesses reported that the Taliban arrested and executed Hazara people, and deliberately killed dozens of civilians, including women and children, who were hiding in a mosque. The Taliban denies that the massacre occurred, and has banned journalists from the district.


3/27/2001 - Special Series: Priests, Rape, and AIDS – Part IV

Exploited Nuns Go Unheard

A young Islamic woman converts to Christianity, alienating her family and effectively banishing herself from the community she has grown up in. She approaches her parish priest, expressing her desire to become a Catholic nun and requesting the required certificates. The price for certification was incomprehensibly high: rape. When she finds herself pregnant, the young girl approaches the bishop, telling him that the priest raped her in exchange for the documents she needed to become a nun. The priest was ordered to “go on a two-week retreat.”

This is just one of the stories of sexual exploitation reported by nuns in 23 countries around the world, mostly concentrated in Africa, where the AIDS epidemic has made nuns and young girls victims of men (including priests and bishops) seeking “safe” women for sex, according to an article in the March 16 issue of the National Catholic Reporter. The Catholic Church is denying these allegations.

Nuns have not been silent on this horrific treatment, despite what one sister calls a “conspiracy of silence” in the Catholic church. The reports of rape, impregnation, forced abortion, and a double standard that punished the nuns involved but allowed the priests to continue serving in their communities have been discussed in councils of religious men and women worldwide, including at the Vatican. Sr. Maura O’Donohue, physician and former AIDS coordinator for the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development, is just one of two nuns, two priests, and one bishop who have written or spoken about the problem. Sr. O’Donohue says that, while nuns have appealed to congregational authorities in many countries, church authorities have offered little response. Despite documentation that prominent church officials – even within the Vatican – have been aware of the problem since as early as 1995, the Catholic church is denying the allegations of sexual exploitation.

Part I of this report: HIV Leads Priests Away from Prostitutes, Toward Nuns, Young Girls

Part II of this report: Sexual Exploitation of Nuns by Priests Widespread

Part III of this report: Priests Impregnate Nuns, Some Advise Abortion

Read source documents online

Sources: National Catholic Reporter March 16, 2001, Vol. 37 No. 20; Personal Memo from Sr. Maura O’Donohue MMM: Meeting at SRC, Rome. February 18, 1995; “The Problem of the Sexual Abuse of African Religious in Africa and in Rome” Marie McDonald, MSOLA, Paper for the Council of ‘16’ November 20, 1998; “Theological Challenges Posed by the Global Pandemic of HIV/AIDS” A reflection by Rev. Robert J. Vitillo, Carias Ineternationalois, with the Theological Study Group on HIV/AIDS, Boston College. March 23, 1994


3/27/2001 - Swiss Parliament Legalizes Abortion

More than eight years after the Swiss Socialist Party proposed legalizing abortion, the Swiss Parliament voted last week to legalize abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy without obliging women to seek “neutral” advice at a state-approved center. Currently, though abortion is technically illegal in all of Switzerland, it is widely practiced and a woman can terminate her pregnancy in a state-run hospital or clinic provided she has a signed letter from two doctors stating that there are sound medical reasons for the termination. The Christian People’s Party, a member of the four-party coalition government, has already challenged last weeks decision saying it would collect the necessary 100,000 signatures to force a referendum on the law. If the anti-abortion group collects the required number of signatures, the law will not take effect before a national vote which is unlikely to occur for several more years.


3/26/2001 - Presidential Memorandum To Skirt Senate Opposition to Global Gag Rule

With one presidential memorandum, President Bush will attempt to ensure the reinstitution of the Global Gag rule that will prohibit family planning programs in the developing world that provide abortion information or abortion counseling from receiving U.S. funding, even if abortion information and counseling are paid for by the groups’ or the countries’ own money. On March 22, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) announced that they and five Senate Republicans would challenge Bush’s executive order to reinstate the Global Gag rule—an order he gave on January 22. The senators announced they would utilize the 1996 Congressional Review Act, which allows the House and Senate to pass legislation that overturns regulations issued by federal departments and agencies. By issuing a presidential memorandum, Bush hopes to avoid exposing his anti-woman policy to a vote by the Senate. Sen. Boxer hopes to find a loophole in Bush’s memorandum strategy. “No matter how he executes his policy, it doesn’t change the fact that the denying of family-planning assistance will lead to an increase in the number of deaths due to unsafe abortions,” Boxer retorted.

LEARN MORE Click here to read women's narratives about barriers or successes in accessing reproductive health and family planning services.


3/23/2001 - Special Series: Priests, Rape, and AIDS – Part III

Priests Impregnate Nuns, Some Advise Abortion

Reports from 23 countries, mostly concentrated in Africa, reveal the widespread sexual exploitation of nuns by priests, many of whom are targeting nuns for sex because they see nuns as “safe” from HIV and AIDS. This sexist treatment includes not only rape and the extortion of sexual favors in exchange for financial security or spiritual guidance, but also impregnation and, in some cases, abortion, according to an article in the March 16 issue of the National Catholic Reporter. The Catholic Church is denying these allegations.

Sr. Maura O’Donohue, physician and former AIDS coordinator for the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development, gave examples of “situations where priests were bringing sisters (and other young women) to Catholic health institutions for abortion,” despite strict Catholic doctrine and Catholic hospital policy forbidding abortion. Sr. O’Donohue knew of “a priest who had brought a sister for an abortion. She died during the procedure and the priest officiated at the Requiem Mass” for her death.

The nuns are also reporting that in such scandals priests are allowed to continue functioning as a spiritual and community leader, while church policy requires impregnated nuns to leave religious life. In developing countries, where much of this despicable behavior is concentrated, women thrown out of religious life for becoming pregnant have few options. O’Donohue notes that many nuns who become pregnant are “forced into becoming a second or third wife in a family because of lost status in the local culture.”

In addition to rape, sexual exploitation, impregnation, forced abortions, and stigmatization, the reports indicate that some priests are coercing nuns into taking contraceptive pills with the lie that any sexual activity undertaken while on the pill will be free from the risk of HIV infection.

Part I of this report: HIV Leads Priests Away from Prostitutes, Toward Nuns, Young Girls

Part II of this report: Sexual Exploitation of Nuns by Priests Widespread

Read source documents online

Sources: National Catholic Reporter March 16, 2001, Vol. 37 No. 20; Personal Memo from Sr. Maura O’Donohue MMM: Meeting at SRC, Rome. February 18, 1995; “The Problem of the Sexual Abuse of African Religious in Africa and in Rome” Marie McDonald, MSOLA, Paper for the Council of ‘16’ November 20, 1998


3/22/2001 - Senators Boxer and Reid Introduce Effort to Overturn Global Gag Rule

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) announced Tuesday that they and five other Senators will be challenging the Mexico City Policy, reinstated by President Bush on February 15. The Mexico City, or Global Gag Rule, prohibits international family planning groups that provide abortion services or abortion counseling from receiving US funding, even if abortion services and counseling were paid for by private money. “The President’s rationale for re-imposing the gag rule was that he wanted to make abortions more rare. Yet the last time the Mexico City Policy was in effect, there was no reduction in the number of abortions, only reduced access to quality health care service, more unintended pregnancies and more abortions,” said Sen. Reid.

The senators will use the 1996 Congressional Review Act (CRA) in their efforts to repeal Bush’s executive order. The CRA allows the House and Senate to pass legislation that overturns regulations issued by federal departments and agencies. Senate Republicans successfully used the CRA two weeks ago to repeal former President Clinton’s workplace safety requirements. Thirty senators’ signatures are required to enact the CRA, all of which haven been gathered. The effort to overturn the Mexico City Policy will most likely succeed in the 50-50 split Senate, but could die in the Republican controlled House if leaders do not agree to bring it to the floor. President Bush could also stop the resolution with a veto.

LEARN MORE Click here to read women's narratives about barriers or successes in accessing reproductive health and family planning services.