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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.


8/31/2000 - Prominent Burmese Woman Political Leader's Human Rights Suppressed

Aung San Suu Kyi, the first woman from Southeast Asia to win the Nobel Peace Prize, is currently protesting the Burmese (Myanmar) military restrictions on her freedom of movement. Elected in 1990 while under house arrest as leader of the National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi's human rights continue to be violated. She demonstrated against the Burmese military recently with a 7-day protest in her car. Aung San Suu Kyi is forbidden to travel outside the country or meet with her supporters. The United States Department of State and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan have publicly condemned the Burmese military for imposing restrictions on Aung San Suu Kyi's freedom of movement.


8/30/2000 - Women's Rights Protesters In Mexico Force Legislatures To Overturn Anti-Abortion Bill

Earlier this month legislatures in the state of Guanajuato passed a bill blocking women's access to abortion even in cases of rape. Through the relentless efforts of women's rights and abortion rights protesters coordinated by 29 year-old Veronica Cruz Sanchez, the bill will be overturned and not become law. Also, the move to overturn the bill signals that president-elect Vicente Fox and the National Action Party (PAN) are forced to cautiously draft and consider national policies independent of the Roman Catholic Church. Members of Mexico's Roman Catholic Archdiocese have stated that "even on the case of pregnancy that is the result of rape, we must ask the woman to accept the mysterious designs of God." Women's rights and abortion rights advocates have suspected that this argument of the Roman Catholic Church greatly influenced legislatures of Guanajuato and members of PAN to create restrictions to abortions in cases of rape.


8/30/2000 - Woman In India Tortured For Two-Months Over Dowry

A 20-year old woman was chained to a bed, beaten and denied sufficient amounts of food for a period of two months by the family of her husband because of failure to meet the family's dowry demand. The torture of the woman was caused by her husbands feeling of insecurity about his impotence and fear that she would leave him because of his medical condition. She was able to escape by sheer luck when her mother-in-law forgot to secure the manacles that bound her hands.

The cruel and inhumane treatment of women over dowry disputes is not uncommon in India. Dowry, the act of giving or receiving, is considered illegal in India and punishable under law. However, the exchange of dowries remains widely practiced and dowry disputes are equally settled through torture and burning of women by their husbands and in-laws.


8/30/2000 - Six-Year Old Northern Ireland Girl Abducted By Sex Attacker

A six-year old girl was taken from her hotel room and sexually assaulted on the hotel grounds while vacationing with her family in Majorca. According to an Electronic Telegraph report, the attacker entered the girl's bedroom by climbing over a balcony and then took her to a dark corner on the grounds of the hotel near a swimming pool. The hotel where the six-year old and her family stayed, the Palmanova, has a reputation of being a "lager lout" destination for drunken young Britons causing violent disturbances.


8/29/2000 - Women Integrate Bangladesh Armed Forces

Bangladesh has become the third South Asian country to integrate it’s armed forces by allowing women to serve as officers. Nearly 15,000 women have submitted applications, which is twice the number of recent male applicants. Despite this step forward, Bangladeshi women still face significant obstacles to achieving equality. Only half as many women as men in the country are literate, and women make up less than a tenth of 1.1 million government employees in the nation.


8/29/2000 - Taliban Observers Barred From Olympic Games

Last week, after denying the Taliban’s request to send athletes to the Sydney 2000 Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) agreed to allow two Afghan observers to attend the games. However, following suggestions by Taliban leaders that this concession constituted IOC recognition of the Taliban, the IOC has revoked these privileges. “They have turned this into a political issue by making a statement that this is recognition…. Those arguments are completely wrong and totally outside what was agreed orally at the meeting. They are no longer invited,” stated IOC spokesman Franklin Servan-Schreiber.


8/29/2000 - Female Athletes And Viewers Central To Sydney Olympics

Women athletes will play a prominent role in the upcoming Sydney 2000 Olympic Games as 270 American women compete against 4,100 women from around the world, the largest number of females ever to compete in the games. Runner Marla Runyan will be the first legally blind athlete to compete on the U.S. team, marking a significant victory for disabled athletes. While female athletes make their mark in Sydney, women around the world are expected to dominate the TV viewing audience. As a result, television broadcasters plan to cater more to women’s interests, giving more air time to women’s sporting events.


8/25/2000 - Saudi Arabia Will Sign CEDAW, With Restrictions

Saudi Arabia announced earlier this week that it would sign the Convention On the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Officials in the Saudi government stated that they would abide by those statues of the treaty that do not contradict Islamic Sharia law. This conditioning makes the Saudi commitment to the treaty unclear whereas women living in the country suffer from vast human rights restrictions. Women living in Saudi Arabia, including foreign visitors, must follow strict dress code or suffer consequences such as detention or ill treatment; are not allowed to drive; must walk with the company of her husband or close male relative; and must obtain written permission from a male relative in order to travel.


8/25/2000 - Workplace Obstacles For Women Force Government Birthrate Incentives

Japanese culture and work environment where business meetings often begin after 6:00 p.m., where working unpaid overtime is routine and expected, and where employee transfers to different cities are frequent, force many Japanese working women to prioritize their jobs over bearing and raising children. The country's birthrate fell to a record low of 1.34 babies per woman in 1999. In an effort to boost the birthrate, the Japanese government is offering incentives including subsidies for women raising children and extended paid leave for new parents. A few companies and government agencies are slowly beginning to accommodate working women's needs, but a large-scale shift in the Japanese business approach to working women has not yet been realized.


8/25/2000 - Women Sweep High-Level Constitutional Posts In New Zealand

The recent appointment of former high court judge Dame Silvia Cartwright as governor general of New Zealand marks a significant victory for women, as all of the country's top constitutional posts are now held by females. Dame Cartwright has previously broken barriers for women, serving as the first woman chief judge of New Zealand's District Courts and the country's first female high court judge. In 1893, New Zealand became the first country to give women the vote.


8/25/2000 - Smeal and Leno Unveil Back to School Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls

Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, and Mavis Leno, chair of the Foundation's Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan unveiled a Back to School Campaign - a new initiative to raise public awareness of the brutal treatment of women and girls under the Taliban, which has banned them from attending schools, working or leaving their homes unaccompanied by a close male relative. The Back to School Campaign includes an Adopt-A-School Project, an Afghan Women's Scholarship Program, and a petition drive urging the U.S. government to do more to help Afghan women and girls.

"As women and girls return to schools throughout the United States, Afghan women and girls are not allowed to go to school. Through our Adopt-A-School Project, the Back to School Campaign will make a human connection between girls and boys in the United States and Afghan girls, between U.S. teachers and Afghan teachers, and between Americans who care and the Afghan women and girls who are suffering because of the Taliban's brutal regime," said Smeal. "We want to help the heroic women who are running home-based schools for girls in Afghanistan, and schools in Pakistan for Afghan refugees" added Smeal.

"Here are some of the donations that people can make: $20 will pay for a classroom chalkboard. $36 would be a teacher's salary for a month," explained Leno. "It's also no small thing to let your child know that they can stand up for human decency and human rights, that they can make a real difference in the life of other people in this world," added Leno.

The American public response to the Feminist Majority Foundation's Campaign To Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan has been very encouraging. "We have been told by the State Department that our letter-writing campaign thus far has produced more mail than any other single foreign policy issue," said Smeal. The campaign is delivering some 211,000 petitions to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and President Clinton, urging them to increase humanitarian aid and assistance to the women and girls of Afghanistan.

Frayba Wakili, the first Afghan Scholarship Program recipient who will start college this fall in Maryland, shared her courageous story with reporters. "Imagine being a teacher in a country where it is a crime to teach girls how to count. Imagine living in a country where a child could be killed for learning the alphabet or opening a book. This is what's happening in Afghanistan every day," said Wakili, as tears streamed down her face. "I am one of the fortunate ones, but I can't forget all the girls and women at home who are not as lucky as me," added Wakili.

Learn more about FMF's Back to School Campaign and get involved in the fight to end gender apartheid in Afghanistan.


8/24/2000 - Smeal and Leno Unveil Back To School Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls

Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, and Mavis Leno, chair of the Foundation’s Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan today unveiled a Back to School Campaign – a new initiative to raise public awareness of the brutal treatment of women under the Taliban, which has banned women and girls from attending schools, working, or leaving their homes unaccompanied by a close male relative. The Back to School Campaign will include an Adopt-A-School Project, Afghan Women’ s Scholarship Project, and a petition drive urging the U.S. government to do more to help Afghan women and girls.

“As women and girls return to schools throughout the United States, Afghan women and girls are not allowed to go to school. The Back to School Campaign will make a human connection between girls and boys in the United States with Afghan girls, between U.S. teachers and Afghan teachers, and between Americans who care and the Afghan women and girls who are suffering because of the Taliban’s brutal regime,” said Smeal.

“We must do more to restore the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan. We want to help the heroic women who are running schools for girls in Afghanistan despite the ban and desperately-needed schools for Afghan refugee girls in Pakistan,” added Smeal.

Leno remarked, “Through the Back to School Campaign students, teachers, parents, and Americans generally in the U.S. will have the opportunity to connect directly with Afghan women and girls and let them know that they are not forgotten. When people hear about the Taliban’s atrocities against women, they want to help.”

Local action teams comprised of high school and college students, YWCAs, members of community groups, and collections of friends and colleagues will participate in the three components of the Back to School Campaign:

The Adopt-A-School Project where action teams will “adopt” an Afghan girls’ school in Pakistan or Afghanistan in order to exchange letters, photographs, and drawings with Afghan women and girls who are teachers and students and to help support these schools financially.

The Afghan Women’s Scholarship Program for which action teams will recruit scholarships from U.S. colleges and universities.

A petition drive to urge the U.S. government and the United Nations to do everything in their power to help restore the rights of Afghan women and girls; to significantly increase education, health, and humanitarian assistance for women and girls in Afghanistan and those living as refugees in Pakistan; and to continue to refuse to grant recognition to the Taliban.


The Feminist Majority Foundation has gathered over 210,000 petitions urging more U.S. action for Afghan women. Smeal and Leno will present petitions to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to coincide with the launching of the Back to School Campaign. President Clinton, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright have all spoken out against gender apartheid and the U.S. has refused to recognize the Taliban regime. “Even before this delivery of petition, the State Department told us that the issue of Afghan women had generated more mail and e-mails any other current foreign policy issue.”

Even before its official launch, the Back to School Campaign is taking off, with pledges from the American Federation of Teachers, YWCAs, and the Coalition of Labor Union Women to adopt schools. One of the first action teams to volunteer for the Adopt-A-School Project was the Olympia, Washington YWCA’s “Girls Without Limits” after-school program. The 60 participants in the program will exchange letters and pictures with students at an Afghan refugee girls’ school in Pakistan, and will help raise funds to help their sisters in Afghanistan purchase pencils, notebooks and other educational supplies.

The Women’s Issues Club at Friends’ Central School outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania also will adopt a school. Spearheaded by hig


8/24/2000 - Hollywood Joins Feminist Majority Foundation Back to School Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls

Mavis Leno, chair of the Feminist Majority Foundation's Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan, joined by her husband Jay Leno, the Rugrat's Cheryl Chase, and Boy Meets World's Trina McGee-Davis, together with Katherine Spillar, national coordinator of the Feminist Majority Foundation, today unveiled a Back to School Campaign. This new initiative will raise public awareness about the brutal treatment of women under the Taliban, an extremist regime which has banned women and girls from attending schools, working, or leaving their homes unless accompanied by a close male relative. The Back to School Campaign will include an Adopt-A-School Project, the Afghan Women's Scholarship Project, and a petition drive urging the U.S. government to do more to help Afghan women and girls.

"As women and girls return to schools throughout the United States, Afghan women and girls are not allowed to go to school. The Back to School Campaign will make human connections between children in the United States and Afghan girls, between U.S. teachers and Afghan teachers, and between Americans who care and the Afghan women and girls who are suffering because of the Taliban's brutal regime," said Spillar.

"We must do more to restore the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan. We want to help the heroic women who are running clandestine schools for girls in Afghanistan," Mavis Leno remarked. "Through the Back to School Campaign, students, teachers, parents will have the opportunity to connect directly with Afghan women and girls and let them know that they are not forgotten. When people hear about the Taliban's atrocities against women, they want to help."

Local action teams comprised of high school and college students, YWCAs, members of community groups, and collections of friends and colleagues will participate in the three components of the Back to School Campaign:


  • The Adopt-A-School Project where action teams will “adopt” an Afghan girls’ school in Pakistan or Afghanistan in order to exchange letters, photographs, and drawings with Afghan women and girls who are teachers and students and to help support these schools financially.
  • The Afghan Women’s Scholarship Program for which action teams will recruit scholarships from U.S. colleges and universities.
  • A petition drive to urge the U.S. government and the United Nations to do everything in their power to help restore the rights of Afghan women and girls; to significantly increase education, health, and humanitarian assistance for women and girls in Afghanistan and those living as refugees in Pakistan; and to continue to refuse to grant recognition to the Taliban.

The Feminist Majority Foundation has gathered over 210,000 petitions urging more U.S. action for Afghan women. Smeal and Leno will present petitions to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to coincide with the launching of the Back to School Campaign. President Clinton, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright have all spoken out against gender apartheid and the U.S. has refused to recognize the Taliban regime. “Even before this delivery of petition, the State Department told us that the issue of Afghan women had generated more mail and e-mails any other current foreign policy issue.”

Even at this early stage, the Back to School Campaign is taking off, with pledges from over 80 action teams, including the American Federation of Teachers, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the Entertainment Industry Foundation and the Children's Museum of Los Angeles. One of the first action teams to volunteer for the Adopt-A-School Project were students at the all-girl Ramona public high school in East Los Angeles. Students at Ramona High School will exchange letters and pictures with students at an Afghan refugee girls school in Pakistan, and will help raise funds to purchase pencils, notebooks and other educational supplies. School Board member David Tokofsky j


8/23/2000 - South African Women At Highest Risk For HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS, the leading cause of death in Africa, disproportionately affects African women. South African women in particular are among the highest risk groups in the world. Statistics indicate that between 23 and 33 percent of pregnant women in South Africa carry the virus. The high rate of infection among mother's results 70,000 South African babies born annually infected with HIV/AIDS. Although clinical trials have shown that the drug AZT administered during pregnancy can significantly reduce the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission, the treatment remains widely unavailable to poor women who cannot afford its high price tag. The World Bank AIDS Trust Fund recently announced grants for AIDS prevention, care, and education available to countries hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.


8/23/2000 - Britain Supports Creation Of International Criminal Court

The British government is planning to announce later this week that it will support the creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The move by the British government leaves the United States, which opposes the ICC without full exemptions for its military personnel and officials, in stark contrast with the members of the European Union all of whom support the ICC. China, Libya, Saudia Arabia, and the United States represent four of the seven countries opposed to the court.

The establishment of the International Criminal Court would be momentous in the worldwide effort to protect the human rights of women and girls. The court's mandate presents clear language, fort the first time ever in international law, defining gender crimes including rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, crime of apartheid, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity as crimes against humanity. Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Senator Jesse Helms who has blocked U.S. ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), also adamantly opposes the establishment and jurisdiction of the ICC. For a treaty to be ratified in the U.S., it must be approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and by a 2/3 vote of the Senate.


8/23/2000 - Lung Disease Rate Among Women Rising

A recent report reveals that chronic lung disease among women has almost doubled in seven years due to heavy smoking. Almost half of the 50,000 cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease diagnosed in England and Wales between 1990 and 1997 were among women. These numbers constitute a steep rise in the percentage of women with the disease, from .8 percent of the total population in 1990 to 1.36 percent in 1997. Chronic lung disease is incurable and is the fifth most common cause of death world-wide, according to the 1998 World Health Report. Some doctors theorize that the current high rate of the disease among women is the result of smoking patterns from the 1950s and '60s when smoking among women was widely portrayed as fashionable.


8/22/2000 - Singapore Offers Financial Incentives For Maternity Leave

In an effort to increase fertility and replenish the country's population, the Singaporean government is offering substantial incentives to women to bear more children. The government is paying employers up to $20,000 to grant working mothers eight weeks of maternity leave for a third child. Altogether, the Singaporean government will be shelling out at least $260 million for new financial incentives and childcare arrangements to help mothers. Couples bearing a second or third child will benefit from the "Baby Bonus" of a Children Development Account which the government will fund until the child's sixth birthday, contributing from $500 to $1000 annually to the account. In addition, the government is offering huge tax breaks to working mothers of multiple children, cutting taxes as much as $20,000 to $40,000 for mothers of a third or fourth child. Singapore's current efforts mark an abrupt change from the country's former "Stop at Two" policy as the country now mobilizes an effort to increase child-bearing and strengthen Singapore's population.


8/22/2000 - British Study Contradicts Fear Of Increased Clotting From Pill Use

Contrary to popular beliefs about the birth control pill, a recent British Medical Journal study showed that new types of pills, specifically third generation pills introduced in the 1990's, do not increase the risk of blood clots. Fear of blood-clotting due to third generation pill usage has caused the percentage of women using the drug to fall from 53 to 14 percent among women using oral contraceptives. The recent study provides encouragement for women to resume usage of birth control pills containing desogestrel and gestodene, as the study found no evidence of increased blood clotting in comparing the rate of venous clotting in women between 1992 and 1998.


8/22/2000 - Women In Southern Africa Score Political Power

The 1997 gender equality mandate for Southern Africa, better known as the Declaration on Gender and Development, spearheaded a movement in which women can embark on the decision-making process with equal footing. The Declaration set forth provisions for women to achieve at least 30 percent of seats in Parliament and other governmental structures by the year 2005. Women in the Republic of South Africa now comprise 117 seats, or 26 percent, of the 442 seats in Parliament. In other parts of Southern Africa the numbers for women in decision-making positions are less promising. For example, only 8 women hold seats in Botswana's 44 member Parliament. Recent political elections in Zimbabwe did very little to increase women's representation in Parliament, in fact they undermined some advancement. Prior to the elections women held 22 seats in Parliament, today they hold only 12.

Women's rights activists argue that the difficulty in achieving the 30 percent goal by the year 2005 is due in part to "deep-rooted cultural and social attitudes" among their male counterparts. Representation by women in politics and other decision-making positions is critical for the removal of barriers to their human rights like inheritance rights, land and property rights and access to education. Statistics show that girls make up two- thirds of the 110 million children without education.


8/21/2000 - Taliban Target Afghan Widows Unmercifully

The Taliban militia's harsh new policies are compromising the lives of thousands of Afghan widows. In an attempt to enforce a system of gender apartheid, Taliban authorities imposed a new ruling that forbids women from being employed by foreign aid agencies. Many agencies provide food to thousands of poor Afghan widows and their families, and cannot operate without the help of Afghan women employees. Earlier this month, a public outcry prompted the Taliban to reverse a ruling ordering the United Nations to close bakeries run by Afghan widows that provided bread at subsidized prices to thousands of Afghan families.

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.


8/18/2000 - Violence Against Women Prevention Projects Hindered by Lack of Funds

United Nations agencies are feeling the repercussion of a growing problem witnessed in the global women's movement - lack of resources to support and fund women's projects. Specifically, the United Nation's Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and its Trust Fund were forced to make narrow decisions on more than 200 funding requests totaling $12.5 million (US) dollars to fund only 17 projects with a total of $1 million (US) dollars aimed at eliminating violence against women. According to UNIFEM's Executive Director, Noleen Heyzer the biggest obstacle in sponsoring violence prevention "is not a lack of ideas" but " a lack of resources." Programs funded by UNIFEM range from a Women's Centre for Legal AID and Counseling in Jordan to promote dialogue among judges on issues like honour and crimes against women to the International Women's Judges Association to assist with the creation of a group of 300 judicial officers and academicians to lead training sessions for judges on making informed decisions on violence against women and gender discrimination.