U.S. Ups Post-War Funds; Expelled Congolese Raped

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Cheers

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The United States pledged to commit nearly $44 million to the empowerment of women in conflict zones on Oct. 26 at the United Nations headquarters in New York, where more than 80 country representatives promised to step up national progress on implementing U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325.

The women, peace and security resolution, 1325, turns 10 this week, but only 22 of the 192 countries that adopted it in 2000 have followed up with national action plans aimed at increasing the number of women in the military, police and parliament, as well as in conflict and post-conflict mediations.

The U.S. was among a host of countries to adopt its own national action plan, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged $17 million to support civil society groups that focus on women in Afghanistan, $11 million to U.N. activities focused on job training, literacy and maternal health services for refugee women and $14 million to making clean water available in conflict zones. An additional $1.7 million will be funding other U.N. activities, including the office of Margot Wallstrom, the U.N. special representative on sexual violence in conflict zones.

The U.S. action plan will mandate a more gender-sensitive approach when training foreign armies or moderating ceasefire agreements, for example. It will also include a set of indicators that will measure prevalence and patterns of sexual violence, as well as women’s participation in political bodies and talks. The Security Council was set to approve these same indicators, which Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon introduced in April, at the end of the Oct. 26 session.

But individual country commitments and funding pledges to 1325 aren’t enough to grant women a fair stake at the decision-making table, says Ambassador Anwar Chowdhury, who initially introduced 1325 to the Security Council while serving as Bangladesh’s envoy to the U.N.

"Pledges are welcome, but I don’t think they are that meaningful in terms of real commitments from the governments," Chowdhury said. "We should encourage them but then see if they are strong enough. The secretary-general has to take the lead. The U.N. has big credibility in the developing countries and when you have 50 percent of these action plans from industrialized countries, what does that mean?"

–Amy Lieberman

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • A new residential home called Anne’s House is scheduled to open next week in the Chicago area to offer a place for girls and young women vulnerable to prostitution, reported the Chicago Tribune Oct. 29. One recent study indicated there could be as many as 16,000 young people involved in the sex trade in Chicago, according to the article.
  • Children growing up with gay or lesbian parents progress through school just about as well as their classmates with straight parents, reported the Vancouver Sun Oct. 29. In the Stanford University study examining U.S. Census data, the more important factors came down to parental income and education.
  • India’s Ministry of State for Women and Child Development announced Oct. 28 that a new bill will be introduced into parliament to prevent sexual harassment of women in the workplace, reported Samachar Today Oct. 28. The bill includes other provisions to promote women’s welfare, including financial assistance to pregnant women and enhancing the nutritional and economic status of girls ages 11 to 18.
  • President Obama announced a series of administration-wide initiatives aimed at providing aid to victims of abuse, reported the Associated Press Oct. 27. The initiatives include programs to connect victims with lawyers, help states conduct home visits with at-risk families and provide resources to children in abusive homes.
  • New York Times Magazine released an issue on Oct. 24 with a women’s empowerment theme. It included stories about women in foreign aid, illegal immigration, social and health issues and motherhood, among others.

 


 

Jeers

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At least 30 women were kept as prisoners in a dungeon-like structure and gang raped over several weeks at the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Oct. 26, the Associated Press reported. The women were among more than 150 Congolese citizens who had arrived in Bandundu Province in southwestern Democratic Republic of Congo after being expelled from neighboring Angola. An agency spokesperson said the men in the group were also brutalized.

The U.S. State Department has addressed Angola and said the country should investigate the alleged rapes, reported the BBC Oct. 29. Correspondents say it is the first time the international community has spoken out about the expulsions, which have often been abrupt, violent and have affected hundreds of thousands of people in recent years. Angola denies knowledge of the expulsions, but BBC’s former Angola correspondent, Louise Redvers, says there is a strong campaign in the state media against illegal immigrants, reported the article.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • Planned Parenthood of Montana has sued the state for denying teen girls access to birth control, reported the Helena Independent Record Oct. 29. Teens insured through Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) cannot obtain birth control if it’s being used only to prevent pregnancy, though they can get birth control to treat acne or heavy menstrual cycles.
  • This week, a Mississippi judge ruled against the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood in a case that sought to remove a Personhood Amendment, an anti-abortion initiative, from ballots next year in Mississippi, reported Ms. Magazine Oct. 28. If passed, it would also threaten oral and emergency contraception, IUD contraception, in vitro fertilization clinics and stem cell research, according to the article.
  • A Somali militant group publicly executed two teenage girls Oct. 27 after accusing them of being spies for the Somali government, reported CNN Oct. 28. The accused, Ayan Mohamed Jama, 16, and Al-Shabaab, 15, had allegedly admitted to spying, though relatives and friends deny the allegations.
  • A judge refused Oct. 27 to block Arizona from enforcing new abortion regulations, reported the East Valley Tribune Oct. 27. If implemented, only doctors could perform various medical procedures before and after an abortion, which would cause delays for women because there are not enough qualified doctors willing to perform abortions, Planned Parenthood President Bryan Howard said in the article.
  • Nursing mothers will not be allowed to use their tax-sheltered health care accounts to pay for breast pumps and other supplies, reported The New York Times Oct. 27. The Internal Revenue Service has ruled that breastfeeding does not have enough health benefits to qualify as a form of medical care.
  • The women’s entrance of an Arizona synagogue was destroyed this week, israelnationalnews.com reported Oct. 27. A Torah scroll and several other ritual items were stolen as well. The synagogue’s rabbi, Rabbi Reuven Mann, described the vandalism as "emotionally devastating."
  • There are few female top aides in the campaigns of Republican Carl Paladino or Democratic Andrew Cuomo in the race for New York governor, the New York Times reported Oct. 26. Neither of them selected a woman as his running mate or campaign manager and the top ranks of their political operations are dominated by men.
  • In California, a poll found female voters are judging Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman and Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina more harshly than the male candidates, the L.A. Times reported Oct. 26. However, the results of both surveys confirmed that ideology, not gender, is directing the vote in this campaign season.

Noted:

  • Lizbeth Benacquisto, a Republican candidate for Florida State Senate, revealed on a television advertisement that she was raped. This was in response to her opponent, Democrat Kevin Rader and his criticism of her anti-choice platform, reported WPBF, a Florida ABC affiliate, Oct. 28. Benacquisto said although she is anti-choice, she supports rape and incest victims’ right to choose, the article reported.
  • Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, who was initially greeted by cheers at the annual Women’s Conference in Southern California, was booed by the audience when she declined to remove ads attacking opponent Democrat Jerry Brown, the L.A. Times reported Oct. 27.
  • California GOP Senate challenger Carly Fiorina is in the hospital being treated for an infection associated with her reconstructive surgery after breast cancer, the Associated Press reported Oct. 26. Deborah Bowker, the campaign’s chief of staff, said in a statement issued Oct. 26 she expects Fiorina to return to the campaign trail soon.
  • "The Assassination of Dr. Tiller," a documentary about the killing of abortion doctor George Tiller by Scott Roeder, aired nationally on MSNBC Oct. 25 on the Rachel Maddow show, KSN.com, a Kansas NBC television associate, reported. The documentary offers some chilling scenes and new information on convicted killer Roeder, who is serving a 50 year sentence with no chance of parole.
  • The Democratic candidate for Florida governor, Alex Sink, was caught violating the terms of a debate with Republican opponent Rick Scott on Oct. 25, CBSNews reported Oct. 26. Sink was seen reading a text message sent by an aide during a debate in which "no notes and no props on stage" were permitted, per a written agreement both candidates had signed, CNN reported.
  • Republican Lisa Murkowski is being treated as the frontrunner in the Alaska Senate election, even though her name is not on the ballot, the New York Times reported Oct. 26. Analysts and Alaskans now say she could overcome the odds and logistical hurdles to win as a write-in candidate, something no senator has done since 1954.
  • In the California Senate race between Democrat Barbara Boxer and Republican Carly Fiorina, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is airing a new television ad that directly targets women, the L.A. Times reported Oct. 26.
  • The reason women outlive men may be due to cells in the male body that are not genetically programmed to last as long as those of the females, reported the Times of India Oct. 25. Studies have found that cells taken from a female body are better at repairing damage compared with cells from a male body, according to Professor Tom Kirkwood, a leading gerontologist at the University of Newcastle.

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