Monday, December 8


The UN secretary-general urges that physicians not refuse to do abortions on women who report being raped in the camps serving refugees from Iraq and Syria. 

""The Secretary-general’s comments are part of an ongoing dispute between nations and the UN bureaucracy on how best to end rape and sexual violence in conflict," reports Susan Yoshihara for the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute and "Like the work of the [UN Security] Council, major political initiatives in the last few years have emphasized ending impunity for perpetrators and making reparations to survivors of violence.... UN staff, however, have promoted a feminist agenda which views deconstructing traditional social relationships and abortion rights as necessary steps to ending discrimination and violence."

The secretary-general suggests that his recommendation is in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2122, adopted in 2013. The resolution does not specify abortion, but does recognize "the importance of Member States and United Nations entities seeking to ensure humanitarian aid and funding includes provision for the full range of medical, legal, psychosocial and livelihood services to women affected by armed conflict and post-conflict situations, and noting the need for access to the full range of sexual and reproductive health services, including regarding pregnancies resulting from rape, without discrimination...."  

The resolution also points out that women are especially vulnerable in armed conflict with "forced displacement," "unequal citizen rights," "gender-biased application of asylum laws," and "increased risk of violence." It also urges participation of women and consideration of gender-related issues. 

Syria and Iraq are "red" countries on the World Abortion Laws map from the Center for Reproductive Rights: In Syria, abortion is explicitly permitted to save a woman's life, but spousal authorization and parental notification are required. In Iraq, the law is not explicit on exceptions on saving a woman's life. 

Permanent members of the UN Security Council - United States, China, France, Russia and the United Kingdom - are "green" countries, where abortion is generally permitted for most women without restriction on reason. Non-permanent members are a mixed bag: Chile and Nigeria are red which allow for saving a woman's life or are prohibited; Argentina (allows for cases of rape), Chad (allows for fetal impairment), Jordan, Republic of Korea (allowed for incest and rape; spousal authorization required) and Rwanda (allowed for incest and rape) are orange, allowed for various health puproses; Australia, Lithuania, Luxembourg are green. 

"According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), over 3 million have fled to Syria's immediate neighbours Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. 6.5 million are internally displaced within Syria," reports the Migration Policy Centre at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy, also noting that "the influx of refugees has been an enormous challenge for Syria’s neighbours, with strong implications for the stability of the entire region." 

As of July, 22 countries, most in Europe, have agreed to help resettle more than 34,000 Syrian refugees who have fled to a second country. The United States, Kuwait, European Commission, United Kingdom, Canada and Japan lead in pledging funds to support UN appeals to assist Syrian refugees, reported the UN Tribune. 

The camps are bleak places offering little in the way of education for children or work for parents. More than 30 million children worldwide cannot attend school because of violent conflicts, reports UNICEF. 

Allure of Deceit, to be released in February 2015, is a mystery novel about post-war Afghanistan and the small village of Laashekoh. The novel explores how charitable giving can come with a hidden agenda and upend incentives. Children run away to an orphanage. A caregiver accepts donor funds for women's health care, but lacks patients. A Michigan foundation director pursues programs for the purpose of solving the murder of her wealthy son. Lying is a means of self-defense. 

Contact the publisher for review copies. 

July 2013 photo of Za'atri camp for Syrian refugees is from the US State Department and Wikimedia Commons. 

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