Ohio’s Abortion Rights Future: Issue 1 Defeat Highlights Voter Commitment

Ohioans Vote for Abortion Rights, Defeating Issue 1

Last week, Ohioans overwhelmingly voted against a ballot measure that would make it harder to amend the state’s constitution. The hotly contested election served as a proxy battle between pro-abortion and anti-abortion forces committed to winning victory in the upcoming November 2023 ballot initiative to add abortion rights to Ohio’s constitution. Supporters of reproductive freedom organized voters to vote “No” on Issue 1, to maintain the simple majority vote requirement to ensure that that abortion ballot measure would succeed. The proponents of Issue 1 cited reasons tied to curbing external interest group influence in Ohioan politics. However, the election’s overarching significance centered around abortion rights in Ohio, a state resolute in its commitment to safeguard legal abortion access within the post-Dobbs landscape.

Ohio’s Abortion Background

After the US Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v Wade in the Dobbs decision that eliminated federally protected abortion access, trigger laws went immediately into effect across multiple states, including Ohio, putting near bans and restrictions on abortion access. 

In 2019, Ohio Governor Mark DeWine signed Ohio’s “heartbeat” bill into law that restricted legal abortion access after 6 weeks of pregnancy. A preliminary injunction prevented the law from taking effect until it was lifted on June 24, 2022 after the US Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade, rendering the law enforceable by state officials. Hamilton County Court of Common Appeals judge, Christian Jenkins granted a preliminary injunction on the law, meaning Ohio’s original law before the abortion restriction, currently stands and allows abortion procedures up to 22 weeks of pregnancy.

State Battles Fight for Reproductive Freedom

Abortion rights organizers have mobilized citizens to take action by securing abortion access at the state-level. Ballot initiatives are the key to protecting abortion for Americans, and both sides of the abortion fight know it. During the 2022 midterm elections, an overwhelming turn-out of young people, especially young women, voted in favor of candidates and measures committed to protecting a person’s right to choose. These state battles continue to define the future of abortion access nationwide. States where abortion turns up on the ballot reveal Americans voting in favor of protecting abortion access. Post Dobbs, voters in Michigan, California and Vermont voted to codify abortion rights in their respective state constitutions, and in Kentucky, Kansas, and Montana, voters rejected measures aimed at eliminating abortion access. 

Ballot referendums with abortion rights typically pass, but they largely have not surpassed the 60% supermajority threshold that supporters of Issue 1 sought. The outcome clears a direct path to success for the new amendment that would enshrine abortion rights in the constitution by declaring “a fundamental right to reproductive freedom” for Ohioans. This triumph underscores the commitment of America’s pro-choice majority to reject the Dobbs decision and firmly anchor abortion rights.

Issue’s 1’s outcome looks poor for Republican leaders and their campaign against reproductive rights, especially given Ohio’s conservative leaning population that generally favors restrictions on abortion access. 700,000 early in-person and mail-in ballots cast represented a remarkable doubling of the number of votes cast in typical primary elections.

While Republican lawmakers initially advocated for the elimination of special elections due to low hyperlocal turnout, their stance conspicuously ignored the campaign surrounding Issue 1. This selective approach underscores their determination to advance their anti-abortion agenda among Ohio’s pro-choice majority. Ohioan Eric Chon reported to AP about the election noting Republican leaders’ sudden shift on special elections altogether saying, “Every time something doesn’t go their way, they change the rules.”

The Feminist Majority Foundation strongly supports Ohio’s vote in favor of democracy and securing reproductive freedom for all its people. 

The Costly Price of Gender Apartheid: Afghanistan’s Brain Drain in the Face of Taliban Rule

Afghanistan faces a bleak future as the Taliban’s oppressive regime takes hold, exacerbating the country’s brain drain crisis, with educated Afghans seeking safety elsewhere, leaving behind a fractured society struggling to retain its intellectual capital.

Many Afghans have sooner or later come to realize that the Taliban’s empty promises of a reformed leadership were crafted responses to its own perceived weaknesses. The international community leveraged their power by not recognizing the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan (so far). 

This prompted Taliban leaders to reassure the world that it would not trample on the fundamental rights and protections of people, especially historically targeted groups such as Afghanistan’s women and girls, ethnic and religious minorities and intellectuals. Those who have the most to lose from the Taliban’s return to power face two bleak choices: risk persecution and not be allowed to use their talents or flee to protect their lives and continue their livelihoods abroad. 

I studied for 16 years and nobody thinks about us. If the situation continues like this and nobody hears us, we are obliged to leave the country,” responds Fardin, a young person struggling with unemployment. This speaks truth to a reality that many young and educated Afghans face. The condition is even graver for the educated and aspiring Afghan women and girls. 

Taliban resurgence triggered mass exodus

Afghanistan’s political turmoil, combined with humanitarian and economic crises has created unbearable conditions for young educated Afghans to pursue careers in the job industry. Thousands of Afghans currently struggle to support themselves and their families. An estimated 97% of Afghans live in poverty according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in 2022. 

The Taliban’s resurgence triggered a mass exodus of newly educated young people, doctors, journalists, engineers, artists, and more. “Losing such human capital, simply put, is disastrous for Afghanistan,” comments Weeda Mehran, co-director of the Center for Advanced International Studies (CAIS) from University of Exeter in England. Many Afghans held hope for a promising new era in which social progress and innovation would take root and flourish, fueled by a new generation of young Afghans. 

“Brainpower also means criticism and free-thinking,” said Michael Barry, an expert on Afghanistan. “The intellectuals in any highly repressive society are a source of opposition. When you let them go, you remove the potential for opposition and therefore of change,” says Frederic Docquier from the Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research. 

The Taliban’s regressive policies sweep away significant gains made the past two decades such as a nearly 20 fold increase of women’s presence in higher education. Numbers have jumped from 5,000 to 100,000 women enrolled in school almost two decades since 2001 according to UN News. 

The Taliban eliminated half of Afghanistan’s potential

While the Taliban asks men to stay and build up the country, its brutal regime has condemned Afghanistan to ruin by actively disempowering half its population through the weaponization of patriarchy.

“They should not hurt Afghanistan’s talents, Afghanistan’s scientific cadres and Afghanistan’s prides, and should not take them out of this country.” says Amir Khan Muttaqi, acting Taliban Foreign Minister in an ironic response to the mass emigration of Afghans. 

Yet, by relegating women to the status of sub-citizens in a gender apartheid state, the Taliban not only strips away their fundamental rights but eliminates half of Afghanistan’s potential. The Taliban’s sabotage of Afghanistan’s future progress manifests most visibly in the deprivation of women and girls’ livelihoods and the constant threat to their aspirations. 

Manizha Wafeq, president of the Afghanistan Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry expressed frustration saying, “we all invested so much in creating a great pool of professionals to support the country – in politics, the economy, engineering, the environment – everything.” 

First hand accounts from the Afghan people support predicted brain drain trends with rapidly diminishing Afghan talent and intellect. The loss is further catalyzed by bans on education for women and girls. Condemning 50% of Afghanistan’s population to sub citizenry functions to install a legal system predicated on male subjugation over women. Women’s exclusion from public life and restrictions on free movement reflect the Taliban’s forced establishment of a gender apartheid state. 

Progress reversed against the will of Afghan people

The suspensions and bans on women’s employment and education by the Taliban are purportedly justified as part of a review of the state’s laws and policies, measured against adherence to Sharia law – a Sharia law based on the interpretation of the Taliban ideology. 

However, the right to education and the right to work are universal human rights, not subject to religious approval and even so, Islam urges education for both men and women. It makes up an intrinsic part of the rights and freedoms that all women and girls should have access to globally, and represents a marker of a country’s healthy growth and development.

In the last 20 years, Afghanistan cut their maternal and child mortality by more than 50%, but the current humanitarian crisis foreshadows a crumbling health service. Enriching a country’s industries requires the inclusion of all its people, with their diverse identities and experiences informing how services meet the needs of society as a whole. 

By shutting women out of healthcare professions, the Taliban perpetuates a male-dominated sector that dismisses women’s pain and fails to provide adequate care. This patriarchal mindset is reflective of the Taliban’s overall approach, which systematically excludes women from public life. A nation’s success cannot come to fruition while over half of its population suffers under systemic oppression and marginalization. 

“In a society, we need female and male doctors,” said Mohammad Mustafa, a recent graduate of Paktia University in Afghanistan.

Women and girls are not mere objects

Framing women and girls’ identities as something dissimilar to “person” dehumanizes them. This perspective reflects the Taliban’s narrow worldview, which fails to recognize that women and girls are not mere objects, but rather individuals capable of contributing to society in various and equal capacities. Journalists, engineers, doctors, artists—the potential of thousands of Afghan women remains untapped, disregarded by a system that denies them their rightful place.

To build a prosperous and progressive future for Afghanistan, it is essential to acknowledge and harness the talents, dreams, and careers of women and girls. They are not an afterthought, but an integral part of the country’s fabric. Denying them their rights only hampers the nation’s potential for growth and perpetuates a cycle of inequality and oppression. 

The Feminist Majority Foundation believes it is time to challenge the Taliban’s brutality against women, its endangerment of Afghanistan’s future, and advocate for the empowerment and inclusion of women and girls as equal participants in Afghan society.


Tolonews 06/26/2023; UNICEF 2022 ; RFERL 8/12/2022; The Economic Times 9/2/2021; UN News 1/19/2023; VOA News 5/30/2023; Reuters 10/19/2021; Tolonews 7/1/2023

Unveiling Tyranny: Taliban’s Decree restricts women’s movement &  Deepens Gender Apartheid

In its latest decree, the Taliban’s Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice stated that women must observe the full “hijab” in order to ride in taxi vehicles. The decree not only targets Afghan women, but penalizes male guardians of women who defy the Taliban’s policing of women’s lives and face punishment by imprisonment. Drivers who service women also face punishment by the Taliban, with reports of Taliban officials berating and beating them, and confiscating their vehicle.

A statement from the Taliban in 2022 suggested women wear the burqa, a blue polyester fabric containing a mesh grill for the eyes only, or a black veiled garment covering the entire body – from head to toe. It must not hug a woman’s figure, nor reveal it through thin material. 

The most recent decree requires that women wear full covering, which offers little to no explicit guidance as to what constitutes proper hijab, leaving it up to vague interpretation and room for persecution should any Taliban official personally decide a woman has or has not fulfilled the standard.

The Taliban’s tactic of oppressing women through threats of punishment and violence against male guardians reinforces the strength of the Taliban’s gender apartheid regime, and turns the average Afghan man into an active perpetrator of discrimination and terror against women for his own survival. 


DW 07/29/2022; Aljazeera 05/08/2022; Aljazeera 05/07/2022

Economic Destabilization: Taliban’s Ban on Female Employment Threatens Afghan Families

In one of the latest decrees, the Taliban has imposed a ban on female kindergarten teachers, adding to the long list of edicts targeting women. While officially issued by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, the order came from the Ministry of Vice and Virtue, a group historically known for enforcing arbitrary measures and acts of violence and abuse against women.

Nearly 500 female kindergarten teachers have lost their jobs due to the Taliban’s new edict, simultaneously depriving young children from receiving an education. The heavily female sector has denied claims from the Taliban’s Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs that they are simply awaiting new job assignments to other sectors. These rollbacks on women’s rights and freedoms come as the intentional result of systematic efforts to wipe away progress made for human rights in Afghanistan.

These recent actions represent one of many efforts of the Taliban’s establishment of a gender apartheid regime. The group systematically creates and enforces laws aiming to disempower women from positions of power in government, public and private sectors of life. Afghan women have resisted rights abuses, most recently protesting against the Taliban’s forced closure of beauty salons. These businesses were one of very few largely women operated areas of work still active today.

Taliban officials visit salons, destroying cabinets and salon supplies while female employees watch with hopelessness and frustration. About 60,000 women will lose their jobs due to the new edict by the end of July, the deadline for beauty salons to shut down their operations. Many of the women working in these salons bring home their family’s only salary. Stripping away these jobs eliminates their roles as sole breadwinners for their families, severely destabilizing Afghan families. 

Beauty salons, catering for women, only employs women and often, they are the only ones who bring income to the family. 

The salons also serve as spaces, almost safe havens where Afghan women could safely meet and socialize under the regime’s upheaval of a life they used to have. The past gains created under the Republic government of Afghanistan in exile did not necessarily live up to gleaming standards of progress, but progress came nonetheless and public attitudes favored women and girls inclusion and empowerment in public life.  

One Afghan woman commented on recent events saying, “They’ve [the Taliban] have taken us back 100 years – back to when they buried girls alive.”


NPR 07/16/2023; IJPR/NPR 07/15/2023

Afghanistan’s neighbors express terrorism concerns; Putin proposes a counter-terrorism center

During the latest Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit, Russian President Putin called for establishing a regional counter-terrorism center to respond to threats in and around the region. Member states emphasized that terrorist groups continue to find safe havens in Afghanistan and that the situation remains volatile. 

While member states prioritize combating terrorism, there is a lack of concern regarding human rights and women’s rights violations. Russian President Putin, along with other member states, emphasizes the need to focus on countering terrorism, religious radicalism, drug trafficking, smuggling, and security threats from Afghanistan. 

Mr. Putin noted that “the priority of the SCO should be to fight against terrorist activities, prevent the radicalization of minorities, and stop drug trafficking and fight against organized crime.”

With the withdrawal of United States and NATO forces from Afghanistan, regional countries, particularly Russia, are intensifying their counter-terrorism efforts. According to a recent UN report, foreign fighters have been relocating to Afghanistan and that the link between the Taliban and both Al-Qaeda and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan remain “strong and symbiotic.” 

Without explicit criticism of the Taliban, Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed that the SCO and the international community should take steps to meaningfully engage with the interim government for the sake of security, peace and progress. 

The Taliban regime has created a gender apartheid state in which women and girls, among other targeted groups, are subject to systematic oppression. The Taliban has barred women from public life and education, and rolled back previous gains won for women in the legal and economic sectors. 

Prime Minister Sharif’s statement reflects sentiments in the international community that countries are becoming more willing to give in and form diplomatic relations with the Taliban. This chain of events inevitably indicates that the Taliban could soon begin attracting official political recognition as Afghanistan’s legitimate government. These events would make the international community deeply complicit in the Taliban’s crimes against women and girls and legitimize their human rights violations.


Khaama Press 07/04/2023; FMF 06/12/2023

Silenced Resilience: Afghan Women Entrepreneurs Navigating Taliban Restrictions

Afghan women business owners and entrepreneurs have faced significant challenges in sustaining their businesses under the Taliban regime since August 2021. New edicts and decrees have severely restricted Afghan women’s access to public spaces and foreign markets, making it increasingly difficult for women to showcase and sell their crafts.

In December 2022, the Taliban issued a decree prohibiting women from working with non-profit organizations – (NGOs), adding to the numerous limitations and bans to shut women out of public life. The Taliban has also imposed bans on women’s movement, including limitations on how far they can travel and the means of transportation they can use. Taxis have been instructed not to transport women without a close male family member. Women are also not allowed to go to parks where some Afghan women entrepreneurs used to have stalls and sold homemade items. Women are not allowed to go to gyms either. 

Despite these pervasive restrictions, Afghan women continue to demonstrate resilience. In Bamiyan city, restaurateur Bakhtawar Mahdawi has boldly resisted the Taliban’s assault on female entrepreneurship. Her famed Shahmama restaurant is located near a popular tourist route in Central Afghanistan’s Bamyan, has witnessed increased profits the past few years with the growth of tourism in the area, despite the challenges of travel.

Although Bakhtawar is not allowed to personally manage her restaurant under Taliban rule, she often visits her restaurant to ensure its smooth operation and plans to expand her business  by opening a second restaurant. 

“I feel good coming here and seeing that a lady manages this restaurant,” said Laila Haidari, a regular diner and resident from Bamiyan province. Bakhtawar’s work provides for her family and community, while serving as a living reminder of the resilience of Afghan women in the face of the Taliban’s oppression.

According to a report of the Afghanistan Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, prior to the Taliban takeover, there were 2,471 formal and licensed businesses owned and run by Afghan women. Under the Taliban, half of the formal businesses have already closed and the other half is in danger of closure as well. 

The Feminist Majority Foundation stands in solidarity and supports the millions of Afghan women and girls who strive to build their futures and pursue paths to success in the face of oppression. Despite the challenges, Afghan women continue to resist and find ways to achieve financial independence and contribute to their families’ livelihoods. 


UNHCR 03/23/2023; Just Security 08/2022; Amu TV 06/12/ 2023; Reuters 03/18/2023

UN Report Highlights Taliban’s “Exclusionary” Regime and Failure to Fulfill Counter-Terrorism Commitments

A recent UN report sheds light on the Taliban regime, labeling it as “exclusionary” and highlighting its failure to deliver on counter-terrorism promises. The report emphasizes the restrictive nature of the Taliban’s governance, which marginalizes many of the ethnic and religious groups in Afghanistan.

The UN Security Council report states that the Taliban regime’s return to an “exclusionary” administration is reminiscent of the late 1990s – the first Taliban regime. The report also reveals internal divisions within the Taliban leadership, particularly between the Taliban leadership in Kandahar and those in Kabul, with the latter experiencing a weakening role. The report indicates that Kabul-based Taliban leaders have failed to “influence” significant policy changes. 

A recent UN report sheds light on the Taliban regime, labeling it as “exclusionary” and highlighting its failure to deliver on counter-terrorism promises. The report emphasizes the restrictive nature of the Taliban’s governance, which marginalizes various groups within Afghanistan.

The report also underscores the “strong and symbiotic relationship” between the Taliban and both Al-Qaida and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and that it has not delivered on its counter-terrorism provisions under the Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan between the United States of America and the Taliban. 

“A range of terrorist groups have greater freedom of maneuver under the Taliban de facto authorities. They are making good use of this, and the threat of terrorism is rising in both Afghanistan and the region.”

The regime’s lack of willingness to embrace reforms and an inclusive form of government is highlighted and that the Taliban chief, Hibatullah Akhundzuda, remains “proudly resistant” to reforms as the regime ushers in repressive policies and attempts to gain international political recognition. 

This annual report, the 14th of its kind, is issued by the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team of the UN Security Council. 

The Taliban has introduced a cloak of fear and violence that threatens the rights, freedoms, and livelihoods of the women and girls fighting to survive under looming security threats, humanitarian crisis, and gender apartheid in Afghanistan. 

While a spokesperson states that Islam empowers women, the Taliban acts contrary to such statements with edicts that bar women from secondary school, universities, workplaces and more. 

A spokesman from the Taliban swiftly denied the reports findings, branding the information as false and biased accusations from US influences. 

The Feminist Majority Foundation remains firm against international recognition of the Taliban’s administration and stands in solidarity with Afghan women and girls.


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