The term might bring to mind the recent large-scale leaks of nude photos online or emotional teenagers sending explicit pictures of their ex-partners (often girls) around their school. Many in the media have been saying that the solution to this problem is easy: women should just stop taking nude photos of themselves, right?
Women, Business and the Law is a World Bank report that presents indicators based on laws and regulations affecting women's prospects as entrepreneurs and employees, in part drawing on laws contained in the Gender Law Library. Both resources can inform research and policy discussions on how to improve women's economic opportunities and outcomes.
“Culture war,” in fact, increasingly seems too vague a term for the current conversation in the country about women’s rights. That conversation is acquiring an increasingly retrograde tone, one that should cause liberals to be alarmed.
It’s hard to pinpoint where the current upsurge in dismissive rhetoric about women’s rights began. Anti-abortion sentiment has long been a staple of right-wing politics, of course. But recently, conservatives have seemed particularly fixated on Planned Parenthood. Last February, congressional Republicans sought to eliminate funding for Title X, a federal grant program that provides HIV testing, contraception, and cancer screenings (through pap smears and breast exams). Title X, Republicans claimed, was funding abortions at Planned Parenthood, which Senator Jon Kyl said did little else.
Kyl had his facts badly wrong, it turned out. Abortion represents only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services, and the organization is legally prohibited from using Title X funds to cover abortion-related expenses. This didn’t seem to bother Kyl. The Senator’s comment about Planned Parenthood’s activities “was not intended to be a factual statement,” said his spokesman. Another fact that apparently didn’t trouble him: Title X has funded the early detection, over a 20 year period, of at least 55,000 cases of cervical cancer, according to the National Women’s Law Center.
Obama preserved Title X during the budget showdown, but the administration’s attitude toward abortion and contraception has been muddled. In December, the Health and Human Services secretary overturned the Food and Drug Administration’s ruling making Plan B, commonly known as “the morning-after pill,” available to all women over the counter. A seventeen-year-old girl can get the morning-after pill without a prescription; a sixteen-year-old cannot.
Hillary Clinton is well known for her statement that "women's rights are human rights." So it would seem that the last place she would expect resistance to her foreign policy agenda would be from women's rights organizations.
Heading into what she insists will be her last year as Secretary of State, Clinton has improved the lives of women around the world, made gender a centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy, and spread the message that developing countries should promote gender equality to unleash economic growth.
In working to "increase women's economic opportunities," however, Clinton runs the risk of undermining her women's rights agenda. Unfortunately, all too often "economic opportunity" translates to "working in a sweatshop" or in some cases, others forms of exploitation.
Although rights' advocates have welcomed the attention that Clinton has brought to gender equality, many have objected to her "focus on promoting women as vehicles of economic growth, rather than rights holders." A statement issued by a group of such dissenters at a recent Forum on Aid Effectiveness in South Korea -- which included the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), the Association for Women's Rights in Development, and the African Women's Development and Communication Network -- read:
We are not able to endorse... [Clinton's plan because it] does not sufficiently promote the enjoyment of fundamental human rights and substantive equality... Women's rights will not be fully enjoyed by women... simply by facilitating entrepreneurship of women.
"We know that empowering women globally – including farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa, women de-miners in Sri Lanka, a legislator in Afghanistan, or a recent college graduate protesting in Tahrir Square in Egypt – is one of the surest ways to create favorable outcomes in poverty alleviation, economic growth, and a country’s general prosperity," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Esther Brimmer recently told students at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. "In fact, we know that as women progress, everyone in society benefits, including men and boys."
When you look at the breadth of challenges facing women and girls globally – including the lack of education and basic literacy skills, sexual and gender-based violence, rampant discrimination, the lack of economic opportunities and political participation, it is clear that working together with other governments, specialized United Nations' agencies, and private partners including non-governmental organizations, academia, and foundations will multiply the impact - reaching more women and girls in more meaningful ways than if the United States acted alone. "It is because of the power of these partnerships that we have been at the fore-front of bringing together diverse groups of governments, foundations, and corporations [to empower women,]" Assistant Secretary Brimmer said.
The United States has also focused on the number of women holding leadership positions. "We know there has been progress on this front; year after year we see more women entering government and taking on senior positions, including heads of state, yet the road forward has at times been rocky and the numbers disproportionate given that women make half of the global population," Assistant Secretary Brimmer continued. "When women are not serving in governments, when their voice and experience are muted, when they are not at the negotiating table, their absence has direct impact on society, on peace and security, on strengthening democracy in the communities, nations and world in which we live."
Relief Web: The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan has released a new 56-page report that documents traditional practices in Afghanistan that violate the rights of girls and women, and makes recommendations for ending practices such as honor killings, child marriage and exchange marriages.
"Harmful traditional practices that violate the human rights of women and girls are pervasive in Afghanistan, occurring in varying degrees in all communities throughout the country, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a report released today. Speedy implementation of laws that protect girls and women, in particular the Law on Elimination of Violence against Women is needed to help end these harmful practices.
Colorlines: In the years following the U.S. invasion of Iraq, women have found themselves "increasingly alienated from civil society" and with limited prospects of marriage, as social networks for marriage have crumbled and the numbers of young men have fallen dramatically due to the war. In addition, many women have become trapped in growing sex industries, which have grown in the war torn country.
"The footprint of the United States occupation of Iraq is embedded in the country’s rocky political sojourn, and the status of women marks the nation’s arrested progress. After the invasion, Washington thought Iraqi women would find American-style freedom irresistible. Today, they’re left holding up half the sky in the midst of a ravaged political and economic landscape.
The Associated Press reports that many Iraqi women feel increasingly alienated from civil society and face traditional pressures to find a husband in a bombed-out marriage market.
Women’s advocates may on the one hand lament the inequality that makes women economically dependent on marriage. But there’s also justifiable frustration that women bear so much of the burden of their unraveling social fabric.
Women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights. This is the mantra of CEDAW, the most comprehensive women’s human rights treaty that the US has yet to ratify. The reasons to ratify CEDAW here in the U.S. are clear. Not only will ratification strengthen our global voice to stand up for women and girls around the world, but ratification of CEDAW would also benefit women here in the United States.
You may be asking the question, why now? Do we really think—given the increased polarization and partisan tensions--that we can get two-thirds of the Senate (67 Senators) to ratify CEDAW? I don’t dispute that it is a challenge, but we absolutely believe it is possible. Here are two reasons why:
Women's groups are upset over the Obama's administration lack of progress on women's issues. Many activists feel that the administration is not taking enough initiative to move the issues that affect women forward.
"Many women's groups feel that the Obama administration has not made the promised progress on issues affecting women. Advocates request stronger leadership, funding on the Violence Against Women Act, and ensuring that the Paycheck Fairness Act gets passed through Congress. In addition, they cite the White House Council on Women and Girls as a "real disappointment" and "form over substance.
To be sure, there's no doubt that some progress has been made. If Elena Kagan is confirmed, a third of the nation's highest court will be female, thanks to Obama's nomination of Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor last year; the hate crimes legislation included gender identity and gender; the Obama administration has strengthened Title IX; and the health care bill did increase access to ob-gyn and midwifery care and mandate that some insurance companies stop charging women of the same age and health status more for insurance than men, a practice known as "gender rating." Also, this is the first administration to have a White House advisor on violence against women"