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9/22/2000 - Swiss Parliament Accepts Abortion Rights Bill

On September 21st, Switzerland's upper House of Parliament passed an abortion rights bill, by a vote of 21 to 18, that would allow a woman to have an abortion within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Two years earlier the Lower House of Parliament voted to pass another pro-abortion legislation that grant women the right to the medical procedure with a 14-week time limit. It is anticipated that both Houses of Parliament will soon reach a consensus on the abortion legislation and that the new legislation will be in effect as law by the year 2002.

9/22/2000 - U.S. Will Oppose Taliban U.N. Spot

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright announced yesterday that the United States will oppose awarding the terrorist Taliban regime a seat at the United Nations. Albright said the decision would be based on the Taliban’s violation of women’s human rights, its harboring of Osama bin Laden, and suspected operation of a terrorist network. The Taliban sent a delegation to New York today to lobby for U.N. recognition. The extremist regime took control of Afghanistan four years ago and issued edicts to strip women of education, employment, and mobility. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates favor giving the Taliban U.N. representation.

Take Action: Urge the U.S. and the U.N. officials to take a more active stance on the human rights violations committed against the women and girls of Afghanistan.

9/20/2000 - France Hosts Diplomatic Talks With Brutal Taliban Regime

In a rare move in France diplomacy, senior French officials invited Taliban officials to diplomatic talks in Paris last week. The move has put France at odds with other NATO countries who have refused to acknowledge the Taliban as the official government of Afghanistan. Senior French officials claim that the meeting was held to initiate peace discussions with the Taliban in an effort to stabilize Afghanistan. Yet France holds major oil and gas interests in the South Asian region whose productivity and ability to transport relies heavily upon Afghanistan. For example, French oil company TotalFinaEfl has a $2 billion (USD) deal for the largest gas reserve in Iran. Reports indicate that France is interested in building a gas pipeline from Iran to India via Afghanistan and Pakistan. Oil and gas interests have apparently superseded France's human rights agenda that has, until this point, refused to acknowledge the Taliban. Women's rights groups globally have urged that human rights abuses and the practice of gender apartheid imposed on the women and girls living in Afghanistan should remain a constant focal point of foreign policy matters and business in the refusal to officially recognize the Taliban. Only three countries in the world officially recognize the brutal regime: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Emirates all of whom have questionable human rights practices.

9/20/2000 - UNFPA Report Cites Widespread Violence Against Women And High Illegal Abortion Death Rate

The United Nations Population Fund's (UNFPA) State of World Population Report 2000 finds that "violence against women and girls remains firmly rooted in all cultures around the world." According to the reports findings 67% of women in Papau New Guinea, 47% of women in Bangladesh, 45% of women in Ethiopia, 40% of women in India, 27% of women in Mexico and 22% of women in the United States reported physical assault by a male partner. UNFPA cites that often times physical assault on women usually occurs in the hands of a person whom they know. The report finds that dowry demands attribute almost 50% of all murder cases where women are victims; 60 million girls are unaccounted for due to sex -selective abortions and infanticide; at least 130 million women have been forced to undergo female genital mutilation and another 2 million are at risk annually; up to 5,000 women and girls are victims of so-called "honour" killings-some 1,000 women were murdered out of so called "honour" in Pakistan alone last year; and every minute one woman dies of pregnancy related causes.

Also included in UNFPA's report are data that show large numbers of women die as a result of illegal, unsafe abortions and that violence against women causes "immense damage" to women's and girls' reproductive health. The report estimates an annual 50 million abortions and 78,000 deaths as a result of unsafe abortions. By comparison, 54,000 American GIs died in all seven years of the Vietnam War, and the UN's reported 78,000 is probably a low estimate, with at least four countries not fully reporting abortion-related deaths. The report also notes that at least 25 percent of all unsafe abortions are to girls between the ages of 15 and 19. According to the report, countries have paid only $2.1 billion of their $5.7 billion pledge to expand reproductive health programs over the past year. Lack of education on reproductive health issues, violence, coercion, and rape, and lack of access to reproductive health services are factors contributing to this dire situation. But the report asserts that global family planning funds and projects are key to improving women's health worldwide. The punitive policies of the United States forbid the use of U.S. funds for safe, legal abortions abroad.

LEARN MORE Click here to read women's narratives about barriers or successes in accessing reproductive health and family planning services.

9/12/2000 - World Health Organization Estimates 4 Million Unsafe Abortions Per Year In Latin America

The World Health Organization estimates that four million unsafe abortions are performed annually in Latin America. Women who cannot afford safe abortion fees ranging from $300 - $600 or who face abortion restrictions are forced to use underground or unsafe abortion facilities. Most Latin American countries impose tight restrictions to abortion access and the procedure itself. In Chile, for example, abortion is illegal and is only permitted in cases where a woman's life is endangered but the country holds one of the highest abortion rate in the region. Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Uruguay all impose restrictions to abortions mandating its availability to "preserve a woman's physical or mental health or for rape or incest or fetal impairment." A September 10 Chicago Tribune story tells of Mrs. Marques a Brazilian woman whose infant died within minutes of birth after she was forced by law to carry her pregnancy to full term despite medical tests showing fetal abnormalities. Gilson Marques, the husband of Mrs. Marques commented, "If we were rich and corrupt we could have gone to any clinic and had [an abortion]………We tried to do it the legal way, the only way we could, and we were called names and persecuted."

9/12/2000 - Fear Of Ethnic Cleansing By Taliban Displaces 100,000

Earlier this month, Taliban forces captured the northern city of Taloqan that borders Tajikistan. Taliban take over of Taloqan sounds the alarm in an already catastrophic situation for Afghans with the Taliban close to capturing the remaining 10% of Afghanistan. Taloqan was the major strong hold of the Northern Alliance, the major force opposing the Taliban inside Afghanistan. More than 100,000 ethnic minorities are reported to have fled Taloqan to escape the Taliban's brutality. United Nations officials and other non-governmental relief agencies are gravely concerned about the plight of those fleeing Taloqan because neither can transport food or medicine due to Taliban block of roads accessing the region. "With a drought already severe, and winter fast approaching, thousands of people could die in the next few weeks," remarked a relief worker in Afghanistan quoted by Electronic Telegraph. United Nations officials are currently invoking talks with Taliban leaders in Kabul to convince the transport of aid convoys to refugees in the Pamir Mountains in preparation of winter that is only six weeks away.

Since 1996, when the Taliban militia took control of Kabul, women in areas under Taliban rule have been oppressed by a strict system of gender apartheid, under which they have been stripped of their visibility, voice and mobility. The edicts imposed by the Taliban, which have been brutally enforced, banished most women from the work force, closed schools to girls in cities and expelled women from universities, and prohibited women from leaving their homes unless accompanied by a close male relative. The Feminist Majority Foundation's Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan works to fully and permanently restore the human rights of Afghan women and girls.

9/12/2000 - Lesbian And Gay Marriages Fully Equal And Legalized In The Netherlands

For the first time ever, The Netherlands passed legislation this week fully legalizing same sex marriages including rights to divorce and adoption of children. Prior to the new legislation, lesbian and gay couples could only register as "same-sex partnerships" in Norway and Sweden, although in 1989 Denmark passed legislation permitting lesbians and gays to marry. The Netherlands are now the first nation in the world to enact such a comprehensive law and thus leads the world in the most progressive lesbian and gay policies. Legislatures passed the bill that allows same-sex couples to marry at city hall, adopt Dutch children, and divorce through the court system with an overwhelming vote of 107-33 on September 11. The new law that extends the same rights that governs heterosexual marriages to gay and lesbians will take effect in early 2001.

9/11/2000 - Educated Women Immigrants In Argentina Work As Domestics

Women Immigrants in the City of Buenos Aires, a study released by the Ecumenical Support Service for Immigrants and Refugees, indicates a great disparity between the level of education achieved by women who migrate to Argentina and income received. The study concludes that the "migration process devalued the educational levels and past training of women (immigrants), who tended to be overqualified for jobs they performed." A survey of 180 women from Paraguay, Peru and Bolivia found of those interviewed 53% were single, 60% had children, and an overwhelming 59% had post-secondary education. Contrary to higher education attainment, of the 180 women surveyed, 68% worked as domestics either in private homes or textile factories. Paraguayan, Peruvian and Bolivian women who migrate to Argentina in search of higher wages to support their families or education costs. For example, one woman interviewed for the study reported that she migrated to Argentina in 1996 to save money to purchase supplies needed for her thesis to complete law school. She has worked as a domestic for four years and has yet to finish her courses. Domestic workers in Paraguay and Bolivia receive average monthly earnings of $20 to $49 monthly versus wages in Argentina of $500 monthly and higher costs of living.

9/11/2000 - Sudan High Court Temporarily Suspends Women's Work Ban

According to BBC World Service on September 9th, the Constitutional Court of Sudan suspended the women's work ban upon further investigation of it legality. Governor Majzoub Khalifa of the Khartoum State has argued the women's work ban decree is legal under Islamic Sharia law. BBC World Service reports that Khalifa has stated that he will ignore the high court's ruling.

9/8/2000 - Pakistani Extremist Group Fire Shots At Women In Beauty Parlor

In less than 24-hours after issuing threats stating that unveiled women in India's state of Jammu and Kashmir would be shot in the leg, Lashker-e-Toiba militants fired shots at two women in a local beauty parlor. The owner and two women inside of the parlor located in Lal Chowk were hospitalized for treatment of bullet wounds in their legs and hips. According to The Times of India the incident is an attempt by Lashker and the Hizbul Mujahideen at "talibanising" Jammu and Kashmir. Lashker-e-Toiba is suspected of working closely with extremist groups in Afghanistan including those like the Taliban, which are aligned with Osama bin Laden.

9/8/2000 - Tokyo Police Face Criminal Charges For Ignoring Stalking Victims Pleas

Shiori Ino, a 21-year old college student, was stabbed to death inside of a Tokyo shopping mall stark daylight by men hired by her former boyfriend. Her death came just four months after she filed police reports that her boyfriend was stalking her. The police department failed to intervene and an internal investigation showed that three officers within the department altered Ino's report "so they wouldn't have to pursue the case." This week the Urawa District Court sentenced two of the officers to an eighteen-month suspended sentence while the third officer received a fourteen-month sentence. Ino's father criticizes that the verdict was not severe enough. "As a parent, I question whether it was really sufficient. The court clearly acknowledged that the police failed to pursue the case properly," remarked Ino's father. The prosecution even at the start of the trial in July never sought sufficient sentencing for the three officers. Prosecutors requested eighteen-month prison sentence for officers charged with falsifying documents that resulted in the death of Shiori Ino.

9/8/2000 - Breast Cancer Drug Possibly Linked To Endometrial Cancer

This week the Lancet medical journal reported that tamoxifen, a drug that has been used for twenty years to treat breast cancer, poses risks of endometrial cancer or cancer of the womb for women who use it long-term. Yet, Dutch researchers who have observed more than 300 women on tamoxifen conclude "that the benefits of the drug for those who have suffered breast cancer still far outweigh the risks." Reports indicate that cancer survival rates were 77% for persons using tamoxifen for long-term use versus 94% among non-tamoxifen users.

9/8/2000 - UNICEF Condemns Women's Employment Ban In Sudan

Deputy Director of UNICEF Karin Sham Poo condemned the decree barring women from working in public places. "I feel that is of course extremely unfortunate that the governor of Khartoum has issued this decree. Many of these working women simply have no other options," adds Sham Poo. The decree was issued just days after Sham Poo visited Sudan to urge their ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). At the start of this week Majzoub Khalifa, governor of Khartoum State, declared that women were no longer allowed to work jobs where they came into contact with men. The directive, which is defended by Sudan's government as upholding Islamic Sharia law, bars women from working at gas stations, hotel rooms, restaurants, and other public places with an exception that allows service to "family members" inside hotels, restaurants or cafeterias.

9/7/2000 - UNICEF Condemns Women's Employment Ban In Sudan

Deputy Director of UNICEF Karin Sham Poo condemned the decree barring women from working in public places. "I feel that is of course extremely unfortunate that the governor of Khartoum has issued this decree. Many of these working women simply have no other options," adds Sham Poo. The decree was issued just days after Sham Poo visited Sudan to urge their ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). At the start of this week Majzoub Khalifa, governor of Khartoum State, declared that women were no longer allowed to work jobs where they came into contact with men. The directive, which is defended by Sudan's government as upholding Islamic Sharia law, bars women from working at gas stations, hotel rooms, restaurants, and other public places with an exception that allows service to "family members" inside hotels, restaurants or cafeterias.

9/7/2000 - Extremist Group Threatens To Shoot Women Government Workers

The Pakistan-based extremist militia, Lashker-e-Toiba, issued a death threat on Thursday to 22,000 government workers in India's state of Jammu and Kashmir if they participated in a statewide census. The death threat also included a warning that women who do not wear the "purdah" (veil) while on the streets will be shot in the leg. A spokesman for the Lashker-e-Toiba stated that "if any one of the 22,000 government employees is seen participating in the census operation her or she will be killed without warning." Lashker-e-Toiba is suspected of working closely with extremist groups in Afghanistan including those like the Taliban, which are aligned with Osama bin Laden.

9/7/2000 - Turkey Bans Gay And Lesbian Tourists From Ancient Ruins

Some 800 gay and lesbian tourists were ordered to return to the cruise liner Olympic Voyager and denied access to the Turkish ancient ruins of Effuses by Turkish police. According to U.S. Department of State and White House officials, passengers of the Olympic Voyager "were rounded up from their locations ashore, ordered to board their buses and escorted by the (Turkish) police back to the ship." A spokeswoman for the Turkish Embassy in Washington attempted to dismiss suggestions that Turkish police were bias against gays and lesbians by commenting, "There are hundreds of gays in Turkey. Probably, ordinary people don't like it very much. But it doesn't make any difference."

9/7/2000 - U.S. Marine Sentenced For Sexual Assault Of Okinawan Girl

Kenny K. Titcomb, an U.S. Marine based at the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station in Okinawa was found guilty earlier this week by a military court and sentenced to two years in prison for "committing an indecent act, unlawful entry into a residence, drunken driving and underage drinking and disorderly conduct." Titcomb was charged in July for sexually assaulting a 14-year -old Okinawan girl. Police reports state that the girl's mother was awakened by her daughter's screams and found the Marine on top of her daughter. Women and other human rights activists in Okinawa have fiercely protested the level of U.S. military personnel after a number of assaults on women and girls. The Okinawa Women Against Military Violence reports that more than 4,700 crimes have been committed by U.S. troops in Okinawa, Japan since 1972. Last month another U.S. Marine was sentenced to four years in prison for the rape of an Okinawa woman.

9/5/2000 - Brundtland Announces Support Of Women's Political Quotas In India

Gro Harlem Brundtland the director-general of the World Health Organization vocally announced her unyielding support for a quota system that would reserve a third of the seats in India's Parliament for women. Ms. Brundtland stated that "many factors still worked against girls and women," and described the bill as a very important step for women. The proposed quota system for women has met considerable amounts of controversy and opposition within the parliament. The bill which aims at reserving a third of lower house seats for women has been rejected in the parliament twice and now awaits a scheduled date for discussion. Quotas are proving to be instrumental in the quest for women's political empowerment and ensuring women's voice in decision making. Since the introduction of quotas in Norway, for example, women represent 40% of political seats and in South Africa women account for 30% of seats in all branches of government.

9/5/2000 - Women In Sudan Banned From Working

The governor of Sudan's Khartoum state, Mazoub Khalifa, announced a decree banning women in the capitol city of Khartoum from working "in public places where they are in direct contact with men." Kalifa states that the decree, "is to honour women, uphold their lofty status and put them in the appropriate place that respects the values and observes the tradition of our nation." A survey conducted this week in Khartoum found that the decree was observed in public places where women university students worked.

Sudan has long held a less than favorable record on women's human rights that continues with its refusal to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The country was one of the five countries plus the Vatican that fiercely opposed advancing the Beijing Platform for Action during its five-year review held in June 2000. According to the U.S. Department of State, Sudan serves as a central hub for international terrorist groups including groups formed by Usama Bin Ladin, the Saudi national who remains in Afghanistan as a guest of the extremist Taliban militia. Like Sudan, the Taliban has also imposed a ban on women's employment.

9/5/2000 - Man Fined For Drugging Woman

An Australian man was fined $3,000 for using ecstasy to spike the drink of an unsuspecting young woman in a Melbourne bar. After consuming the spiked drink, the woman reported a jaw ache, difficulty opening her mouth, a racing heart, sleeplessness and could not work due to illness and shaking. The 33-year old man charged with disgraceful conduct and introducing a drug into the body of another person told an Australian court that he "felt sorry for the woman as (he) believed that she was not having fun and felt (he) was doing her a favor by slipping the tablet into her cocktail."

9/1/2000 - Fears Of Asian Sex Trade Increase In Case Of Kidnapped British Woman

A former British Airways fight attendant, Lucie Blackman, disappeared in Tokyo on July 1 and now is believed to been forced into sexual slavery. The father of the missing woman announced earlier this week that his daughter was drugged with heroin and "smuggled out of Japan as part of a sex trade in Western girls." "There is a belief that Lucie along with four other Western girls, was shipped out of the country to Hong Kong, which is the first stage along the road to other places," claims Mr. Blackman, father of Lucie Blackman.

Women's rights activists are urging the international community and governments to develop tougher laws on sexual trafficking that would include 1) punishment for all traffickers that profit from the recruitment, transport and sale of women into prostitution and 2) greater protections and rights for all women who are recruited, transported and sold into prostitution, regardless of their "consent".

9/1/2000 - Prosecutors In China Charge Man With Rape And Murder Of 19 Women

According to Chinese officials, Gu Guangfan launched a two-year killing spree targeting prostitutes in 1997 to avenge his 1989-rape conviction. "Not only did he not think about repenting, he held a woman responsible for his jail time and gradually came to hate all women," reports the Procuratorial Daily. Gu Guangfan was apprehended after he murdered the 19th woman in September 1999.

9/1/2000 - Taliban Announces Rules For United Nations Aid To Afghanistan

Taliban officials have drafted rules stating that the United Nations must base its humanitarian relief efforts in the capital city of Kabul, use the Afghan banking system for financial transactions and allow the Taliban to vet all staff. The United Nations has warned the rules, following the July 5 edict banning foreign agencies to employ women, severely jeopardizes its relief effort as the country faces a debilitating drought.

8/31/2000 - Australia Treatment Of Aborigines And Refugee Seekers Criticized By U.N.; Australia Threatens To Revoke Any U.N. Involvement Including CEDAW Optional Protocol

Earlier this year the Australian government came under criticism by the United Nations (U.N.) because of discriminatory policies. The U.N. Human Rights Committee charged that the Australian mandatory sentencing laws specifically discriminated against Aborigines, its indigenous population. In another close examination of Australia's policies since the termination of the "white Australia policy" that only European descent immigrants be admitted, the U.N. criticized Australia's policy of holding refugee and asylum seekers in detention camps while their refugee applications are reviewed. According to the Refugee Council of Australia, "(Australia) is the only country that detains all people that arrive without documentation, whether they are a risk to the community or not."

The brewing controversy over Australia's refugee policies draws a heightened level of concern for the growing number of Afghan refugee and asylum seekers there. Since 1999, more than 3,700 persons primarily fleeing Afghanistan, China and Iraq sought asylum in Australia. The Australian Department of Immigration reports that between January and July 11, 2000, approximately 1,345 asylum seekers arrived in the country, most of whom were Afghans and Iraqis.

During the U.N. Millennium Summit held in New York this week, Australia announced that it will not ratify the optional protocol of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and asked that the treaty be removed from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's list of international covenants to be signed. On August 28, 2000, Australia announced that it would "veto nearly all visits by U.N. human rights investigators in response to criticisms of (its) treatment of Aborigines and asylum-seekers."

8/31/2000 - African Girl Assaulted During Racial Attack

A 14-year old African girl was assaulted by attendants of a store in the Republic of South Africa's Northern Province. Store attendants assaulted the 14-year old by taking off her blouse and painting white her stomach, chest, back, neck, arms and head. The report was made public by South African President Mbeki during the opening of a conference organized by the South African Human Rights Commission.