The 'War on Women' Belies the ' War on Terror'

By Mohideen, Reihana | Women in Action, April 2008 | Go to article overview

The 'War on Women' Belies the ' War on Terror'


Mohideen, Reihana, Women in Action


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On December 17, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions. On the same day, an Italian newspaper published a petition asking the UN to similarly support a moratorium on abortions. The Vatican quickly joined the calls for a moratorium. In Italy, the Catholic Church has also started a campaign against the country's abortion laws in the lead-up to the parliamentary elections in April this year. Former Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi, who is leading in the polls, is actively supporting the Vatican's call on the UN to vote for a moratorium on abortion.

The campaign for the moratorium also has the backing of the Church in India, Sri Lanka, and South Korea.

Meanwhile, in Nicaragua, where a blanket abortion ban was put in place in November 2006 prohibiting it even in cases where a mother's life is in danger, there is increasing evidence that women's lives are at risk under the new law.

According to Dr. Leonel Arguello, president of the Nicaraguan Society of General Medicine, "Nicaraguan doctors are now afraid of going to trial or jail and losing their license. Many are thinking that, instead of taking the risk, it is better to let a woman die." Ironically, the new law was passed with the support of President Daniel Ortega, the former leftwing leader of the Frente Sandinista de Liberacion National.

In April 2007, the US Supreme Court upheld the first ever federal ban on abortion procedures. The ban outlaws certain second-trimester abortions and has no exception for cases when a woman's health is in danger. This decision effectively eliminated one of Roe v Wade's core protections: that a woman's health must always be paramount. President Bush's appointees to the Court cast the critical votes to uphold the ban. The ruling is part of a larger agenda to outlaw abortion entirely in the US.

One of the most significant defeats suffered by the women's movement against reproductive health choices in recent years is in Catholic Nicaragua--a 'historic compromise' between a former left-wing President and the Catholic Church. The call for the UN to place a moratorium on abortions comes from the heart of 'enlightened' Europe. And the US government under George W. Bush poses a far greater threat to women's reproductive health choices today than Osama bin Laden.

A common and principle characteristic of religious-fundamentalist movements is the control of women--their bodies, their sexuality, their physical movements, and participation in public life, dress codes, as well as family relationships.

A February 24 news report from Iran carried a story of the moral police arresting a young girl for the improper wearing of the "hijab." She resisted arrest and several police officers beat her with their batons. Her face and body was soaked in blood. Angry witnesses came to her rescue and protested against the police shouting, "Islamic Government, we don't want. We don't want."

In Jerusalem, the sexes are segregated on six public bus lines. Women board at the rear door and sit in the back. Men get on and sit in the front. The segregated line is operated by Egged, Israel's main bus company that links neighborhoods of ultra-Orthodox Jews and accommodate demands of the strictly religious for separate seating of men and women. Twenty-three other intercity lines, similarly segregated, serve cities and towns that have substantial ultra-Orthodox populations. Several women have petitioned the Supreme Court against bus segregation. The women said they were harassed, taunted and humiliated for failing to comply with seating and religious dress codes on the segregated buses. …

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