Recent Resources for Feminists
Egypt: NCW lead NGOs proposing criminalisation of all VAW & ending gender-based discrimination Print E-mail
 September 25 2013

Making up for lost ground

Women intend to play an effective role in amending the upcoming constitution

By Reem Leila

 Al-Tellawi heads the NCW roundtable

The National Council for Women (NCW), headed by Mervat Al-Tellawi, joined forces with a number of non-governmental organisations to submit proposals to the 50-member committee assigned with amending the 2012 constitution. The proposals include criminalising all violence against women and ending gender-based discrimination.

On 18 September the 50-member committee accepted the suggestion submitted by the NCW that Article 11 which stipulates that “the state is obliged to guarantee full equality between men and women in all fields and fair representation of women in elected bodies” be expanded to include a commitment to “protecting women from all kinds of violence” ensuring women are able to exercise all their rights as citizens without discrimination.

Women, stresses Al-Tellawi, comprise more than 50 per cent of society. “As mothers, wives and daughters they have the right to view and review the constitution in order to safeguard society’s rights as a whole.”

NCW members are currently taking part in meetings with hundreds of activists and representatives of community groups. Council members are also meeting with representatives of civil associations, political parties, trade unions, universities, rural workers and state institution employees. “The council is canvassing opinion on the constitution as a whole, not just on articles concerning women and children,” says Al-Tellawi.

Sekina Fouad, veteran journalist and presidential adviser on women and family affairs, says that while the number of seats occupied by women on the 50-member committee is insufficient, the five women ­ Azza Al-Ashmawi from the National Council of Childhood and Motherhood, Mervat Al-Tellawi, head of the NCW, Mona Zulfaqqar from the National Council for Human Rights, Abla Mohieddin from the Industrial Chambers Committee and Hoda Al-Sadda, professor of English literature, feminist writer and activist ­ who are members are all “top notch”.

Data from several questionnaires distributed among representative cross section of citizens by the NCW was forwarded to the Constitutional Committee on 22 September. “The council has also launched a website and a hotline to receive suggestions on the new constitution,” says Al-Tellawi.

On 23 September members of NCW joined with representatives from women’s NGOs in a meeting with the 50-member committee to submit detained suggestions for amendments to several articles.

Article 1 of the constitution states that the Arab Republic of Egypt is a socialist democratic state and it is united and cannot be divided and that the Egyptian people are part of the Arab and Islamic Nations. The NCW has suggested that the article should also include a reference to Egypt “being proud of its African and Asian affiliation”.

The council also suggested that articles 2 and 3 be merged. Article 2 stipulates that Islam is the religion of the state, Arabic is its official language, and the main source of legislation is the principles of Islamic Jurisprudence while Article 3 stipulates that the canonical prescriptions of Egyptian Christians and Jews should govern matters of personal status, religious practice and the selection of their spiritual leaders.

“Merging them in only one article is better because they relate,” says Al-Tellawi.

Article 9 of the draft constitution stipulates that “the state shall ensure the safety, security and equal opportunities of all citizens without discrimination.” The NCW has suggested that “shall ensure” be replaced by “is committed”.

While Article 10 of the suspended constitution guaranteed certain social rights for women it failed to address the problem of violence against them. Article 10 stated that “the state shall ensure free maternal and child health services and facilitate the reconciliation between the duties of a woman towards her family and her work. The state shall provide special care and protection to female breadwinners, divorced women and widows.” The NCW proposes the addition of a clause stating “the state is committed to preventing all forms of violence against women, whether domestic or public.”

Article 38 of the chapter on Rights, Freedom and Public Duties stipulates that “all citizens are equal before the law. They have equal public rights and duties without discrimination based on sex, religion, language, creed, origin or any other reason.” The NCW believes a clause should be explicitly criminalising all forms of discrimination.

Paragraph 3 of Article 39 stipulates “the person arrested or detained has the right of appeal to the courts against the measure of arrest. If a decision is not provided within a week, release becomes imperative.” The NCW suggests the addition of the phrase “according to the law” so the article reads as follows: “The person arrested or detained has the right of appeal to the courts against the measure of arrest according to the law. If a decision is not provided within a week, release becomes imperative.”

The first paragraph of Article 57 states that “professional syndicates are regulated by law and managed on a democratic basis, the accountability of their members subject to professional codes of ethics. One trade union is allowed per profession.” The NCW is pushing for the phrase “professional codes of ethics” to be replaced by “professional codes”.

The first two paragraphs of Article 60 stipulate “every child, from the moment of birth, has the right to a proper name, family care, basic nutrition, shelter, health services and religious, emotional and cognitive development. The state shall care for and protect the child in the case of the loss of family. The state also safeguards the rights of disabled children and their rehabilitation and integration into society.” The NCW wants the article to read: “Every child, from the moment of birth, has the right to a proper name, family care, basic nutrition, shelter, health services and religious, emotional cognitive and educational development. The state shall care for and protect the child in the case of the loss of family. The state is committed to safeguarding the rights of disabled children, orphans and homeless children and their rehabilitation and integration into society.”

Article 64 of the draft constitution stipulates: “Citizens’ participation in public life is a national duty. Every citizen shall have the right to vote, stand in elections and express opinions in referendums according to the provisions of the law. The state is responsible for the inclusion of the name of every citizen who is qualified to vote in the voters database without waiting for an application. The state shall ensure the fairness, validity, impartiality and integrity of referendums and elections. Interference in anything of the above is a crime punishable by law.”

NCW believes it should read: “Citizens’ participation in public life is a right and national duty. Every citizen shall have the right to vote, stand in elections and express opinions in referendums according to the provisions of the law. It is permissible to be exempted from practicing this right in cases defined by the provisions of the law… ”

Article 138 of the draft constitution stipulates that the prime minister or any presidential candidate must be an Egyptian citizen born to Egyptian parents, must have possessed no other citizenship, must have civil and political rights, cannot be married to a non-Egyptian, and at the time of nomination cannot be younger than 30 years. The NCW has suggested that a clause be added requiring that the children of candidates also possess only Egyptian nationality. “Given what happened under the previous regime and under the rule of former president Mohamed Morsi this procedure should be taken as a precautionary measure,” says Al-Tellawi.

The NCW is also seeking to extend Article 49 which currently reads: “Freedom of creativity in its various forms is the right of every citizen. The state shall advance science, literature and the arts, care for creators and inventors, protect their creations and innovations, and work to apply them for the benefit of society. The state shall take the necessary measures to preserve the nation’s cultural heritage and promote cultural services.” It wants the amended article to include researchers alongside creators and inventors and to make explicit reference to the protection of research.

According to a recent press release the Ministry of Scientific Research has failed to spend 82 per cent of its annual budget. Accordingly, the budget will be cut as a result, which will definitely affect staff at government research institutions. After the 25 January Revolution Egypt’s annual budget for research has risen by more than one third to become LE1.3 billion. “Unfortunately, the budget will be reduced next year, after the majority of this year’s was returned unspent. Therefore we need to find useful means to spend the budget allocated for scientific research,” said Al-Tellawi.

Article 77 stipulates: “The People’s Assembly shall have at least 450 members, elected by direct, secret public ballot. A candidate for parliamentary elections must be an Egyptian citizen, enjoying civil and political rights, holder of a certificate of basic education, and 25-years-old or older at the time of candidacy. Other requirements of candidacy, provisions for election, the fair division of constituencies, shall be defined by law.”

NCW members have joined with women activists to suggest the article be amended to the following: “The People’s Assembly shall have at least 450 members, elected by direct, secret public ballot, only two thirds of which should comprise one sex…”

Nehad Abul-Qomsan, head of the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights, points out that Egypt has slipped in international tables of female participation in the decision-making process. “Egypt ranked 139 out of 142 among 189 countries through women’s representation which is two per cent. This led women to participate strongly in the squares of the revolution demanding the change and refusing the exclusion,” said Abul-Qomsan.

Female representation in parliament has only grown in Egypt when either a quota system or the proportional list system was in place, as in 1979, 1984 and 2010. Women continue to suffer from cultural, social and political discrimination even though they comprise a potentially influential voting bloc.

The debate on any women’s right in general, and political rights in particular, still disturbs many people. Women’s issues are generally ignored except in the run-up to elections, when politicians will pay lip service in an attempt to win votes. In the 2012 parliament there were just eight female members out of 500.

Abul-Qomsan believes that if the coming elections adopt the list form “then one third of the list should be allocated to female nominees and a third of women candidates placed high on the lists”.

Al-Tellawi stresses that acknowledging and integrating political, social and economic issues that impact on women is necessary in the transitional period if any advances are to be made. “Women’s issues should not be discussed in isolation from wider societal interactions. It is also essential to listen to their demands as well as hold those who committed crimes against them accountable,” she says.


Global: Death by stoning on the rise. Sign the campaign to the UN to “Stop Stoning Women Now” Print E-mail

 London ~ Sunday 29 September 2013

Special report: The punishment was death by stoning. The crime? Having a mobile phone

This barbaric form of execution is on the rise, and campaigners are calling on the UN to act [Scroll down to read about the campaign "Stop Stoning Women Now" and a link to the Petition]

By Emma Batha

In Iran, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, here with her son Sajjad, has been sentenced to death by stoning (AFP/Getty)

Two months ago, a young mother of two was stoned to death by her relatives on the order of a tribal court in Pakistan. Her crime: possession of a mobile phone.

Arifa Bibi's uncle, cousins and others hurled stones and bricks at her until she died, according to media reports. She was buried in a desert far from her village. It's unlikely anyone was arrested. Her case is not unique. Stoning is legal or practised in at least 15 countries or regions. And campaigners fear this barbaric form of execution may be on the rise, particularly in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Women's rights activists have launched an international campaign for a ban on stoning, which is mostly inflicted on women accused of adultery. They are using Twitter and other social media to put pressure on the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, to denounce the practice.

"Stoning is a cruel and hideous punishment. It is a form of torturing someone to death," said Naureen Shameem of the international rights group Women Living Under Muslim Laws. "It is one of the most brutal forms of violence perpetrated against women in order to control and punish their sexuality and basic freedoms."

She said activists will also push the UN to adopt a resolution on stoning similar to the one passed last year on eradicating female genital mutilation – another form of violence against women often justified on religious and cultural grounds.

Stoning is not legal in most Muslim countries and there is no mention of it in the Koran. But supporters argue that it is legitimised by the Hadith – the acts and sayings of the Prophet Mohamed. Stoning is set out as a specific punishment for adultery under several interpretations of sharia or Islamic law. In some instances, even a woman saying she has been raped can be considered an admission to the crime of zina (sex outside marriage).

In one case cited by Shameem, a 13-year-old Somali girl, Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow, was buried up to her neck and stoned by 50 men in front of 1,000 people at a stadium in Kismayu in 2008. Her father told Amnesty International she had been raped by three men but was accused of adultery when she tried to report the rape to the al-Shabaab militia in control of the city.

Extrajudicial terror
Iran has the world's highest rate of execution by stoning. No one knows how many people have been stoned but at least 11 people are in prison under sentence of stoning, according to an Iranian human rights lawyer, Shadi Sadr.

Sadr, who has represented five people sentenced to stoning, said Iran carried out stonings in secret in prisons, in the desert or very early in the morning in cemeteries. "Pressure from outside Iran always helps. The Islamic Republic pretends that they don't care about their reputation, but they do care a lot," added Sadr, who lives in exile in Britain.

In 2010, the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a woman sentenced to death by stoning for alleged adultery, caused international outcry. The authorities have suspended her sentence but she remains in prison. Officials withdrew stoning from a new draft penal code last year, but have since reinserted it.

Stoning is also a legal punishment for adultery in Mauritania, a third of Nigeria's 36 states, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

In some countries, such as Mauritania and Qatar, stoning has never been used although it remains legal. However, in other countries, such as Afghanistan and Iraq, stoning is not legal but tribal leaders, militants and others carry it out extrajudicially. "In Afghanistan, warlords are manipulating religion to terrorise the population for their own political ends. Stoning is one way of doing that," said Shameem, a human rights lawyer who is co-ordinating the Stop Stoning Women campaign.

Origins
Stoning has been used as a form of community justice throughout history in various religious and cultural traditions, many pre-dating Islam. Unlike beheading, which is performed by a single executioner, stoning is carried out by a group.

The practice has been documented among the Ancient Greeks to punish people judged to be prostitutes, adulterers or murderers. It is also mentioned in the Jewish Torah, the first five books of the Bible, and the Talmud. Today, it is predominantly associated with Muslim culture. However, clerics are deeply divided. Supporters of stoning say the Hadith depicts the Prophet as occasionally ordering stoning in cases of extramarital sex.

But some scholars say these acts and sayings – recorded several hundred years after the Prophet's death – have been misinterpreted. Others argue that the Prophet was simply following prevailing customs and Jewish law. Modern laws sanctioning stoning as a punishment for adultery emerged with the revival of political Islam in the late 20th and early 21st century.

Discrimination
Campaigners say women are more likely to be convicted of adultery than men because discriminatory laws and customs penalise women more for extramarital sex.

If a man is unhappy with his wife he can – depending on the country – divorce, take other wives or marry another woman temporarily. A woman has few options. She can divorce only in certain circumstances and risks losing custody of her children. Men accused of adultery are also more likely to have the means to hire lawyers, and their greater physical freedom makes it easier for them to flee in situations where they risk extrajudicial stoning.

Activists say trials are often unfair. Convictions are frequently based on confessions made under duress. As adultery is difficult to prove, judges in Iran can also convict on the basis of gut feeling rather than evidence.

Even the manner of stoning is loaded against women. People sentenced to stoning in Iran are partially buried. If they can escape they are spared. But women are customarily buried up to their chests while men are only buried up to their waists.

Stoning contravenes a host of UN treaties including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that no one should be subjected to torture, or cruel or inhuman punishment. The treaty, which Iran and Pakistan have signed, allows countries to execute people only for "the most serious crimes".

Many prominent Muslim clerics have spoken in support of a ban on stoning, deeming it un-Islamic and antithetical to the Koran's emphasis on repentance and compassion. Shameem said stoning mostly happened in conflict or post-conflict areas where politicians, warlords and militants exploit people's religious beliefs as they jockey for power. Mali saw its first case last year after Islamist militants took control of the north of the country. It is not clear why, in Bibi's case, the tribal court should have justified stoning as a punishment for owning a mobile phone. Shameem said stoning and the threat of stoning was being used "to control women, constrain their freedoms, and police their sexuality".

The threat of stoning has even happened in Tunisia, a relatively liberal country with no history of stoning. This year, the head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice in Tunisia called for a teenage activist to be stoned to death for posting nude protest images of herself online.

Campaigners plan to present an online petition to Mr Ban and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on 25 November, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)
~~~~~~~~~~~
 2013

Stop Stoning Women Now - Global Campaign Toolkit

Publication Author: Naureen Shameem

Read the Toolkit HERE

What is the purpose of this campaign?
Our ultimate goal is to end the brutal practice of stoning. In the short-term - this November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women - we aim to galvanize a critical mass of 10,000 supporters worldwide to sign our petition online on Change.org. The petition functions as a mobilizing platform articulating our analysis of stoning as a persistent form of violence against women and our agenda. Targeting the UN human rights system with stage one, this in turn feeds into our medium-term aim – to successfully advocate for a UN resolution against stoning. In the medium-to-long term, the campaign’s goal is to ban stoning in countries where it still exists in law and criminalize those who engage in this heinous practice worldwide.

In order to achieve medium and long-term aims, we will engage in a separate lobbying strategy at the United Nations. This process will be integrated into the campaign on the ground.

Who is participating?
Key partners of the campaign include: Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML); Women’s UN Report Program & Network (WURN); the Women’s Intercultural Network; Justice for Iran; Research Institute on Women, Peace and Security; Foundation of Solidarity for Justice; BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights; Salmmah Women’s Resource Centre; Solidaritas Perempuan; Groupe de Recherche sur les Femmes et les Lois Senegal (GREFELS); Shirkat Gah Women’s Resource Centre; Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq; and the Institute for Women’s Empowerment (IWE). We are joined by a broad and growing coalition of allies, influential individuals and international and local organizations whose work focuses on violence against women and torture and cruel and inhuman treatment and who champion the campaign and endorse the petition.

This toolkit has been created for the use of allies of the campaign. We hope that it will function as a reference point for all of us as we work to raise awareness and publicize the campaign, broaden the reach of the campaign and develop a critical mass of supporters.

Petition at:

Petitioning Ban Ki-moon

United Nations Secretary General & the OHCHR: End Stoning Now

Petition by  United Kingdom

Stoning is not simply a relic of the past. In fifteen countries around the world, this brutal punishment and form of torture continues to exist in the here and now.

In 2008, a 16 year old from Iraqi Kurdistan named Aziz eloped with a man against her parents’ wishes. Fearful of her life, she sought help from the Department to End Domestic Violence. Yet the Department turned her over to her father, and her family subsequently stoned her to death.

In July 2012, Najiba, 21 was stoned and shot dead in Afghanistan in front of a hundred and fifteen men of the community, cheering the stoning. This horrific incident was filmed by a community member present. Najiba had been accused of moral crimes by local warlords and commanders.

In Sudan, Intisar Sharif Abdallah and Layla Ibrahim Issa were sentenced to death by stoning in 2012, accused of adultery. Following growing Sudanese and international public pressure, they were released on appeal.

And in March 2013, the head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice in Tunisia, called for a 19 year old Tunisian named Amina to be stoned to death for posting nude protest images online.

These are but a few recent cases of women being terrorized by this heinous practice.

Stoning is a cruel form of torture that causes grievous pain before death. It is a profound violation of fundamental human rights. The practice of stoning disproportionately targets and polices women and their conduct, and it often further entails a number of civil and political rights violations that follow on from unfair judicial processes and conditions of detention. Women are more likely to be sentenced to stoning when misogynist interpretations of religious laws and cultural mores form the basis of laws governing sexual relationships and the family.

Let’s stand together and say NO to stoning. Women’s rights cannot be sacrificed to these interpretations. Women have the right to freely participate in and adhere to their own beliefs but today they continue to be silenced by acts of violence.

Stand up against violence against women. Cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment cannot be tolerated, and the universality of human rights must not be held hostage in the name of ‘culture’ or tradition.

We call on States where stoning still exists in law and in practice to be held accountable to their international human rights obligations by banning stoning in law and in practice and to bring perpetrators to justice.

We strongly urge the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to heed this urgent call by openly denouncing the practice of executions by stoning as one of the most brutal forms of violence against women and as a form of torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.

This petition is supported by the following organizations:
Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML); Women’s UN Report Program & Network (WURN); Women’s Intercultural Network; Justice for Iran; Research Institute on Women, Peace and Security; Foundation of Solidarity for Justice; Baobab for Women’s Human Rights; Salmmah Women’s Resource Centre; Solidaritas Perempuan; Groupe de Recherche sur les Femmes et Les Lois Senegal (GREFELS); Shirkat Gah Women’s Resource Centre; and the Institute for Women’s Empowerment (IWE).

Please join the campaign against stoning – give us your support and urge the UN to take action on stoning by signing.

The Petition reads:
To: Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary General
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Help End Stoning Now

Stoning is not simply a relic of the past. In fifteen countries around the world, this brutal punishment and form of torture continues to exist in the here and now.

In 2008, a 16 year old from Iraqi Kurdistan named Aziz eloped with a man against her parents’ wishes. Fearful of her life, she sought help from the Department to End Domestic Violence. Yet the Department turned her over to her father, and her family subsequently stoned her to death.

In July 2012, Najiba, 21 was stoned and shot dead in Afghanistan in front of a hundred and fifteen men of the community, cheering the stoning. This horrific incident was filmed by a community member present. Najiba had been accused of moral crimes by local warlords and commanders.

In Sudan, Intisar Sharif Abdallah and Layla Ibrahim Issa were sentenced to death by stoning in 2012, accused of adultery. Following growing Sudanese and international public pressure, they were released on appeal.

And in March 2013, the head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice in Tunisia, called for a 19 year old Tunisian named Amina to be stoned to death for posting nude protest images online.

These are but a few recent cases of women being terrorized by this heinous practice.

Stoning is a cruel form of torture that causes grievous pain before death. It is a profound violation of fundamental human rights. The practice of stoning disproportionately targets and polices women and their conduct, and it often further entails a number of civil and political rights violations that follow on from unfair judicial processes and conditions of detention.

Women are more likely to be sentenced to stoning when misogynist interpretations of religious laws and cultural mores form the basis of laws governing sexual relationships and the family.

Let’s stand together and say NO to stoning. Women’s rights cannot be sacrificed to these interpretations. Women have the right to freely participate in and adhere to their own beliefs but today they continue to be silenced by acts of violence.

Stand up against violence against women. Cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment cannot be tolerated, and the universality of human rights must not be held hostage in the name of ‘culture’ or tradition.

We call on States where stoning still exists in law and in practice to be held accountable to their international human rights obligations by banning stoning in law and in practice and to bring perpetrators to justice.

We strongly urge the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to heed this urgent call by openly denouncing the practice of executions by stoning as one of the most brutal forms of violence against women and as a form of torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.

Sincerely,
[Your name]

India: 40 years post-MTP Act implementation, unsafe abortions still outnumber safe & legal abortions Print E-mail

  Monday May 6, 2013

‘Unsafe abortions killing a woman every two hours’

By Meena Menon

Unsafe abortions are killing a woman every two hours in this country, according to estimates and calculations correlating data on maternal mortality ratio (MMR) and Sample Registration System (SRS) data by Ipas, India, an international NGO working on increasing access to safe abortion services. The last nationwide MMR data giving details of causes of maternal deaths was in SRS 2001-03, said advisor, policy for Ipas India, Medha Gandhi.

While India’s MMR has declined from 254 per 1,00,000 live births in 2004-06 to 212 in 2007-09, no recent incidence study provides data after 2002-03 on unsafe abortions, said Ms. Gandhi. As per SRS 2001-03, abortion-related deaths contribute to 8 per cent of (around 4,600 deaths annually) of all maternal deaths in India. Ipas’ calculations, using national census and SRS data, indicates that one woman dies of abortion-related causes every two hours.

One of the major reasons is that the Centre is yet to implement the recommendations for amendments to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act as discussed by an expert group it had constituted in 2010. The MTP Act, 1971, enabled women to undergo abortions with specific conditions. It was amended in 2003 to facilitate better implementation and increase access for women, especially in the private health sector.

However, over 40 years after the implementation of a liberal MTP Act, unsafe abortions continue to outnumber safe and legal abortions in India, said Ipas. To correct this, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had appointed the expert group to examine the MTP Act and amend it to enable increased access to safe abortion services.

Vinoj Manning, country director, Ipas, India, said abortion deaths are under-reported. A Lancet paper in 2007 said there were 6.4 million abortions, of which 3.6 million or 56 per cent were unsafe. Ipas has calculated based on the latest population and crude birth rates (CBR) which peg the number of induced abortion at 5,007,932, Ms. Gandhi said. The total number of abortions may have reduced due to higher use of contraception, she added.

Three years after the expert group was formed, no decision has been taken to amend the MTP Act based on its recommendations. It is feared that expanding the base of providers for abortion will lead to more sex-selective abortions. However, Ipas said 80-90 per cent abortions in the country take place in the first trimester and sex determination takes place in the second trimester. Women also delay abortion till the second trimester for reasons other than sex selection.

In the absence of safe legal options, women opt for backroom procedures which can be fatal. The proposed amendments to the MTP Act are aimed at increasing the availability of safe and legal abortion services. This was vital, as morbidity from unsafe abortions continues to remain high, Mr. Manning said. While there is no current nationwide data on this, figures from a 2003 national facility survey are illustrative. In terms of accessibility of safe abortion services in the public health system where a MTP is available, only 73 per cent district hospitals in major States had this facility. In Bihar, it was only 35 per cent district hospitals and Uttar Pradesh 48.5, the lowest in the country. On the percentage of health facilities with at least one doctor who received training during the last three years, the situation was grim with only 14.6 per cent in primary health centres being trained.


Collating the research findings on who seeks abortions in India, Ipas referred to a qualitative study in six States and a community-based survey in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu in 2003-04. The Abortion Assessment Project in its study found that most abortion seekers are married women who want to limit their families or space their children. Though awareness of family planning was high, women were not always able to use it because of cost, non-availability or lack of permission from husbands apart from fear of side effects. Additionally, women were hesitant to visit public hospitals because of long waiting times or unsympathetic attitude of staff or because doctors insisted on the husband’s signature.

To expand the base of legal providers, the expert group had suggested amendments for mid-level providers. In countries like Bangladesh for instance, field workers are trained to conduct abortions. “We haven’t taken a quantum leap for abortion and the law has not kept pace with technical options. Abortion is still stigmatised,” Mr. Manning pointed out.

The group has recommended increasing the base of legal MTP providers by including medical practitioners with a Bachelor’s degree in Unani, Ayurveda or Homeopathy. Nurses with a three and half year’s degree and registered with the Nursing Council of India, could also be included in the base of legal providers. Since the training required to provide only medical methods of abortion is significantly less than surgical abortions, it has been recommended to distinguish between the two trainings.

UK: Cameron-led Tory Coalition’s austerity cuts paint dim hopes for women’s economic recovery Print E-mail
 London ~ Sunday 22 September 2013

Spending cuts hit women worse, says report

Call for changes in tax and welfare policies as coalition is accused of locking women into poverty

By Tracy McVeigh

 Women demonstrate against welfare cuts in Tottenham, London, in April this year. (Patricia Phillips/Alamy)

Economists are calling on the government to produce a "Plan F" to tackle the disproportionate burden being placed on women by spending cuts. Female-friendly tax and welfare policies are desperately needed to redress the balance, say experts from the independent Women's Budget Group (WBG), who have produced a report [Read HERE] looking at the impact of austerity policies on different types of family groups in England.

It finds that women, particularly single parents and single pensioners, have lost much more than men from cuts to benefits and public services imposed by the government since it came to power in May 2010.

In the analysis by economists from the WBG, made up of policy experts and academics, those two categories – both dominated by women – face cuts during the period 2010-15 of more than 10% of their disposable income, with single mothers losing 15.6%. Couples with children were shown to be losing 9.7%, while couples without children are losing 4.1%. Women pensioners are losing 12.5% compared with men, who lose 9.5%, and couples, who lose 8.6%.

The "gendered impact" of the austerity cuts paints an alarming picture for the economic recovery of women in England and has led to calls for a "Plan F" – a constructive economic plan to reduce the disproportionate impact of cuts that is locking many women into poverty. The study looked at the cumulative effects of changes to direct and indirect tax and cuts to services as well as social security benefits. It included measures already introduced and others due before the next election.

"What struck us is how single women in all groups do so badly," said Professor Diane Elson of the WBG, a social scientist at the University of Essex. Unemployment rates in the UK have fallen for men and risen for women over the past three years. Out of every 100 jobs created in the private sector, 63 are going to men and 37 to women. Public sector cuts have reduced job opportunities for women and are making it harder to combine earning a living and taking care of families, and also making it more likely that the gender pay gap will widen, she said. "Our big concern is that, even when there is an economic recovery, women are going to be so far behind they will not be able to catch up."

The WBG report looked at the tax cut that was meant to help those on low incomes – the rise in the income tax threshold to £10,000 by the end of 2015 – and found that 57% of those who will gain from this are men and 43% women. Three-quarters of the gains under the change will go to better-off households within the threshold, with the wealthiest 10% gaining £87 a year and the poorest 10% gaining on average £6 a year. The WBG contrasted that gain with the 2011 rise in VAT, which hit everyone in the country, along with the 10% rise in prices over the period of the current government.

"Over the last few years we have seen a worrying trend towards growing inequality and we are concerned that this shows no sign of a let-up," said Elson. "We need the political parties to start to recognise what's happening here and to look at their policies more closely. We need an F-plan."

Australia: New PM Tony Abbott takes just one week to prove his disdain for women Print E-mail

Scroll down for link to sign the petition which reads: "Prime Minister Tony Abbott: Appoint somebody qualified [Meaning "NOT yourself"] to be the Minister for Women"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 September 22 2013

Same old argument from same old 'men of merit' to keep status quo

By Bianca Hall, Immigration correspondent

A cabinet with one woman is just the start of a lack of balance.


  Liberal senator Sue Boyce. (Andrew Meares)

Paul Keating was only half-right when he described the Senate as ''unrepresentative swill''. He forgot the House of Representatives.

The chattering classes were transfixed this week by news that Prime Minister Tony Abbott's new cabinet would include but one woman among a sea of 18 suits and just six women in 42 ministry, outer ministry and parliamentary secretary positions.

This, when women comprise 51 per cent of the population.

Abbott proclaimed himself ''disappointed that there are not at least two women in the cabinet'', but added: ''There are some very good and talented women knocking on the door of the cabinet and there are lots of good and talented women knocking on the door of the ministry.''

They just can't get in.

Abbott's ''woman problem'' is now a structural deficiency of women in key cabinet positions that could take years to remedy.

But this is nothing new. Women are just the latest group of Australians relegated to minority status in our parliaments.

Where are all the MHRs and senators from Asian, African and Middle Eastern backgrounds? From Aboriginal heritage? The out-and-proud gay and lesbian Australians?

There have been notable exceptions, among them former Labor prime minister Julia Gillard's ''captain's pick'' to propel the first Aboriginal woman, sporting great Nova Peris, into the Senate.

And Longman LNP MP Wyatt Roy pointed out the Coalition this year has drawn successful candidates from a broader range of backgrounds than the usual legal pedigree, including former journalist Sarah Henderson.

But the overwhelming majority of our parliamentarians are university-educated, middle-class white men.

While counting drags on for the 45th Parliament, let's look back at the previous one. Then, just 29 of 226 MHRs and senators were born overseas, most in England, New Zealand, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.

According to the parliamentary library, about 13 per cent were either migrants from non-English-speaking backgrounds, or were the children of parents from non-English-speaking backgrounds.

In the broader community, 47 per cent of us were either born overseas or are second-generation migrants.

Women comprised 29 per cent of the Parliament.

The most common qualification in the Senate was a law degree (31 of 76 senators held one).

It's hardly representative of our community. So why can't a broader mix of people get a look in? And does it matter?

Maybe it doesn't. Maybe former Howard government minister Sharman Stone didn't have the merit of Peter Dutton or David Johnston, who have been included in Abbott's cabinet.

Maybe captain's picks that propel people into Parliament who might never survive or be bothered with the preselection processes of both our major parties are indeed a handout, not a hand-up, and a perverse form of discrimination.

Or maybe our country is, and our Parliament would be, richer for their voices being heard.

Can a Parliament filled mainly with men from mostly similar backgrounds really understand the struggles endured by - for example - single mothers being kicked off the parenting payment and onto the lower dole?

Can they empathise with the struggles of new migrants, battling to fit in to a bewildering new culture or, on their base salary of $195,130 a year, understand the plight of pensioners?

These days, non-political types are much more likely to be elected to the Senate than the House of Representatives. From the kangaroo poo-throwing would-be Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party senator Ricky Muir, to the ever-growing proliferation of Greens, proportional voting systems have given us more variety than Labor and the LNP's preselection processes - which also have an iron grip on the Senate - ever will.

Those who would argue for the status quo argue that merit decides who rises to the top. But it's clear that merit is a subjective force when it's bound by the strictures of the major party's systems.

Departing Liberal senator Sue Boyce gave a scathing assessment of the merit argument this week, writing on the ABC's The Drum: ''If I hear the phrase 'woman of merit' one more time I'll, I'll … do something drastic.

''When was the phrase 'men of merit' last used?'' she asked. ''Is every male MP a 'man of merit'?''


To Boyce, arguments about merit were ''a nonsense''.

'' 'Women of merit' is a term used by ultra-conservatives who want to maintain the status quo - it's a smokescreen for sexism.''

In the same vein, excusing away the absence of parliamentarians from Aboriginal, Asian, African and Middle Eastern backgrounds - in somewhere at least approaching the same numbers they represent in the community - is a smokescreen for maintaining a status quo that shames us all.


Is anyone prepared to say these Australians don't have the same merit, and the same right, to be there, as those who fill these halls?

Bianca Hall is The Sunday Age's political correspondent.
~~~~~~~~~~
 London ~ Friday 20 September 2013

Tony Abbott as Australia's women's minister? Can't a minister for women be more like a woman

If one takes an unedifying trip back through Abbott’s pronouncements on women in the past, he makes for an unlikely candidate

By Alice Jones



Bridget, Frances and Louise Abbott must be very proud of their father. He has just been sworn in as the new Prime Minister of Australia, which is a pretty awesome thing to be. Even better, the three girls can take a bit of credit for his triumph at the ballot box. With their lovely long hair, slim ankles and bright smiles, these well turned-out little ladies – we can call them that, right? – pulled in a good few votes for Daddy. And, to be fair to him, Tony Abbott was never coy about their help. “If you want to know who to vote for, I’m the guy with the not bad-looking daughters,” he told the nation earlier this month.

Indeed, Bridget, Frances and Louise – a trainee radiologist, a student and a diplomat, respectively – became one of Abbott’s favourite electoral weapons. When he told a school netball team that “a bit of full body contact never hurt anyone”, they stood by his side and laughed, only a bit awkwardly. And when he endorsed his fellow MP Fiona Scott for having “a bit of sex appeal”, they rolled their eyes and indulgently described it as “a daggy dad moment”. Most of us daughters are lucky that our dad’s daggy moments are confined to dancefloors at weddings and Christmas lunches, I suppose, but then most of us do not have dads who are world leaders.

Now, as the confetti is swept up and their fresh, white victory dresses are hung up, the Abbott gals have yet another reason to be proud of their father. He has appointed himself women’s minister. On paper, this is a progressive move. A male Prime Minister who is so keen to put women’s issues at the heart of his government that he is personally taking charge of them – what could be more modern and feminist than that?

Sure, there are some alarm bells clanging in the background. The fact that Abbott appointed just one woman – Julie Bishop – to his 19-strong cabinet this week is an appalling state of affairs. Australia now has less female representation at cabinet level than Afghanistan. Abbott has said that he is “disappointed” that there aren’t more women in power. “Nevertheless there are some very good and talented women knocking on the door of the cabinet,” he added, keeping his foot firmly wedged against that door and checking the woman-proof locks on it twice.

Indeed, if one takes an unedifying trip back through Abbott’s pronouncements on women in the past, he makes for an unlikely minister. As appointments go, it’s as apt as Nick Griffin being made Minister for Immigration, say, or Nigel Farage Minister for Europe. This is a man who once framed a debate about rising electricity prices in terms of the “housewives of Australia” doing the ironing. A man who has described abortion as “convenient” and an “easy way out” for women. A man who once said, and it deserves to be quoted in full: “It would be folly to expect that women would ever approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, their abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons.”

Not for nothing did the former Prime Minister Julia Gillard denounce Abbott as the face of misogyny in modern Australia in a blistering speech last year. But then she would say that; she and Abbott never really got on. He notoriously ordered the unmarried PM to “make an honest woman of herself”, posed in front of placards describing her as a “man’s bitch” and a “witch” and refused to denounce a party fundraiser dinner which included the grossly demeaning dish, “Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Chicken Quail – Small Breasts, Huge Thighs & A Big Red Box” on its menu.

In June, before she too was marginalised, Gillard warned that a victory for Abbott would mean women’s voices would be stifled. She painted a picture of one man in a blue tie talking to another man in a blue tie about the budget, of a future in which “women once again [are] banished from the centre of Australia’s political life”.

Now her prediction has come to pass. It may turn out to be a very good thing to have a prime minister handling women’s issues himself, but one man’s voice, however powerful, is no substitution for many women’s voices. And when that man has a tendency towards chauvinist outbursts and saying things like “no one is the suppository of all wisdom”, the nation’s females could be forgiven for wishing that they had no spokesperson at all. Abbott has got rid of the science portfolio after all, so why not the women’s? (Because women are half of the population, half of the electorate and deserve to be represented as such).

There is much that is alarming about Abbott’s new regime – his promise to abolish the carbon tax and stop the boatloads of asylum seekers, his belief that climate change is “absolute crap”, his pledges to cut public service jobs and the foreign aid budget by billions. How tedious that sexism should have to be added to an already long list.

How much better if female voters like Bridget, Louise and Frances Abbott could just assume that their voices will be heard. They have voices, by the way, recently speaking out in support of same-sex marriage. Perhaps now their father can repay them for all those embarrassing photo opportunities by listening to what they have to say. Otherwise, the future for Australia’s women looks bleak indeed
~~~~~~~~



Petitioning The Hon. Tony Abbott

Prime Minister Tony Abbott: Appoint somebody qualified to be the Minister for Women

Petition by Matthew William Joyce, Australia, Filmmaker/ Magazine Editor/ Musician/ Cultural Humanist/ Hacktivist and member of the Pirate Party


Tony Abbott has appointed himself as the minister for women in Australia. This is clearly unacceptable as his views on Women Rights and equality will take us back 70-100 years.

From the Australian Independent Media Network on Tony Abbott's public comments on Women's Rights and Issues:

“I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons.” Tony Abbott Four Corners 15/03/2010.

“While I think men and women are equal, they are also different and I think it’s inevitable and I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all that we always have, say, more women doing things like physiotherapy and an enormous number of women simply doing housework.” Tony Abbott Herald-Sun 06/08/2010.

“I won’t be rushing out to get my daughters vaccinated [for cervical cancer], maybe that’s because I’m a cruel, callow, callous, heartless bastard but, look, I won’t be.” November 9th, 2006

“I would say to my daughters if they were to ask me this question . . . [their virginity] is the greatest gift that you can give someone, the ultimate gift of giving and don’t give it to someone lightly, that’s what I would say.” January 27th “The problem with the Australian practice of abortion is that an objectively grave matter has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience.” 2010

It has been revealed that after having being defeated by Barbara Ramjan for the SRC presidency, Tony Abbott approached Barbara Ramjan, and after moving to within an inch of her nose, punched the wall on both sides of her head. news.com.au 09/09/2012

‘I think there does need to be give and take on both sides, and this idea that sex is kind of a woman’s right to absolutely withhold, just as the idea that sex is a man’s right to demand I think they are both they both need to be moderated, so to speak’ cited 23/08/2012

Gaining momentum across everywhere but the mainstream media are allegations that Opposition leader Tony Abbott inappropriately touched Aboriginal author Ali Cobby Eckerman in an Adelaide cafe last March. First Nations Telegraph 20/06/2013.

Tony Abbott urges women to save their virginity for marriage and reveals mixed feelings about contraception in a new interview. The Australian 25/01/2010.

And who can forget his behaviour: standing in front of people as they hold signs calling Julia Gillard a bitch or a slut; rubbing shoulders with people after they’ve said on air that Julia Gillard should be dumped at sea; supporting members of his party who suggested Julia Gillard should be kicked to death. He also failed to reprimand those in his party who said Julia Gillard needed a bullet.

He can’t even address a female by name; it’s either ‘her’, ‘she’, ‘it’ or someone with sex appeal.

Please help us appoint someone more qualified!

We want to do our best to make Tony Abbott see reason. As he is the only one who is able to appoint someone else as the Minister for Women's Issues. It should be someone with extensive experience in this area and willing to fight for Women's Rights. There is only one other woman in his cabinet which is an appalling fallout from the election. As someone who is supposed to be running the country he should at least appoint someone who will give this complex range of issues its due attention, at the very least to appoint someone who will not go backwards.
```````````

The Petition reads:

To: The Hon. Tony Abbott, Prime Minister of Australia
We the citizens of Australia call on you to demonstrate your commitment to women's rights and issues by appointing a minister for women who has the sole responsibility for the women’s portfolio.
Appointing yourself as Minister for Women is unacceptable, you espouse your support for women but by failing to appoint a minister for women who is solely responsible for the women’s portfolio combined with the lack of women in your cabinet clearly demonstrates your belief that women take a secondary role in your version of modern Australia.
We call on you to appoint a woman in the role of Minister for Women and to include more women in cabinet.
Sincerely,
[Your name]

 

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