The Global Citizen: women's rights
I decided I will start off this gushy, loving article on Mother's Day with a depressing statistic (sorry): around the world, every two minutes a woman dies from preventable causes related to pregnancy. The real kicker? These deaths are 100% preventable.
There are several factors that play into this astonishing statistic. In some parts of the world, maternal health simply is not a priority. In Save the Children's mother index, you can see which countries are the best and worst places to be a mother. Can you guess how the United States ranks? The US came in 30th. 30th place. Wow.
The report explains that several factors are at play when it comes to a mother's health, including economic status, education level, and women's political status (to name a few). The Democratic Republic of Congo came in last place - the worst place to be a mother. Cultural practices play a role as well. For example, women who have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) are twice as likely to die during childbirth and are more likely to give birth to a stillborn child than other women.
They put their lives on the line for us daily. They make sacrifices that I myself could not be able to fathom. Yet women in the military are denied the same rights to basic health care that other citizens have.
Under current law, if a woman solider is raped and becomes pregnant, she cannot use her military health plan to pay for an abortion. She would be forced to seek health care outside of the military base, which often is very dangerous. But Senator Jeanne Shaheen is working to reverse this glaring human rights violation.
The New Hampshire Senator is the creator of Amendment 1120 (also known as the Shaheen Amendment), which would protect enlisted women so that they can have the same health care as the very citizens they protect. A case where an enlisted woman was raped by a fellow soldier reveals how unjust our current laws are. Jessica Kenyon* was raped and denied access to health care on the military base in Korea where she was stationed. There were no other safe health care alternatives where she was, and because of these circumstances that were beyond her control, she was given no other choice but to leave and give up her military career. She later miscarried.
Yesterday was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. In December of 1999, the United Nations created this day to highlight how gender based violence affects billions of women all over the world, which in turn affects the economic capacity of their communities and nations.
Over a decade later, women’s human rights are just now starting to take center stage. The 2012 election put a record number of women in the Senate— but we have yet to reach political parity. Efforts to end gender-based violence are underway, yet there remains the haunting statistic that one in three women will be raped or attacked in her lifetime. Just recently in Ireland, Savita Halappanavar was left by doctors to die because she was denied an abortion—a case that made international news and spurred hundreds of protests throughout the world.
The United States sent a message on Tuesday night's election: women's human rights are not to be threatened. This message was loud and clear when the country elected a record-breaking number of women to Senate. The 113th Congress of the United States will have 20 women Senators---the most women to serve in United States history. Ever.
I hope you're not wondering what could have set this precedent but if you are, let's recap:
Representative Todd Akin, who was running for Claire McCaskill's Missouri Senate Seat made his "legitimate rape" comment, explaining how the female body has "ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
Richard Mourdock, running for Senate in Indiana spoke for God when he declared that when a woman gets pregnant from a rape, it "is something God intended." There were scores more of men who made similar statements.
State Representative Roger Rivard lost re-election in Wisconsin when he declared, "consensual sex can turn into rape in an awful hurry [...] some girls, they rape so easy."
Sadly, there are a more comments like these, which you can read here.
"I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."
--Indiana GOP U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock in Tuesday's televised debate, in response to a question regarding the candidates' position on abortion.
In a society that is plagued with rape culture, this is a dangerous and horrifying statement, to say the least. Sure, we have seen backlash from the media, but just as in Todd Akin's case, this man will continue to run for Senate under the guise of "family values."
Men, boys, let us be bold. Let us speak the truth and stand up for the rights of girls and women to equality, dignity, and the rights we all share. –Desmond Tutu, Chair of The Elders
Today we celebrate the first ever International Day of the Girl. If you have read my past blog posts, you know how I feel about how essential girls are for the prosperity of the world’s nations. International studies have declared the biggest untapped resource lies in girls and their potential to contribute to society. Yet, girls and women all over the world are being held back.
Held back by injuries and death in childbirth—80% of cases that are preventable.
Held back by domestic abuse, violence, and rape.
A 14-year old Pakistani girl was shot by Taliban operatives yesterday while riding home on her school bus. The young girl, Malala Yousafzai, is an internationally recognized advocate for girls' education. The Taliban extremists said they targeted her specifically because, in their view, she is pro-Western symbol of "infidels and obscenity." They vowed to continue targeting her if she survives this attack.
Yousafzai was first brought to the public eye in 2009 when she wrote an anonymous diary for BBC's Urdu service about the atrocities of the Taliban, who controlled her city in Pakistan for two years through May 2009. Her brave work supporting girls' education rights, particularly against rising fundamentalism, made her a finalist for last year's International Children's Peace Prize. She has also promoted literacy and peace, earning her a peace prize from the Pakistani government.
It is absolutely heartbreaking that a young girl would be the victim of assassination attempts for no reason than her support of her rights to an education. The attack is a chilling reminder of the consequences, particularly for women, of allowing religious extremism to flourish in unstable societies.
The 1960 Republican platform pledged to "support and strengthen the UN." Today, the 2012 Republican Platform is vastly different from the ideals that the GOP once held, and shockingly polarizing.
This election year, the Republican platform opposes U.S. involvement with the International Criminal Court on the mistaken basis that this would give the ICC jurisdiction over U.S. troops. It discounts our commitment to reduce our stockpile of nuclear weapons, reversing the U.S. commitment to nuclear non-proliferation. The human rights section is a measly five sentences. The most shockingly offensive section, however, is the point encouraging that the US should limit the amount of foreign aid and UN funding, despite saying that "Foreign aid should serve our national interest, an essential part of which is the peaceful development of less advanced and vulnerable societies in critical parts of the world."
"Men want power, women want peace."
Former British Ambassador to Sudan, Alan Goutly quoted this statement from a Sudanese woman in an answer to my question: How important is it to include women in the peace process between Sudan and South Sudan? Such a simple statement sums up what international leaders are now recognizing as an essential element to the peace process: to include women's voices.
Yesterday the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace held a panel discussion with updates about the ongoing conflict between Sudan and South Sudan. After decades of war, South Sudan became its own nation not even a year ago when the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in July 2011. Ambassador Princeton Lyman of the United States, former Ambassador Alan Goulty of the United Kingdom, and Marina Ottaway of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, all gave a tremendous amount of insight into the current conflict and strategies that the United States and the international community can take to avoid an all out war.
Hopes, concerns, and anger have all surrounded the recent results of the Egyptian election earlier this week. The two front-runners of the preliminary elections were revealed earlier this week: Mohamed Mursi and Ahmed Shafiq. Each received 25% and 24% of the vote, respectfully.
Certain groups are worried about the two choices for various reasons. In Tahrir Square, the birthplace of the revolution, protesters chanted against both candidates. Pro-Democracy youth were angered and worried that Ahmed Shafiq is now one of the front runners, as he served as Prime Minister under former President Mubarak. Earlier this week, more protests broke out, leaving Shafiq's campaign headquarters burnt and destroyed.
Others are concerned over Mursi as a front runner, including women's rights groups, pro-democracy groups, and the Christian minority. As a conservative member of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), Mursi pledged to implement shariah Islamic law. There are reports that if elected, Mursi would quit the FJP and would appoint a Christian vice president, "if possible." It was further reported that he would not impose the veil on women.
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