16 Days of Activism: The Fight Against Gender-Based Violence Continues

By: Sofia Garcia

Every year starting on November 25th, the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign begins. Since 1991, the fight against gender-based violence has been immortalized from November 25th until December 10th in hopes of galvanizing action to end violence against women and girls worldwide. This year’s #HearMeToo theme is a continuation of this year’s legacy of powerful social media-based movements such as #MeToo, #TimesUp, #NiUnaMenos, #BalanceTonPorc, and #NotOneMore. With the ongoing Rohingya genocide a clear example of the urgent need for frameworks that hold perpetrators of sexual violence in conflict accountable, a call to action on gender-based violence, challenging the impunity that allows it to reoccur and escalate, is more important than ever. Under this theme, the UNiTE Campaign to end violence against women seeks to bring activists, policy makers, and the public to the table in order to foster opportunities for dialogue. 

November 25th kicks off the campaign with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and culminates with International Human Rights Day, which sends a powerful message: universal enjoyment of human rights cannot possibly be accomplished until women and girls live in a world free of fear and violence. Raising awareness and encouraging action on gender-based violence worldwide is an important step in the fight towards gender equality. Until women and girls can exist safely without fear of violence, we must continue to discuss the need for policies for preventing and ending assaults on women based on their gender. The days highlighted in the campaign were a deliberate effort to highlight the link between violence against women and girls and human rights violations.  Besides recognizing November 25th as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the campaign also includes other significant dates such as:

Justice for Victims of Sexual Violence in Conflict: Is It Possible?

By: Sofia Garcia

Just last week, the United Nations Security Council held two Arria-formula meetings open to UN member states, observers, NGOs, and the press. On both occasions, the room felt heavy; men tiptoed around their words and women sat upright, listening intently, almost in indignation. The meetings were titled “Moving from a Culture of Impunity to a Culture of Deterrence: The Use of Sanctions in Addressing Sexual Violence in Conflict” and “On Children Born of Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones”. For both of these meetings, I was in attendance to represent the Global Justice Center and listen to advocates present firsthand accounts of why these issues must be addressed by the international community. These topics have been gaining attention in the media and the international community after the Nobel Committee’s decision to jointly award Yazidi activist Nadia Murad and Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege with a Nobel Peace Prize, honoring their work to end sexual violence and rape as a weapon of war.

Over the past year, the world has borne witness to the Rohingya genocide in Burma. This sparked a conversation among activists and leaders about how the crimes perpetrated against Rohingya women, including torture, rape, and sexual abuse, are inherently gendered (read GJC’s legal brief in which we discuss why a gendered analysis of the Rohingya genocide is paramount, particularly when talking about impunity for sexual and gender-based crimes). However, only after sitting in a room with civil society speakers who presented their lived experiences was I able to understand the severity and urgency of the matter.

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. 

 

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.

Read here

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