Women Beware: Saudi Arabia to Help Shape Global Standards for Female Equality

It’s hard to sink to a greater depth of hypocrisy than voting Saudi Arabia onto a United Nations Commission charged with promoting women’s equality and empowerment. And yet, on April 23, that is precisely what the U.N. Economic and Social Council did. Of the 54 countries on the council, 47 of them agreed to add Saudi Arabia to a four-year term on the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women.

How did the United States ambassador to the U.N. and the democratic champions of Europe vote? The ballot was secret, and is it any wonder that the U.N. representatives refuse to reveal their votes? What is undeniable, however, is that the Saudis could not have received 47 votes without support from the Western democracies.

The Saudi regime is notorious for its abysmal treatment of women. Outside the home, women are forced to wear an abaya, a loose-fitting black cloak that conceals the shape of their bodies, and a hijab, or headscarf, to cover their hair. The fundamentalist dress code is enforced by zealous religious police who fine and beat women who dare to violate the code. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world to ban women from driving, a practice that severely limits women’s independence and autonomy.

Saudi Arabia is unquestionably the most gender-segregated society in the world. The government enforces sex segregation in virtually all workplaces except hospitals, and fines businesses that fail to comply. In food outlets, including U.S. chains such as McDonalds or Kentucky Fried Chicken, all lines and eating areas are separated to keep unrelated men and women apart. The men’s section is usually the airy, front section, while the women and children are relegated to the back, shielded from public view. The majority of public buildings have separate entrances for men and women. Some even ban women from entering.

The most oppressive aspect of life for Saudi women is the strict guardianship system. This system requires every female, from birth to death, to have a male guardian who controls her ability to travel, study, work, marry or even seek certain forms of medical attention.

Saudi women campaigning for women’s rights denounced the addition of Saudi Arabia to the U.N. Commission. “Allowing this oppressive regime to join a commission designed to empower women makes me feel personally violated and invisible, and it is demoralizing for us as activists,” an anonymous Saudi woman seeking asylum in the United States told me. “It sends a message that for the international community, Saudi wealth and power are more important than women’s lives.”

Saudi Arabia is probably the worst country in the world to be put on a women’s commission shaping global standards on gender equality, not only because of its treatment of Saudi women but also because the regime uses its oil wealth to export misogyny abroad. Saudi Arabia spreads its reactionary version of Islam through the thousands of mosques and schools it builds overseas, as well as through the funding of extremist groups like ISIS and al-Qaida affiliates. Wherever Saudi influence appears around the world, women lose rights and autonomy.

For Saudi Arabia, a top U.S. ally, a position on the Women’s Commission is a way to further whitewash its image and keep the organization from shining a spotlight on Saudi abuses. This was the same rationale for the regime to seek, and obtain, a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council. While such positions may burnish the image of the Saudi regime, they tarnish the image of the U.N. itself, showing that money takes precedence over the principles of human rights and equality that the United Nations was created to uphold.

One can only imagine the suggestions the Saudi reps will come up with when addressing the U.N. Commission’s mission to assess the challenges to gender equality. It is doubtful they will ever suggest that the Saudi regime itself, and its support from Western allies, is a global obstacle that women must struggle to overcome. So it is up to women everywhere to call for the Saudis to be kicked off the commission so that it can be a space truly dedicated to the empowerment of women.

— source truthdig.com by Medea Benjamin

Girls forced to engage in sex to survive near-famine

Women and girls in Turkana County, northern Kenya, are being exploited in exchange for money to buy food, the International Rescue Committee said today. The IRC is seeing an increase in gender-based violence, early and forced marriage, and women and girls engaging in transactional sex as a direct consequence of food insecurity caused by drought in the region. 2.6 million people are food insecure, and the area has seen a 5-fold increase in food prices, conflict around watering points, loss of livestock, and an increase in malnutrition and infectious diseases.

As a result of the drought, girls as young as 12 years old are moving from rural to urban areas to engage in transactional sex. Mostly being solicited in nightclubs, they receive as little as 50 shillings (US$0.50) in exchange for sex. Many of these young girls report being the head of their household with younger siblings or even children of their own who depend on them for food.

— source rescue.org

Fox News Owns Bill O’Reilly’s Ugly Legacy

Fox News doesn’t—or didn’t—have a Bill O’Reilly problem. It has a Fox News problem.

For years, it was clear that O’Reilly was a lying lout who exploited his position, power, and profits-generating status at the network to harass women, bully critics, and hurl a variety of false accusations. Yet Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes (until last July, when he was forced out as CEO of the network as a result of his own sexual harassment conduct) allowed O’Reilly to run wild and free. As the king of the hill at Fox News, O’Reilly survived numerous scandals that would have knocked out hosts at other networks. The reason was obvious: With his top-rated show, he brought piles of cash into the network. His personal behavior at the workplace didn’t matter. Nor did his penchant for public self-aggrandizing prevarication. Nor did his cavalier use of violent rhetoric, including, on at least one occasion, a death threat of sorts. (More on that later.)

O’Reilly’s ugly private conduct first drew public attention in 2004, when the Fox News star host was accused of harassment—and bizarre behavior—in a lawsuit filed by Andrea Mackris, an associate producer who worked with him at the network. Her case appeared to be based on secret recordings she had made of conversations with O’Reilly, and her filing was full of direct quotes from him. He supposedly spoke to her about vibrators, masturbation, and his penis, trying to engage her in phone sex, and brought himself to climax during these calls. Mackris’ initial legal complaint included a long passage in which O’Reilly fantasized aloud about taking her to the Caribbean, where he would “quickly” get two glasses of wine into her and then steer her into a shower and rub her “pussy” with “the falafel thing.” (He meant a loofah.)

The Mackris suit settled within two weeks, under confidential terms, with Mackris reportedly being paid $9 million. And thus was the pattern established. Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that in the subsequent years, O’Reilly “faced a series of allegations of sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior” and that four other women had received payouts from either him or Fox News. (Reportedly, the Justice Department has been investigating Fox News for violating securities law in relation to these payments.) O’Reilly also was accused of domestic abuse in 2014 during a custody battle.

Throughout all of this, Fox News was O’Reilly’s enabler. Murdoch, Ailes, and others also protected O’Reilly when he lied and threatened anyone who questioned his primacy (or integrity). And I have a personal stake in this part of the O’Reilly saga, because once I was the target of his violent rhetoric.

Two years ago, Daniel Schulman and I reported that O’Reilly had repeatedly mischaracterized his limited wartime reporting experience. Over the years, he had said he had witnessed combat while serving as a war correspondent for CBS News during the 1982 Falklands war between Argentina and the United Kingdom. He had also claimed that in this “war zone in Argentina, in the Falklands,” his cameraman had been injured and O’Reilly had saved the man. None of this was true. Numerous colleagues of O’Reilly noted that no American reporters reached the Falkland Islands during the fighting and that the US correspondents covered the war from Buenos Aries, about 1,200 miles away. The cameraman said no such incident had happened. O’Reilly, like other American journalists there, had never been in the war zone.

O’Reilly also had bragged in the past that while in Buenos Aires, he had covered a riot at the war’s end, which he characterized as a combat situation, with troops gunning down and slaughtering demonstrators. News reports from the time and eyewitness accounts noted there had been no killing. And O’Reilly’s own reports from the time contradicted his boastful account. There was no massacre. Schulman and I also reported that O’Reilly had exaggerated his account of an assignment covering the civil war in El Salvador in the early 1980s.

Our story was followed by other media reports chronicling instances when O’Reilly had fibbed about his derring-do. The Guardian noted that six of O’Reilly’s colleagues from Inside Edition disputed his account of having been attacked by protesters while he reported on the Los Angeles riots in 1992. The Washington Post questioned a passage in an O’Reilly book in which he asserted he had “seen” Irish terrorists “kill and maim their fellow citizens in Belfast with bombs.” O’Reilly’s response: He saw photos of bombings. Media Matters, a liberal advocacy group, caught O’Reilly in a similar lie. He had claimed he had seen nuns gunned down in El Salvador. But nope—just photos. And CNN blew apart another boastful O’Reilly story: He had been present when a mysterious witness in the John Kennedy assassination case committed suicide.

This was a boatload of credibility-destroying stories. Fox News, though, stood by their man. And it did so as he attempted to lie and bully his way through this series of imbroglios—with me as his No. 1 target. O’Reilly refused to acknowledge the contradictions between his tall (and false) tales and reality. Instead, he went ballistic with invective. He called me a “liar,” “dumb,” a “left-wing assassin,” and a “despicable guttersnipe.” He denounced Mother Jones as “the bottom rung of journalism in America.” And he got violent and said that I deserve “to be in the kill zone.”

It was no shocker that Fox News let O’Reilly get away with this fusillade. But it was a bit unsettling that the fair-and-balanced network did not compel O’Reilly to apologize for and retract the “kill zone” remark. After all, who knows how an unhinged O’Reilly fan might take such a comment. O’Reilly had spent years referring to Dr. George Tiller, a Kansas physician who provided abortions, as “Tiller the Baby Killer.” In 2009, Tiller was shot dead while serving as an usher in his church by an anti-abortion extremist.

Fox News just didn’t care that O’Reilly was engaging in reckless rhetoric or that he had been caught in multiple lies. There was no internal investigation. (At NBC News, Brian Williams was investigated and lost his anchor’s chair for having told false war stories.) There was no punishment. Journalistic principles, the rules of polite society—they didn’t apply. You don’t kill the cash cow. And while O’Reilly faced criticism for being a serial fabricator, his ratings improved. His audience rallied around him, as he claimed he was under unfair assault by the liberal media for having the guts to tell the truth. O’Reilly used all these stories as proof he was a courageous no-spin journalist, and folks within his echo chamber lapped it up. (A few Fox News journalists privately congratulated me on our stories, often with such comments as, “If you only knew.” The brass saw it differently.)

Why would Fox News intervene? Now even more O’Reilly bucks were pouring in. Yet with Ailes’ recent downfall and more revelations of O’Reilly’s misconduct, the network finally reached the conclusion that their pugnacious host had to be de-Factored. But keep this in mind: None of the recent yucky news about O’Reilly was a secret to the Murdochs and other execs. Since at least 2004, they had covered up for and defended their No. 1 bloviator. The issue at this time is not one man’s wrongdoing. It reaches beyond a single lewd and pompous egotist. The entire Fox News regime—which seeks to boost corporate profits by appealing to an audience supposedly in favor of conservative family values—remains tainted.

O’Reilly may be gone. But that taint remains. And the guttersnipes who dared to report on O’Reilly’s misdeeds and mis-facts know that O’Reilly was for too long the rule, not the exception, at Fox News.

— source motherjones.com by David Corn

Poor access to support systems causes high mortality among women with burn injuries

About 100,000 women die of burn injuries in India every year, and most of the deaths happen due to inadequate support service

In 1998, India was the only country in the world where fire was among the 15 leading causes of death. Even almost two decades later, incidents of burn-related injuries remain an “underserved and underrepresented category of violence”, according to a new study by the International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care (PCVC)—a Chennai-based non-profit organisation.

Going by the conservative estimates, about 100,000 women die of burn injuries in India every year. Tamil Nadu is one of the worst-affected states, with Chennai alone witnessing 100-150 burn cases every month. Women in the age group of 15-50 are most prone to fire-related deaths. Unfortunately, most women succumb to their injuries because of inadequate and unresponsive support services and not because of physical injury only.

Why are women the worst sufferers?

While mortality rate among women is higher than men, the follow-up rate (post discharge) among women is very low. Getting into the root of the problem, the study finds out that there’s also a “long history of misrepresenting self-inflicted or homicidal burns in women as kitchen accidents”.

Women, who are victims of domestic violence, often tend to conceal the real cause of burn injury because they lack financial independence and are not empowered with the requisite information to address such an issue. They are also subjected to discrimination within the society.

In some hospitals, as the study found out, women ward is separate and men are not allowed. With no continuous care givers around, the patients are forced to depend on her natal family. But sometimes, their natal families, too, are not able to take care. There are cases where women have been abandoned by their husbands post the burn incident.

Substances responsible for burn injuries

On doing a study across four states—Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Maharashtra and Delhi—it has emerged that the substance responsible for the burns are mainly kerosene and gas leakage from non-ISI branded small cylinders. Though Delhi became kerosene-free in 2014, kerosene is easily available in neighbouring cities such as Noida.

Problem lies in lack of infrastructural support

Outlining the lack of infrastructural and institutional support for the victims and survivors, the study revealed that often, due to the absence of hospitals within a short distance and lack of scope for getting first aid, burn cases become more complicated, leading to death. Even when the patients get access to hospitals, the facilities are not adequate to provide holistic treatment. For instance, the researchers in Telangana found that the conditions in burns wards of two major government hospitals in Hyderabad—Gandhi Hospital and Osmania Hospitals—are “quite deplorable” with no proper beds and post-surgery facilities.

Lack of rehabilitation and psychological support

Most hospitals do not have post-burn rehabilitation services which are crucial for full recovery. It was found in a Delhi hospital that for the last two years no patient from the burns ward has been referred to the psychiatry department. Moreover, patients don’t avail services of psychiatry or psychology departments in hospitals because of procedural bottlenecks.

What’s making situation worse is the lack of any mechanism to deal with psychological stress. Medical practitioners across states are unanimous in their argument that physiotherapy, psychiatric and psychological support is necessary for an overall recovery of burn victims. Under such circumstances, treating burn injuries is not enough. Hence, the PCVC has been stressing on the need for a holistic support system for women burn survivors in the country.

Loophole in existing legal system

While acid attacks are included as a non-bailable offence under sections 326A&B of the Criminal Law Amendment Act (2013), the same is not true for kerosene or alcohol burns, which constitute a large percentage of total burns cases.

Need for an integrated response

The experts suggest building a comprehensive system with “collaboration between legal, state (police and health institutions), non-state (private hospitals and NGOs) and family institutions to address issues at the level of creating awareness”.
They also call for devising methods to empower the survivors and look at policy changes and macro-level interventions
They recommend looking at the legal definition of disability so that fire burn victims are included within this category.
The expert also emphasise the need to create a community of survivors where they can help each other and give each other strength.

— source downtoearth.org.in by Subhojit Goswami

Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan

The US has Committed heinous Crimes in Afghanistan

15 years after the Western military intervention, little is heard about Afghanistan in the media in France. What is the general situation of the country? How manifest foreign occupation every day for Afghan men and women?

Right at the beginning of the US invasion of Afghanistan, RAWA declared that the purpose of this aggression is to serve the imperialist aims of the US, and in this ordeal they will partner with the worst enemies of our country.

The US has committed heinous crimes in Afghanistan in the past decade, killing thousands of innocent people in airstrikes and night raids, and torturing innocent Afghans in their black sites. The Bala Baluk massacre in Farah province in 2009 that killed 147 innocent Afghans, the Panjwai massacre in Kandahar province in 2012 that killed 16 innocent Afghans, the killing of twelve innocent children in Kunar province in 2013, and the MSF hospital strike of 2015 in Kunduz province that killed 42, are only a few incidents of the bloodshed caused by US/NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Today, Afghanistan is more unsafe than ever before. Security is more vital for people than food and water, and it gets worse with every passing year. The number of civilians killed in suicide attacks by Taliban, the night raids and airstrikes and drone strikes of US forces, and the crimes of the militias of local warlords in different parts of Afghanistan, increases with every passing year. This increase shows the deteriorating security situation.

Afghanistan’s economy is in shambles, controlled by mafia who draw support from powerful Afghan government officials. The US and NATO invaded Afghanistan with tall claims of “reconstruction”, but we do not see any growth in any fundamental sector of Afghanistan. More than 60 billion dollars was donated to Afghanistan for the so-called reconstruction effort but not even cents reached our people and filled the pockets of mafia in and out of the government.

Poverty and hunger in Afghanistan is among the highest in the world, comparable only to African nations. Afghanistan has the highest infant mortality rate in the world, millions suffer from hunger and malnourishment. 25% of the children in Afghanistan are engaged in labor to feed their families, which deprives them of school and other basic rights.

Afghanistan has been named the most corrupt country in the world for the past few years. Thanks to the US invasion, Afghanistan is not just the top producer of drugs providing 90% of the world’s opium, but also has the highest user of drugs with around 3 million addicts.

The US has no interest in Afghanistan’s prosperity. In fact, instability, insecurity, poverty, illiteracy and other deeply-entrenched social and economic problems help the US and its puppet government retain their power without any opposition from the people.

The situation of women has improved since 15 years?

Like all the people of Afghanistan, women are crushed between several forces in a continuous war and insecurity that has plagued our country for more than a decade : the US and its allies, Jehadi and Taliban fundamentalists, and now the newly-emerged ISIS.The situation of women today is catastrophic. Violence against women has risen to unprecedented levels today. Women suffer from domestic violence, rape, gang-rape, sexual abuse, murder, immolation, honor-killing, underage and coerced marriage to men much older than them, exchange of girls in marriage for items, and tens of other such misfortunes. Young girls have been tortured in basements, have had their noses, lips, and ears chopped off, deprived of food, and beaten to death by their families or in-laws. What we hear in the media is only the tip of the iceberg.

Last year, Afghanistan witnessed the most horrific crime ever committed against an Afghan woman in broad daylight in central Kabul, under the nose of policemen and the government. Farkhunda, a 26-year-old student, was lynched by a mob of thugs who falsely accused her of burning the Quran. She was kicked, punched, run over by a car, stoned, then burned and thrown in the dry Kabul river. Most of Farkhunda’s killers were released days after their arrest. Out of the four remaining, one was sentenced to just 10 years in prison and the other three to 20 years. Their death penalties were overturned in what were ridiculously brief court sessions.

Later that year, 19-year-old Rukhshana was stoned to death by a Taliban kangaroo court in a Mullah (Muslim cleric)-dominated western province of Afghanistan for eloping. A delegation was sent by Ashraf Ghani to investigate and punish the perpetrators of the crimes but it was headed by a Mullah who backed the Taliban and openly championed the stoning of the young girl as being Islamic and legal a few days after the incident !

The parliament has attempted to legalize stoning to death for adultery, wife-beating, and honor killing. The legislators, judiciary, and police all over Afghanistan are misogynist fundamentalists who impose their anti-women mentalities in the form of laws, and offer full impunity to the perpetrators of these horrendous crimes. Most of the women in Afghan jails today were sentenced by the misogynist judiciary for “moral crimes” such as running away from home from cruel husbands and in-laws, eloping with a lover, etc. Countless cases of public lashing and executions have been carried out by mock courts of Taliban, and local warlords and Mullahs in all parts of Afghanistan. It is only natural that in such a situation, violence against women will only continue to rise. The rates of self-immolation have also reached new heights as women see no other solution to their problems.

Afghanistan still has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, with thousands of women dying during childbirth every year. The official literacy rate stands at 18% although considering the ground reality the rate is much lower than this. Afghanistan is rightfully called one of the worst places to be a woman.

The US uses the symbolic presence of female officials to deceive the world about the actual situation and justify its occupation. Most of these women are tied to the same fundamentalist parties and criminals, and are as undemocratic and misogynist, as their male counterparts. The other achievements of women such as reopening of schools and jobs for women are limited to a few urban cities of Afghanistan, with majority women still suffering in the current hellfire.

And refugees? Did they hope to return to their country?

Afghans are the second largest group of refugees in the world after Syria. The situation I described above is what drives these youngsters to search for a better life abroad. The only reason these people may return is if the security situation improves, and there are jobs and money for them to lead a decent life. We have said this before and will say it again: as long as the US stays in our country, or continues its intervention through its traitorous puppet government and its other criminal proxies, we will not have stability or prosperity in the country and people will not only not return, but will continue to flee this devastation.

How do you explain that the occupation forces have failed to establish a stable regime and to “pacify” the country ?

The biggest treason the US has committed in Afghanistan is the re-installment of Islamic fundamentalist criminals in power. Today Afghanistan is ruled by bloodthirsty fundamentalist warlords and criminals who share the Taliban’s ideology and have committed crimes worse than that of the Taliban in the past. The Northern Alliance, composed of the most traitorous and misogynist elements of warlords and military commanders were imposed on our people through three historically fraudulent elections. These criminals led the civil war of 1992-1996 that killed more than 65,000 civilians in Kabul alone and plundered the city. Their militias committed systematic war crimes which have been documented by international organizations like HRW and Amnesty International. Instead of facing prosecution in international courts for these crimes, these killers enjoy full impunity and fatten their bank accounts with the West’s support.

The new government of Afghanistan called the ’National Unity Government’ is headed by long-time US mercenary Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah of Northern Alliance, who were united by a John Kerry brokered agreement after the two could not agree on the results of the rigged and disgusting presidential elections which was full of fraud (the result of this election was officially released a year later !). Ashraf Ghani’s deputies were infamous criminals Abdul Rashid Dostum and Sarwar Danish, while Abdullah’s running mates were Mohammad Khan and Mohammad Mohaqiq, two other criminals.

The US is the creator and nurturer of these violent groups. It is a conscious policy of the US government to partner with Islamic fundamentalists wherever it steps in. We saw this in Libya and Syria as well. The US claims to be fighting terror, but the biggest terrorists, the Northern Alliance criminals, were brought to power by the US itself. The US heavily relies on terrorism as a weapon to block the progress of its rival countries, especially Russia and China, and as their loyal proxies in the wars they wage.

The United States negotiating with the Taliban today. What is their objective?

The US and NATO occupied Afghanistan to obliterate the Taliban terrorist, but according to the UN, the Taliban’s reach is widest now since 2001. The opposition to these expensive wars is also continuously growing in their own countries. At this point it seems that the US and NATO are using these peace talks to show an achievement in this highly unpopular war.

It is no secret that the bloodthirsty Taliban regime was created and nurtured by the US, and will be used by the US whenever they need them. Now it seems that this Taliban project of the US and its allies is coming to an end and so they want to include them in the Afghan government like their fundamentalist brothers. With the emergence of ISIS in Afghanistan, the US will no longer need the excuse of the Taliban to justify its occupation of Afghanistan like it did in 2001, ISIS will be that reason today.

While the wounds the Taliban gave our people are still bleeding, these criminals are being invited to join the government to complete the circle of fundamentalist, mercenary criminals in power. Like the criminals who are already present in the government, they will also enjoy complete impunity and will not face prosecution for heinous crimes

What is certain is that even if these peace talks take place there will be no peace and prosperity for the Afghan people as long as the US and its reactionary lackey fundamentalist and non-fundamentalist elements are present.

It is worth mentioning that the Afghan puppet government also attempted to negotiate with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the most infamous of all these warlord criminals. They wanted to take his name off the UN black list and give him legal protection, despite the fact that he has killed thousands of innocent people during the Afghan civil war, assassinated tens of intellectuals, and used to throw acid on the faces of women who were seen in public when he was a university student.

Still, there comes the Afghan people to organize politically?

If the political situation of Afghanistan is unchanged, the current situation is only going to become bleaker. Our people will continue to be victim of the crimes of the US forces, Taliban, and Jehadi warlords. There is only one way the current situation can change and that is for the people themselves to struggle for their rights and a better country, against their prime enemies.

We have always said that the independence of a country is the first condition for democracy, freedom, and justice in a country. The key to freedom and democracy is in a united, organized struggle of our people. Only the people of a country can decide their fate and build a system that serves them. This will be a long and hard process, but Afghans have no other alternative but to unite and fight for freedom, democracy, justice and liberation.

How revolutionary, world anti-imperialist and progressive they can support you and support the Afghan people?

The solidarity of the freedom and peace loving people of the world is very important in strengthening our people’s struggle at home.

We have nothing to say to the Western governments who have the blood of our innocent people on their hands. Our message for the peace-loving people of these countries is that they have to see the reality of Afghanistan and all the other countries the US has invaded.

The people of these countries do not have the true picture from the US wars to make proper, informed decisions on them. Afghanistan barely gets any coverage and if it does, the crimes of the US forces such as killings and torture and night raids will never be shown, as will the insecurity and instability of our country and the devastating situation of women and people will not get any attention.

The people of the West should know that the tax they pay is used by their governments to further their wars in Afghanistan and other war-torn countries. These bloody wars do have a blowback like we witnessed the Paris attacks and the Orlando shooting. They need to pressurize their governments to change this invasion and occupation policy, and stand in solidarity with the people who are the victims of these wars. This international solidarity will strengthen the fight for freedom and democracy in these countries.

— source rawa.org

Fukushima nuclear disaster and the violation of women’s & children’s human rights

Japan has ratified multiple international treaties that recognise the right to health as a fundamental human right. It is defined as the “enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health,” and includes the right to information and participation as integral tenets of upholding this right. Individuals must be able to make informed choices about their health and influence policy decisions that affect them.

But in the wake of the accident, unaddressed issues with Japan’s nuclear policy and emergency planning, which the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights had warned the government about in 2001, led to the direct violation of women’s and children’s rights.

And while the injustices faced by women and children in the immediate aftermath of the disaster were the result of policy failure and legislative inaction for a decade prior, the violations of their human rights resulting from the resettlement policy that has been rolled under current Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are calculated and deliberate.

Fukushima-impacted women were faced with significantly greater obstacles in coping with the impacts of the disaster according to their own wishes due to a yawning gender gap in Japanese society. In fact, in the most recent ranking of the 34 OECD countries on gender wage gap, Japan was one of the bottom three with only South Korea and Estonia ranking lower.

Despite these financial and social barriers, many women separated from or even divorced husbands who chose to stay in the contaminated region. They evacuated with only their children, in an effort to protect them.

But they continue to face a greater risk of poverty and are more vulnerable to financial pressures. And it is just these financial vulnerabilities that the Abe Government is exploiting now.

Thousands of Fukushima survivors from outside the designated zones will be stripped of their housing support in March of 2017. The government is also moving forward with lifting evacuation orders in some of the more heavily contaminated areas in March and April of this year, even though radiation levels still far exceed long-term decontamination targets. Those from areas where orders are lifted will lose compensation payments next year.

According to the most recent government data from October 2016, thousands of those losing housing support this month had nowhere else to go. They are at risk of homelessness. This means that some people may be forced to return to contaminated areas, even though they do not want to.

That is not only a direct violation of their rights under international treaty obligations, but also violates Japanese domestic law. In June 2012, the National Diet – Japan’s legislature – unanimously passed the ‘Nuclear Disaster Victims Support Act.’ The law clearly defines the government’s commitments to Fukushima disaster survivors – including the provision of full support as long as it is necessary, the right of victims to freely choose where to live, and the obligation to consider the greater vulnerability of pregnant women and children.

To be clear, the resettlement is a cynical effort to avoid a long-term exclusion zone, like the one near Chernobyl, which serves as a constant reminder that a major nuclear disaster causes irreparable damage to vast areas of land. Both in Japan and globally, the industry has been desperate to create a false reality that the contamination can be cleaned up and people’s lives can return to normal.

Massive investments were made in so-called ‘decontamination.’ Evacuated areas, where there is little chance for success, were prioritised. This also meant that areas where people were still living and decontamination could have made a real impact on reducing exposures, were not. As a result, hot spots in these populated areas continue to be found years after the disaster.

In Iitate, which lies 30-50 km northwest of the reactor site and was heavily contaminated in the disaster, decontamination efforts are extremely limited in scope and success. Though the Ministry of Environment website declares the decontamination of Iitate 100% completed, in reality, only 24% of Iitate has even been touched (5600ha ‘decontaminated’ out of a total municipal area of 23,013ha). The remaining 76% of Iitate remains heavily contaminated mountainous forests which cannot be decontaminated, and will pose the threat of recontamination of the decontaminated areas for the foreseeable future.

Evacuation orders in much of Iitate will be lifted by the end of this month.

While exposure to ionizing radiation poses a risk to all people, studies of atomic bomb survivors and medical radiation exposures (see here, here, and here) clearly show that women and children are much greater risk for suffering health effects from it.

The right to health includes the right to participation, yet women are woefully underrepresented in decision-making bodies for both the ‘reconstruction’ and emergency planning. Thus, their ability to see their concerns and needs reflected in policy decisions is quite low.

But women have not been silent victims in this whole grossly unjust system. What political processes have denied them – a mechanism to participate in the decisions that affect them – they have pursued in the courts instead. Fukushima mothers who evacuated are living all across Japan, and thousands are plaintiffs in lawsuits to fight for continuation of housing support, fair compensation, accountability on the part of TEPCO and the government for the disaster, and even criminal cases against TEPCO.

They have been at the forefront of organising resistance – from marches to nonviolent direct actions. In the face of impossible odds, they have truly shown stunning resiliency and leadership.

And we, as the international Greenpeace community, stand with them. We are calling on the Abe government to take urgent action to protect Fukushima-impacted women’s and children’s human rights.

We have sent a joint letter with Japanese civil society organizations to the UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteurs asking that they assess the current situation of Fukushima survivors. We will also be submitting comments to the UN Universal Periodic Review of Japan on the plight of Fukushima victims.

And we will continue to fight beside them for their rights, for justice, and for a healthy, sustainable nuclear-free future.

— source greenpeace.org