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Women in Afghanistan: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

It seems that whenever women make progress, they take two steps forward and one step backward. I’ve been highlighting the progress that women have made in Afghanistan. That country has a higher percentage of women in their Parliament than we do in America, 25.7% compared to our 17%. That quota wasn’t given to the women as a gift; they received it because they demanded representation in their government. Two steps forward. Despite their presence in Parliament, a new law was recently passed that forces women to take one step backward, if not more. The good news is that President Hamid Karzai has promised to review it to see if it conflicts with the Constitution. The bad news is it’s on the books (he signed it) and it restricts not only women’s rights of expression, but also a woman’s right to step out of her house without her husband’s permission. It sanctions marital rape. Women are forbidden to work or receive an education without a husband’s permission. The bill was written by Shiite clerics and applies only to Shiite women, but the power of the conservative religious forces that want to leave women poor, ignorant, and subservient is clearly evident. It is dismaying to see that women can continue to be treated as chattel. The recent widely publicized video of a woman screaming for mercy during a public whipping for an unknown crime (speculation is she stepped out of the house unaccompanied by a man) in the Swat, Taliban controlled area of Pakistan reminds us that we have much work to do just to stay in place. Women’s groups and some NATO countries have voiced their objections to the new Afghan law and public outrage followed the video of the public whipping, Will that be enough? Not until these practices produce universal outrage will there be a possibility that the perpetrators of these practices will feel enough pressure to cease and desist.

Tourist Eyes

For two weeks my husband and I traveled to London, Paris, Zurich and Bern—familiar haunts where one can drink water from the tap. Read More..

Gays in the Military

We’ve come a long way in the sixteen years since the policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” was adopted to deal with the question of gay and lesbian members of the military.

This time, advocacy for repeal did not come from any outside group; it came from the apex of the military establishment itself. Read More..

The Supreme Court and Corporate Electioneering

The Supreme Court decision which will allow unfettered campaign contributions from corporations and unions poses a threat to the very workings of our democracy.

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In the Wake of Massachusetts

A political earthquake hit Massachusetts last night. The tectonic plates of the Democratic Party shifted with the election of Republican Scott Brown to the United States Senate and left untold amounts of debris in its wake. Read More..

Greeting the New Year

This time of year we automatically say "Happy New Year" to friends, acquaintances, and even strangers, days after the champagne corks have popped and the fireworks are but a memory. It has become a standard greeting for the first days of January, partly to cheer ourselves up so we can face the rest of the winter. Read More..