Michelle Bachelet: A Beacon of Hope for Gender Parity in Conflict Resolution and Human Rights Development

By Sofia Garcia

“Wherever there is conflict, women must be part of the solution,” said Michelle Bachelet in 2012 as the head of UN Women. As of this September, she now holds the highest office in the human rights sphere as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, working to protect and promote human rights on an international level. The need for women in positions of power, particularly in peacemaking, conflict resolution, and human rights protection, is no less imperative now than it was six years ago in 2012. Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile, human rights advocate, torture survivor, and supporter of gender equality, is a testament to the positive impact that women have when given the opportunity to have a seat at the table.

Throughout her tenure as president of Chile, she continuously advocated for marginalized communities. During her first presidential term, she promulgated legislation that resulted in the creation of the National Institute for Human Rights in Chile, a decision that was ahead of its time in Latin America in 2009. In 2010, she inaugurated a Memory Museum in order to commemorate the victims of Augusto Pinochet’s murderous regime. These decisions highlight Bachelet’s commitment to recognizing historical tragedies without erasing them, and using history as a lesson and opportunity to memorialize the victims of atrocity.          When women like Michelle Bachelet hold positions of power, they are able to advocate for marginalized communities and give a voice to those that have been systematically silenced.

I Won’t Stop Fighting for Title X—Because it Transformed My Mother’s Life

GJC Grants and Development Manager Danielle Stouck published an op-ed in Ms. about the impact of Title X funding on young women's reproductive health and rights.

My mother can recall in vivid detail the day she went with her friends to buy birth control in 1970. She planned the excursion meticulously: Her high school nurse wrote notes excusing her and her friends from class that day, and she secretly borrowed the family car while her parents were out of town. Soon, they were on the road to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Newark, New Jersey.

Before her trip, pregnancy was, in my mother’s words, her “greatest fear.” The stigma associated with teenage pregnancy was suffocating. Roe v. Wade was still a few years away. Two of her closest friends had become pregnant, but New Jersey laws strictly prohibited abortion.

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Call the crimes against the Rohingya what they are: Genocide

GJC's Deputy Legal Director, Grant Shubin, published a letter to the editor in the Washington Post, in response to UN Secretary-General António Guterres' article "The Rohingya are victims of ethnic cleansing. The world has failed them."

U.N. Secretary General António Guterres was right in his July 11 op-ed, “The chilling stories of the Rohingya,” to indict the international community for failing the Rohingya. His plea for more concerted international action could not be more timely or necessary. However, his appeal did not go as far as it should have. He failed to name the crimes against the Rohingya for what they are: genocide.

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GJC President (acting) Speaks at the Feminist Majority Foundation's National Young Feminist Leadership Conference

Saturday, March 17, 2018 at 10:00 am - 12:00pm

At Washington, DC

Sponsored by the Feminist Majority Foundation, the 2018 National Young Feminist Leadership Conference will provide young activists with the opportunity to network, grow their knowledge on pertinent domestic and global feminist issues, and fine-tune their organizing methodology.  Young feminist activists from around the nation come together to discuss issues including (but definitely not limited to) reproductive justice, eco-feminism, intersectionality and identity-based activism, campus organizing tactics and methods, violence against women, ballot measures and political organizing, social media and web-based activism, and global women’s rights and health. GJC President (acting) Akila Radhakrishnan will be speaking on the harm caused by US abortion restrictions. 

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Submission to the UN Human Rights Council for US UPR

GJC sends a mid-term report submission for the Universal Periodic Review of the United States of America. The report examines the restrictions that the US puts on foriegn aid regarding the provision of abortion services and the ways those restrictions violate international law.

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Using International Law to Advance Women's Rights in the United States

Thursday, October 19th, 2017, 2:00 - 5:00 PM

At Fordham University School of Law 150 West 62nd Street, New York City

GJC hosted a panel at ASIL's International Law Weekend exploring how international law, particularly the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), can be used to bolster and strengthen women’s rights under domestic law in the United States. Moderated by Tracy Higgins, Professor of Law, Fordham University and featuring panelists, Janet Benshoof, President and Founder, Global Justice Center; Founder, Center for Reproductive Rights; Previous Director, ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, Jamil Dakwar, Director, Human Rights Program, American Civil Liberties Union and June Zeitlin, Director, Human Rights Policy, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, The Leadership Conference Education Fun.

The Winding History of the Global Gag Rule

By Julia d'Amours

On September 7th, Senate lawmakers presented “a twofold rebuke” to the Trump Administration’s abortion policy. The proposed legislation would reinstate funding to the United Nations Population Fund and overturn the Global Gag Rule, a hallmark Republican presidential policy that bans US support for international organizations that offer or promote abortion services.

The first segment of the bill regards support for the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), which has a winding and tumultuous relationship with the United States. The UNFPA aimsto promote family planning, maternal health resources, and improved childcare in developing countries. It was founded at the urging of President Nixon in 1969, with the US being one of its core leaders. By 1984, however, President Reagan became one of the UNFPA’s greatest adversaries, accusing it of supporting the Chinese “one-child” policy.  He pulled funding from UNFPA through the Kemp-Kasten anticoercion law, which revoked US support from any organization that “supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization”. Since then, funding for the UNFPA has waxed and waned with the party of presidential leadership, with Democrats offering support for the organization and Republicans being quick to rescind it.

The second facet of the proposal is an amendment presented by Jeanne Shaheen (D- New Hampshire) to undo the “Mexico City Policy”. The Mexico City Policy, also known as the Global Gag Rule, bars federal aid to foreign organizations that provide or promote abortion. Under Trump, however, the policy has been expanded to all organizations that receive global health funding, such as those offering maternal health, anti-Zika, and preventative HIV/AIDs programs.The proposed legislation would undo Trump’s reforms, limit future efforts to reinstate the Mexico City policy, and restore US funding to UNFPA. The Amendment narrowly passed in a 16-15 vote with Republican Senators Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Ark) casting the final votes in favor.

The proposal has been praised across party divides. Shaheen applauded the bipartisan support for the new policy, claiming it would “preserve and restore funding levels for international organizations that help to prevent over 50 million unintended pregnancies around the world, and reduce the number of maternal deaths we see from those accessing unsafe abortions when the lack of family planning leaves them without options.” Family planning proponents hailed the move for “sending the message that the lives of girls, women, and families who rely on reproductive healthcare matter here and abroad,” said Brian Dixon, Senior Vice President of the Population Connection Action Fund.

Despite the acclaim, the future of the amendment remains uncertain. Unlike previous efforts to reinstate UNFPA funding and repeal the Global Gag Rule, the amendment has to pass through a Republican Senate, House, and Executive branch. Social conservatives in the House have controlled the US reproductive health agenda since 2011. Typically, the Senate has rebuked their more radical proposals, but now that social conservatives have more control there, the fate of the bill is even more uncertainRemarked Dixon, “[the bill] has to be passed by the full Senate… It’s hard to know what they’re going to do… At some point, these two bills are going to get negotiated into something that both houses will pass.” Senator Lindsay Graham (R- S.C.) commented that the GOP-dominated house would insist on keeping Trump’s policy in place. “This is the same debate we have every year, probably with the same outcome,” he claimed.

Another indication of the amendment’s uncertain future is that the House spending plan includes no financial provisions for it, hinting that the proposal is unlikely to pass or at least will be watered-down before becoming law. Historically, Capitol Hill has opted to retain a traditional budget that preserves the status quo, and the foreign aid required to enact an amendment restoring funding for the UNFPA and rescinding the Gag Rule could amount to as much as $8.8 billion.

This bureaucratic push-and-pull between Republicans and Democrats on the Global Gag Rule may appear strictly political, but it has a very real effect on people’s lives and health throughout the developing world. For example, the Lesotho Planned Parenthood Association received 426,000 condoms from USAID over two years during the Clinton Administration. Once the Gage Rule went back into effect upon the election of Geroge W. Bush, the shipments ceased because the association was the only accessible conduit for condoms in the entire country, in which one in four women was HIV/AIDS positive.

Nor do Republicans’ intentions to curb abortions through rescinded funding seem productive. The claim that cutting family planning funding will make “abortion more rare” has never been supported with data. Studies by Stanford University and a survey of abortion rates in Ghana have shown the contrary to be true. Moreover, cuts to family planning services means abortions are more likely to be performed unsafely, a leading cause of maternal death. 

The global trend towards liberalizing family planning services throughout the world indicates the common understanding that access to family planning services and abortion is a right and essential dimension to healthcare. Limiting maternal health and family planning resources does not reduce rates of abortions, but raises the death tolls for women and their children, meaning Republicans’ “pro-life” policy is actually the contrary. 

 

GJC Weekly News Roundup

By Julia d'Amours

Chile proceeds with the repeal of its total anti-abortion laws. In August, legislation was presented to permit abortion in three cases: if the life of the mother was in danger, if it the fetus would not survive, or if the pregnancy was a result of rape. Lawyers argued that a total abortion ban was inhumane and a violation of women’s rights. Though polls indicate more than 70 percent of the population supports more lenient abortion laws, the Catholic Church and elite upper class staunchly opposed the bill. The repeal is considered a major victory in women’s rights and reproductive rights, and many hope it will lead to similar legislation in the region.

Last Friday, Kenya’s Supreme Court ruled that the re-election of the sitting president would be revisited after discovery that the vote counts had been irregular. It is the first example in Africa in which a court voided the re-election of an incumbent. Many are at unease considering Kenya’s fragile political landscape—the last disputed election in 2007 resulted in at least 1,300 dead and 600,000 displaced around the country.

On Sunday, Cambodia arrested Kem Sokha, the main opposition leader, accusing him of treason. This follows accounts of government harassment on the free press and expulsion of NGOs, such as the pro-democracy National Democratic Institute. A Human Rights Watch official called the arrest “a disastrous setback” for Cambodia as the country prepares for elections next year.

On Monday, Malala Yousafzi joined an increasing number of human rights activists in publicly criticizing Myanmar’s effective leader Aung San Suu Kyi for the treatment of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Burma. More than 73,000 Rohingya have fled into Bangladesh after they were attacked by Burmese military factions on August 25th. The UN special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar has described the situation as “grave.” Widely seen as a champion of democracy, Suu Kyi has remained quiet on the subject of the Rohingya.

On Tuesday, President Trump broke headlines by announcing the end of DACA—the federal program that protected nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children. He claimed DACA’s establishment was an abuse of electoral power and rebuking it would establish rule of law. Many of those enrolled in DACA already have families, started careers, or enrolled in higher education in the US. Permits that are set to expire in the next six months will be renewed, but the Department of Homeland Security will stop processing new applications for the program. Officials say there will be no formal guidance that former DACA recipients are not eligible for deportation.

On Wednesday, the Trump Administration introduced a Security Council resolution that would empower the United States Navy and Airforce to interdict North Korean ships and evaluate if their cargo contains military equipment. It also included a ban on the shipment of crude oil, petroleum, and natural gas, which would have severe results for the North Korean population as winter approaches, and aims to block the assets of Kim Jong-un. The resolution is careful not to encompass a total blockade, which is an act of war, but permits the US and UNSC to “nonconsensual inspections.”

On Thursday, a federal appeals court permitted thousands of refugees who had been blocked by President Trumps’ travel ban to enter the country. Since June, the government has frozen refugee resettlement applications and brought resettlement programs to a standstill.  Yesterday’s ruling mandated that the government resume refugee resettlements in the next five days. It also upheld a lower court decision that exempted grandparents and other relatives from the ban. A Justice Department representative remarked that they will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

Also on Thursday, the High Court of Australia ruled that a postal survey on the legalization of gay marriage was legitimate, despite the objections of same-sex marriage advocates. The results of the survey could not make same-sex marriage legal or illegal, but it could spark a vote in Parliament. Polls suggest that a “yes” vote in favor of legalizing gay marriage will prevail. The results will be announced the 15th of November.

Photo by Alsidare Hickson 

GJC Weekly News Roundup

Sunday, Burma rejected claims allegations of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity against Rohingya Muslims. Last year, in response to Rohingya militants killing nine border guards, the Burmese army allegedly burned down homes, raped village women and shot people on sight in an attack that caused approximately 75,000 to flee to Bangladesh. This prompted a United Nations probe, which is being blocked by Burma.

Monday, a United Nations aid chief warned that there are the early warning signs of genocide in the Central African Republic (CAR). CAR has hosted a war between Muslim and Christian armed groups since 2013, and over half a million people have been displaced. The violence has intensified recently after a period of relative calm, and the UN warns that the risk of ethnic cleansing is heightened.

Monday, New York has formed a New York State Council on Women and Girls. The Council aims to combat discrimination against women and girls by creating state laws on issues like protecting reproductive rights and pushing for equal pay. It was formed in response to the election of President Donald Trump, who is threatening to remove the White House Council on Women and Girls.

Monday, frustrated with the United Nations’ lack of action on holding war criminals accountable, a top former war crimes prosecutor quit the UN’s Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria. “I give up. The states in the Security Council don’t want justice,” Carla Del Ponte said. This leaves two members of the Commission. Wednesday, the New York Times published an editorial about her resignation and the Commission’s inaction.

Read Marie Wilken's piece in Ms.

 

GJC's Comunications Intern, Marie Wilken wrote a piece for Ms. on the passing of the health care legislation and how it exemplifies the need for equal represenation of women in the US government.

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G20: Women’s rights are not a political bargaining tool

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - July 8, 2017

[NEW YORK, NY] - On the occasion of the G20 Summit on June 8 and 9th, 2017 in Hamburg, Germany, the Global Justice Center renews its calls to world leaders to uphold international law safeguarding the rights of women and girls.

January News Update: A Call for Gender Parity in Power

Last week we saw pictures of men signing executive orders that negatively impacted the lives of women, minorities and vulnerable populations in the United States and around the world.

This week we saw pictures of women judges, protesters, senators, congresspeople, and lawyers leading the fight against these dangerous policies.

GJC's motto has always been, "when women have a say in governing, the world becomes a better place." Today, we are seeing how true that is. GJC is fighting harder than ever. Stand with us.

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Global Justice Center at the NYC Women's March

Global Justice Center at the Women's March in DC