Sunday, October 25, 2009

Counter-Terrorism vs Women's Rights?

In an effort to properly address the issue of terrorism, the UN has appointed a 'Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism'--Martin Scheinin--who has been making regular reports to the UN about the importance of keeping human rights in mind while fighting terrorism. Scheinin has even gone so far as to address the apparent conflict between counter-terrorism and 'diverse sexual orientations and gender identities'. The summary of a report he gave on August 3 notes:
Consistent with the mandate of the Special Rapporteur as defined by the Human Rights Council, section III offers an analysis of counter-terrorism measures from a gender perspective. This report expands upon earlier reports of the Special Rapporteur to provide a comprehensive overview of the frequency and nature of gender-based human rights abuses in counter-terrorism measures and to explore the complex relationship between gender equality and countering terrorism. While many of the measures discussed in the report relate to the human rights of women, gender is not synonymous with women, and, instead, encompasses the social constructions that underlie how women’s and men’s roles, functions and responsibilities, including in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity, are understood. The report therefore discusses, besides the human rights of women, the gendered impact of counter-terrorism measures on men and persons of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, and addresses how gender intersects with other prohibited grounds of discrimination, such as race and religion. [emphasis added]
Understandably, this report caught the eye of the Washington Times, which came out with an editorial on this last week:

Do counter-terrorism measures targeting bombers who dress as women offend the rights of transexuals? This is one of the pressing questions addressed in a new United Nations report on "Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism."

The 23-page document is the ultimate politically correct guide to combating terrorism. It is based on the work of U.N. special rapporteur Martin Scheinin, who notes that "immigration controls that focus attention on male bombers who may be dressing as females to avoid scrutiny make transgender persons susceptible to increased harassment and suspicion." The impact on transvestites (cross-dressers) and "intersex" individuals (those in the midst of a sex change) is even more dramatic.

...The politically correct U.N. report is remarkable in its thoroughness. Extraordinary rendition is a process of grabbing terrorists off the street and packing them off to a different country for prosecution or interrogation. The report notes the adverse effects of extraordinary rendition on the wives of terrorists and its impairment of their enjoyment of "the right to adequate housing, and the right to family life."

Presumably rendition is an occupational hazard of being a professional terrorist; if the wife, husband or "life partner" of the bad guy is inconvenienced because the breadwinner suddenly vanishes, we counsel next time marrying an accountant.

...The U.N. report explicitly argues for a return to the previous failed framework, recommending that states "abandon the use of a "war paradigm" when countering terrorism because of the "adverse impacts" it has on "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals."

I suppose with all of this emphasis on gender rights, it is to be expected that this issue made its way into the Goldstone Commission Report on Gaza, which notes in paragraph 937 and 938 of the Report:
The right to adequate food is also reflected in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which requires State parties to guarantee to women “adequate nutrition during pregnancy and lactation.”

The Mission finds that, as a result of its actions to destroy food and water supplies and infrastructure, Israel has violated article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, article 11 of the International Covenant if Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and article 12 (2) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. [emphasis added]
Whatever one may argue pro and con regarding the first 2 Covenants, is it possible that defending ones self against terrorist actually impinges upon gender discrimination?

In its rebuttal of the Goldstone Report, CAMERA responds to this claim:
This interpretation of the Convention is, prima facie, a travesty of the Convention's intent. The first article of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women defines "discrimination against women" as
any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field. (emphasis added)
The idea that Israel's strikes on food and water-related infrastructure, or anything else in Gaza, were "made on the basis of sex" in order to specifically distinguish, exclude or restrict women from their right to equality is simply outlandish.
But a variation on this outlandish theme has found its way, albeit diluted and convoluted, into a New York Times op-ed, discussing reversals in the gains made by women over the years:

Part of the reason can be traced to the aftermath of 9/11.

Everyone’s life was reshaped by 9/11. Like many New Yorkers, I experienced that day in an intensely personal way: I was in the World Trade Center with a colleague when the first plane hit. And we were just outside the second tower, making our way through burning debris, hunks of airplane seats and far worse when the second plane came in directly over our heads.

In the aftermath of the attacks, Americans pulled together. Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair, famously declared it was “the end of the age of irony.”

He was right.

And then he was wrong. Because, as so often happens in the wake of a traumatic event, the pendulum swung to the other extreme. The war in Iraq tore America apart. The Internet gave everyone a soapbox. The louder, the more offensive, the better.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that exactly at this moment, women began losing ground — and not just in measurable ways, like how many women make partner or get jobs as chief executives.

I’m referring to how we are perceived. The conversation online about women, as about so many other topics, degenerated from silly and snarky to just plain ugly — and it seeped into the mainstream. [emphasis added]

Jennifer Rubin's response echo's CAMERA's response to the Goldstone Report:
Let’s be clear (one of us should be): 9-11 was responsible for ending the lives of many women in fiery infernos and leaving their widowers and children grieving. Only in that sense was it “bad for women.” (But really, had the plaintiffs’ bar only known Ms. Lipman’s theory, we might have had a really innovative class-action gender-claim against al-Qaeda.)
The issue of pursuing gender equality in the midst of the war on terror is a distraction in the hands of the UN just as it is a distortion in the pages of the Goldstone Report--and it is beginning to seep into our thinking.

The fact is that there is a war on terrorism, and it is not isolated to one part of the globe.
Try focusing on that.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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