Global Justice Center Blog

Global Justice Center and Other Women’s Health Advocates Call for the Obama Administration to Make the US a Leader in Pushing for Reproductive Rights Worldwide

Women’s health advocates are disillusioned with the lack of effort the Obama Administration has made in addressing reproductive rights for women around the world. Michelle Goldberg details the work of these advocates and the frustration they are experiencing with the Administration in a recent article published in Conscience Magazine. Since 1973, with the passage of the Helms and later Siljander Amendments, prohibitive US policies have prevented access to reproductive healthcare for women around the globe. Fortunately, the GJC sees a new and unique opportunity for the current Administration to overturn the policies that prohibit access to abortion for girls and women raped in armed conflict.

Both the Helms and Siljander Amendments leave room for interpretation, and as Goldberg notes, “American aid programs needn’t interpret [those Amendments] as narrowly as they do.” Barbara Crane, Vice President of Ipas points out that a precedent does exists for exceptions in the cases of rape, incest and to save a woman’s life. Until now, the US has refused to provide abortion care, even for women and girls impregnated as a result of rape. As enumerated by the Global Justice Center in a legal brief released earlier this year, it is a violation of the rights of girls and women in conflict to deprive them of adequate medical services under the Geneva Conventions. These detrimental US restrictions must be overturned as they further victimize those most in need of protection and complete healthcare; girls and women raped and impregnated in armed conflict.

The international reproductive community had high hopes when the President decided to overturn the Global Gag Rule three days into office; however it only removed restrictions placed on foreign NGOs receiving US funding from engaging in any abortion related activities using their own private funds. Real impact can be made by repealing the Helms Amendment, which will remove censorship on the $49 billion dollars in foreign aid distributed by the US. While many feel as though the chance has been lost, especially with Republican control of the House, and recent attempts to drastically reduce funding for family planning, an executive order would immediately ensure that US funds provide care to the women and girls that need it the most.

UN Establishes the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances

On May 31, 2011, I attended a panel discussion at the United Nations marking the first meeting of State Parties to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances.  An enforced disappearance takes place when a person is arrested, detained, or abducted by the state or agents acting for the state, who then deny that the person is being held or conceal their whereabouts, placing them outside the protection of the law.  In 2006, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances was adopted by the General Assembly of the UN after many years of hard work and commitment from relatives and loved ones of disappeared persons, NGOs, and governments.  As of May 2011, twenty-five states have ratified the convention, however José Luis Díaz of Amnesty International voiced his concern for States that have not yet ratified it, and stressed the duty of States to deal with enforced disappearances.

The testimonies given by the panelists were moving and informative, and emphasized the critical need to address this issue.  Estela Carlotto, President of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo spoke on the panel, and shared the story of her daughter who disappeared over thirty years ago.  The first meeting of State Parties to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances was a joyous day for those involved, and organizations like GJC, that work on the legal enforcement of human rights treaties.  

Historic Opportunity for Women of South Sudan

GJC provides Critical Expertise to Ensure South Sudan’s New Constitution Embeds Internationally Guaranteed Equality Rights.

The Republic of South Sudan is in the process of drafting a new constitution and democracy advocates and women’s groups are hoping to create a new paradigm of democracy, justice, and equality in Africa that will be adopted when the region declares independence on July 9, 2011.

The Global Justice Center, due to its extensive experience in constitution analyes in Iraq, Kurdistan, Burma, and Northern Ireland, was asked by one of South Sudan’s leading women’s organizations for its expertise on implementing women’s rights in the Draft Transitional Constitution.  Because the GJC is dedicated to forging and enforcing international law grounded on gender equality, the recommendations that were made on the South Sudanese draft constitution naturally reflected these principals, ensuring primacy for International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and equality guarantees.  With the ratification of this new constitution, South Sudan has the historic opportunity to remodel their government on a foundation of parity and power that promotes equality and peace.

In particular, the GJC’s analysis carefully scrutinized every article in order to ensure compliance with international treaties such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

GJC believes that the structure and inherent permanence of constitutions to be a critical component in efforts to create justice and equality, by establishing a concrete basis upon which all law and policy will be developed going forward.  Amongst many crucial suggestions, the GJC recommended that:

1.  Equality for women must be explicitly defined to ensure that women have gender parity in positions of power.

2.  The government has an obligation to take permanent steps to ensure that all treaty guarantee laws are implemented.

3.  In accordance with the ICCPR and the African Protocol, which are both applicable to South Sudan as a successor state, there exist quotas for a starting point of 30% women in the legislative and executive branches as well as gender parity in the judiciary branch and new constitutional court.

4.  Adding an article modeled after the South African Constitution explicit on reproductive rights.

The Republic of South Sudan’s new constitution has the ability to address the suffering caused by Sudan’s civil war and mark a crucial turning point in women’s ability to access equality.

The GJC advocates for the enforcement of law over the creation of policy as the strongest avenue to effectively implement human rights.  As GJC President Janet Benshoof states, “The constitution is the most important legal instrument, for it is the single time for women to influence peace and justice as well as place equality over conflict and peace over security.”

Burma: Comparison of New Government Officials with the Council of the European Union List of Sanctioned Regime Members

This list gives the name of the Burmese government official, the position in new government, the department, the code on the EU list, name on the EU list, and position & department on the EU sanction list.

A list is provided for: New Cabinet Members, new Deputy Ministers, new Chief Justice, Attorney-General and Constitutional Tribunal, new Chief Minister of Regions or States, and new Commanders-in-Chief.

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