- Title: VARIOUS: Women fight for rights on International Women's Day
- Date: 9th March 2006
- Summary: (SOUNDBITE) (English) IMAN AHMAD KHAMAS, IRAQI WOMAN, ARCHITECT, AND HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST SAYING: "The health sector is bad. The education center is bad. The services for the public is bad. the security condition is going worse and worse and worse as you can see through the media so what have been changed? So what have these occupation force made for the Iraqi people? For the benefit of the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people asking who cares about us? who cares about our souls? So that's why we are here."
- Embargoed: 24th March 2006 15:17
- Topics: International Relations,Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA478T0DN2GWD8ER2WSNZ892PAI
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: International Womens Day was marked on Wednesday (March 8) with marches and demonstrations to improve women's rights across the globe.
A group of women from Iraq, along with American anti-war activists, took to the streets of Washington D.C. on International Women's Day Wednesday (March 8) and marched from the Iraqi embassy to the White House. About two hundred women, many of them dressed in pink or holding a pink rose, chanted slogans and called on U.S. President George W. Bush to withdraw American troops out of Iraq. Iman Ahmad Khamas, who arrived from Baghdad less than a week ago, is an architect, human rights activist, and mother of two who writes her own blog from the Iraqi capital. She says that after three years, the situation in Iraq has deteriorated in almost every sector. "The health sector is bad. The education center is bad. The services for the public is bad. The security condition is going worse and worse and worse as you can see through the media so what have been changed? So what have these occupation force made for the Iraqi people? For the benefit of the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people asking who cares about us? Who cares about our souls? So that's why we are here," Khamas said.
Khamas's trip as well as that of four other Iraqi women, were all paid for by CODEPINK and Global Exchange; the two groups organizing the delegation.
Khamas said she had no expectation of achieving any drastic change while she was in the U.S. but said she hoped that she could explain to the American people what is really happening on the ground in Iraq.
In Chile thousands of women gathered at the the Government Palace to listen to an emotional President Ricardo Lagos who, in a few days, will hand over his leadership to a single mother and once-exiled doctor, Michelle Bachelet.
Lagos was joined by First Lady Luisa Duran and Minister of the National Service of Women, Cecilia Perez.
Fifty-four-year-old Bachelet was exiled under Chile's dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, but on Saturday (March 11) she will be sworn into office as the country's first woman president. She will be the fourth president under the centre-left socialist coalition. In India thousands of sex workers took to the streets in the capital New Delhi on Wednesday (March 8) demanding legislation to ensure labour status for their profession.
The rally, marking international women's day, saw participation of over 5,000 women, men and transgenders engaged in sex-trade from 16 states.
The sex workers, furious over the government's move to amend the existing Immoral Trafficking Prevention (ITP) Act, which will allow a six-month jail and hefty financial penalty on those visiting brothels, demanded the scrapping of the Act.
Though prostitution is illegal in India, all major cities have "red light areas" where prostitutes can be hired for as little as two dollars.
Most women with no social backup face extreme violence and exploitation at the hands of middlemen and police, who use them as easy extortion targets and their children, refused admission into schools and denied jobs fall prey to drugs and the girls forced to follow their mothers.
Women's rights groups have been demanding legislation to ensure labour status for the prostitutes for over nearly a decade, but to no avail.
Estimates by voluntary groups show at least 600,000 minors are also employed in the profession and their number is said to be increasing by almost 10 percent every year.
In Afghanistan women have won a range of rights since the fall of the hardline Islamic Taliban regime but are still being oppressed, President Hamid Karzai said on Wednesday (March 8), calling for a campaign against the violence the local female face.
"Women in Afghanistan have achieved a lot in improving their lives according our culture and our religion, I congratulate the women of Afghanistan on this success, but this journey has not ended...women especially are being oppressed," said Karzai at a function marking International Women's Day. He said that women, especially in conservative, rural areas, are sometimes given away in marriage to settle disputes.
Karzai called for an end to the practice and said that he hoped that tribal chiefs, scholars and influential people raise their voices against the oppression.
During Taliban rule, women were forced to wear an all enveloping burqa while venturing outdoors and even then, had to be escorted by their husbands or another male relative.
Women who went out alone faced a beating at the hands of the feared religious police. Girls' education was also banned and virtually all women were forbidden from working.
Karzai said women held nearly 28 percent of the seats in the two chambers of the newly elected parliament and termed it as a rare development in the world for women.
Afghanistan's new constitution has enshrined equal rights for women who were forced to wear an all enveloping burqa while venturing outdoors and were also barred from education and most work during Taliban's radical Islamic government.
Its maternal mortality rate, at 1,600 deaths per 100,000 live births, is second highest in the world, and 70 percent of the population live in extreme poverty, according to government estimates.
Dozens of girls and married women have resorted to self immolation in parts of the country during past years due to family related violence or compulsory marriages.
Most women are illiterate and Karzai said education was one of the major ways forward.
In Israel demonstrators gathered in Hasharon and across the West Bank to rally for women's rights on International Women's Day on Wednesday (March 8).
A handful of protesters carried posters and chanted slogans in Hasharon calling on the release of female Palestinian prisoners who are currently being held in Israeli jails.
Forming a line on the side of the road the demonstrators hoped their banners and slogans would draw the attention of passers-by and raise awareness to their cause.
One demonstrator Anat Matar said that the prison held women prisoners. "Today is the International Women's Day, and we came to express our solidarity with the political prisoners - the women political prisoners, but also with the men political prisoners who are kept here behind bars for their resistance against the occupation," said Anat Matar.
Hollywood Star Sharon Stone traded her "Basic Instinct" for feminine instinct Wednesday (March 8), meeting with Israeli Knesset member Shimon Peres to talk about women in society, as part of an observance of International Women's Day.
"Yes, the most wonderful thing that has happened is that women have found their freedom, but what do we do with our freedom is the question that I ask you.... Because we did not ask for our freedom so that we could identify ourselves as men, no matter how fabulous the men beside us - that we may want to emulate. We want to be partners with these men and aid them with the wisdom of our feminine instinct," Stone said at a news conference in Tel Aviv.
Peres, the veteran Israeli politician, said that Stone's visit would be well received in Israel and that. He said that women were becoming free to raise their children properly and be a real partner in nation building - a real partner in friendship building.
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