Baha'i faith rallies for women's rights

Posted: Friday, November 22, 2002

The support of Baha'i members in Alaska has added to an overwhelming outcry from more than 170 countries and 100 non-governmental organizations urging an end to worldwide abuses of women and children, as expressed in the 1979 Treaty for the Rights of Women, created at the United Nations' Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

This support comes on the heels of the U.S. Senate Foreign Rel-ations Committee's July 30, 12-to-seven vote in support the treaty.

The Alaska Baha'i community sent letters to the state's congressional delegation, urging its support of the Treaty for the Rights of Women.

In an October letter to all Alaskan Baha'i members, David Baumgartner, Alaska Baha'i secretary, wrote, "Sending a letter urging Alaska's congressional delegation to support ratification of this treaty is one concrete way that Alaskan Baha'is and the Alaska Baha'i community can add our voices to the network of people throughout the world standing for the basic human rights of women. We urge your prompt action on this matter."

Yeganeh Ataian, an Iranian religious refugee who came to Kenai in 1985, said that her treatment in Iran's male-dominated society "has made me realize how important the ratification of CEDAW by the United States is to safeguard the rights of women and further their advancement in all the arenas of life internationally."

Ataian's escape from Iran to Alaska involved a two-year period of time, during which she was supported by the United Nations. She is currently an instructor at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Ataian said that while attending the 1995 U.N. Conference on Women in Beijing, "I met women and girls from all over the world who had been victimized in different ways, such as sexual exploitation, economical set-back due to lack of education or male domination, lack of health care."

The stories of their challenges, hopes and dreams inspired Ataian to work toward the empowerment of women across Alaska by joining with other like-minded Alaska women to found the Alaska Women's Network.

Every nation that has ratified the U.N.'s Treaty for the Rights of Women can offer solid examples of working in partnership with women to change inequitable laws. In Uganda, South Africa, Brazil and Australia, treaty provisions have been incorporated into the countries' constitutions and domestic legal codes.

The Ukraine, Nepal, Thailand and the Philippines have passed new laws curbing sexual trafficking.

India has developed national guidelines on workplace sexual assault.

Nicaragua, Jordan, Egypt and Guinea report significant increases in literacy rates after improving access to education for women and girls.

Colombia has made domestic violence a crime and required legal protection for its victims.

Supporting organizations within the United States include the AARP, American Nurses Assoc-iation, National Coalition of Catholic Nuns, American Bar Association, The United Methodist Church, YWCA and Amnesty International.

However, until the U.S. ratifies the treaty, it remains in the unlikely company of a handful of other non-ratifying countries such as Iran, Sudan, Afghanistan and Somalia.

A new Web site,, contains background information on the treaty and specific examples of its impact.

Ratification of international treaties requires a two-thirds vote or 67 senators and does not require consideration by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Paul Gray is a member of Baha'i Faith. Sunday devotions at the Ridgeway Baha'i Center on Knight Drive in Ridgeway, are at 11 a.m. Children's class is at 11:30 a.m.

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