Women’s Rights Leaders Speak Out on Violence Against Women

At a Congressional Forum on International Women’s Rights and Security yesterday, several Congresswomen and women’s rights leaders asserted that more work needs to be done to end violence against women around the world.

Sponsored by Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), the forum featured Congresswomen Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), and Hilda Solis (D-CA). Rep. Schahowsky stated that there has been a growing recognition among the women in Congress of abuses against women internationally. “All of us have to take on the responsibility [to work against women’s rights abuses] …because if we don’t no one will.”

Regarding Afghanistan, Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority, asserted that the United States policies and the policies of the developed world “must change.” Last week, at the release of the Global Women’s Issues Scorecard, Smeal stated that “the Bush Administration’s statements have been very strong on the topics of women’s rights in the Afghan Constitution, security, and reconstruction in Afghanistan. However, these strong statements have not been met with action.”

Smeal also said, “Though women’s rights are guaranteed in the Afghan Constitution, they are very fragile … on the ground, the lack of security makes women’s already fragile rights even weaker.”

According to Dr. Lynn Amawitz of Physicians for Human Rights there were two reported honor killings a day in Nasirya, Iraq during her ten-day stay there. It is unknown how many unreported killings occurred during this period. Amawitz stated that she was unsure exactly how prevalent honor killings were in Southern Iraq but she was sure they were common events. According to Kelly Hayes-Raitt, of the Community Campaign in Iraq, the impact of the war in Iraq has fallen heavily on women because over one million Iraqi men have been killed over the past decade, leaving women to be the victims of the current of war. Hayes-Raitt noted that “in spite of the fact the United States dropped bombs on all the ministries” the only one that did not get bombed was the Ministry of Oil.

Meanwhile, according to the New York Times, human rights workers and doctors are finding cases of young women in Afghanistan who have set themselves on fire as a way to escape family life and the tribal traditions they are forced to endure such as forced marriage to men as much as three times their age.

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Feminist Majority; New York Times 3/8/04

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