Afghan Women Call for Protection of Rights
by CEDAW, CRC, Amnesty, DW, agencies
UN committees urge Taliban to honour their promises to protect women and girls
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) call on the Taliban to honour their pledge to protect Afghan women and girls, and to respect and fulfil the human rights enshrined in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Their statement is as follows:
“As the planned withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan is due to be completed within hours, the Committees urge the Taliban and all other parties to take measures to protect the lives and respect the human rights of women and children.
The Committees are alarmed by the restrictive practices and ongoing reports of targeted attacks on women and girls including academics, health workers, human rights defenders, media workers, civil servants and many others who have contributed to the country’s development over the past 20 years, as well as those exercising their right to education. These women should be praised for their important roles and contributions to economic, political and social development in Afghanistan, rather than being subjected to assaults.
The Committees recall that excessive and arbitrary restrictions on women’s and girls’ rights to freedom of movement and expression, education, work and their right to participate in public life are incompatible with the principles of proportionality and non-discrimination.
Both Committees urge those in power and exercising effective control in Afghanistan to comply with the basic tenets of international human rights and humanitarian law, including their due diligence obligation to prevent and protect women and girls from gender-based violence and discrimination.
The Taliban has issued a number of statements in recent days referring to their plans to form an inclusive government. They have pledged to uphold the rights of women to work and of girls to go to school. The Committees urge the Taliban to honour their own commitments and not to let history repeat itself.
The Committees, however, note with deep concern the caveat that women will be very active in society, but within the framework of Islam. They reiterate that under international human rights law, including both Conventions, which are binding on those exercising effective control in Afghanistan, religious norms and traditions cannot be invoked to justify violations of women’s and girls’ human rights.
The right to freedom of religion protects individuals, and not religions as such. The Taliban and any State organs must respect, and ensure to all persons under their jurisdiction or effective control, including women and girls, the human rights set forth in the Conventions and in all other human rights treaties to which Afghanistan is a party.
A humane and inclusive transition will be pivotal in setting the future path for women and children, especially girls, in Afghanistan and in ensuring that their human rights are respected and protected.
The two Committees call on the Taliban and all parties to respect, protect and fulfil all the human rights of women and children enshrined in both Conventions and look forward to engaging with Afghanistan on the implementation of the recommendations issued by CEDAW in February 2020 in its concluding observations on Afghanistan’s third periodic report, and at the upcoming dialogue of the CRC with Afghanistan, respectively.
As the Taliban make rapid gains in Afghanistan, women in the country fear for their future. (DW, agencies)
As the Taliban continue to capture major Afghan cities such as Herat and Kandahar, many women in Afghanistan are concerned about their future under Islamist fundamentalist rule should the group take over the country.
Afghan women's rights activist Mariam Atahi told DW on Friday that she is afraid the Taliban "will come and kill me" if the Taliban launch an offensive on Kabul, Afghanistan's capital and largest city.
She said she fears punishment from the Taliban "because for the last 20 years, I advocated for women's rights," going against Taliban "ideologies and thoughts."
"People are stressing out that tomorrow night or the night after tomorrow, the Taliban will take Kabul and they are going to go back to the same situation as they were in 1996," Atahi said.
"Afghan women especially, who have gone through so much during the Taliban regime, are scared about what will happen."
The Taliban previously ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, and imposed strict rules on women during that period. Women were unable to work or be in contact with men other than blood relatives, and had to wear a burqa while out in public.
If women violated the rules, they could face severe punishments from the Taliban, such as imprisonment, torture or even death. Women were often publicly flogged or executed during the Taliban's rule of Afghanistan.
Atahi said women under renewed Taliban occupation are witnessing the same types of restrictions, and added that the "situation is not good" in Taliban-controlled areas.
"There is a lot of war, women are not allowed to go to school and … they have been asked to wear the hijab and burqa," she said.
Atahi collects stories from women in rural areas of the country, and said they share her fears. She said the women she is helping are afraid that the Taliban will come and "check home by home asking us to be accountable for what we have done during the past 14 years."
Victoria Fontan, a professor of conflict studies at the American University of Kabul, told DW that "morale is really low" among Afghan women.
"They're apprehensive about the future, about their capacity to continue studying, to continue being part of our society," Fontan said. "For them, it's a really difficult time because they fear that Afghanistan is being set back for many years to come, maybe 10, 15 years."
During the Taliban's five-year reign in Afghanistan, girls and women were prohibited from receiving an education.
A report published by Human Rights Watch in June 2020 found that although the Taliban officially claim it is no longer against education for girls, very few Taliban officials actually allow girls to go to school past puberty.
Human rights group Amnesty International has also reported that the vast majority of marriages in Afghanistan were forced during the Taliban era.
In recent weeks numerous reports have emerged of the Taliban going door-to-door, drafting lists of women and girls aged between 12 and 45 years who are then forced to marry the extremist fighters.
Women are being told they cannot leave home without a male escort, can no longer work or study or freely choose the clothes they want to wear. Schools are being closed.
For a whole generation of Afghan women who entered public life – lawmakers, journalists, doctors, nurses, teachers and public officials – there's much to lose.
While they strove, working alongside male colleagues and in communities unused to seeing women in positions of authority, to help build a democratically-run civil society, they also hoped to open up opportunities for later generations of women to succeed them.
Zahra, 26, is among the many young women who fear their education and ambitions will come to nothing. She watched Thursday evening as the Taliban flooded her hometown of Herat, Afghanistan’s third-largest city.
“I am in big shock,” said Zahra, who works for a non-profit organisation to raise awareness for women. “How can it be possible for me as a woman who has worked so hard and tried to learn and advance, to now have to hide myself and stay at home?”
"With every city collapsing, human bodies collapse, dreams collapse, history and future collapse, life and our world collapse," Afghan photographer Rada Akbar wrote.
Farkhunda Zahra Naderi, a former lawmaker and senior UN advisor to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and now member of the Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, has watched as her country opened up over the 20 years to become part of the global community.
“My greatest fear is now they are marginalising women who have been working in these leadership positions, who have been a strong voice against the most powerful abusers but also working with them to change the situation on the ground,” she said in an interview. If they eliminate these leaders, she asks, who will be left to speak up for women and defend the gains made over the last 20 years?
In cities overrun by the Taliban extremists, women are already losing their jobs. Women employees at two bank branches, one in Kandahar and the other in the city of Herat, were harassed and castigated by Taliban gunmen in July. The gunmen escorted the women to their homes and told them not to return to their jobs.
When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 they imposed Sharia law, a particularly strict interpretation of Islamic law which meant women could not work, girls were banned from attending school and women had to cover their faces in public and always be accompanied by a male relative if they wanted to leave their homes.
Women who broke the rules suffered public beatings by the Taliban's religious police. The Taliban also stoned to death women accused of adultery.
Afghan Women Call for Protection of Rights. (Tolo News)
Hundreds of women from 14 provinces of Afghanistan gathered in Kabul to stress the need for the protection of gains women have made in the country over the past two decades.
This comes as a planned UN-led conference on Afghanistan is scheduled to take place in Istanbul on April 24.
Women said that the role of women in the peace process shouldn’t be taken lightly.
“We need a lasting peace to prevail in our country, the gains of women and their rights must be protected,” said Humaira Rafi, an Afghan rights activist from Nangarhar, in eastern Afghanistan.
“Discussions were held about rule of law, culture, security, governance, and respecting human rights,” said Masooma Jami, a women’s rights activist.
The women said that the protection of gains, ceasefire, war victims' rights and women's rights shouldn’t be ignored in the peace negotiations talks.
“The people of Afghanistan are tired of the war, the women and the mothers do not want to see further dead bodies, the only thing we want is a ceasefire to be announced,” said Rezwana Paktiawal, a resident of Paktia province.
“These women here expressed their views and ideas about the issues—if the Istanbul conference is convened, the women will also go there to express their demands at the negotiation table,” said Farishta, an activist.
Women’s rights must not be compromised in peace process. (Amnesty, agencies)
Any compromise on women’s rights in a peace deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban would betray two decades of hard-won progress for Afghan women, said Amnesty International, ahead of a new campaign highlighting the incredible work of women human rights defenders in Afghanistan.
The campaign celebrates Women Human Rights Defenders who fight gender-based discrimination and stand up for women’s rights. It calls on governments to prevent, investigate, and prosecute violence against women and girls.
At a moment when the rights of Afghan women are at grave risk of being traded off in a peace deal with the Taliban, Amnesty International is working with women human rights defenders in Afghanistan to showcase their powerful stories.
“Having spent two decades fighting hard to win their most basic rights, Afghan women now face the real possibility of seeing these gains bargained away. The advances made on women’s rights must not be rolled back in this peace process – the human rights of all Afghans, especially women and girls, must be at the heart of any eventual agreement,” said Samira Hamidi, Amnesty International’s Afghanistan Campaigner.
“As the stories we’ve gathered powerfully demonstrate, Afghan women have been at the forefront of efforts for peace and stability in Afghanistan. They have played a vital role in ensuring that issues such as human rights, justice, accountability, victims’ rights, and crimes against humanity are on the agenda in the ongoing peace efforts.”
Under the Taliban, women and girls were denied a whole range of human rights, including the rights to education, health, free movement, and political and social participation.
Since the Taliban regime ended in 2003, important strides have been made on women’s rights. There are now 3.3 million girls in education, and women are politically, economically and socially engaged. Despite ongoing conflict, Afghan women have become lawyers, doctors, judges, teachers, engineers, athletes, activists, politicians, journalists, bureaucrats, business owners.
However, major obstacles and challenges remain. Violence against women is rife, the participation of women at all levels of government remains limited and, according to UNICEF, 2.2 million Afghan girls still do not attend school.
“A just, sustainable peace must uphold the human rights of all of Afghan society. Women are among those who have suffered most and their full participation in the peace process is absolutely essential,” said Samira Hamidi.
“The progress women have been making is starting to redress the near-total exclusion they have faced in the past, and shows how central they are for the future of the country, but much work remains to be done. Any peace deal must not only protect the gains already made but commit to further advancing the rights of Afghan women.”
* In 2019, Amnesty International featured 16 Afghan Women Rights Defenders: http://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/11/16-days-of-activism-afghanistan-whrds/ http://theconversation.com/global/topics/afghan-women-102974 http://www.wilpf.org/afghanistan-advancing-peace-inclusion-and-prosperity/
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Extreme Texas abortion ruling empowers citizen bounty hunters
by PBS, Guardian News, agencies
The most radical abortion law in the US has gone into effect, despite legal efforts to block it.
A near-total abortion ban in Texas empowers any private citizen to sue an abortion provider who violates the extremist law, opening the floodgates to harassing and frivolous lawsuits from anti-abortion vigilantes that could eventually shutter most clinics in the state. A number of Reublican States are now considering copying the Texas model.
Senate Bill 8, ushered through the Republican-dominated Texas legislature and signed into law by the Republican governor, Greg Abbott, in May, bars abortion once embryonic cardiac activity is detected, which is around six weeks, and offers no exceptions for rape or incest.
Texas is the first state to ban abortion this early in pregnancy since Roe v Wade, and last-minute efforts to halt it through an appeal to the US supreme court by Tuesday did not succeed.
While a dozen other states have passed similar so-called bills, they have all been blocked by the courts. The Texas version is novel in that it is intentionally designed to shield government officials from enforcement, and thus make legal challenges more difficult to secure. It instead incentivizes any private citizen in the US to bring civil suit against an abortion provider or anyone who “aids or abets” the procedure.
Top Democrats condemned the US supreme court over its silence on Texas’s extreme abortion law after it came into effect.
The so-called “Heartbeat Act”, which was signed into law by Greg Abbott, the state’s Republican governor, in May, bans abortions at six weeks and does not make exceptions for incest and rape. Furthermore, it empowers private citizens to sue any abortion provider who violates the law.
Democrats have criticized the supreme court for not taking up an appeal that would have at least temporarily blocked the law. In a statement released on Wednesday, President Joe Biden criticized the law, saying that it “blatantly violates the constitutional right established under Roe v Wade and upheld as precedent for nearly half a century”.
“The Texas law will significantly impair women’s access to the healthcare they need … And outrageously, it deputizes private citizens to bring lawsuits against anyone who they believe has helped another person get an abortion.”
In a statement, Carolyn Maloney, Democratic chair of the House oversight committee, said, “In refusing to intervene last night, the supreme court tipped the scales of justice in favor of one of the most draconian state abortion bans in history.”
Maloney accused the court of putting the health and safety of Texans, particularly those with lower income and people of color, in jeopardy.
9 Sep. 2021
Biden administration sues Texas over anti-abortion law
The US Justice Department has filed a lawsuit to block a Texas law that bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, arguing that the state is infringing on the constitutional rights set by legal precedents.
Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the lawsuit on Thursday, saying that the Texas legislation, which went into effect last week, is “clearly unconstitutional”.
The Texas law, known as SB8, incentivises private citizens to sue anyone who provides or assists in an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.
The enforcement mechanism is an “obvious” effort to evade judicial challenges under the federal right to privacy, which allows abortions up to 22 weeks of pregnancy, Garland said.
He said it was an “unprecedented scheme” designed to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights.
“This kind of scheme to nullify the Constitution of the United States is one that all Americans – whatever their politics or party – should fear,” Garland said. “If it prevails, it may become a model for action in other areas, by other states and with respect to other constitutional rights and judicial precedents.”
U.S. President Joe Biden’s full statement on the Supreme Court’s refusal to block the most extreme anti-abortion law now in effect in the US, in Texas:
‘The Supreme Court’s ruling overnight is an unprecedented assault on a woman’s constitutional rights under Roe v. Wade, which has been the law of the land for almost fifty years. By allowing a law to go into effect that empowers private citizens in Texas to sue health care providers, family members supporting a woman exercising her right to choose after six weeks, or even a friend who drives her to a hospital or clinic, it unleashes unconstitutional chaos and empowers self-anointed enforcers to have devastating impacts.
Complete strangers will now be empowered to inject themselves in the most private and personal health decisions faced by women. This law is so extreme it does not even allow for exceptions in the case of rape or incest. And it not only empowers complete strangers to inject themselves into the most private of decisions made by a woman—it actually incentivizes them to do so with the prospect of $10,000 if they win their case.
For the majority to do this without a hearing, without the benefit of an opinion from a court below, and without due consideration of the issues, insults the rule of law and the rights of all Americans to seek redress from our courts. Rather than use its supreme authority to ensure justice could be fairly sought, the highest Court of our land will allow millions of women in Texas in need of critical reproductive care to suffer while courts sift through procedural complexities.
The dissents by Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan all demonstrate the error of the Court’s action here powerfully.
While the Chief Justice was clear to stress that the action by the Supreme Court is not a final ruling on the future of Roe, the impact of last night’s decision will be immediate and requires an immediate response. One reason I became the first president in history to create a Gender Policy Council was to be prepared to react to such assaults on women’s rights.
Hence, I am directing that Council and the Office of the White House Counsel to launch a whole-of-government effort to respond to this decision, looking specifically to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice to see what steps the Federal Government can take to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions as protected by Roe, and what legal tools we have to insulate women and providers from the impact of Texas’ bizarre scheme of outsourced enforcement to private parties.
Justice Sotomayor dissent on the US supreme court failing to block the extreme Texas abortion law:
'The court’s order is stunning. Presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand.
Last night, the court silently acquiesced in a state’s enactment of a law that flouts nearly 50 years of federal precedents. Today, the court belatedly explains that it declined to grant relief because of procedural complexities of the state’s own invention. Because the court’s failure to act rewards tactics designed to avoid judicial review and inflicts significant harm on the applicants and on women seeking abortions in Texas, I dissent.
In May 2021, the Texas legislature enacted SB8 (the act). The act, which took effect statewide at midnight on 1 September, makes it unlawful for physicians to perform abortions if they either detect cardiac activity in an embryo or fail to perform a test to detect such activity.
This equates to a near-categorical ban on abortions beginning six weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period, before many women realize they are pregnant, and months before fetal viability. According to the applicants, who are abortion providers and advocates in Texas, the act immediately prohibits care for at least 85% of Texas abortion patients and will force many abortion clinics to close.
The act is clearly unconstitutional under existing precedents. The respondents do not even try to argue otherwise. Nor could they: no federal appellate court has upheld such a comprehensive prohibition on abortions before viability under current law.
The Texas legislature was well aware of this binding precedent. To circumvent it, the legislature took the extraordinary step of enlisting private citizens to do what the state could not.
The act authorizes any private citizen to file a lawsuit against any person who provides an abortion in violation of the act, “aids or abets” such an abortion (including by paying for it) regardless of whether they know the abortion is prohibited under the act, or even intends to engage in such conduct.
Courts are required to enjoin the defendant from engaging in these actions in the future and to award the private-citizen plaintiff at least $10,000 in “statutory damages” for each forbidden abortion performed or aided by the defendant.
In effect, the Texas legislature has deputized the state’s citizens as bounty hunters, offering them cash prizes for civilly prosecuting their neighbors’ medical procedures.
The legislature fashioned this scheme because federal constitutional challenges to state laws ordinarily are brought against state officers who are in charge of enforcing. By prohibiting state officers from enforcing the act directly and relying instead on citizen bounty hunters, the legislature sought to make it more complicated for federal courts to enjoin the act on a statewide basis.
Taken together, the act is a breathtaking act of defiance – of the constitution, of this court’s precedents, and of the rights of women seeking abortions throughout Texas. But over six weeks after the applicants filed suit to prevent the act from taking effect, a fifth circuit panel abruptly stayed all proceedings before the district court and vacated a preliminary injunction hearing that was scheduled to begin on Monday. The applicants requested emergency relief from this court, but the court said nothing. The act took effect at midnight last night'.
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/texas-law-banning-most-abortions-in-the-state-takes-effect-with-high-court-mum http://www.pbs.org/newshour/tag/abortion http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/sep/07/un-experts-condemn-texas-anti-abortion-law
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