April 01, 2004

Support Our Troops'...Wives?

bush admin bad for women (sidenote: it's difficult to state this, for obvious reasons, but the truth of the matter is that when it comes to women's rights in iraq, women fared quite well under saddam's secularist regime--no joking...rape torture of dissidents aside):

[[by the way, lewis diuguid, the writer of the following article and a regular contributor to the kansas city star, has been on my list w/the rest of you guys for at least a year now...perhaps even two--i forget. =:) ]]

Bush's rhetoric doesn't match women's reality

The Kansas City Star
By Lewis Diuguid

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

The Bush administration has not had a good Women's History Month.

William Schultz, executive director of Amnesty International USA said recently that the Pentagon has been covering up reports of sexual and physical abuse of women in the military and of soldiers' wives. At a recent Senate hearing, Pentagon officials said that in the last 18 months, servicewomen in combat areas had reported 112 sexual assaults. Also in that time, more than 200 other cases have been reported in noncombat areas.

In addition, Schulz said wives and partners of servicemen report more than 10,000 cases of abuse a year. The human rights organization has included those assaults in its worldwide campaign to stop violence against women.

That's not good news when U.S. servicewomen are fighting and dying in the wars against terrorism. It also undermines the Bush administration's assertion that it's ensuring that equal rights, safety and democracy include women in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Here's another international sore spot for President Bush during Women's History Month. For a second year the Global Women's Issues Scorecard gives the Bush administration low marks on reality vs. rhetoric involving Iraqi and Afghan women.

Speakers during a conference call with journalists said they hoped the report would force positive changes for women in Afghanistan and Iraq. The scorecard was released this month by the Women's Environment and Development Organization, the Feminist Majority, and the Center for Health and Gender Equity.

"When you look at what they have done, the strong statements are not met with actual action," said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. She said the Bush administration got an "A" for rhetoric on women's rights in Afghanistan but a "D" on reality.

Afghan women won equal rights in the constitutional language and 25 percent of the seats in the Afghanistan parliament's House of the People and 12 percent of the House of Elders. But the constitution states the law can't contradict the "provisions of the sacred religion of Islam," leaving women at risk to extremist interpretations, the scorecard says.

Poor security for Afghan women and inadequate funding to rebuild that country also contributed to Bush's low grade.

"We simply do not put the money where our mouth is," Smeal said. "There are so many warning signs that we are not establishing the kind of peace to create a civil society."

June Zeitlin, executive director of the women's environment group, voiced similar concerns about women in Iraq. The Bush administration got an "A" for its rhetoric promoting Iraqi women's rights but an "I" for incomplete on its actions. "Women are underrepresented in all decision-making bodies controlled by the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority," the scorecard said.

Women were able to get the interim constitution to set a 25 percent goal for women's representation in the future elected assembly. However, no clear method has been set to achieve it. "Without specific protections in the permanent constitution, Iraqi women's rights will be tenuous," the scorecard said.

Security for Iraqi women is another concern. Girls' schools have been bombed, and abductions and rapes have increased dramatically. Women are afraid to leave their homes.

The scorecard gave the Bush administration a "B" on women and the emergency plan for AIDS relief but a "D" on reality. Jodi L. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Health and Gender Equity, said Bush promised $15 billion for AIDS relief, but his budget requests fall far short. The Bush administration also makes abstinence-only the primary focus of prevention when there is no evidence that strategy works.

Meanwhile, HIV/AIDS infection rates for girls and women worldwide continue to rise. "The lack of full funding puts more people at risk," Jacobson said.

The negative reports don't make Bush look presidential, especially during Women's History Month.

Lewis W. Diuguid is a member of The Star's Editorial Board.
To reach him, call (816) 234-4723 or send e-mail to Ldiuguid@kcstar.com


Posted by shereen at April 1, 2004 06:56 PM