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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

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.

3/22/2001 - Special Series: Priests, Rape, and AIDS – Part II

Sexual Exploitation of Nuns by Priests Widespread

The scandal surrounding priests, rape, and AIDS, according to news accounts, includes abuses of power and financial explotation. Taking advantage of nuns’ relatively poor education, some priests, especially in developing nations, are exploiting their power both as men and as spiritual leaders to force nuns into sexual servitude, exchanging sexual acts for financial security, security in religious life, and spiritual assurance, according to an article in the March 16 issue of the National Catholic Reporter. The Catholic Church is denying these allegations.

At least two nuns, one bishop, and two priests with positions of influence in the Catholic hierarchy have written or spoken about the widespread sexual exploitation of nuns by priests around the world, with testimony coming from 23 countries, including the United States but mainly concentrated in Africa. Physician and former AIDS coordinator for the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development Sr. Maura O’Donohue and Sr. Marie McDonald of the Missionaries of Our Lady of Africa report that priests, especially in developing countries, demand sex in exchange for essential documents that allow nuns to be certified in the Church or to work in a particular diocese. “Since the 1980s in a number of countries sisters are refusing to travel alone with a priest in a car because of fear of harassment or even rape,” Sr. O’Donohue says.

The stories related by Sr. O’Donohue and others make it undoubtedly clear that the reported sexual activity between priests and nuns is not consensual. O’Donohue points out that the situation is further exacerbated by the poor treatment of women in many countries worldwide. She writes, “it was pointed out that in many cultures it is impossible for a woman to say ‘No’ to a man, especially an older man, and particularly so to a priest. This results from the low status of women in these societies, their lack of formal education and the fact that priests are put on pedestals and are recognized as educated members of the society.”

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

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

3/19/2001 - Post Chronicles Afghan Refugee Crisis

In a front page story in this Sunday’s Washington Post, journalist David Finkel provides one of the first comprehensive U.S. media stories on the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, where at least 1 million people face death from famine and drought. The majority of these refugees are women and children.

The crisis has been exacerbated by Pakistan and Tajikistan closing their borders, preventing the entry of refugees trying to escape gender apartheid, genocide, starvation, and disease.

In the past year alone, over 1 million Afghans have fled their homes, trying to enter nearby Pakistan, where many believe they will find food, shelter, work. But Pakistan says that they cannot handle a huge influx of more Afghans and is threatening to send 100,000 back to Afghanistan.

At the Torkham gate, on Afghanistan’s eastern border, thousands of people attempt to make it through the narrow gate, restricted to refugees with valid documentation and open only for certain hours of the day. Most do not make it across, and many are beaten back from the gate.
Those who have made it across often end up in Jalozai, a camp where 80,000 Afghans live in makeshift tents made of plastic. Because Pakistan does not want to accept any more refugees, Jalozai is not an official refugee camp. The World Food Programme is not allowed inside, so refugees are left with no reliable food source, little water, and poor medical care.

Visit FMF’s Take Action Center to demand that the U.S. government provide immediate emergency assistance.

3/16/2001 - UNHCR May Send 1.5 Million Refugees Back to Afghanistan, Despite Gender Apartheid

The new head of the United Nations High Commission on Refugees Ruund Lubbers announced possible plans to return 1.5 million refugees to Afghanistan. Lubber intends to negoiate with the Taliban and provide the militia with assistance as part of the plan.

Paradoxically, Lubber claims that many of the people who have fled Afghanistan may no longer qualify as refugees under international law which classifies people as refugees if they have a reasonable fear of persecution at home.

Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal said, "How can UNHCR ignore the Taliban's brutal persecution of women and girls and of ethnic minorities? How can the world community support sending people to face gender apartheid, horrendous human rights violations, famine, and death? We have called for dramatic increases in humanitarian aid for people in Afghanistan and for Afghan refugees in Pakistan. However, the UNHCR plan sounds more like forced repatriation and support for the Taliban regime than humanitarian assistance." Approximately, 85% of all refugees are women and children. The majority of refugees who have fled to Pakistan over the
past year are ethnic minorities who are particular targets of the Taliban's repression and killings.

3/16/2001 - European Parliament Condemns Gender Apartheid

The European Parliament released a resolution this week condemning the Taliban’s treatment of women and girls in Afghanistan, as well as its destruction of ancient Buddha statues. The resolution called on Pakistan to immediately close Taliban recruitment centers and fundamentalist Islamic schools in Pakistan, and called on countries neighboring Afghanistan to keep their borders open to Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban.

3/14/2001 - Homosexuality No Longer a Mental Illness in China

After a five-year study by a task force assigned to overhaul China’s classifications of mental illness, the Chinese Psychiatric Association has removed homosexuality from its handbook of mental diseases and no longer considers homosexuality to be a pathological condition. This reversal of previous policy is a major victory for the Chinese gay community. Research that led to this decision included contacting the American Psychiatric Association (APA), which eliminated homosexuality from its own handbook of mental illnesses in 1973. The APA urged the Chinese Psychiatric Association to adopted similar standards. The current APA and new Chinese Psychiatric Association’s guidelines do include language that classifies homosexuality as a “psychological disturbance” for people who are unhappy with their sexual orientation.

3/14/2001 - Taliban Demand Woman BBC Correspondent Leave Afghanistan

Taliban Annihilate 5th Century Buddhist Statues

Taliban officials announced today their complete destruction of two ancient giant Buddhist statues. Following the announcement, Taliban officials ordered “the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) to remove its correspondent Kate Clark from the country within 24 hours”. Kate Clark has served as a BBC reporter in Afghanistan since 1998 and she is the only international news agency correspondent based in Afghanistan’s capitol city of Kabul. Through her on-the-ground reports from Kabul, the world heard accounts ranging from the Taliban's closing of the United Nations “widow-bakeries”, the Taliban’s outlaw of music, dancing, cinema, art and television to the devastating impact of the drought on the entire Afghan civilian population.

Although it was earlier reported that the BBC office in Kabul was ordered by the Taliban to close its doors, the Taliban have recanted those statements and will allow the BBC office to remain open, despite the dismissal of leading woman BBC reporter, Kate Clark. It is important for ensuring a more accurate account of the Taliban’s brutal assault on the human rights of women and girls in Afghanistan that all international news agencies covering Afghanistan employ women reporters.

The Feminist Majority Foundation’s A Night Without Men for the Women of Bogota, Columbia

Last Friday, the eccentric mayor of Bogata, Columbia, declared the evening to be a “Night Without Men,” and encouraged the women of the city to spend an evening celebrating with other women at bars, concerts and festivals. The evening of partying was not only a night off from domestic responsibilities, there was a serious message: reducing street crime and domestic abuse, and it worked. Crime was down 25 percent compared with a typical Friday night, with only 6 arrests. Women police officers and firefighters were also given an unusual opportunity—male police and firefighters took the night off, letting women officers enforce the law and take on higher-level positions, if only for one night. The Chief of police even resigned for the evening, putting Col. Gloria Cardilla in charge of the city’s force.

3/9/2001 - International Women’s Day Events Highlight Women’s Role in Peace

Several International Women’s Day events highlighted women’s role in the peace-making process worldwide, and focused on the fact that women and their children often constitute the majority of the victims of war and conflict. At a conference on women and conflict management, former Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Bosnia and Herzegovina Elisabeth Rehn noted that women ambassadors to the U.N. are the most active in pursuing peace worldwide, and praised recent resolutions, mostly reached by women, to increase representation of women in all levels of the U.N. At the event, the Women’s Alliance for Peace and Human Rights in Afghanistan circulated a plea for the United Nations to “form an international tribunal and bring to justice the Taliban and all other war criminals that commit war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and cultural genocide in Afghanistan.”

Earlier this week, the United Nations awarded the first-ever women’s peace prizes, established by the U.N. Development Fund for Women and the London-based International Alert. Honorees included Flora Broniva, a Kosovar woman jailed by former Yugoslav government agents for aiding independence-seeking separatists who founded the League of Albanian Women, a group that protested the war and cared for women, children and the elderly. Two Pakistani sisters were also honored; Asma Jahangir and Hina Hilani have worked for two decades defending women’s rights and human rights in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. Veneranda Nzambazamariya of Rwanda was also honored for her work in restoring peace to Rwanda after the 1994 genocie through the collective of more than 30 women’s organizations that she headed; Nzambazamariya was killed in a plane crash last year.

Finally, a conference in Cape Town, South Africa also highlighted the role of women in armed conflict. 32 witnesses told their stories of war and conflict, including Nooria Shafiq, an Afghan woman who fled to Pakistan six months ago. Shafiq told of how the Taliban tortured and killed her husband and uncle, and then beat her for appearing in public without a male relative. The conference raised awareness of the fact that women and children are increasingly becoming targets in wars worldwide. South African deputy defense minister Nozizwe Mandala-Routlage noted, “Civilians now make up 90 percent of casualties, compared to 10 percent in World War II.”

3/9/2001 - Report Exposes Catholic Group’s Ties to Anti-Abortion Organization

A report by Catholics for a Free Choice released this week exposes the connection between the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (CAFHRI), a conservative anti-reproductive rights group that lobbies the United Nations, and the anti-abortion group Human Life International, and reveals “shocking remarks” about Hillary Clinton made by its president Austin Ruse. The report illustrates CAFHRI’s history of covering up its connections to the anti-abortion movement, and its attempts to obscure one of its main functions as a resource for the Vatican’s delegation to the UN.

The report reveals remarks made by Ruse at a March 2000 address to a militant anticommunist organization called the Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation. Ruse remarks that a priest from the Holy See’s UN delegation guaranteed him “absolution if I just took [Hillary Clinton] out – and not on a date.” Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC) president Frances Kissling said the remark was part of “an increasingly warlike mindset” among conservative groups at the UN. CFFC’s report also reveals that, while CAFHRI claims to be an independent organization, it was established by Human Life International; CAFHRI sought to deny this connection, as well as its primary purpose as an ally for the Vatican’s UN delegation.

3/8/2001 - Celebrate International Women’s Day – March 8, 2001

Today marks the 144th International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate the accomplishments of women worldwide and to continue the fight for global equality for women and girls. On March 8, 1857, in one of the first organized actions by working women, hundreds of women garment and textile workers in New York City protested against inhumane working conditions, the 12-hour workday, and low wages. Police attacked and dispersed the women. Two years later, these women formed their first union. March 8 is set aside to recognize the achievements and successes of women around the world.

Celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month with the Feminist Majority Foundation.

3/8/2001 - Number of Working Women Worldwide Increase; Glass Ceiling, Wage Inequity Remain

In recognition of International Women’s Day, the International Labor Organization released a report on the status of working women around the world. According to the report, women now make up 40 percent of the global workforce, however great barriers remain for women at all levels in all areas of the world. Wage inequities and glass ceilings persist, and for women of color, the parity between women’s and men’s wages is even greater. The International study encouraged countries’ governments to pass legislation that would ensure equality and eradicate discrimination, and suggested labor unions and workers’ organizations focus on improving women’s access to higher-level positions.

3/8/2001 - Study Examines Women’s Reproductive Health Risk Worldwide

A study released today by Population Action International (PAI) reported women in America face greater reproductive health risks than women in Singapore, Australia and much of Europe, while women in Africa and Afghanistan have the highest risk of reproductive health problems. The report surveyed 133 countries—91 developing countries and 42 developed countries, representing 95 percent of the world’s population—and determined countries’ risk index by examining 10 factors, which included the number of births to teenagers and women, contraceptive use, prevalence of HIV and AIDS, access to prenatal and childbirth care, birth-mother mortality rate and the countries’ abortion policies.

The study showed that women in developing countries die at a rate 33 times higher than women in Europe, the US and other rich nations. The study also reported 150 million women want to prevent or delay pregnancy, but have no access to birth control. The United States ranked 15th in the study, just above the Czech Republic and Lithuania, two countries with far fewer resources. The study attributed the low rank to the enormous number of teenage mothers in the US—more than any other industrialized country. The study suggested the high numbers of young mothers in the US reflected the lack of reproductive health information available to young women and girls. PAI urged the United Nations to honor its 1994 commitment of $17 billion annually to improve worldwide reproductive health services.

3/7/2001 - Torture of Women a Worldwide Phenomenon

Amnesty International released two new reports this week showing that women worldwide are tortured and abused both by relatives and by government officials, including police. In “Broken Bodies, Shattered Minds,” Amnesty International asserts that “[t]orture is fed by a global culture which denies women equal rights with men, and which legitimizes violence against women.” The report confirms that women in every country are beaten and raped by husbands and boyfriends, and that women in poor countries often suffer violence after being sold for their labor, traded into marriage, or forced into sex-trafficking networks. 20 percent of women in the U.S., the report says, have been physically or sexually assaulted. The report was released to coincide with International Women’s Day tomorrow, and it reveals that many governments fail to protect women and girls from torture and abuse. In fact, women in many countries suffer violence from armed groups, police, and other government agents.

Another recent Amnesty International Report on incarcerated women reveals that many states in the U.S. do not protect inmates from sexual abuse, applying different standards to prison employees and often holding the prisoner responsible for her attacker’s behavior. An article in the recent issue of Sojourner reveals that inadequate medical care is another problem facing women in prison. At the Central California Women’s Facility, for example, at least nine recent inmate deaths were caused by medical neglect.

3/7/2001 - 177 Women Freed from Sexual Slavery in Bosnia

In the U.N.’s largest series of raids in Bosnian brothels, 177 women were freed from prostitution and 38 brothels were closed in an operation carried out on March 2. The women, primarily from Romania, Moldova, Ukraine and Russia, will be interviewed by U.N. officials to build a case against the brothel owners. Bosnia has become a center for foreign women lured into sexual slavery.

3/5/2001 - State Dept. Senior Coordinator of Women’s Issues Could be Abolished

Under a directive from President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell reviewed 55 “special offices” within the State Department, deciding to abolish 21 of them. Powell provisionally kept 25 special offices, but the State Department announced that six of them will be reviewed in the near future, among them the interagency council on women. The abolishment of this office would be detrimental to women’s human rights, and would limit the U.S.’s ability to respond to humanitarian crises that affect women worldwide. The position was established under former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

3/5/2001 - Taliban Destroys 2000 Year Old Artifacts

In their latest attack on culture and human-rights, the Taliban has vowed to destroy ancient Buddhist artifacts, including two giant Buddhist statues in central Afghanistan that are two-thousand years old. The Taliban claims that the statues are an insult to Islam, but these statues predate Islam in Afghanistan. Many countries have issued statements decrying the destruction of the historical artifacts. India and the United States have offered to transfer the statues out of Afghanistan for safekeeping.