The Brandeis University Leadership Alliance organized a presentation on the Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan to a group of over one hundred high school students. Inspired by the presentation, many of the students are now participating in the Back-to-School program and working with Brandeis to establish a Mentoring Program. Good work!
Congratulations to the Leadership Alliances at SUNY Stonybrook, University of North Texas, St. Mary's College (MD) and Goucher for organizing successful fundraisers for the Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan. The FMLA at the U of N. Texas hosted a benefit concert, raising over 900 dollars for the campaign and the Leadership Alliance at SUNY Stonybrook also raised over nine hundred dollars, selling Afghan crafts and swatches!
Stonybrook and Nrandeis are two of over 240 Action Teams participating in the campaign's "Adopt-a-School" Project to provide resources and educational opportunities to Afghan women and girls. As women and girls return to schools throughout the United States, Afghan women and girls continue to be barred from education. The Feminist Majority Foundation's Back to School Campaign supports Afghan girls' schools, recruit scholarships for Afghan women at U.S. colleges and universities, and petition for increased humanitarian aid to Afghan women's organizations.
Get involved in the Back-to-School Campaign!
Many Leadership Alliances joined in the "16 DAYS OF ACTIVISM AGAINST GENDER VIOLENCE," a campaign of the Global Campaign for Women's Human Rights. The "16 Days" was coordinated by the Center for Women's Global Leadership at Rutgers University nine years ago and highlights four significant dates: International Day Against Violence Against Women (November 25th), World AIDS Day (December 1st), the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, when a man stormed into the University of Montreal's engineering school and killed 14 young women in a hate-filled rampage (December 6th), and International Day of Human Rights (December 10th).
The Leadership Alliances at the University of Rochester organized many events during the 16 Days of Activism, including fundraisers and visibility actions. The Leadership Alliance at East Stroudsburg held a Candlelight Vigil and garnered support from over 18 radio stations that agreed to help make the public aware of the violence against women by playing specific pro-women songs during the 16 days of activism.
Interested in participating in a global campaign to end violence against women? To participate in the V-Day "Stop Rape" Contest to End Violence Against Women, visit www.feminist.org/Global/vdayentry.html
12/11/2000 - Celebrate Roe!
January 22nd marks the 28th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that legalized abortion in the United States. To recognize the importance of this historic case, the Choices Campaign and Feminist Majority Leadership Alliances will be celebrating the anniversary nationwide! Join thousands of students and community activists around the country as we honor the importance of abortion rights in our fight for equality.
Contact a member of the Campus Team at firstname.lastname@example.org or toll-free at 866-444-3652 to request a Roe v. Wade action kit and watch for FMF's Roe v. Wade Day website coming soon!
12/7/2000 - Gender Crimes Remembered In Montreal Massacre
On December 6th, women across Canada gathered to mark the eleven-year anniversary of a mass shooting that killed fourteen female engineering students. The person behind the gun on December 6, 1989 at École Polytechnique in Montreal that marked Canada’s worst mass shooting in history, was Marc Lepine, who authorities charge targeted the engineering students solely because of their gender.
According to findings released by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS), 64% of women reported feeling somewhat or very worried while waiting for or using public transportation alone after dark; 51% of all Canadian women have been victims of at least one act of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16; and women account for 85% of all reported sexual-assault crimes.
Women’s rights organizations across the globe have organized major campaigns to stop violence against women and raise awareness about the numbers of women assaulted, harassed and murdered everyday simply because of their gender. The Status of Women Canada has organized to urge elected officials to pass tougher laws that will bring to justice perpetrators of gender crimes and sexual assault. December 6th was declared the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women by the Canadian parliament in lieu of the Montreal Massacre.
12/7/2000 - Aung San Suu Kyi Receives U.S. Medal of Freedom
Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy who won the 1990 free elections in Burma (Myanmar), was honored by U.S President Bill Clinton with the highest civilian award, the Medal of Freedom. Due to more than six years of house imprisonment by the Myanmar military, Suu Kyi was unable to receive the award in person, instead her son accepted her award on her behalf in Washington. Suu Kyi is the first Southeast Asian woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, yet from 1989 to 1995 and since September 2000 she has lived under house arrest. President Clinton saluted Suu Kyi’s bravery, commenting that “she has seen her supporters beaten, tortured and killed, yet she has never responded to violence and hatred in kind.”
A 17-year-old pregnant Nigerian girl was sentenced to 180 lashes (flogging) between forty days and two months after delivery for her so called disobedience to Islamic Sharia law. The 17-year old stated before the Islamic Court, along with seven corroborating witnesses, that she had been forced into having sex with three middle-aged men from her village. The Court upheld their flogging sentence citing that the 17-year-old “had not provided enough proof and found her guilty of sex before marriage and making unproven allegations against the men.”
The European Parliament requested all member states in the European Union to withhold non-humanitarian economic support from the Taliban and urge Pakistan to immediately stop its military support to the regime. The Parliament cites the inhumane “ideology of the Taliban” as the reason for widespread human rights abuses in Afghanistan.
The Feminist Majority Foundation’s Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan urges all nations to not officially recognize the Taliban until the human rights of girls and women in Afghanistan are restored. In addition, the Campaign emphasizes the need for the Pakistani government, and other countries that support the Taliban, to hault their supply of arms and soldiers to the Taliban.
Republicans in the United States House of Representatives and Senate, led by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Jesse Helms, have announced their plans to not ratify the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court, making it a “top legislative priority” for next year. (For a treaty to become law in the U.S., it must be approved by 2/3 of the Senate.) The ICC would serve as a breakthrough for the ongoing protection of women's rights by providing a mechanism for bringing to justice perpetrators of inhumane crimes against women and girls. It would be the first international legal court to include in its mandate the prosecution of gender crimes as crimes against humanity.
The 1998 "Rome Treaty" strengthens the Nuremberg principle of personal responsibility for atrocities regardless of rank or status to include crimes against women. Article 7 of the Rome Statute presents clear language defining gender crimes including rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity; and crime of apartheid as crimes against humanity. Under Article 7, women living under the Taliban’s system of gender apartheid, women who suffered in rape camps during the Kosovo conflict and women who served as “comfort” to Japanese soldiers during World War II would have for the first time in international law a Court that would bring to justice these criminals.
The U.S. has spearheaded a series of proposals that seeks a 100 percent exemption for U.S. military personnel and nationals from the ICC's jurisdiction. However, the U.S. position is not necessary since the Rome Statute already includes safety provisions that would protect U.S. military personnel and nationals from so called politically charged suits filed before the ICC. Under the Rome Statute for the ICC, the Court would only have jurisdiction to hear cases when national courts are unable to provide a fair trial or when national judicial courts systems do not exist. Nearly every U.S. NATO ally has signed the Rome Statute for the ICC. Republican leaders who opposed the ICC and have pledged to block its ratification have also served to block the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
Estimates indicate that at least 50,000 women are brought into the United States for sexual exploitation alone and internationally, over 700,000 women and girls are forced into sexual slavery. Lured by promises of a better life, job opportunities and escape from economically depressed areas, women from South Asia and Eastern Europe respond to advertisements promising work either as waitresses, barmaids, or childsitters abroad that turns out to be employment in the sex trade.
A feminist coalition in the United States, including Equality Now, Sisterhood Is Global Institute, the National Organization for Women, and the Feminist Majority, have campaigned to urge the U.S. government to pass greater protection laws for the lives and human rights of women and girls trafficked in the global sex trade. After months of political stalling by the Republicans in the US Senate, on October 20th Senators voted unanimously to pass the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act. The legislation authorizes $94.5 million for victims of sex trafficking and slavery, and toughens current federal maximum penalties for sex traffickers. As one step further, bill specifies the U.S. to withhold certain aid from governments who fail to enforce anti-sex trafficking provisions.
In other regions, organizations in Russia have taken on this serious problem, holding a November conference with 43 anti-trafficking organizations from 25 regions of Russia and six former Soviet republics. Some organizers of the conference believe that around 90% of women trafficked abroad are unaware that they will be in the sex industry. The United Nations' Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women denounced the increase of sex trafficking in Austria, Lithuania, Moldova and Romania. The Interior Ministry of Macedonia has begun to address this epidemic in European countries by strengthening the customs services at its borders and collaborating with neighboring countries to fight the organized sex-trafficking business.
11/30/2000 - Taliban Policies Hurt Aid Delivery to Women
The United Nations condemned the Taliban's severe restrictions on women as both human rights violations and imptediments to the delivery of humanitarian aid. The Taliban regime has prohibited women and girls from attending school, banned their employment, and forbid them from leaving their homes without a close male relative. Some UN agencies had won permission for limited numbers of women to work in aid delivery programs, but a July decree totally forbade the employment of Afghan women by humanitarian agencies outside of the health sector and has created a major obstacle in the provision of assistance to women. "Since onl women can work with women, [and] agencies that target vulnerable women must use the services of Afghan women to reach them," said Mike Sackett, Acting UN
Coordinator for Afghanistan.
Declaring the plight of Afghans, and in particular Afghan women, a major humanitarian concern, the United Nations this week issued a $229 million appeal for humanitarian aid in Afghanistan.
Within the next week, the United Nations Security Council will consider an arms embargo on the Taliban. The embargo would pressure Pakistan to halt the flow of arms to the Taliban regime.
11/28/2000 - Taliban Military Gains Will Not Win UN Recognition
Despite the Taliban’s military conquests throughout Afghanistan, the terrorist regime’s continual violations of the human rights of Afghanistan women and girls are among the factors that will continue to prevent the militia from achieving official international recognition. UN special envoy on Afghanistan Francesc Vendrell said, “I think the Security Council continues to believe and to state that there must not be a military solution; and that military gains will not be a ticket to international recognition. There has to be progress on issues like terrorism, drug production, human rights and gender issues, before there is full engagement by the international community with the Taliban.”
11/27/2000 - Pakistan Refuses To Reopen Border
Pakistan refuses to reopen its border with Afghanistan, which it closed on November 10, 2000. The Taliban’s military advances, policies of gender apartheid and genocide and one of the worst drought in the regions history have caused ten of thousands of refugees to flee to Pakistan in recent weeks. Minister for Kashmir Affairs, Abbas Sarfraz stated at a news briefing that Pakistan cannot handle the problem of Afghan refugees on its own and that greater financial help from the international community is needed. Meanwhile, there are reports that Pakistan is still actively allowing some refugees with certain documents or of Pashtun ethnicity to enter the country.
More than three million of Afghan refugees are currently living in Pakistan. Pakistan officials report that they are now “overburdened” by the influx and will not allow any more refugees to cross the border. Those refugees that have been displaced inside Afghanistan face continued hardships as winter approaches, and as snow makes roads impassable, hindering the transport of aid. The World Food Programme has predicted that as many as 1 million Afghans could face starvation this winter. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports that more than 36,000 Afghan refugees fled during the month of October alone. Other reports indicate that this number could be well over 45,000. After the Taliban take over of Taloqan, more than 150,000 persons living in the city were reported to have been displaced.
11/27/2000 - National Young Women's Day of Action a Success!
Congratulations to all the Leadership Alliances that participated in this year’s National Young Women’s Day of Action (NYWDA), a nationwide grassroots campaign organized for and by young women to activate a reproductive rights agenda that places reproductive and sexual freedom in the context of larger goals of racial justice, economic justice, LGBT rights, freedom from violence and quality education.
The ST. LAWRENCE LEADERSHIP ALLIANCE tabled and flyered their campus with a pro-choice message as well as hosted a video and discussion on feminist activism.
The IOWA STATE LEADERSHIP ALLIANCE participated by chalking, posting banners and signs, face painting, and putting on an interactive play about domestic violence and ending violence against women.
The BROWN LEADERSHIP ALLIANCE worked with a coalition of other progressive groups to distribute condoms, organize a CEDAW petition drive, and raise awareness through a showing of “If These Walls Could Talk.”
The Leadership Alliance at SUNY STONYBROOK worked with their local Planned Parenthood to organize a coat hanger display and video presentation on abortion rights.
The CONNECTICUT COLLEGE LEADERSHIP ALLIANCE also participated in NYWDA and focused on Human Rights Violations including information on mothers in prison, hate crimes prevention, domestic violence, LGBT violations, and women’s AIDS/HIV information. Good work to all of the Leadership Alliances and Choices campaign participants who worked on the NYWDA!
On October 31, 2000, the United Nations (UN) Security Council unanimously passed a resolution on Women, Peace and Security. The resolution calls for gender sensitivity in all UN missions and for equal participation for women in conflict and peace negotiations. The resolution reconfirms that women and children are those most adversely affected by armed conflict, including those living as refugees and internally displaced persons. It also calls for special measures to be taken to protect women and girls from gender-based violence and other forms of violence in situations of armed conflict.
Women throughout the world have been subjected to gross violations of their human rights during armed conflict. Women living in Afghanistan are faced with a brutal system of gender apartheid by the Taliban. Thousands of women and girls in Sierra Leone are victims of a systematic assault by rebels who had sought to overthrow the west african nation’s government. Human rights workers compare the atrocities to the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, where women were targeted, captured, ganged raped and forced into sexual servitude and “rape camps”. In August of this year, eleven (11) Bosnian women testified in a U.S. civil trial against Serb leader Radovan Karadzic alleging that he ordered the rape, torture, forced prostitution, kidnapping, and murder of Croats and Muslims. East Timorese women also allege that women in West Timor refugee camps were held as sex slaves.
11/10/2000 - Pakistan Closes Border To Afghan Refugees
Pakistan authorities in the North West Frontier Province on Thursday have officially closed their borders to Afghanistan, to prevent refugees from fleeing to Pakistan. The Taliban’s military advances, policies of gender apartheid and genocide and one of the worst droughts in the regions history have caused ten of thousands of refugee to flee to Pakistan in recent weeks.
More than three million Afghan refugees are living in Pakistan. Pakistan officials report that they are now “overburdened” by the influx and will not allow any more refugees to cross the border. Those refugees that have been displaced in Afghanistan face continued hardship as winter approaches, and as snow makes roads impassable, hindering the transport of aid. The World Food Program has predicted that as many as 1 million Afghans could face starvation this winter. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that more than 36,000 Afghan refugees fled during the month of October alone. In September, after the Taliban take over of Taloqan, more than 150,000 persons living in the city were reported to have been displaced.
Pakistan is one of three countries, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, in the world that officially recognize the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan. The Taliban regime has imposed one of the harshest forms of oppression, known as gender apartheid, on the women and girls living in Afghanistan. Gender apartheid in Afghanistan has made women virtual prisoners in their own home, violating women’s freedom of movement, and prohibiting the human rights of women such as education, work and freedom from violence. These harsh restrictions on women range from banning women from wearing shoes that make noise to closing public baths for women.
11/10/2000 - Tokyo Tribunal To Address Issue Of “Comfort Women”
Women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army in World War II, often known as “comfort women” will convene in Tokyo on December 7-10 to testify and demand accountability from the Japanese government. The Japanese military lured and/or abducted as many as 200,000 young and poor women from Korea, China, Indonesia, and the Philippines during WWII for the purpose of sexually servicing its soldiers. These so-called "comfort women" were kidnapped or coerced into entering military brothels by men who made false promises of legitimate employment. There, the women were raped by as many as 20 or 30 Japanese soldiers each day.
The accompanying one-day public hearing scheduled for December 11 will address the fact that “comfort women” still exist and are not a thing of the past in countries during armed conflict. Women from Sierra Leone, Burundi, Columbia, Puerto Rico, Indonesia, Mexico (Chiapas), Vietnam, Somalia, Burma, Okinawa and Korea will be in attendance and present testimony and analysis.
According to a New York Times report, death is a way out for many young oppressed Turkish women with no resources and no educational opportunities. Trapped in her home, forbidden to leave, find a job or go to school, a 22-year old women jumped to her death after being beaten by her parents and another relative for wearing a tight skirt. This is all too common a story in Turkey. Largely due to constant oppression such as this, Turkish women in the southeast choose death over life, resulting in a suicide rate double the rest of Turkey. Nearly half of the women in southeastern Turkey are illiterate, mostly because their families refuse to permit schooling for girls.
Worldwide, the suicide rate among women is high in conservative and repressive societies, stated Radhika Coomaraswamy, United Nations special rapporteur on violence against women. This is also evident in Afghanistan where the extremist Taliban regime seized power in 1996, enforcing a strict system of gender apartheid that stripped women of their freedom of movement, right to work and right to education. In September 1999, the Special Rapporteur On Violence Against Women, made a fact finding mission to Pakistan and Afghanistan and reported, “the high rates of depression indicate the health fall-out of these (Taliban) policies.” A study released by Physicians for Human Rights, titled “The Taliban’s War on Women”, found that a startling 97 percent of Afghan women living in the capitol city of Kabul exhibited signs of major depression.
For the first time ever, women in British Columbia can take emergency contraception without a prescription, a stark change in the drug’s 30-year availability with a prescription.
Emergency contraception involves taking two doses of birth control pills 12 hours apart within the first 72 hours after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure. The pills contain estrogen and progesterone, hormones that prevent the implantation of fertilized eggs and induce menstruation, and are 99% effective in preventing pregnancy. Doctors recommend taking anti-nausea medication to counter common side effects such as nausea, vomiting and breast pain.
Emergency contraception is available in the United States with a prescription, except in Washington state where it is available through pharmacists without a prescription. Many European countries offer emergency contraception without a prescription. In France legislation has been drafted to overturn a high administrative court ruling that forbids the distribution of emergency contraception in schools.
11/3/2000 - Vatican Denounces RU 486
The Vatican has denounced the sale of RU 486 (also known as
mifepristone) and has suggested that Catholic chemists refuse to sell the pill as “conscientious objectors”. Although abortion has been legal for over 20 years in Italy, Catholic doctors are permitted by the Vatican to
refuse to perform abortions.
RU-486 is a proven safe method for terminating unwanted pregnancies in early stages. Moreover, the availability of the drug, advances the rights of millions of women over their bodies and provides a safer environment to undergo the procedure. Increased acts of violence against abortion doctors, providers, staff, and clinic patients at clinics are evident across the globe. The availability of RU 486 allows greater privacy for women seeking abortions and counters bombings and arson attacks by anti-abortion extremists.
Only a few months ago during the United Nations Beijing Plus 5 meetings, the Vatican exercised its authority as the only non-state and religious entity with permanent voting status within the UN during negotiations over a follow-up document to the Beijing Platform for action. The Vatican joined by Libya, Algeria, Iran, Sudan, Nicaragua, and Pakistan fought against the inclusion and greater protections for a woman’s right over her body, safe access to abortion, reproductive health treatment, and respect for an individual’s sexual orientation.
11/3/2000 - Taliban U.N. Seat Push Fails
On November 1, for the fourth consecutive year, a U.N. committee deferred for another year the decision on granting a seat to the Taliban militia, an extremist group that now controls about 95 percent of Afghanistan. The “Taliban intensified its lobbying for the U.N. General Assembly seat this year,” according to the Associated Press, but failed to gain recognition by the international community as the official government of Afghanistan. Only Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates recognize the Taliban’s rule. “Feminists must continue the campaign to urge the United Nations and other official bodies not to recognize the Taliban regime, which has imposed a brutal system of gender apartheid on the women and girls of Afghanistan,” says Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal.
Join the Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan.
Violence and bombing continue in Afghanistan as the terrorist regime the Taliban struggles with the Northern Alliance under Ahmed Shah Massoud for control of the country. The Taliban, which took power in 1996 and now controls more than 95 percent of Afghanistan, recently seized Taloqan, a former stronghold of Massoud’s Alliance. Refugees fleeing to Pakistan fear a United States attack against Afghanistan, as negotiations over Taliban-harbored terrorist Osama bin Laden fail. Moscow, approached by Massoud for military support, joined the U.S. and India in alarm about terrorism extending out of Afghanistan. Pakistan has not made any move against the Taliban, and has long been suspected of supplying weapons to the regime. Pakistani government officials announced that, in the event of a U.S. air strike against Afghanistan, they will not allow the U.S. to use Pakistani air space. Pakistan religious groups have close ties to the Taliban, providing weapons and fighters for its so-called “holy war.” The Taliban, an extremist militia, has imposed a system of gender apartheid against the women and girls of Afghanistan, sending them into a state of virtual house arrest.
10/30/2000 - US Congress Passes Anti-Taliban Resolution
The US Congress passed a resolution late last week criticizing the human rights abuses of the Taliban, and calling for the reconvening of a Grand Assembly of Afghan leaders, a representative government for Afghanistan, and democratic elections. The measure passed by a vote of 381-0 in the House, with 32 not voting, and passed unanimously in the Senate. The resolution calls on the US administration to take steps to bring about significant change in Afghanistan: an end to the human and political rights abuses committed by the Taliban, an end to terrorist activities, and an end to illegal drug production in Taliban-controlled regions. The Taliban-controlled areas have been the number one heroin producers for the world. This marks the first time that the US Congress has passed a resolution on issues other than terrorism and the harboring of Osama Bin Laden. The resolution specifically mentioned human rights abuses against Afghan women and girls.
In a major step forward, U.S. House and Senate leaders, by a vote of 307-101 and 65-27, agreed to remove the anti-choice restriction known as the “global gag rule” from the $14.9 billion foreign aid bill. U.S. House and Senate leaders agreed to a plan that would increase funding for international family planning programs to $425 million in year 2001(FY 2001), an increase of $40 million appropriated for the current year (FY 2000). The “global gag rule” restricted most overseas programs that receive U.S. family planning funds from using any funds from any source, including their own money, to discuss abortion as an option or work for greater access to abortion. Even in countries where abortion is legal, organizations accepting U.S. funds were prevented from providing abortion services or promoting abortion rights with their own funds.
Removal of the “global gag rule” will ensure better reproductive health for those living in poverty worldwide, of which 60% are women and girls, and would benefit the large numbers of women forced to seek unsafe abortions. At least 25% of all unsafe abortions occur among girls between the ages of 15 and 19. United Nations (UN) estimates show that at least 78,000 women across the globe die annually from unsafe abortions. Many feminists argue that the UN estimates are low and do not account for thousands more due to the lack of accurate in-country reporting systems. The removal of U.S. restrictions on international family planning will take effect on February 15, 2001, therefore contingent on the upcoming presidential elections. The elected president will have the ability to reinstate restrictions on international family planning by executive order.
LEARN MORE Click here to read women's narratives about barriers or successes in accessing reproductive health and family planning services.
10/27/2000 - Malaysian Minister Argues Women Voices “Seduce Men”
The chief minister of an opposition-ruled Malaysian state who recently claimed that women were the main cause of social ills and moral decadence due to attire that exposed their bodies has now stated that women should be banned from Koran recital contests in claiming their voices seduce men. Minister Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat also added that women in such recitals used “high melodic voices” which may be an attraction to men. He added that a woman’s voice could be considered similarly provocative as revealing clothing.
A joint House-Senate negotiations committee voted yesterday to strike the “global gag rule” from the $14.9 billion foreign aid bill. Congress members agreed to a plan that would raise funding for international family planning programs to $425 million, compared to $385 million for last year. It will also remove restrictions first instated by Reagan in 1984 that specify that no U.S. funding can go to organizations that practice, provide, or counsel abortion. Under yesterday’s agreement, no funds will be distributed until February 15, making the negotiations an uneasy victory for pro-choice activists. The next president will have the power to reinstate the restrictions. The House is expected to vote on the foreign aid bill today; it will then go to the Senate for approval.
LEARN MORE Click here to read women's narratives about barriers or successes in accessing reproductive health and family planning services.