Women’s human rights get put on the back burner…again…and some @$$hole from USAID says they’re just “pet projects” that were too troublesome and unattainable

It’s just incredibly discouraging to read that women’s human rights are getting put on the back burner — I shouldn’t even use the word “put” – we  just remain there, in a holding pattern. Some advances have been made, but we have so far to go to gain just basic rights in the world.

In Afghanistan, US shifts strategy on women’s rights as it eyes wider priorities

It started out on the right foot:

…it insisted that the winning contractor meet specific goals to promote women’s rights: The number of deeds granting women title had to increase by 50 percent; there would have to be regular media coverage on women’s land rights; and teaching materials for secondary schools and universities would have to include material on women’s rights.

It changed to this in order to be a more “attainable” goal:

Now, the contractor only has to perform “a written evaluation of Afghan inheritance laws,” assemble “summaries of input from women’s groups” and draft amendments to the country’s civil code.

I love this: “the women’s issue” – isn’t it a HUMAN issue or a SOCIETAL one?

 J. Alexander Thier, director of USAID’s Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs. “The women’s issue is one where we need hardheaded realism. There are things we can do, and do well. But if we become unrealistic and overfocused . . . we get ourselves in trouble.”

So, are women a lost cause?

Gender issues are going to have to take a back seat to other priorities,” said the senior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal policy deliberations. “There’s no way we can be successful if we maintain every special interest and pet project. All those pet rocks in our rucksack were taking us down.”

This will be my first time cursing on the blog: WE ARE NOT A FUCKING SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP AND HUMAN RIGHTS ARE NOT A “PET PROJECT.”  How can half the world’s population be called a “special interest group”? What a fucking condescending, dehumanizing, arrogant thing to say. Well, women, you heard it straight up – your human rights are considered “pet rocks.”

Here’s what the Afghan men think of women and ways in which USAID is helping:

Despite deep opposition to women working outside the home, or even continuing schooling after puberty – in rural southern Afghanistan, a common expression among men is that “a woman’s place is in the home or in the ground” – USAID is trying to chip away at those attitudes by providing micro-credit for women to start businesses, teaching them to make handicrafts at home and encouraging them to participate in civil society groups.

I’m tired of women’s human rights getting relegated to the back burner, especially over violent men. Do you have to take up arms to get recognized? Does the “men’s issue” trump women’s basic rights to education, land ownership, protection against violence, dignity…? Why does violence take precedence over human rights? I think we’ve got the cart before the horse. If we strengthened human rights- particularly women’s – we’d strengthen families and communities.

Patriarchy’s deadly effects

Violence against women is no rationale for military violence

I have met with women with faces like Aisha’s in Bangladesh, where lovers or jealous husbands have thrown acid on their faces to scar them for life. I have spoken with women missing limbs because pimps mutilated them in Cambodia. I have heard from Bosnian women whose vaginas have been shredded by soldiers who inserted pointed objects and guns into them. I know women in India whose faces and bodies are a mass of burned flesh because they did not bring enough dowry. And, you don’t have to leave the United States to see such brutality. Last November I met a woman from Tennessee whose ex-husband beat her with an iron rod within an inch of her life — her jaw is shattered, her nose is broken, her left eye does not see.


If the intent of TIME magazine and organizations like Women for Afghan Women was to illuminate the taboo topic of violence against women with this picture — I am all for it. If it ignites a public debate about the silent ongoing war that patriarchy wages against girls and women in their homes, at work places, on the streets, and on army bases — bring it on. If this cover helps us advocate for a U.S. foreign policy that places the dignity and humanity of women at its core — I will be the first to celebrate.

If this country is serious about addressing the root causes of Aisha’s disfigurement — let it make a commitment to non-violence and respect for women a key component of its domestic and foreign policy. Let it help train armies of nurses, teachers, and agricultural workers in Afghanistan. Let it invest in diplomacy and decrease its unmatched military expenditure — currently more than the rest of the world combined. Let it say to its client states, whether Israel, Iraq, or Saudi Arabia, “we will stop providing military aid, if we do not see clear evidence that you are moving to address gender violence and discrimination in your societies.” Let the Senate immediately ratify Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) — the UN Bill of Rights for women. Let the U.S. lead by realizing women’s rights at home before it invades other nations where it can moralize about “tribal” practices.