Archive for February, 2010

As organisations and individuals who stand for and support the universality of human rights, we have noted with concern the suspension of Gita Sahgal, Head of the Gender Unit at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International in London, for questioning Amnesty International’s partnership with individuals whose politics towards the Taliban are ambiguous.

We come from communities that recognize and appreciate the work of Amnesty International in defending human rights and women’s rights around the world. Many of us work closely with Amnesty International in their campaigns at various levels.

We believe that Gita Sahgal has raised a fundamental point of principle which is “about the importance of the human rights movement maintaining an objective distance from groups and ideas that are committed to systematic discrimination”.

This issue of principle is critical at the present moment, with the United States led “War on Terror” leading to the suspension of human rights and increased surveillance over individuals and the body politic. Ironically, the language of human rights and human rights defenders is being taken over by the US/NATO alliance in its efforts to legitimise a re-born imperialism. Equally disturbingly, this language is also being hijacked by organizations that espouse extremist and violent forms of identity-based politics. The space for a position that challenges both these is shrinking, and human rights are becoming hostage to broader authoritarian political agendas, whether from states or communities.

In this context, it is crucial for human rights defenders and organisations to clearly define principles and core values that are non-negotiable. Our commitment to countering, among others, Islamophobia, racism, misogyny and xenophobia should at no time blur our recognition of the authoritarian, often fascist, social and political agendas of some of the groups that suffer human rights abuse at the hands of the big powers.

The broader issue of principle which we raise here, is one which concerns all of us as human rights defenders from different parts of the world. Many of us who work to defend human rights in the context of conflict and terrorism know the importance of maintaining a clear and visible distance from potential partners and allies when there is any doubt about their commitment to human rights. Given the circumstances in which questions regarding the partnership with Cageprisoners appear to have been raised, we feel that Amnesty International should have refrained from providing them with a platform. It should have been possible for Amnesty International to campaign against the fundamental human rights abuses that have occurred at Guantanamo and elsewhere without making alliances that compromise Amnesty International’s core values, just as other human rights organisations have done.

History has repeatedly shown us that anti-democratic organisations can and do manipulate information and their own self-representation for narrow political advantage. In any situation of ambiguity, we feel that the benefit of doubt should have been given to the expert staff members of Amnesty International. We feel that in this instance there has been a lack of respect for the opinions expressed by Gita Sahgal, who is a senior member of staff, and a critical failure of internal democratic functioning at Amnesty’s International Secretariat.

What is needed is democratic debate, internally as well as in the public sphere, on the human rights principles that should guide Amnesty International and all of us in determining our alliances. We have to ensure that the partnerships we form are true to the core human rights values of equality and universality. Our accountability in this area, internally as well as externally, to all our diverse constituencies, cannot be put at risk. We need a rigorous examination of potential partners. Given the complex situations we work in, what is needed is open debate, not a censoring and closure of discussion on these important issues. Shifting the debate and turning this into a discussion about ‘Othering’ and ‘demonisation of Guantanamo prisoners’ is merely obscuring the real issues at stake. It puts at risk the work that Amnesty International is attempting to do in Afghanistan and other areas. Unfortunately, it also fails to answer the very serious questions that have been posed to which we are also seeking answers.

In the present context of ‘constructive engagement’ with the Taliban, as proposed at the recent Conference on Afghanistan in London, it is our obligation to ensure that we do not barter away the human rights of minorities and of women for ‘peace’. There are enough recent examples of such attempts which show that these deals are a chimera and do not result in either peace or security. Whatever the nature of ‘engagement’ with authoritarian groups, and whatever partnerships and alliances we enter into with individuals or organisations involved in such ‘engagement’, the positive conditionalities and checks based on human rights, which are universal and indivisible, must remain central and non-negotiable for human rights organizations and defenders.

We call on Amnesty International to clearly and publicly affirm its commitment to the above in all areas of its work; and to demonstrate its obligation to make itself publicly accountable, as it has so often demanded of others.

We extend our solidarity and support to Gita Sahgal, who is well known and widely respected for her principled activism on human rights internationally, for her courageous stand in raising this issue within and outside Amnesty International.

Drafted and initiated by:
* Dr. Amrita Chhachhi, Women, Gender and Development Program, Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, member Kartini Asia Network of Women/Gender Studies
* Sara Hossain, Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh
* Sunila Abeysekera, INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre, Sri Lanka

Please add your names to the petition at

See also:
* Women Against Fundamentalism statement on Amnesty International and Gita Sahgal
* Statement from Amnesty International

Iran: URGENT call to authorities to stop imminent executions
Please write to the Iranian authorities calling on them to halt executions of nine people arrested in relation to protests following the disputed presidential elections. The Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) international solidarity network urges the Islamic Republic of Iran to halt the executions of political prisoners sentenced to death. The prisoners’ trials did not meet international or even national legal standards set up by the laws of Islamic Republic. The accused faced ambiguous charges of Mahrab, meaning “enmity against God.” Moreover, after the officially confirmed deaths of at least two while in detention, the Iranian public and the international community are greatly alarmed about the extent of torture used against Iranian political prisoners in an attempt to coerce confessions.

Iran: WLUML Supports Call for Solidarity: Freedom and Gender Equality in Iran
This is a copy of an original text that can be found on the Gender Equality for Iran website here. “We (a group of Iranian feminists and women’s rights activists) demand an end to state-led violence and repression, as well as the immediate release of all political detainees in Iran. We invite all women’s rights defenders, activists, organisations, and networks worldwide to demonstrate their solidarity with the Iranian women’s movement and the broader movement for democracy in Iran by organising initiatives under the slogan “freedom and gender equality in Iran” throughout March 2010.

A Canadian bill that would protect the divorce rights of aboriginal women is being delayed by the suspension of parliament during the Olympics. Some First Nations women’s advocates oppose the proposed law as infringing on their sovereignty.

Due to a gap in legislation over matrimonial property rights for couples living on First Nations reservations, some First Nations women find themselves homeless when their relationships break down.

Provincial and territorial laws relating to matrimonial property do not apply on reservations, which are governed under the Indian Act, a statute that regulates First Nations people. The Indian Act, however, is silent on the issue of matrimonial property rights.

“Similar rights and remedies are available to all other Canadians through provincial and territorial laws which currently can’t be applied on reserves, a fact our government finds unacceptable,” Nina Chiarelli, director of communications for the Minister of Indian Affairs, said in an e-mail.

Chiarelli said the government remains committed to resolving the issue, which is exclusive to First Nations people living on reservations. “First Nations people should have access to these protections just like everyone else,” she said.

The Ministry of Indian Affairs has drafted Bill C-8, which would set out provisional federal rules, such as ensuring the equal division of a couple’s matrimonial property on reservations, until various First Nations communities develop their own laws.

It was scheduled to be deliberated in parliament in January.

However, that bill, along with many others, has been delayed since Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper decided in late December to suspend parliament this month while the country hosts the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

Williams, professor emeritus of indigenous studies at the Ontario-based Trent University and an Ojibwa and Odawa elder, said the bill would be particularly helpful for mothers fleeing domestic violence.

Such women, she said, can sometimes be forced, due to safety concerns, to leave their reservations–and their community and cultural connections.

Many women wind up at temporary women’s shelters and struggle to maintain custody of their children, said Williams, who has no children of her own but was temporarily a primary caregiver for two of her sister’s children. “I think a lot of women are afraid if they don’t find a place, their children will be taken away [by social services] because they can’t afford to all be together.”

The bill, however, has not won the favor of many First Nations groups, including the Native Women’s Association of Canada, the Assembly of First Nations and the Union of B.C. (British Columbia) Indian Chiefs. They have all objected to the government’s failure to consult First Nations communities affected by the bill, as well as its infringement on First Nations sovereignty. While the Ministry of Indian Affairs’ mandate is to help First Nations people develop healthier, more sustainable communities, it is not run by aboriginal groups.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Vancouver-based Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said First Nations communities have been at odds with the government for years over their right to self-determination, and Bill C-8 is yet another example of federal interference.

“Generally speaking, the Harper government has been very adversarial to the rights and interests of the indigenous people of this country,” Phillip said.

“There’s been a number of legislative initiatives that have been advanced by the government of Canada and they don’t really consult or attempt to consult the aboriginal community,” he said, noting Bill C-8 is no exception.

Phillip points to the Canadian government’s refusal to endorse the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as evidence of its resistance to First Nations sovereignty. The declaration, which affirms the right of indigenous people to self-determination, was approved by an overwhelming majority of the U.N. National Assembly; Canada was 1 of only 4 countries to vote against it. Canada’s refusal, which the government said was based on a lack of practical guidance and “vague and ambiguous” text, has been lambasted by international rights organizations, including Amnesty International. Moreover, Phillip said, it has fueled the mistrust of First Nations groups.

Phillip, an outspoken activist against violence against women, added that he believed the problem of First Nations women being forced from their homes might be overstated.

“The suggestion that there is a mass exodus of women off the reserve that are left destitute, I haven’t witnessed,” he said, noting he has served more than 24 years as a band councilor and band chief.

Yet arguing against Bill C-8 is “very, very difficult because there’s a spirit and an intent that’s unassailable in terms of fair treatment and justice for women,” he said.

Other advocates for First Nations women acknowledge it is difficult to determine the extent of the problem, as many women are involved in common-law relationships. This makes it harder to tally the number of women forced from their homes when their unregistered relationships dissolve.

However, some argue the problem is too severe for inaction, since women who decide to leave their relationships face separation from their communities, which provide cultural support as well as access to social programs.

Williams said Bill C-8 needs to be enacted quickly. Its critics, she said, were too complacent with the status quo. “I think a lot of people are comfortable with what is there now because they’re afraid of change.”

When a woman has nowhere to go, “it’s urgent to find a place and find a home for your children,” she said.

Edited version of longer articles at

Fiji’s new Crime Decree will be harsher on prostitution, penalizing not only those who make a living off prostitution but also those involved in prostitution-related activities.

According to Fiji Times Online, under Fiji’s new Crime Decree, those who make a living off prostitution are liable for a jail term of six months while people caught hiring prostitutes can get jail terms of up to 12 years.

In addition, anybody found operating a brothel, or services which procure prostitution are liable for prosecution with the penalties being harsher when the crime involves people under the age of 18.

Also, anyone residing with a prostitute is also liable.

However, according to the report, the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre says bringing in tougher laws will help ease the problem of prostitution but will never eradicate it.

According to the report, the Centre’s coordinator, Shamima Ali, says that even if the new laws with its harsher penalties take away the sex workers from the streets, “there is a very high chance that prostitution will go underground”.

She said the level of poverty in some areas was extreme, and the Centre was aware of cases where wives took up prostitution in order to take some money home.

“The men usually stay at home waiting for their grog and cigarette money, and the women provide for the whole family including sending the children to school,” she said.

The new Crime Decree comes into effect in February.

Nearly 48 per cent of women sold for commercial sex exploitation in Tamil Nadu were ensnared when they were children, a recent study conducted among over 1,500 victims of trafficking, has showed. While 3.6 per cent of them were sold when they were less than five years, 12.9 per cent of them were between 6 and 10 years. Further 25.6 per cent of the respondents reported being sold to brothels between 11 and 18 years. The majority of them said they were inducted into it by their own family, spouse, lovers and friends.

The study was conducted over 10 months in 2009, by a team led by R. Thilagaraj, head of the department of Criminology, Madras University, and funded by the UNDP through the Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society. Sharing with The Hindu the results of the first such comprehensive study on trafficking done in the State, Prof. Thilagaraj said the sample included 12 per cent of victims who were children at the time of the interview.

“These women and girls come from the lower socio-economic group where poverty and unemployment are rampant. It is this vulnerability that the traffickers exploit. In most of the instances, they were sold by their parents to middlemen who promised to find them jobs as domestic help in cities or roles in Tamil films,” he said.

Malini, an orphan and 15 years of age, was sold as a commercial sex worker in Madurai. She was gang raped and was found with cigarette burns all over the body.

“This is typical in many of the cases. Fifty per cent of our respondents confessed that they were subjected to sexual abuse during childhood,” Prof. Thilagaraj said. In many instances, they are addicted to alcohol and drugs and the habit continues to make them vulnerable to further exploitation, he added. About 20 per cent of the victims had tested positive for HIV. The study also included responses of 149 traffickers, most of who had themselves been trafficked earlier or had stints as commercial sex workers.

The study used GIS mapping systems to plot the areas from where the women and children were trafficked and the places (within the state and outside of it) to which they were taken.

Chennai turned out to be a supply and transit zone, from where girls are sent to Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore and Goa.

Sixteen years after the Rwandan genocide, many women are struggling to come to terms with the violence they endured.

According to the association of genocide widows NGO, Avega Agahozo, sexual violence was used to humiliate, degrade and abuse women during the 6 April to 16 July 1994 killings. In many cases, the violence was meted out before, during or after the women had witnessed the killing of a relative.

“Some of the women are only coming out now because they are sick,” said Sabine Uwase, the head of advocacy, justice and information for Avega. “We also receive special cases suffering from cancer or with damaged sexual organs.”

Avega has turned into a refuge for some of these women. Founded in 1995 by 58 widows, it now has three branches and 25,000 members. More than 47,400 women are receiving medical treatment through its programmes.

Each day, 20 to 30 women come knocking on its doors. Asked why it took some of the women so long to seek help, Uwase said: “Many of the women were ashamed to come out. We had to counsel them first. Many of them were victims of rape and are traumatized.”

One study carried out by the organization in Rwanda’s 12 provinces found that in a sample of 1,125 widows, about 80 percent showed signs of trauma and 67 percent had HIV. The study was limited by inadequate resources.

Apart from healthcare, Avega provided legal services for widows who wished to testify against those accused of genocide in the traditional gacaca courts.

The 12,103 courts, which were started in 2001 and modelled on Rwanda’s traditional justice mechanisms, are being wound up after handling more than a million cases. At least 800,000 perpetrators have been convicted nationwide.

However, human rights organizations have criticized the gacaca courts, saying they did not provide adequate legal services to suspects, were plagued by unfairness and have been used to settle scores.

Government officials strongly deny the criticism, saying 94 percent of Rwandans believe in the courts. The process, they argue, has promoted reconciliation and reunited communities.

“Previously, the widows were unwilling to testify,” Uwase told IRIN on 8 February. “We have trained 419 trainers of trainers who go back to the villages to teach others how to testify. In Kigali, we have helped testimony in 150 cases. Now, we are also teaching the widows and orphans about land law.”

Avega also built 919 houses for widows and orphans between 2007 and 2008, and tackles gender-based violence. Over the years, it has encouraged the women to engage in income-generating activities, such as basket-weaving. The baskets are sold internationally and help to supplement the US$60 monthly government grant provided by the Assistance Fund for Genocide Survivors.

Genocide widows form a significant percentage of survivors because the genocidaires targeted mainly men and boys. Data compiled by the genocide survivors fund shows that between 250,000 and 500,000 women were raped during the 100 days of violence in which 800,000 to one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus died.

While some women were gang-raped, others were violated with sharpened objects, resulting in extensive damage to their reproductive systems.

Up to 20,000 children were born from rape. Across the country, there are 10 times more widows than widowers among the 300,000-400,000 survivors.

Some 100,000 survivors are categorized as vulnerable, including 40,000 who lack shelter. There are also 75,000 orphans.

According to Avega, the widows and orphans who survived the genocide bear the burden of the atrocities committed. Having witnessed or suffered extreme violence, many of them have a very negative attitude towards life.

“Many of the women still find it difficult to talk about their experiences,” a Kigali-based journalist said. “They are haunted by [the genocide].”

Before she was killed, she had sought help from the police, going to them several times to report the domestic violence she and her mother suffered from. The police turned her away and sent her home to where a two-meter-hole under the chicken coop became her grave — in which she was buried while awake and conscious. There are claims that Memi’s father and grandfather were not happy about her friendships with boys, but these are only claims, and it is not clear yet if there are any other motives behind her killing. The alleged perpetrators are using their right to remain silent, as is the whole system, which is supposed to protect women from violence, especially domestic violence.

Experts have suggested that a holistic system directed at the needs and rights of women could save many lives like those of Memi and the other 198 women who were killed last year.

Meltem Ağduk from the United Nations Population Fund, who is the coordinator of the training program for the police, public prosecutors and judges on domestic violence, thinks that it is impossible to claim that such a system exists in Turkey. However, she told Sunday’s Zaman that she prefers to see the glass as half full.

“There has been serious progress during the last six years, but 10 years ago it was unimaginable that the police, prosecutors and judges would be trained to deal with domestic violence,” she said.

According to Ağduk, although the organizational culture of the police department is very macho, there are still some sensitive police officers who are willing to cooperate.

“We trained 270 high-ranking police officers, some of whom became training experts, and they trained more than 40,000 officers working at police stations,” she underlined.

Ağduk says that for these 40,000 police officers, the training lasted just for one day, and rather than training, it could be considered a seminar to raise awareness. “But now at least they have an idea about domestic violence,” she said.

“The most important thing that we are trying to teach them is that reaching a compromise between the victim and the offender is not their job,” Ağduk underlines. She said that when cases of domestic violence are brought to the police, officers usually try to mediate and reconcile the victims and offenders.

Ağduk thinks that reaching more than 40,000 police officers is important but the lack of specialization in the police department is a huge problem. Most of these police officers, despite their training, can be assigned to new positions that might not have anything to do with domestic violence.

“Even one of the training experts who was extremely good at his job and extremely sensitive to the issue has been appointed to the riot police,” Ağduk complained, adding that police officers also strongly suggest specialization.

“We agree with them, there should be special units dealing with violence against women,” she said, adding that due to the rapid circulation of police officers, the training was insufficient. For example, 10,000 police recently joined the security forces, but they don’t have any training regarding violence against women; since there is no specialization, all of them will have to be trained.

Ağduk added that the security forces will soon implement a new approach that aims to determine the security risks faced by a woman who reports to a police station with a complaint of violence.

“The women will fill out a two-page questionnaire which contains questions asking if there is a gun in the house and so on. These kinds of questions will show the level of risk and will be helpful in taking measures. It will provide statistics, too,” Ağduk said.

She pointed out that if the woman wants to return home despite the risks, she has to sign a paper indicating that she is returning home by her own free will.

But sometimes women do not have any other options.

“There was a policeman in one of our training sessions. He told us that, once a woman reported to a police station with a complaint of domestic violence. He called social services and waited for their intervention. Meanwhile he kept the woman in the police station because she did not have anywhere else to go. Despite repeated calls for two days, no one from social services came or suggested anything. So the woman returned home, and the same policeman, four days later, went to a crime scene and found the dead body of the woman, who had hanged herself. While the policeman was telling us the story he was crying,” Ağduk said.

There are only 54 shelters in Turkey, and two of them solely look after victims of human trafficking. The capacity of the shelters is limited to 1,300. Almost half of them are run by the Social Services and Child Protection Agency (SHÇEK) and the rest by municipalities and civil society organizations.

Ağduk underlines that the SHÇEK also deals disadvantaged groups, including the disabled and the elderly, and is working with a limited budget, thus the shelters’ services are inadequate.

Sevinç Ünal from the Women’s Solidarity Organization recalled that the law requires municipalities to run shelters if their populations exceed 50,000, but there are no sanctions if they fail to do so. “Civil society is facing financial problems in running shelters,” she said.

But having shelters is not enough, according to Ünal.

“The SHÇEK employees think they are appointed to shelters as a punishment. Usually they are lacking in motivation, and they are not paid well, either. After a short period of time, after much crying because of the women’s stories or losing the ability to develop empathy after a point, the employees become burnt out because it is very difficult to deal with the violence and there is no supervision,” she told Sunday’s Zaman.

Ünal added that the shelters lack the means to help women establish their future lives. Women are allowed to stay there for three months.

“There are almost no social services which can be called post-shelter services, and unfortunately, 70 percent of the women, after staying in shelters, return to the houses in which they are victims of violence because they don’t have any other option,” Ünal said.

Ünal underlines that all throughout Turkey there is only one single center for victims of domestic violence that operates 24 hours a day. In this new center in Ankara, women can get all the services they need after violent incidents, including access to health services and the law.

Violence usually occurs at weekends or late at night but apart from this center there is no 24-hour service that women can reach,” she explained.

Ünal adds that in 2006 the Prime Ministry issued a circular that aimed to coordinate all the related bodies to fight against domestic violence in every city under the supervision of governors. The circular was very detailed and tried to overcome all the shortages of the system.

“The circular was repeated in 2007, but unfortunately it has only been implemented in 21 cities. To implement this circular requires political will and determination, which is currently not strong,” Ünal pointed out.

Experts say the laws against domestic violence could be considered adequate thanks to recent amendments, but there are problems with implementation.

Ağduk said that they are conducting training programs on the issue for public prosecutors and judges. Prosecutors are not totally aware or enthusiastic about applying the new laws regarding domestic violence, but training is helpful in changing their mentality. “But like the police, we are facing the same problem: a lack of specialization. There are no public prosecutors dealing specifically with domestic violence. On the other hand, there were a few chief public prosecutors who joined the training program and assigned one prosecutor they are working with to domestic violence. This was de facto implementation, but it should be a rule,” Ağduk said.

When it comes to judges, she indicates that there are two types of judges in Turkey: some try to implement the law word for word, but some try to improve themselves, reading, following developments abroad. She said this second group responded positively to their workshops.

“But some of them are very conservative and do not want to cooperate at all,” she said.

In Turkey, the system only deals with victims if that, but there is nothing for the perpetrators. Ağduk pointed out that offenders have the tendency to repeat their behavior and if they remain as they are, it is difficult to cope with domestic violence.

Jodie Das, who works for a program for offenders in the UK but is now in Turkey for an EU twinning project, working on the development of responses and interventions for victims of domestic violence, told Sunday’s Zaman that they work with the offenders in the UK because they want to place the responsibility for the violence firmly on the offender themselves.

“Since 2004 in the UK, the probation service has implemented a program for male domestic violence offenders. On conviction by the court, a domestic violence offender, on assessment and if suitable, can be given a two-year community order to attend the Integrated Domestic Violence Program [IDAP]. The probation service works in partnership with other statutory and community organizations to provide holistic services to the offender and manage the risks that have been identified, for example, the risk the offender poses to their children,” she said.

“We aim to move an offender from spontaneous thought, often negative and leading to violence, to critical reflection and thinking. In short, the use of working with offenders is to place the responsibility of violence with the offender, encourage change and reduce their violent behavior, but most importantly to increase the safety of victims of domestic violence,” she pointed out.

Elisabeth Badinter, a leading French feminist, has warned the green movement is threatening decades of improvements in gender equality by forcing women to give up their jobs and become earth mothers.

Mrs Badinter claims a “holy reactionary alliance” of green politicians, breast-feeding militants, “back to nature” feminists and child psychologists is turning Frenchwomen into slaves to green “fads” like re-usable nappies and organic food.

In her new book, Conflit, la Femme et la Mere (Conflict, the Woman and the Mother), Mrs Badinter contends that this politically correct cabal is burdening mothers with intolerable guilt unless they stay at home and breast-feed for as long as possible.

Their perfect French mother, she writes, “breastfeeds for six months and doesn’t put her baby in a crèche or not too early, because baby needs to be with mum and not in a nest of germs; she is wary of all things artificial and is ecologically-minded. The jar of baby food has become a sign of selfishness; we’re back to the purée mashed by mum.”

Women in childbirth are even made to feel that epidurals are wrong, she goes on, adding: “We don’t need to bow down to nature.”

Those who choose to stay at work or to not have children are ostracised.

“It’s as if we were all female chimpanzees,” says Mrs Badinter, 65, who is widely admired in France for her outspoken views.

The rot started in the 1990s, she claims, when the French Right introduced payments for mothers wishing to stay at home, and the trend has accelerated with environmental pressures.

Her attack on muesli-eating ecologists sparked a furious response from Cécile Duflot, head of France’s Green party.

“She has completely missed the point. The real issue is to find out why today there is still inequality between men and women on pay and domestic chores, not to consider that today having a child is a problem,” she said.

“She blasts washable nappies as an extra burden for mothers without thinking for a second that a man could put them in the washing machine.

“What she completely forgets is the notion of pleasure. One can take pleasure in raising one’s baby – that goes for men too.” As for the breast-feeding brigade, Miss Duflot pointed out that only half of French women breastfeed, compared to 99 per cent in Norway.

Edwige Antier, a paediatrician and MP for President Nicolas Sarkozy’s centre-Right UMP party also slammed Mrs Badinter, calling her an “archeo-feminist” who is “in denial of motherhood”.

She had, she added, overlooked two key advancements in recent decades: the advent of the contraceptive pill and the child psychologist’s notion that babies are real people whose upbringing can bring fulfilment.

Mrs Badinter’s views are particularly controversial in France, where the rate of women who return to full-time employment after one child is the highest of all industrialised countries. It also has the highest birth rate in Europe.

She argues that France will go the way of Germany, Italy and other low birth rate countries if women feel too pressured into staying at home.

The feminist conceded that most French women managed to balance motherhood and work. But the trend for mothers to stay at home “excuses men in advance for continuing to do nothing in the house”, she says. According to a study published in November, French women do 80 per cent of household chores.

“If we don’t watch out, we can say goodbye to women’s freedom of choice and to the struggle for sexual equality,” she told Le Journal du Dimanche.

Forty years after the second wave of the women’s liberation movement began there has been a major slide in consciousness about women’s rights and the continuing need for women to struggle for them. Since the demise of the movement in the late 70s women have been the target of a sustained ideological campaign, or a ‘backlash’ as that has been aimed at weakening feminist consciousness.

The most important aspect of the backlash message is that on the one hand women have broken down all the old barriers and therefore don’t need to worry about old-fashioned feminist ideas. Liberal feminists point to individual examples of women who have ‘broken through’ the glass ceiling thus proving that any woman can make it in a man’s world if they have the talent and determination. However, the weakness of the liberal perspective is that it doesn’t recognize the structural limitations imposed on women under capitalism, rather focusing on the piecemeal approach of gradual reform. While they may admit that the majority of women are still concentrated in lower-paid jobs and bearing the double-burden of paid work and housework, these isolated ‘issues’ simply become more grist for further campaigns for reform, they don’t recognize that these conditions are fundamental to capitalism and therefore cannot offer a way forward.

The other major element of the backlash message is that the women’s liberation movement has left women holding a poisoned chalice – now that women have all the freedom and equality they could possibly want they either don’t know what to do with it resulting in confusion and depression, or they went too far following their dreams of a fulfilling career and missed the boat on the ultimate prize – motherhood and marriage. Thus more and more women are realizing that you can’t be a ‘superwoman’ and have everything and logically the extraneous part of a woman’s life is her broader social role and is the first to get sacrificed. There is a constant supply of books and magazines discussing why women are ‘opting out’ of the ‘rat-race’ in order to find true fulfillment in their roles as mothers and housewives.

Of course the media never venture to question why it is that women do find it difficult to juggle motherhood and a career, for example lack of affordable, quality child-care, paid maternity and paternity leave etc, etc, simply shunting the responsibility of working out the balance onto individual women. Furthermore, the bigger question of why so many people, male or female, hate or simply tolerate their paid work is ignored, trying to answer that question might call into question the nature of system and the meaningless and lack of control that most people find in their paid work. And while Susan Faludi originally identified the key elements of the backlash message in the early 90s, an article in the US Socialist Worker critiqued the results of a survey that had come up with the exact same backlash conclusions – in October last year! In reviewing the results of the survey entitled ‘The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness’ self-help guru Marcus Buckingham claimed that “though women now have the liberty to choose whichever life they’d like, many are struggling in their pursuit of a happy life”. But as the author of the article notes “maybe the declining numbers of women who consider themselves happy … represents women who are unhappy not because these victories were won in the past, but because they are being pushed back in the present” for example by “the fraying of the social security net, the turbo-charged misogyny of pop culture” etc.

However the predictability of the bourgeois media in pushing the same old line for more than two decades also gives us a clear indication of the arguments that we need to take up, through our internal education and also through our publications and in any campaigns that we may get involved with. Firstly, the most important task is to convince a new generation that women are still the oppressed sex. Secondly, to convince women that the only way they really can ‘have it all’ is to get rid of capitalism, the ultimate barrier to women’s liberation while at the same time struggling for reforms, and against attacks on women’s rights, in the here and now.

In order to understand women’s oppression we need to look at the big picture and uncover the long view of women’s history, only then will we be able to see that seemingly disconnected fragments connect into an ancient storyline that has been replaying itself over and over again for thousands of years.

If we want to understand the issue of women’s oppression we need to start with the family. Today the image of the happy (and in Australia nauseatingly white) nuclear family is absolutely everywhere we look. It goes without saying that when a politician announces a new policy it’s pitched as being in the interests of ‘working class families’ or ‘Australian families’. The image of the family is used to sell everything from cars to Weet Bix, which apparently has been “building Australian families for more than 50 years”. In fact you could say we are living in a culture that seemingly idolizes and adulates the family, perhaps we will be seen by future anthropologists as the ‘family cult’ culture.

But while it can seem as if everybody who is anybody is living within the cosy confines of the family the facts are seriously out of kilter with the image. For example currently about a quarter of all households are composed of one person and this proportion is expected to increase to one third by 2026. Furthermore the “proportion of total households comprising families with children has steadily decreased over the last 20 years”. Furthermore behind the airbrushed perfection of the ads and comforting conservative rhetoric of today’s politicians, lies the reality of nuclear family as often being a private hell rather than comforting haven, for example in 2002 46% of all marriages ended in divorce, domestic violence is the most likely cause of preventable death for women under 45 and there were 55,000 cases of child abuse and neglect recorded in 2008.

So why aren’t the images and policy changing to fit the reality?

article continues at

After three decades of (admittedly uneven) progress towards full human rights, women now must contend with the agenda of Stephen Harper. The Prime Minister’s disdain for women’s equality is one of the most dramatic examples of his wider assault on democracy.

Democracy is not just political parties, voting and Parliament — it is a whole panoply of institutions, practices and traditions of the country and the evolution of norms in society. Specifically, it encompasses human rights and civil liberties. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is relatively new institution in Canada but when it was enacted in 1982 it both reflected and helped establish in law, the changes that Canadian society was already going through. One of the most critical areas of change was that of women’s rights and equality. The Charter merely recognized that Canadian society had moved on from the period where women were treated as second class citizens with impunity and discriminated against as a matter of course.

Like the earlier struggle of women just to get the right to vote, this was a classic example of how society changes through the influence of powerful democratic movements and how the law is then obliged to catch up. Indeed, even before the Charter became law, the federal government, in 1981, ratified the United Nations Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women — a convention that itself reflected the strength of the global women’s movement.

In the very first year that Stephen Harper was prime minister he moved in many ways to halt the course of progress for women. His government summarily cancelled the multi-billion dollar national child care program that the previous Liberal government had spent years negotiating with the provinces (and women’s groups had fought for, for decades). It also had the support of the vast majority of Canadians.

This program was hardly a radical proposal. Canada is one of the most backward countries among Western developed nations regarding early childhood education. This program would simply have begun to close the gap.

According to Sharon Gregson of the Coalition of Childcare Advocates of B.C.: “Other countries are able to provide child care for up to 100 per cent of children between the age of three and six. Other countries, like Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Sweden, even England and the United States, invest more per capita in early childhood development services than Canada does.”

The universal program was “replaced” by a taxable $100 a month payment to parents of kids under six a pittance compared to the cost of professional child care (but an approach recommended by the right-wing group REAL Women).

Other cuts were part of a one billion dollar assault on things that the Harper government didn’t like, and were implemented in spite of the fact that his government had inherited a $13 billion surplus. Amongst the programs eliminated was the Court Challenges Program (CCP), one of the most effective and innovative programs in the world promoting and facilitating human rights. The CCP had, since 1978, provided funding for individuals challenging government legislation that was discriminatory. In short, it made constitutional rights, and rights under the Charter, accessible to ordinary people. Amongst its major beneficiaries were women. To ensure that it would not have to accept any outside, citizens-based advice on changing the law, Harper also eliminated the $4 million in funding for the Law Commission of Canada, formerly the Law Reform Commission.

The government also closed 12 out of 16 regional offices of Status of Women Canada across the country as well as eliminating the $1 million Status of Women Independent Research Fund. Changes were imposed to the criteria for funding for the Status of Women Canada’s Women’s Program which precluded support for advocacy or lobbying for law reform. That meant that dozens of women-run NGOs would no longer receive funding because virtually all of them combined advocacy with the provision of services — such as women’s shelters advocating for an end to violence against women.

One of the most cynical efforts by the Harper government to turn back the clock was its decision — again, with no reference to Parliament and no consultation with women or women’s organizations — to simply refuse to take the issue of pay equity any further than the law already allowed. Harper, breaking a promise made in the 2006 election, simply rejected recommendations from a federal task force to move toward a “proactive pay-equity system.” Shelagh Day, one of Canada’s foremost feminists and a human rights scholar, told a Vancouver forum in December 2006: “The Harper government has come forward a few months ago and simply said they’re not going to do anything on pay equity. The law will stay the way it is.”

In 2009 the Harper government took pay equity backwards when it introduced the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act. According to human rights advocates the bill emptied “the right to pay equity of its meaning. The new legislated criteria for evaluating ‘equitable compensation’ will reintroduce sex discrimination into pay practices, rather than eliminate it.” The law (passed by stealth by placing it in the 2009 budget where it could not be voted down) introduced additional criteria that would allow public sector employers to consider “market demand” in determining compensation — in effect ensuring higher pay for men even if the work was of equal value.

While women’s groups organized forums across the country to draw attention to this deliberate social engineering from the right, Harper has not listening to them. He was, however, listening to a group that had demonstrated its full support for Harper and the Conservatives during the election: REAL Women.

Responding to the $5 million in cuts to the Status of Women, REAL Women stated: “This is a good start, and we hope that the Status of Women will eventually be eliminated entirely since it does not represent ‘women’, but only represents the ideology of feminists.”

REAL Women also congratulated the government for cancelling the “troublesome” Court Challenges Program, declaring: “the Court Challenges Program was a profoundly undemocratic use of taxpayers’ money to restructure society … The elimination of the Court Challenges Program will go a long way to promoting democracy in Canada.”

If there was any doubt that it was Stephen Harper’s personal determination to set back women’s equality, Garth Turner, a Conservative MP who eventually left the caucus, left none. He told the Georgia Straight: “[Harper]said, ‘We have determined a series of cuts, … which will be announced…. They are our position. And…anyone [who] has got any problem with that — who says anything about it — is going to have a short political career.’ He said that in caucus.”


In its annual resolution on equality between men and women in the EU, Parliament called last week for greater efforts to tackle violence against women, for paternity leave to be addressed at EU level and for equal pay legislation to be revised. A majority of MEPs also say women must have control over their sexual and reproductive rights, through easy access to contraception and abortion.

The resolution, drafted by Marc Tarabella, (S&D, BE), was adopted by 381 votes to 253, with 31 abstentions.

Eradicating violence against women

MEPs call on the Commission to draft a comprehensive directive on preventing and combating all forms of violence against women. They call for a European Year of Combating Violence against Women, pointing out that almost one in four women in the EU suffer physical violence and more than 10% sexual violence. MEPs also endorse the Spanish Presidency’s proposals to introduce an EU-wide “European protection order for victims” and a common EU-wide telephone helpline for victims.

Sexual and reproductive rights

Parliament believes recognition of the full physical and sexual autonomy of women is a first step for any policies designed to combat violence against women. Women must have control over their sexual and reproductive rights, notably through easy access to contraception and abortion (this point was adopted by 361 votes to 237, with 40 abstentions) and abortion consultations must be free of charge. A majority of MEPs thus backed measures to improve women’s access to sexual and reproductive health services.

Fighting human trafficking

So far, only 16 EU Member States have ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, which is the strongest European legal instrument in the fight against trafficking in human beings, a modern form of slavery. MEPs call on the Member States that have not yet done so (i. e. the Czech Republic, Germany, Estonia, Ireland, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Hungary, the Netherlands, Finland and Sweden) to ratify this Convention.

Establishing paternity leave entitlement

The EU has a directive on maternity leave and a directive on parental leave, but no legislation on paternity leave. The House therefore calls on the Commission “to support any moves to establish paternity-leave entitlement on a Europe-wide basis” and says that maternity and paternity leave should be linked so as to afford better protection to women in the labour market. MEPs regret that the Social Partners’ Framework Agreement on Parental Leave from July 2009 fails to address the issue of paid leave as a way of achieving male-female equality.

Equal pay

Parliament deplores the fact that the Commission has not responded to the EP’s request that it present draft legislation revising the existing law on application of the principle of equal pay and that it present such a proposal without delay.

Gender balance in high-level positions

A better gender balance in corporate, administrative and political positions of responsibility in the Member States should be encouraged, say MEPs, pointing to the Norwegian Government’s decision to increase the rate of female members on the boards of private and public companies to at least 40%.

As to the composition of the Commission, a majority of MEPs call on Member States, in future nominations, to put forward two candidates, one of each gender, so as to facilitate the composition of a more representative Commission.

Migrant women

Migrant women, especially Romani women, regularly experience multiple forms of discrimination and national equality bodies should address this matter, says the report. MEPs also ask the Member States “to provide social security cover for female workers in domestic and other sectors where it is not available, with a view to promoting the integration of migrants”.

Jerusalem’s highly touted center for treating child victims of sexual abuse and rape is unable to offer assistance to the capital’s significant Arab-speaking population, unless they can communicate in Hebrew, The Jerusalem Post has discovered.

A spokeswoman for Shaare Zedek Hospital confirmed to the Post on Monday that a teenage boy from an east Jerusalem neighborhood had been treated at the hospital last week for severe sexual abuse, but after being referred to the rape crisis center, known as Beit Lynn, the boy was turned away due to the absence of Arabic-speaking professional staff.

“More than 100,000 Arab children live in Jerusalem and most of them, especially the younger ones, do not speak Hebrew,” wrote Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, executive director of the National Council for the Child, in a letter to Welfare and Social Services Ministry Deputy Director-General Motti Vinter last week.

“It does not seem possible, when there is such a large ethnic group, that a center such as Beit Lynn does not provide this service in Arabic,” he said.

Funded by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and supported by the Welfare and Social Services Ministry, Beit Lynn is supposed to streamline the initial process that victims of rape and sexual abuse go through.

In the past, children suspected of being molested were forced to visit each office independently, usually being carted around by their parents from the hospital to the police station and on to social workers and lawyers. At Beit Lynn, in the Kiryat Yovel neighborhood, all the elements are brought together under one roof, with first responders sharing information and easing the trauma for the victim.

“This child was forced to go through the old fashioned process of having to go from place to place and answer the same humiliating questions over and over again,” commented Kadman, protesting what he called “discrimination” against the city’s Arab-speaking population.

“We see so much money being poured into other less important projects but something like this needs to be fixed,” he said.

While Shaare Zedek could not reveal further details about the case, the spokeswoman did confirm that the victim was 14 and hailed from east Jerusalem.

“The hospital’s social workers first called Beit Lynn to see if they could help him but were told that unless he spoke Hebrew there was nothing they could do for him,” she said.

“Then they contacted another rape crisis center in Jerusalem but were told it only works only with females,” she said, adding that the hospital sees five or six such cases each year.

In response, the Welfare and Social Services Ministry explained that such cases from east Jerusalem are typically referred to local social service offices in their neighborhoods.

“Child welfare officers visit [Arabic-speaking] children in their surroundings as part of the services provided by the department in their area,” said a spokeswoman.

However, lawyer Ali Haider, co-executive director of Sikkuy, the Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality, said that social workers in Arab Israeli neighborhoods were highly overworked, dealing with more than 165 welfare files at a time.

“This is much higher than in Jewish neighborhoods,” noted Haider, editor of the NGO’s Equality Index of Jewish and Arab Citizens in Israel.

“There is a huge increase in unemployment, violence, sexual abuse and more, but there are simply not enough resources for Arab-speaking social workers to deal with it,” he said.

Israeli high court judges last week questioned the state’s support for buses catering to ultra-Orthodox Jews on which women are told to sit in the back.

The case, which spotlights an ever-widening rift between religious and non-observant Jews in Israel, dates from 2007, when a group of women and liberal Israeli groups complained about gender-divided buses operated by state-subsidised firms.

Dozens of such bus routes have been launched, answering demands from politically influential ultra-Orthodox Jews whose beliefs proscribe public contact between men and women.

Israel’s high court convened on Thursday to hear arguments against a recent Transport Ministry statement backing the segregation of sexes on buses in deference to religious views, as long as signs are posted “to ensure this is not forced”.

“With all due respect to signs, I don’t think this is the problem, and I think this issue requires a more in-depth solution,” said Justice Salim Joubran, an Israeli Arab, according to a court transcript.

“What about tolerance, that positive human attribute?” Joubran added. He said there were no such problems in Arab areas where “everyone sits together”.

Justice Yoram Danziger wondered whether a sign could resolve problems of abuse some women have complained of after resisting calls to move to the rear. “Would a sign that says ‘no violence here’ solve the problem?” he said.

Attorneys for six women and liberal groups contesting the segregated buses asked for an interim injunction to demand further explanation from the government, but justices again postponed any ruling on the case.

“It is clear that all the legal issues raised by this case have not yet been addressed,” Einat Horowitz, representing the appellants, told the court, adding that Orthodox women, not only secular, complained of poor treatment on segregated buses.

“Any involvement by the state in segregation involves coercion,” Horowitz said.

The United Nations should urge Nicaragua to repeal its ban on abortion following a human rights’ review of the country on 8 February said Amnesty International.

During the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review, UN members will have the opportunity to raise questions about the country’s absolute ban on abortion.

Nicaragua’s revised Penal Code, which came into effect in July 2008, stipulates prison sentences for girls and women who seek an abortion and for health professionals who provide health services associated with abortion. The prohibition includes cases where the life of the woman is at risk or when pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

“Nicaragua’s ban on abortion is the result of a shocking and draconian law that is compelling rape and incest victims to carry pregnancies to term and causing a rise in maternal deaths,” said Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International. “UN member states should take this opportunity to hold Nicaragua to account for a law that violates women’s right to life, health and dignity.”

The organization also reiterated its call on the Nicaraguan authorities to decriminalize abortion in all circumstances. Amnesty said Nicaragua should ensure women and girls have access to safe and legal abortion services when an unwanted pregnancy is a result of rape or incest or when it threatens the woman’s health or life.

The revised Penal Code introduces criminal sanctions for doctors and nurses who treat a pregnant woman for medical conditions such as cancer or cardiac emergencies where the treatment may cause injury to or death of the embryo or foetus.

Nicaragua’s Penal Code is in conflict with the country’s Obstetric Rules and Protocols issued by the Ministry of Health. The protocol mandates therapeutic abortions as clinical responses to specific cases.

Amnesty International’s researchers have found that in Nicaragua the absolute ban on abortions particularly affects young girls who are victims of rape or incest.

According to a survey of media reports between 2005 and 2007; 1,247 girls were reported in newspapers to have been raped or to have been the victims of incest in Nicaragua. Of these crimes, 198 were reported to have resulted in pregnancy. The overwhelming majority of the girls made pregnant as a result of rape or incest (172 of the 198) were between 10 and 14 years old.

The organization also found an increase in maternal deaths since the introduction of the ban.

In the first 19 weeks of 2009, some 16% of all maternal deaths were as a consequence of unsafe abortion compared to none in the same period in 2008.

Four UN expert committees established by treaties, the Committee against Torture, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Human Rights Committee and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women have already condemned this law and urged its revision, but the Nicaraguan government continues to ignore these calls.

“Nicaragua’s law criminalizing abortion goes against the advice of four UN treaty bodies and fails to meet its obligations under international human rights laws,” said Widney Brown. “Nicaragua needs to repeal this law immediately and enact laws and policies that promote the rights of women and girls by ensuring their rights to health, life and to be free from violence, coercion and discrimination.”

Nicaragua’s ban on abortion is a cause of grave concern in the wider international community. Tens of thousands of Amnesty International activists appalled at the impact of the ban on women’s and girl’s human rights, have signed petitions and contacted the Nicaraguan authorities to call for the repeal of the law.

The Universal Periodic Review is an opportunity for the UN Human Rights Council to examine the human rights record of all member states. Each country is reviewed every four years with the aim of ensuring states are meeting all of their human rights obligations.

Before the law that provides for a complete ban on abortions was changed, therapeutic abortion had been recognized as a legal, legitimate and necessary medical procedure for more than 100 years in Nicaragua. The law was interpreted in practice to permit abortion to be performed when the life or health of the woman or girl was at risk from continuation of pregnancy and, on particular occasions, in cases of pregnancy as a result of rape.

The Inter-American Commissioner for Women’s Rights, Victor Abramovich, wrote a letter to the Nicaraguan government prior to the introduction of the complete ban to warn that if such an extreme ban was introduced the Nicaraguan State would be breaching its obligations under the American Convention on Human Rights.

A copy of Amnesty International’s submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review on Nicaragua, is available at:

An alliance of South Korean women’s groups has called on the government to protect women’s rights to choose abortion amid a growing outcry about the number of illegal abortions in the country.

Their move came after the “Pro-Life Doctors,” a group of anti-abortion obstetricians, filed a complaint with the prosecution earlier Wednesday against three obstetrics clinics, accusing them of performing illegal abortions and urging the government to take action to crack down on such practices.

“Women should not be forced to maintain an unwanted pregnancy,” the groups responded in a joint statement.

Ten women’s rights advocacy groups participated in issuing the statement, including the Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center (KSVRC) and Korean Women’s Association United (KWAU). “Efforts should be made first to improve the social and economic circumstances until most women can have other choices than abortion,” they said.

Condemning any crackdown as a short-term solution, the women’s groups claimed that those who choose abortion do so as the result of social and living conditions that leave them no other choice.

“Unless these conditions change, abortion cannot be eradicated. If the government attempts to crack down on abortions, it will lead to an increase in surgery being carried out by unlicensed doctors in unauthorized clinics. As a result, it will threaten women’s health and even lives.”

An official at a women’s rights group urged the government to come up with longer-term solution.

“Punishment is not very effective in reducing abortion in the nation,” Kim Doo-na, an official at the Gender-based Culture Team in KSVRC, told Yonhap News Agency. “Fundamental and long-term solutions by the government and the medical circle are required to protect women and eradicate abortion practices.”

State prosecutors, meanwhile, said they will investigate the allegations raised by doctors opposed to abortion.

“Because there is considerable controversy surrounding this issue, prosecutors will carry out their investigations in an expeditious manner,” an official source said.

He added that because there are allegations that abortions are carried out on a wide scale by many doctors in the country, prosecutors may move to expand the probe.

Under South Korean law, abortions are illegal unless there are extenuating circumstances such as the unborn baby poses a serious health risk to the mother.

The National Commission for Women (NCW) and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (Unifem) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to combat trafficking in girls and women and “feminisation” of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Under the MoU, the two agencies will engage in developing strategies to reduce all forms of violence among women, including policy dialogues to end the trafficking in women in India which would ultimately lead to creating public awareness.

The two organisations would render all assistance to complaints relating to women abandoned by their non-resident Indian spouses, including networking with non-governmental organisations in India and abroad and recommending the government on any policy or issue relating to NRI marriages.

To begin with, the NCW, in partnership with Unifem, proposes to reach out to women and address their vulnerability in the source areas from where they are trafficked.

“We have identified three States — Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal — with an overarching goal to eliminate trafficking by 2015 and create institutionalised prevention mechanisms to stop trafficking at the source through community action at the panchayat-level,” NCW chairperson Girija Vyas said.

The mechanisms will be created at the panchayat-level community-owned centres of action against trafficking and HIV/AIDS. More than 600 women and girls will also be trained in entrepreneurship for sustainable livelihood.

Annie F. Stenhammer, Regional Programme Director, Unifem South Asia, said women were primarily trafficked from rural areas where there was a dearth of institutionalised prevention mechanisms. The programme is an attempt to bridge the gap and make prevention services accessible and eventually institutionalised at the zilla and panchayat-level.

“This programme seeks to get to the root of changing attitudes so that communities act as change agents and bridge the gap and gender-based violence of women,” Ms. Stenhammer added.

Under the MoU, efforts would be made to re-visit existing government programmes to include women in difficult situations to make them economically independent.

PAKISTAN: Mental Illness among Women: Gender-Driven?

WORLD SOCIAL FORUM: “Machista” but Valued by Feminists Nonetheless

BURMA: Ethnic Women Expose Opium Fields in Junta Strongholds

KENYA: Documenting Sexual Violence

BOLIVIA: Unprecedented Gender Parity in Cabinet

FRANCE: Burqa Ban Keeps Immigration Issue Alive

ARGENTINA: Slow Progress in Cutting Maternal Deaths

ZIMBABWE: One Million Casualties of Land Reform

DEVELOPMENT: Yemen to Lead South in U.N. Negotiations

RIGHTS: EU Faults U.N. for Slowdown in Gender Empowerment

INDIA: Lay-offs from Recession-hit Gulf Lead to New Lives at Home

HAITI: Displaced Women Face Double Jeopardy

MEXICO: Women – Casualties in Army’s Counternarcotics War

PERU: Women Combine Invention, Tradition to Improve Rural Diets

U.S.: Bill Pledges a Billion Dollars to Fight Gender Violence

UGANDA: Early Diagnosis of HIV Still Elusive

RIGHTS: New U.N. Envoy to Crack Down on Sexual Violence

COSTA RICA: Chinchilla to Join Club of Women Presidents

KENYA: Victory for Anti-Abortion Lobby

PAKISTAN: Community Midwives Gain Recognition But Concerns Remain


Haitian women’s groups report that while contributions from the international community continue to pour in, “in many camps essentials such as food and clothing are not yet widely available, especially for women and children.”

In a letter of appeal sent to colleagues in the international women’s movement, Sergia Galvan and Mayra Tavarez of Colectiva Mujeres Y Salud/CAFRA in the Dominican Republic write:

    ” … As with most other natural disasters, the strongest and the fittest tend to dominate disaster supply chain and distribution. Women and young girls are the last to have access to the supplies chain and distribution points. So they do not receive the supplies that they most urgently need in addition to food and water. So it is in Haiti.

    “Rape of young girls and women is also a growing problem as is common in the aftermath of most disasters” they write. Because of this, there is also an “urgent need for the morning after pill.

Haitian women, young girls and youth are in need of:
* Feminine supplies.
* Combs.
* Feminine wipes.
* Panties, bras and clothes and other support (especially for pregnant women and new mothers).
* Personal/household supplies for birth delivery and after: (rubbing alcohol or disposable anti-germicidal substitutes; baby wipes, baby wraps, pampers, socks and caps and supplies for nursing. mothers/newborn; (It is cold at nights so there is need to cover the feet and heads of the newborns).
* Clothing and under garments for women and young girls.
* Bedding & blankets for babies and mothers.

Their plea: Send supplies or money to help purchase any of the above items. In general, say Galvan and Tavarez, “any supplies (such as toothpaste, tooth brushes etc) that can be used for daily living for men, women, boys and girls are welcome.”

    We need your support for these resources and any financial contribution towards shipment that you are able to make.

Donations can be sent directly to:
Sergia Galvan and Mayra Tavarez
Colectiva Mujeres Y Salud/CAFRA
Calle Socomo Sanchez
No 74, Gazcu, Santo Domingo DR

This is a specific drive for Emergency Supplies for Haitian women and girls* that is being sponsored by the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA) and Colectiva Mujers Y Salud (Women’s Health Collective), Dominican Republic, and the CAFRA Youth League in Haiti. This assistance is being transferred primarily through the Myriam Merlet International Solidarity Camp* directly to women and women´s organizations.

Myriam Merlet was a National Representative of CAFRA who was killed during the earthquake.

The solidarity camp is named after Myriam Merlet, a feminist activist who was killed in the earthquake last week. As an outspoken activist, Merlet helped draw international attention to the use of rape as a political weapon.

A Feminist International Solidarity Camp to help mobilize and transfer resources, and to open channels of communications directly with Haitian women will open next week on the frontier Jemaní between the Dominican Republic & Haiti. As a project organized by women’s groups in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and elsewhere in Latin America & the Caribbean and beyond, the Camp will be eventually handed over to Haitian women.

The international solidarity camp is named after Myriam Merlet, It is organized as a Resource Center for international solidarity efforts to send resources directly to the women of Haiti, and also work with Human Rights defenders from Haiti to monitor, denounce and demand legal action regarding violations of human rights including women’s human rights during the earthquake and the aftermath.

Also to be included is a Health Center to help deal the grief, injuries, illnesses and traumas of the earthquake.

Coordinators of these efforts include the Women & Health Collective (COMUS) a women’s human rights and health NGO, and CIPAF, a feminist NGO of the Dominican Republic that works in building social/political movement.

The space will also serve as a Communications Center to include radio transmissions via Internet by FIRE (Feminist International Radio Endeavour), as well as blogs, and electronic networks organized by women’s communication networks throughout the region. FIRE was the first international internet radio created and run by women from Latin America and the Caribbean.

Participation is needed, particularly to find resources, share information from the Camp and develop solidarity in your place. .

For more information in English about the Myriam Merlet Feminist International Solidarity Camp and other ways to participate go to: (webpage of FIRE radio) as of Febrary 1st.

Write in English to

Or write in Spanish to: Colectiva Mujer y Salud in the Dominican Republic at

Centro de Investigación para la Acción Femenina CIPAF also in the Dominican Republic at:

See also: “Myriam Merlet, Anne Marie Coriolan & Magalie Marcelin Feminist International Camp”

and: UNIFEM Mourns the Deaths of 4 Women’s Rights Activists in Haiti

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday said he intended to make Sweden’s Margot Wallstrom his special representative tasked with combating sexual violence against women and children in conflicts.

Ban announced he wanted to appoint the 55-year-old outgoing vice-president of the European Commission during a speech at the opening of the African Union’s 14th summit in Addis Ababa.

“I have informed the UNSC of my intention to appoint Margot Wallstrom, vice-president of the European Commission, as my special representative to intensify efforts to end sexual violence against women and children in conflict situations,” he said.

“We will continue efforts to end the conflicts in the east (of the Democratic Republic of Congo), restore state authority, facilitate the return of refugees, and protect civilians against all forms of violence including sexual violence,” Ban said.

“I’m horrified and outraged by the use of rape as a weapon of war,” he said.

The Swedish diplomat said Sunday she would lobby for sexual violence in war to be recognised as a war crime, attacking what she said was a tendency to explain the abuse of women as “cultural.”

“I say this is not cultural, it is criminal. It is a crime under international law and it is also a war crime,” she told Swedish public radio.

The long-running conflicts in Somalia, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) — where abuses against women and children are rife — are expected to top the agenda of the AU summit, which winds up on Tuesday.

The United Nation sounded the alarm in November over systematic rape by warring parties in the DRC, where some 5,000 conflict-linked rapes were reported in Sud-Kivu alone for the first half of 2009.