Women's Groups Grade Bush on Global Women's Issues
Major women's rights organizations released a follow-up scorecard today rating the Bush Administration on key issues affecting women internationally. The issues covered in this report card include women's rights and security in Afghanistan and Iraq, the new US resolution on women and political participation, and the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).
Rating the Bush Administration a "B+" for rhetoric and an "F" for reality, Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority, said, "If words were enough, Afghan women would be on the brink of securing their rights. But instead, with security deteriorating and resources scarce, the situation for women in Afghanistan remains dire." Smeal called the Afghan draft constitution, released on Nov. 3, "disappointing" because it "does not do enough to guarantee women's rights." "But there is hope-there could be a strengthening of the draft constitution. The [Afghan] Minister of Women's Affairs is calling for it," Smeal said. On the issue of reconstruction funding, Smeal said, "They promised a Marshall Plan but for Afghanistan the money has been very meager ... It was only through the efforts of women members of Congress that $60 million in the Iraq and Afghanistan supplemental funding was earmarked for women's programs and $5 million for the Independent Human Rights Commission." On security, the Bush Administration has "fought expansion of peacekeeping troops at every turn and instead has relied on fundamentalist warlords who systemically deny women's rights," said Smeal. "Without security and a real commitment of resources, women's rights cannot be obtained in either Iraq or Afghanistan."
The recently adopted US resolution to the United Nations on "Women and Political Participation" won Bush an "A" for rhetoric and a "D" for reality. "Ironically, the US, the author of this resolution, is the only industrialized nation that has not ratified the International Women's Treaty, CEDAW," said June Zeitlin, executive director of the Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO). Originally CEDAW wasn't even mentioned in the US resolution, but other countries at the UN added it to the final version. "The fact that the US introduced this resolution without thinking they had to mention CEDAW ... is really quite a mystery," Zeitlin said. Furthermore, the Bush Administration has "made it clear that this resolution is about increasing women's political participation elsewhere, not in the US," said Zeitlin. This is despite the fact that the US is nowhere near gender equity in political participation, with women making up only 14 percent of Congress. "Political participation is also linked to central issues of health and well-being," said Jodi Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE). "The Bush Administration at every turn has sought to limit women's reproductive freedom."
The FTAA, to be discussed at a ministerial in Miami next week, was found to be, "in both content and process, ... structured to favor corporate economic interests at the expense of gender equality, national sovereignty and democracy, and basic human rights and needs," said Zeitlin. Bush earned an "F" for rhetoric and an "Incomplete" for reality on this issue.
The Feminist Majority, WEDO, CHANGE, and the Communications Consortium Media Center previously Media Resources: Audio Press Conference 11/12/03; Feminist Majority