Join us for our panel at the Armenian Convention Center March 10 at 2:30 PM!
View our PDF flyer 2014 WIN poster with additional information!
Join us for our panel at the Armenian Convention Center March 10 at 2:30 PM!
View our PDF flyer 2014 WIN poster with additional information!
In 2012 (UNCSW56) and 2013 (UNCSW57), I attended the annual United Nations Commission on the Status of Women meeting. Next week, I am heading back for my third trip to UNCSW 58. Over the years, I’ve been consistently asked to explain what I do there. So here goes…
I jumped on board with the non-governmental organization (NGO) Women’s Intercultural Network 3 years ago after finishing all the interviews for 50 Women. So many world events and major issues facing women emerged in the stories and I was moved. I didn’t want to just publish narratives anymore- I wanted to take a seat at the table and fight to get the women most often overlooked and unheard at that same table with me. Undoubtedly, it’s impactful to produce narratives, but what could I do about the issues arising at their core?
The question then became: How do I merge policy and diplomacy with the grassroots?
Truth be told – I hate politics. Despise them. Frankly, I think political campaigns are a disgusting waste of money and only result in slanderous garbage. The millions that Obama and Romney spent on their political campaigns last election makes me cringe. Yet, like politics or not, they are a fact of life and a central force dictating law, order, customs, ways of life, and most of all- economics.
I’ve always been more of a “grassroots” girl. I like operating at the community level; I like town hall style meetings, forums and working one on one with people. My analogy of the global community is a round table where everyone speaks to one another openly and freely while eating dinner together.
The United Nations is a bit of that. Since we can’t include the ENTIRE global community at that table (that would be a rather large table, potentially reaching the planet Saturn) each member state sends a representative to take a seat. Some argue that those representatives are unfairly chosen and eat too much of the food. Others argue that the dinner party attendees who contribute more to the UN budget get dessert when others seated around them don’t.
So what is my group’s piece of the pie and where is our seat at this dinner party?
What is the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and NGO CSW?
Every year the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women meets for 10 working days in order to review the global progress of women’s rights. During that time, NGOs consultative to the United Nations Economic and Social Council(ECOSOC) meet in parallel to the commission to present research, field work, documentation, and panels of experts to brief other NGO attendees on what is happening on the ground in UN member states. The Commission on the Status of Women is a functional commission of ECOSOC.
The NGO I am representing as a member of the Board of Directors is Women’s Intercultural Network. Our seat at the dinner party table is in the ECOSOC section, presenting at NGOCSW. Though we are one of hundreds of NGOs, our mission is strong and our voices loud.
The priority theme of this year’s conference will explore the barriers to implementation of the United Nations millennium development goals for women and girls.
A brief overview of the UN
The objectives of the United Nations include maintaining international peace and security, promoting human rights, fostering social and economic development, protecting the environment, and providing humanitarian aid in cases of famine, natural disaster, and armed conflict.
Its role since its creation in 1945 has expanded in tandem with global climate and political changes. It adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and CEDAW in 1979. After the Cold War between the United States and USSR ended, the UN took on major military and peacekeeping missions in Kuwait, Namibia, Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo with varying and arguable degrees of success.
There are 5 principal organs represented in the chart below. Our NGO, Women’s Intercultural Network is consultative to the Economic and Social Council, which also houses the Commission on the Status of Women. This is visible in the diagram below. Click on it for the PDF version. These diagrams reveal which of the five principal bodies each UN entity is classified under.
Criticism and Funding
There exists much criticism about the United Nations’ outreach, operations and involvement on the world stage.
Scholar Jacques Fomerand believes the most enduring divide in views of the UN is “the North-South split” between richer Northern nations and developing Southern nations. Southern nations tend to favor a more empowered UN with a stronger General Assembly, allowing them a greater voice in world affairs, while Northern nations prefer an economically laissez-faire UN that focuses on transnational threats such as terrorism.
The World Bank and International Monetary Fund are also a critic’s dream come true as they are often regarded as debt enslavement agencies, allegedly causing high debt in developing countries to leading nations. Both are multinational lenders in the global financial system. Although the loans are supposedly intended to help the countries, they cause them to take on debt and pay interest remaining under the condition of the UN institutions, run by the bigger UN budget contributing players. Journalist Sebastian Mallaby discusses these criticisms in depth in his interview here.
The United Nations is financed by assessed by voluntary contributions from its member states. Currently the United States is the highest contributor - funding 22 percent of the overall budget. This can be a double-edged sword. As it is often touted, the highest budget contributor is generally the one with the most power and this can cast a shadow of radical self-interest over the mission-at- large of the organization.
Two faces of the UN: the symbiosis of Policy and Grassroots
The UN consists of Policymakers and NGOs. One part can’t function without the other. The NGOs are on the ground, on the front lines of the action to report back to the policymakers the critical needs in each member state.
Watch a video interview I did last year to see why the two are synonymous.
The CEDAW Ordnance and the United States
This is perhaps the single most important subject addressed every year at the United Nations CSW meetings. Pay close attention to this topic, as it if first and foremost on the agenda:
Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 18, 1979, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is an international human rights treaty that focuses on women’s rights and women’s issues worldwide. Developed by the UN Commission on the Status of Women, the Convention addresses the advancement of women, describes the meaning of equality and sets forth guidelines on how to achieve it.
The Convention focuses on three key areas:
It is not only an international bill of rights for women but also an agenda of action. Countries (UN member states) that ratify CEDAW agree to take concrete steps to improve the status of women and end discrimination and violence against women. As evidence of these ongoing efforts, every four years each nation must submit a report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. Composed of 23 experts nominated and elected by the ratifying nations, the Committee’s members are regarded as individuals of high moral standing and knowledge in the field of women’s rights. CEDAW annually reviews these reports and recommends areas requiring further action and ways to further eliminate discrimination against women. It is an important international measure of accountability.
For example, the Convention requires ratifying nations to modify social and cultural patterns to eliminate gender prejudices and bias; revise textbooks, school programs and teaching methods to remove gender stereotypes within the educational system; and address modes of behavior and thought which define the public realm as a man’s world and the home as a woman’s, thereby affirming that both genders have equal responsibilities in family life and equal rights regarding education and employment.
Interestingly enough, the United States is the only industrialized nation that refuses to ratify CEDAW. Of the 194 U.N. member nations, 187 countries have ratified it. The United States is among seven countries that have not — along with the Pacific island nations of Tonga and Palua; Iran, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan.
But why, if CEDAW has been backed by three presidents?
President Jimmy Carter signed the treaty guaranteeing gender equity within its first year. In addition to Carter, two other presidents have attempted to push forward CEDAW. Urged by the Clinton administration in 1994, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held hearings on CEDAW and recommended it be ratified. Yet Senator Jesse Helms, a leading conservative and longtime CEDAW opponent, prevented a vote in the Senate.
In the early years of his administration, President George W. Bush looked favorably on ratification of CEDAW but later changed his position. In 2002, although the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 12-7 to approve the treaty, it was never sent to the full Senate for advice and consent to ratification. But the Senate has never ratified CEDAW, and without ratification, the U.S. is not bound by its provisions.
Conservatives and CEDAW
The main opposition of ratification of CEDAW comes from conservative groups and the religious right who are concerned that CEDAW will challenge the laws and culture of the U.S.
In arguments against CEDAW, many say it will negate family law and undermine traditional family values by redefining the family, force the U.S. to pay men and women the same for “work of equal value” thus going against our free-market system, ensure access to abortion services and contraception, legalize prostitution and undermine the sovereignty of the U.S.
Therefore, the U.S. is the only democracy that has not ratified CEDAW. It remains in the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. The Senate has held hearings on CEDAW five times in the past 25 years but failed each time to bring the treaty to a vote on the floor.
CEDAW has empowered civil society organizations to demand that governments respect women’s human rights and to adopt policies to limit sex trafficking, domestic violence, child marriage and discrimination in the workplace.
Just last year I conducted an interview with an NGO president from Georgia who informed me that bride kidnapping was drastically reduced in Georgia due to an adoption of a new law and accountability by law enforcement to prosecute perpetrators and imprison them for up to eight years. I was able to truly see how far and wide the UN’s reach can go to protect women who otherwise would not be protected or historically have not been protected.
CEDAW is an issue each and every year, with no sign of changing. This year, we are bringing together the mayors of several U.S. cities in our Cities for CEDAW initiative. Since San Francisco was the first municipality in the United States to ratify CEDAW, we are hoping convincing a few more will help twist the arm of our senate counterparts. If cities are adopting CEDAW, why not the nation?
In conclusion, I hope this explains my role at the UN along with Women’s Intercultural Network. As a I prepare in the next two months to welcome the first50 Women book into the world (so much hard work for the last year!), I want to continue to share my attempts at wielding positive change. A large part of my responsibility for being able to attend the UN meetings, I believe, is to bridge the outside world with its efforts. Only thoroughly informed and collectively can we succeed with its initiatives. Divided or ignorant, we fail.
- Lenka Belkova and I authored this newly released UNCSW 58 conference document regarding the implementation of Millennium Development Goals 3 and 5 on behalf of Women’s Intercultural Network.
- Read the agreed upon conclusions from UNCSW57
- Watch my interview with A Band of Wives about UNCSW 57
California Women’s Policy Summit 2014
Advancing Women’s Health, Wealth & Power
By: Lenka Bělková, Development and Policy, Women’s Intercultural Network
Although women today fully participate in the economy, they still fare lower in wages than their male counterparts. Notoriously, female led occupations pay less than male occupations with the same level of education. Single mothers are overwhelmingly more vulnerable to poverty, which in turn has an effect on the child’s development and life chances. On the other hand, holistic family health, emotional, mental and physical, and family economic stability endow children with lasting, positive impacts. These points served as the springboard for cross-sector discussions on the status of women and their families in California.
The annual summit on women and families took place at the Sacramento Convention Center, January 16. Conference hosted by California Center for Research on Women and Families presented array of panels addressing burning issues for women and their families. Field experts spoke on the subjects of health care reform, poverty and women economic empowerment, paid family leave, health disparities between race, ethnicity and gender, as well as sexual assault, teen health and opportunities, or early childhood education and childcare.
Here are some takeaways from the Women, Poverty and Economic Empowerment panel with recommended actions.
At the Women, Poverty and Economic Empowerment panel senator Holly J. Mitchell welcomed everyone with statistics: the amount of poor people has risen in California since 1995 and, further, California leads the nation in the highest poverty rates. Today 23.2% of children live in poverty in California and 45% of children living with single mothers in California are poor. Moreover, poverty and access to quality education affect child’s life opportunities and chances to succeed. As Jessica Bartholow, Legislative Advocate at Western Center on Law and Poverty, said the programs that are being cut need to remain to help families, and with the little we can do, at least preserve human dignity: “We are not even talking here about lifting [people] out of poverty, but about building a little respect.” The question today remains how to at least economically stabilize people in need. In all, socioeconomic safety net for families is essential to avoid penalizing children further into their adulthood for being born into poverty.
Here are some recommendations from CalWORKs to keep programs that assist families in need:
Ease the impact of the 2012 budget cuts to CalWORKs and increase grant levels to reduce deep poverty.
The Budget Act of 2012 (SB 1041) included nearly a billion dollars in cuts to the CalWORKs program, and also restructured CalWORKs in significant ways. Thought grants were increased by 5% in the Budget Act of 2013, they remain below half of the federal poverty level, a level that child development experts say is very dangerous for young children.
A: The Legislature and Administration should closely monitor its new commitment to early, client-focused engagement and act swiftly to postpone the welfare-to-work 24-month cut-off if CalWORKs clients are not receiving early services.
B. The Administration and Legislature should act immediately to increase grants to a level sufficient to prevent harm to children and to stabilize families so that the welfare-to-work investments are better utilized to achieve long-term self-sufficiency.
Policy objective #3
Support work, health and early child learning opportunities for families with parents rehabilitating from prior criminal convictions.
High recidivism rates threaten the economic stability and the safety of our state, communities and families. Following the 2011 prison funding realignment and as the state faces court orders to reduce prison size, we embrace proven models for achieving cost-effective solutions to California’s high recidivism rates and to improve outcomes for families with an adult member re-entering the community after a stay in jail or prison. Research shows that while poverty status is a powerful predictor of recidivism among women, those women who receive state-sponsored support to address short-term basic needs when they leave prison reduce their odds of recidivism by over 80%.
The federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act (August 22, 1996) placed a lifetime ban on receiving Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) grants for people with past drug felony convictions. Later, states were allowed a full or partial opt-out of this ban. California maintains the lifetime ban for all CalWORKs parents with prior drug felony convictions and for CalFresh applicants who wre convicted for sale, possession or manufacturing of drugs. Children in homes with an adult who is ineligible due to this rule are denied child care, and their parents are not supported in securing work. The denial of benefits in reality acts as a sentence for further failure.
Enact legislation allowing people who have served their time for a drug felony conviction and are complying with their probation or parole to participate in CalWORKs and CalFresh and stop denying their children access to early learning environments.
To find more recommendations for action go here.
California Domestic Workers Coalition
These are recommended actions from California Domestic Workers Coalition, represented by Katie Joaquin, Campaign Director California Domestic Workers Coalition and Mujeres Unidas y Activas. She related today’s domestic workers fight to the fight of workers in 1938, to the enactment of Fair Labor Standards Act, a legislation that set standards for minimum wage and overtime pay for workers. But, at the time, the law did not include the protection of domestic and farmworkers. Therefore, the implementation of the AB 241 bill is crucial due to persistent human rights abuses, unfair wages, unregulated working hours, and unsafe working conditions in this sector. Accompanied by female entry into workforce, domestic labor is predominantly female. It is an industry that is becoming more and more needed, especially as babyboomer generation approaches retirement and require home assistance.
Policy objective #1
The California Division of Labor Standards and Enforcement (DLSE) should move aggressively to implement AB 241 and increase education and enforcement for all labor protections affecting domestic workers.
Domestic work continues to be seen as an industry in the shadows. There remains a widespread misunderstanding of what qualifies as domestic work and a tremendous lack of knowledge – on the part of state agencies, domestic work employers, and domestic wokers alike – of current labor law protecting domestic workers. With greater education and vigilant enforcement of the current statutes protecting domestic workers, we can make significant strides to shift the culture of domestic work, finally recognizing the dignity and value of the domestic workforce that cares for our homes and loved ones.
For more information go here.
Director of Programs, Nikole Collins-Puri from the Women’s Foundation of California introduced an improved Workforce Investment Act (WIA). A new strategy to develop training and education for women that would prepare them for better paying positions. Up until today, WIA program has overlooked the real problems of women who struggle with chronic poverty and unemployment due to insufficient skills and education. Programs such as this should help women to enter non-traditional female jobs while creating an access to higher wage jobs. Women and Workforce Investment for Nontraditional Jobs Act (Women WIN Jobs Act) is a strategy to develop training and educational programs for women to support economic mobility.
Policy objective #1
The Legislature and Governor should enact a Women and Workforce Investment bill to increase low-income women’s participation in high-wage, high-demand occupations in which women make up less than 25% of the current workforce.
Workforce Investment Act (WIA) programs should be equipped to serve as a bridge between the labor market and postsecondary education, serving as a catalyst for women’s career development. Women an dothe disadvantaged groups have specific needs that must be recognized and addressed if they are to enter good, higher paying jobs. As we anticipate the outcome of HR 951, the Women and Workforce Investment for Nontraditional Jobs Act (Women WIN Jos Act), California can position itself as a viable candidate for federal funding that would invest in programs that recruit, train, and retain low-income women in high-wage, high-demand fields that are nontraditional for their gender.
Deliberate attention and a comprehensive set of policies that address the full range of employment barriers will allow our workforce system to better serve women. Passing a Women and Workforce Investment bill would require:
1) workforce providers to increase women’s training and placement in higher wage jobs with career advancement,
2) caseworkers and other agency staff to be trained about workplace laws(e.g. paid sick leave, compensation, discrimination, etc.) and nontraditional employment options for women;
3) employers to cerate a work environment that is flexible and addresses barriers to employment for women;
4) coordinated collaboration between workforce, education, and welfare systems to deliver comprehensive services that minimize barriers to employment for women; and
5) a Workforce Investment Board (State Board) that has established benchmarks and success measures to track the progress of low-income women moving into higher wage jobs that result in sustained self-sufficiency.
For more information go here.
Women and their families need policies that support their social and economic advancement. In an era when women are breaking glass ceilings while millions of others remain on the bring of poverty, the next step becomes to extend the social mobility to others with direct political participation.
What We Have to Do in California – Closing Session
Research shows the continuous under-representation of women in political leadership in the USA. Inter-Parliamentary Union summarized the statistics as follows: The international average of female representatives in national legislative bodies is 19%. While countries like Rwanda ranks 1st with 56%, or Andorra with 53% of women leaders (Scandinavian countries remain in the top 10 along with countries like South Africa or Cuba whose numbers show 39% or higher for women representation in national governments), the US ranks 91st with only 17% of women leaders in legislation (2011). American women leaders do not even reach the international average – data that brings forward many questions on democratic decision-making.
One of the main obstacles, as other research suggests, is the lack of political ambition. Simply put, women do not feel confident enough to run for an office in the US. Betsy Cotton, director of close the gap California, appealed to women during the final session to run for office and help to identify leaders. And to imagine the social, environmental and economic progress that would come with women leadership, Kimberly Ellis, Executive Director of Emerge California, evoked a vivid picture of California where women lead in political participation:
“Women took the lead to redefine the society’s social contract to re-claim their democracy and re-write their constitution […] Women decided to wage in a new age feminist revolution that had five golden pillars: to educate women, to recruit women, to train women, to mentor and support women, and to demand policies be implemented to break down the barriers to women’s ability to advance their health, wealth, and power. And as a result, humanity experienced rebirth. Our environment was cleaned up, restored, protected. Our economy was fair, inclusive, and growing. Universal health care, child-care and pre-school was a law of the land. Our education system was the envy of the world. College was free to anyone who wanted to better themselves and become more educated citizens. Our food was clean, organic and free of hormones and antibiotics […] We had safety nets in place to protect the less fortunate, and we stamped out poverty and homelessness […] We put systems in place to address and correct the impact of generations of institutional racism and sexism […] Pay equity was finally a reality with women making 110% of what men made (…because women live longer). And finally, we no longer had to debate whether or not women would have the right to decide what to do with their bodies, making the reproductive decisions [… ]“
“I believe that our world is ripped for feminine leadership. I believe that having more women involved in politics will offer peace to our planet […] Ladies, this time is for us to rise together to change our state, our country, and the world to advance women’s health, wealth, and power.”
Conversation with Muslim artist Sophia Ahmed Sattar, a set on Flickr.
Recently, we hosted an evening of delicious food and stimulating conversation with Pakistani artist Sophia Ahmed Sattar! Here are some photos of the event. Be sure to check out her website!
CEDAW, a set on Flickr.
Our fearless leader Marilyn Fowler recently received the CEDAW Human Rights Award! Check out photos of the ceremony!
Our recent Women’s Equality Day event August 24, 2013 was a raging success at the African-American Arts and Culture Complex in San Francisco! We discussed critical concerns that are challenging California women and girls and related them to the global Beijing Platform for action. We were graced with the presence of Christine Pelosi, who accepted our Princess Leia award for her amazing mother Leader Pelosi. Accepting our Circle of Courage Award was Lys Anzia, Founder and Executive Editor of Women News Network , and Rebecca Blanton, dynamite new Executive Director, California Commission on Women as of March , briefed us on her work and vision for the state CSW.
Sign on to participate in co-creating the 2015 California Women’s Agenda (CAWA) with us and to receive updates on plans and emerging issues for Beijing+20, 2015. Join WIN HERE , send in the WIN Member Form, or email us at win@WINaction.org
View the Outcome Summary Report from the Discussion Tables at the event.
More photos from the Women’s Day Event August 24, 2013 and videos with soon to come! There’s a whole lot more!
“Call to Action on Issues Impacting Women and Girls”
Priority issues raised at this event will help co-create agendas for a California and US Women’s Plan of Action that goes to the UN Commission Session for a celebration of Beijing+20 in 2015 as part of efforts to amplify women and girls’ voices and impact US and global deliberations. Read more here. We welcomed farm worker leaders from the Central Valley, grassroots activists, women’s organizations, legislators, and other interested groups. Participants discussed priority issues important to their communities. Among those were economic justice, education, health, violence against women and human trafficking. These key concerns were framed by a shared consensus on the ratification of CEDAW at the federal level as a founding document for further progress in women’s rights. Our event was a beginning, a step forward in creating empowerment, identifying critical issues, and problem solving with strategic solutions.
Be sure to read Board Member Kathleen Cha’s Concluding Remarks.
YOUR VOICE COUNTS! Join WIN now and be part of the CALIFORNIA WOMEN’S AGENDA, 2015.
For more information on how to add your voice to CAWA+20 email us at win@WINaction.org!
Join us for our annual Women’s Equality Day meeting in San Francisco at the African America Arts and Culture Complex, Hall of Culture!
Buy your tickets today on Brown Paper Tickets!
The San Francisco Department on the Status of Women (SFDOSW) and Women’s Intercultural Network (WIN) invite you to join us for lunch celebrating the 93rd Anniversary of US women achieving the vote, honoring key social justice activists, with provocative conversation, good food and great networking. We will also acknowledge the 25th Anniversary of the March on Washington in process in DC also.
Forum tables on the issues driving California women with policy activists, legislators, interested media, corporate partners and everyday women and girls of all ages and cultures
Every five years we ‘reboot’ our agendas for a California and US Women’s Plan of Action that go to the global agenda at the UN. This is a critical year to launch an effort for the most important gathering of women since 1995 – a celebration of Beijing+20 in 2015.
Join us on August 24th and hear about a game plan for the first grassroots US Women’s Plan of Action since 2000 and for San Francisco’s leading role in the first National Women’s Conference since 1978. We are launching a REBOOT of the US WOMEN’S PLAN OF ACTION that will go to the UN Beijing+20 Review and give women and girls a stronger voice in US and global deliberations.
The discussions that we hold and the stories we hear on August 24th will be included in these Action Plans. We need to hear the voices of all California women and girls and YOUR VOICE COUNTS.
See last year’s Equality Day page for an idea of the energy generated by participants with some of the outcomes. (www.win-cawa.org/events/wed.html)
Event Highlights: Rebecca Blanton, Executive Director, California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls, dynamite researcher, activist and political psychologist; Lys Anzia, Founder and Editor-at-Large, WOMEN NEWS NETWORK, and other Special Guests to be announced.
This event is ideal for women’s groups and anyone interesting in advancing women’s equality!
Please read the following news articles and the attached statement about news from our home city and activists we directly work with:
The Japan Times
San Francisco mayor ‘offended’; meeting in doubt
BY ERIC JOHNSTON
MAY 22, 2013
OSAKA – Embattled Osaka Mayor and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) coleader Toru Hashimoto faced fresh criticism Tuesday from the San Francisco mayor’s office over his remarks about the necessity of Japan’s wartime brothels.
Osaka says Hashimoto will meet with San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee on the morning of June 11, but the international firestorm created by the Nippon Ishin leader’s remarks that Japan’s “comfort women” system had been necessary at the time has infuriated human rights groups and the U.S. State Department, which called Hashimoto’s remarks outrageous and offensive.
That view is shared by the San Francisco mayor, and despite the schedule Osaka announced, Lee’s office says the Hashimoto meeting has not been confirmed.
“Mayor Lee is disappointed and offended by (Hashimoto’s) statement,” said Francis Tsang, a spokesman for the mayor.
In addition, San Francisco’s Department of the Status of Women, formed in 1998 by the city, has criticized Hashimoto’s comments.
“Sex slavery is never ‘necessary,’ ” Emily Murase, the department’s executive director, said in a statement. “To justify the exploitation and suffering experienced by the women, some just girls, who were forced into prostitution by the Japanese military during World War II is a flagrant denial of human rights.”
Osaka and San Francisco have a sister-city relationship dating back to 1957, and mayoral delegations have visited each other on numerous occasions over the years. The San Francisco-Osaka Association condemned Hashimoto’s remarks last week.
“Statements that justify controversial wartime abuses and devastating violence against women are damaging to international relations and contrary to the mission of the association,” it said.
U.S. slams Japanese mayor’s sex-slave comments as ‘offensive’
Thu, May 16 2013
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States condemned as “outrageous and offensive” comments by the mayor of the Japanese city of Osaka who said this week that Japan’s military brothels during World War Two were “necessary” to provide respite for soldiers.
The remarks by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto drew strong criticism from China and South Korea, two nations sensitive to what they see as any attempt to excuse Japanese abuses before and during the war.
Historians estimate that as many as 200,000 sex slaves, known as comfort women, were forced into submission in the Imperial Japanese Army’s brothels during the war.
“Mayor Hashimoto’s comments were outrageous and offensive,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
“What happened in that era to these women who were trafficked for sexual purposes is deplorable and clearly a grave human rights violation of enormous proportions,” she said, adding that Washington hoped Japan would work with its neighbors to address the mistakes of the past.
The Japanese government has sought to distance itself from Hashimoto’s comments.
“The government’s stance is, as we have said before, that we feel great heartache when we think about the indescribable suffering of those who experienced this,” Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, although he declined to comment directly on Hashimoto’s remarks.
(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Philip Barbara)
Click here to read a statement from Emily Murase and the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women: dosw_statement_hashimoto_051613 FINAL
We are very proud that our Board Secretary Jessica Buchleitner is featured on the series “Wife Talk” about her recent trip to the 57th annual session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. This 12 min video addresses some of the common challenges faced during this meeting at the UN. For the full report, read her debriefing.
This panel was originally presented at UN CSW57 about the ancient practice of stoning. Here is a statement released by Elahe Amani about the horrific practice:
Today, March 8th 2013, we celebrate International Women’s Day amid the various forms of violence against women—attacks of regressive forces on women by state and non-state actors from India to Iran, from South Africa to Egypt. But in spite of this injustice, more than 6000 women from all over the world have gathered in NY to demand action from the global community at the United Nations Commission on the status of women. It is inspiring to see massive demonstrations all over the world, and to see these demonstrations reach an ever-expanding audience through traditional media and social media. It is inspiring that more than ever men and women—particularly younger people all over the world—are demanding an end to all forms of violence against women. The actions of these individuals prove that the voice of women can never again be denied in any country at any time. No turning back!
It is clear that the world still continues on a path of patriarchal domination. Yet this year marks 102 years since the first organized Women’s Day demonstrations were held and marks the 36th anniversary since the United Nations declared March 8 as International Women’s Day in 1977.
It is in this spirit and intention that we have gathered to draw the attention of the global community to one of the most barbaric forms of the death penalty. While the death penalty itself is being eradicated in many countries around the world, the most brutal form of the death penalty—stoning—is still being practiced. Death by stoning has been practiced since the establishment of the IRI in my birth country of Iran.
While 90 percent of the countries of the world are not executing and 100 countries have completely abolished it, Iran leads the world in number of executions per capita among nations that continue to apply the death penalty in their domestic jurisdictions. Many of these executions are conducted in secret and go unreported by official sources. According to reports from human rights groups that document executions in Iran from both official and unofficial sources, Iran is second only to China in annual death penalty sentences. Since 1979, Amnesty International has documented at least 77 cases of stoning in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and this figure is likely low due to the lack of proper documentation through 1979-1984.
The first reported case of stoning was shortly after the revolution in July 1980. Four women were sentenced to death by stoning based on the suspicion of adultery. I recall, when I shared the news with my great aunt (may she rest in Peace), a devoted Moslem and a woman of faith in Kerman, she immediately responded “this is not Islam”. The fact is that stoning was only used as a form of death penalty by the IRI. While there are records of various forms of human rights abuse and discrimination of women in the 20th century history of Iran, there are no records of stoning in Iran prior to the July 1980 stoning. Prior to this event, adultery, nor any other crime for that matter, ever warranted stoning. This is why we call here and now that stoning should not in our name or in our culture.
Perhaps most harrowing is that the Penal Code of Iran specifies the manner of execution and types of stones that should be used. Article 102 states that men will be buried up to their waists and women up to their breasts for the purpose of execution by stoning.
Article 104 states, with reference to the penalty for adultery, that the stones used should “not be large enough to kill the person by one or two strikes; nor should they be so small that they could not be defined as stones.” This makes it clear that the purpose of stoning is to inflict as much pain as possible in a process leading to a slow death.
As mentioned, the cruel practice of stoning started with the four women in Kerman, and since then the majority of those sentenced to death by stoning have been women. Women suffer disproportionately from such punishment. One reason is that they are not treated equally before the law and courts, in clear violation of international fair trial standards. They are particularly vulnerable to unfair trials because they are more likely than men to be illiterate and therefore more likely to sign confessions to crimes they did not commit. Discrimination against women in other aspects of their lives also leaves them more susceptible to conviction for adultery.
In 2002, the IRI announced a moratorium on execution by stoning, and since then officials have routinely denied that stoning sentences continued to be implemented in Iran. For example, In 2005, judiciary spokesman Jamal Karimirad stated, “in the Islamic Republic, we do not see such punishments being carried out”, further adding that if stoning sentences were passed by lower courts, they were overruled by higher courts and that “no such verdicts have been carried out.”
In spite of this, deaths by stoning continued to be reported.Ja’far Kiani was stoned to death on July 5th, 2007 in a village near Takestan in Qazvin province. He had been convicted of committing adultery with Mokarrameh Ebrahimi, with whom he had two children and who was also sentenced to death by stoning. It was the first officially confirmed stoning since the moratorium in 2002, although a woman and a man are known to have been stoned to death in Mashhad in May 2006. The stoning was carried out despite a stay of execution ordered in his case and in defiance of the 2002 moratorium.
In 2008, for the second time, Iran’s judiciary announced that the punishment of stoning convicts to death has been removed in the draft legislation submitted to parliament for approval.
Judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi announced that “In the latest version of the Islamic penal codes bill, which has undergone several modifications, such punishments are not mentioned.”
While the last case of reported stoning of a women was Mahboubeh M on May 7th 2006, even after the second announcement in 2008 of the moratorium on the practice of stoning multiple cases of stoning have been documented. Dueche velue reported the stoning of a man in Rasht in 2009 and another case of stoning was reported in May 2009.
On March 6th, 2012, the Special Rapporteur on Situation of Human Rights in IRI to the general assembly of United Nation reported:
“A number of individuals have been sentenced to death in recent years by stoning despite announcements of a moratorium on stoning as a form of capital punishment by the judiciary. In its report on the subject, Amnesty International stated that at least 15 men and women are currently facing death by stoning sentences for “adultery while married.” The Special Rapporteur joins the Human Rights Committee in expressing its concern about the use of stoning as a method of execution maintains that adultery does not constitute a serious crime by international standards; and strongly urges the Government to enforce its moratorium on stoning. The Special Rapporteur welcomes the fact that stoning has now been omitted from the new Penal Code and hopes all existing cases will be reviewed to ensure that such penalties are not carried out. “
There are several concerns regarding the claim of omission of stoning from the penal code. As the Special Rapporteur of Human Rights also expressed as a concern, stoning can still be issued at a judge’s discretion in accordance with sharia law or fatwas. It is also correct that in comparison to the previous penal code, stoning has been removed from the section of the code dealing with penalties for adultery. Furthermore, the word ‘stoning’ appears twice in articles 172 and 198 of the new penal code, although details about its implementation, such as the appropriate size of stones to be used, wrapping the convicted person in a white shroud (kafan) and burying the male adulterer in the soil up his waist and a female up to her shoulders, are all gone. But the omission of the implementation process is a serious area of concern and, moreover, the fact remains that that sexual relations outside of marriage is still a crime.
The high-profile case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani and other victims of stoning have brought shame on the status of human rights in Iran.
In light of the political fog created by Islamic Conservatives, the current political climate, and the government’ s past history of false moratoriums on stoning, the global community should not be too quick to cheer the changes in Iran’s penal code. Whether or not the penal code is truly implemented and the practice of stoning eliminated is yet to be seen.
As I shared in the briefing statement at the 20th Session of the Human Rights Council on July 6, 2012 in Geneva, “Honor crimes, FGM and stoning are often described as “tradition” and an unchanging facet of “culture.” While all these inhuman and cruel practices that violate the rights of women to life, integrity and dignity, have a cultural dimension, they are also shaped by social factors, UN resolutions, government policies, and institutional discourse can provide an encouraging environment for eradicating such inhuman and cruel practices.
A resolution of the Commission on the Status of Women which bans stoning—one of the cruelest forms of the death penalty and a clear form of torture—will be a pivotal moment in the fight to bring an end to this practice.
The time to act is now and action is demanded.