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Questions for the group

I am interested in hearing from those of you who work primarily on women’s reproductive health and rights globally whether you think the “walk the talk” at home argument holds water?

Would the United States be able to be a better defender of women’s rights abroad if it set high standards for the same at home? How do do those realities affect this country’s actions overseas or the ability of women’s rights organizations that are US based to be successful in their work with partners in the rest of the world?

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Peace AND Justice in Northern Uganda

Responding to Mark’s post from earlier today

The ICC should not, as Opinio Juris suggests, be considered the “obstacle to peace,” at least not per se. It isn’t out of sheer haughtiness, of course, that the ICC could make a legitimate case for making Kony’s indictment a sticking point. As I’ve argued previously, peace and justice are deeply interrelated, and a circumscribed role for the ICC in Uganda could harm both these goals and the reputation of the ICC itself.

A few points:

1. As perhaps the most deserving poster child for an ICC indictment out there, Kony simply must be held accountable for his crimes.

2. The ICC’s charter allows it to suspend its jurisdiction only if the host country’s proposed prosecution is fully credible and meets international standards of accountability. While Museveni’s proposed use of traditional Ugandan justice seems more legitimate than, say, the kangaroo courts proposed by the Sudanese government to ward off ICC prosecutions there, it is still troublesome that Kony may escape any jail time whatsoever. A free and unpunished Kony will not only insult the ideal of justice, but could very well endanger peace and stability in northern Uganda — ceasefire or no.3. If the ICC is seen as capitulating to the demands of its host government — or worse, to those of an indicted war criminal — a dangerous precedent will be set for the court’s work elsewhere, not least of all in Sudan. The ICC simply cannot risk facing charges of toothlessness in one of its earliest and most conspicuous cases. Asserting its relevance here is not an act of sabotaging the peace process, but one of ensuring its staying power as a force for both peace and justice elsewhere.

This is, of course, not an easy decision, nor is it a question of choosing between peace or justice. It will be very interesting to see where ICC Chief Prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo comes out on this. He has charted a middle course well thus far, and he is deeply committed to the ICC’s ideological and practical raison d’etre. He’ll have to tread lightly, though, to ensure that Kony does not spurn this peace process and return to the jungle.

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UN Addresses Reproductive Health Disparities in the U.S.

On Friday, the day before International Women’s Day, a UN Committee expressed concern about “wide racial disparities” in sexual and reproductive health in the United States, reports RH Reality Check.

Remarks were made concerning this issue at the end of a two-week session in Geneva, Switzerland, where the UN reviewed the nation’s observance of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), a human rights agreement which requires countries to take pro-active measures to address racial inequalities.

While a number of issues were addressed concerning racial discrimination in the U.S., such as racial segregation in schools and discrimination in the criminal justice system, there was also a focus on severe reproductive health disparities between women of color and white women. Among those were these findings by the Center for Reproductive Rights:

  • African-American women are nearly four times more likely to die in childbirth than white women, 23 times more likely to be infected with HIV/AIDS and 14 times more likely to die from the disease.
  • American-Indian/Alaskan Native women are over 5 times more likely than white women to have chlamydia and over 7 times more likely to contract syphilis.
  • The unplanned pregnancy rate among Latinas is twice the national average; and Latinas are much more likely to contract human papillomavirus, the infection that leads to cervical cancer.

The Committee gave the U.S. the following recommendations to improve the status of these serious disparities in reproductive health care: improve access to pre- and post-natal care, including the elimination of eligibility barriers to Medicaid; improve access to contraceptive and family planning methods; and lastly, provide comprehensive sexual education aimed at the prevention of unintended pregnancies and STIs.

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No connection between legality and incidence

I want to respond to part of what Kavita said: “Finally, the women’s movement needs to show the political will and courage to refuse to cede the moral high ground by showing itself able and willing to speak to the moral ambiguities around the issue of abortion.” This is so important, but it has proved incredibly tricky, because if we paint abortion as a “tragedy,” a la Hillary Clinton several months ago, we buttress the anti-abortion movement in its creation of “post-abortion syndrome” as something women need to be protected from.

This is one of those areas where I really wish we could bring the international to bear more on the domestic debate. I want to scream every time some pundit, in contemplating her own ambivalence about choice, relegates back-alley abortion to the realm of ancient history. I wish politicians would say, loudly and repeatedly, that if you look around the world, there is no connection between abortion’s legality and its incidence. I wish the staggering toll of unsafe abortion in the developing world was part of the conversation. Outside the world of public health and the global women’s movement, very, very few people know that, for example, there are countries in East Africa where botched abortions are responsible for a third of maternal deaths. I don’t even know how many people realize that the lowest abortion rate in the world is in the Netherlands.

Ross Douthat, an up-and-coming young conservative thinker, has sketched an utterly fantastical vision of what he sees a post-Roe America looking like. It’s maddening for all kinds of reasons, but mostly for its utter ignorance of what’s happening in countries where abortion is illegal. (Hint: the truth doesn’t bear out his “assumption” that “a ban on abortion, by changing the incentives of sexual behavior and family formation, would actually end up reducing out-of-wedlock births, welfare spending, and all the rest of it.”) Obviously we’re never going to convince people like him, but I think if there was some kind of basic knowledge of how this issue plays out in other countries, it could possibly change some of the faulty assumptions underlying the abortion debate here, and help people understand the connection between pro-choice policies and fewer abortions.

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Thursday Morning Coffee

In what may be one of the lamest ledes ever, the New York Times announces “Caution: Heavy Internet traffic ahead. Delays possible.” Best get your Morning Coffee while you can.

Starting 5

>>Tibet/India – The 100 Tibetan exiles who had disobeyed a directive by Indian police to cease their protest march from the Kangra district in India to their native country have now been detained by the Indian authorities. The protestors have since launched a hunger strike. Meanwhile, Chinese police fired tear gas into a crowd of 600 protesting monks in Tibet.

>>Cuba – Five Cuban soccer players, in the U.S. for Olympic regional qualifiers, went missing in Tampa on Tuesday night. Their disappearance has not been reported to the authorities, and they would likely be granted political asylum under the “wet foot, dry foot” policy were they to seek it.

>>Israel/Palestine – An Israeli raid in the West Bank that ended in the death of four Palestinian militants has further imperiled a ceasefire sought by Egypt.  The raid occurred just hours after Hamas declared the cessation of Israeli “agression” a necessary precondition to such a ceasefire. The four killed had been wanted by Israeli authorities for years. As an “initial response” Islamic Jihad fired rockets toward Israel from Gaza. Israel then retaliated with air strikes.

>>Pakistan – One of the two corruption charges that bar Benazir Bhutto’s widow Asif Ali Zardari from holding public office was dropped yesterday. Dismissing the charge was part of a power-sharing deal worked out with Bhutto in October. The final case will be ruled on Friday. Zardari did not run for a seat in the February 18 election, in which his party won the most seats, but could still try to win a spot in a by-election and become Prime Minister, assuming the other charge is dropped. Meanwhile, Musharraf has dangled a deal to give up his powers to dissolve parliament in exchange for opposition parties agreeing not to reinstate former supreme court chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry.

>>Chad – The government of Chad has announced that heavily armed rebels are entering the country from Sudan. The two nations are set to sign a non-agression pact in Dakar in just a few hours prior to the opening of the OIC summit. Chadian and Darfuri rebels have dismissed the pact as meaningless.

Yesterday in UN Dispatch

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    Peace V Justice in Northern Uganda?

    The recipient of the International Criminal Court’s first-ever indictments may avoid the dock in the Hague. Via Opinio Juris (the best international humanitarian law blog out there) Ugandan President Youweri Museveni says that he will no longer hand Joseph Kony, leader of the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army, over to ICC authorities for an international trial. Instead, Museveni will pursue a local form of justice akin to a traditional truth and reconciliation process against Kony, who recently signed a landmark peace agreement with the government.

    This has to be disappointing to the ICC. Kony is certainly deserving of jail time. His militia terrorized the Acholi people of northern Uganda for more than two decades. On the other hand, the ICC deserves some credit for bringing Kony to the negotiating table. It was not until the ICC began its investigation and issued indictments that the LRA began to seek a peace agreement with the Ugandan government in good faith; the ICC indictments provided the critical leverage to get the peace process going. So what to do about this peace v justice dilemma? The Enough Campaign says so long as the peace process remains on track, the Security Council should invoke the ICC charter and suspend the indictments in favor of local forms of justice. Makes sense to me.

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