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7/21/2000 - Swaziland May Ban Schoolgirls From Wearing Miniskirts To Halt AIDS Spread

The miniskirts of schoolgirls and their effect on teachers are being blamed for the AIDS epidemic in Swaziland. The ban on miniskirts, which will go into effect next year, will require schoolgirls 10 years and older to wear knee-length skirts. Girls who breach the ban face expulsion from school. "We are living in tough times because of HIV/AIDS. We need to address the problem of dress code among students because it all starts from there," stated an official from the ministry of education. Later this week, the parliament will debate legislation that calls for the mandatory sterilization of people infected with HIV. More than a quarter of adults are estimated to be HIV-positive in Swaziland, and life expectancy is estimated to drop to less than 30 years of age by 2010. Patriarchal customs such as wife inheritance, polygamy, and men's refusal to use condoms have been cited by international humanitarian agencies as contributors to the AIDS epidemic. Considering these prominent obstacles, focusing on the clothing of schoolgirls will have no effect on curbing the AIDS crisis. [Source: The Electronic Telegraph - 19 July 2000]

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

7/21/2000 - U.N. War Crimes Court Upholds First Rape Verdict

The United Nations war crimes court upheld a landmark conviction of a Bosnian Croat paramilitary commander who failed to stop the rape and torture of a Bosnian Muslim woman. Anto Furundzija faces a 10-year prison sentence for standing by as a soldier under his command threatened a woman with a knife and raping her during interrogation. The five-judge U.N. panel of the International War Crimes Tribunal rejected Furundzija's appeal, affirming the momentous December 1998 decision that broadened the definition of rape as a war crime.

7/20/2000 - Thousands Protest Group of Eight Summit in Okinawa

More than 10,000 people protested against the American military's presence in Okinawa on the eve of a Group of Eight summit. The intense hostility towards the American military base, where over two thirds of the 47,000 US troops stationed in Japan reside, derives in part from a series of incidents, the first of which occurred in 1995 when three US servicemen raped a 12-year-old girl. The latest of this string of crimes occurred this year on July 3rd when the police arrested a US marine for breaking into an apartment in Okinawa City and molesting a 14-year-old girl. Carrying signs that read "We want peace!" and "Bring back our lands," the protesters demanded that the G8 nations abolish military bases in Okinawa.

7/20/2000 - Rape and Patriarchal Customs Responsible For Tanzanian AIDS Spread

Recent surveys in Tanzania reveal that the majority of the women contracted the HIV virus because of discriminatory customs and rape, causing the number of infections to soar. According to a 1999 United Nations Human Development Report, Tanzania's male-dominated culture, which is characterized by customs such as wife inheritance and polygamous marriage, largely explains women's higher rates of HIV contraction than men. The National AIDS Control Programme has also pointed to the increasing number of rape cases as another reason for the pandemic. United Nations lists Tanzania as among the top 15 countries where populations are threatened by the AIDS pandemic.

7/20/2000 - Indonesian Men Reluctant to Take Part in Family Planning

Less than six percent of Indonesia's contraceptive users are men, leaving nearly all Indonesian women with full responsibilities for preventing pregnancy. According to Indonesia's National Family Planning Board, men constitute a mere two percent of the 27.7 million active members of family planning programs. Women use birth control pills, contraceptive injection, implant, IUD, or tubectomy as methods of avoiding pregnancy, but most men are reluctant to use condoms. According to The Jakarta Post, men's aversion to male contraceptives perpetuates a gender-discriminatory ideology that assigns domestic and reproductive chores entirely to women.

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

7/19/2000 - Burundian Women Convene, Denounce War Crimes Against Women

More than 50 Burundian women delegates convened in the four-day All-Party Women's Conference to discuss ways of promoting peace in their country and securing women's rights.

The gathering, sponsored by the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the Mwalimu Nyere Foundation, will tackle issues such as establishing women's constitutional rights, implementing a quota system to place more women at the highest levels of decision-making, and prosecuting soldiers accused of rape and other gender-based war crimes.

According to a report released on July 19th by the New York-based organization Human Rights Watch, both Burundi's army and rebels have a gruesome record of raping and inflicting sexual violence in camps where over 350,000 civilians reside. UNIFEM officials estimate that 65 to 85 percent of Burundian refugees are women and children.

7/19/2000 - Nigerian Government Will Establish Women Committee for Peace

The Nigerian government will soon create a national committee, Women For Peace, that seeks to unify women in efforts to eradicate gender discrimination and enlarge their roles in the decision-making process concerning national and international conflicts. The special adviser to the president on Women Affairs, Chief Titilayo Ajanaku, emphasized that the committee would be a diverse group that reaches out to women of varying interests and backgrounds. Ajanaku, condemning Nigeria's abolishment of the Women Affairs ministry, stated that the committee would be crucial to increasing the value of women's status.

7/19/2000 - Nearly 2500 Irish Women Traveled To England For Abortions Last Year

According to a report released by the British Pregnancy Service (BPAS), 2,460 Irish women a year travel to England for abortions - or twenty women a week. This year, already 1012 women have traveled to England for the procedure.

Ann Furedi, the BPAS spokesperson, commented, "There is no denying that Irish women have abortions. Laws and constitutional bans do not prevent it. They simply cause women the distress of having to travel, of having to raise difficult sums of money and sometimes having to conceal their actions."

7/18/2000 - UNICEF Commends Nigeria's Women Empowerment Program

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) praised Nigeria's efforts to improve conditions for women there. Georgiana Nngeri-Nwaga, the agency's representative, commended the ban on female genital mutilation, inclusion of women in policy making, and increased enrollment of girls in school. Despite these advances, however, she noted that the practice of early marriages still exists as does domestic abuse and high mortality due to AIDS. Women are also still denied basic property inheritance rights in Nigeria, and the constant fighting between Muslim and Christian right wing forces remains an ominous threat to democracy, and particularly for the rights of women.

7/18/2000 - Tokyo Trial Will Address War Crimes Against Women

The first trials that focus specifically on war crimes committed against women during World War II will be held by the Women's International War Crimes Tribunal in Tokyo in December. The group's spokesperson, Yayori Matsui, said the event, which was made possible by the Violence Against Women in War-Japan's Women's Network (VAWW-NET), will clarify Japan's responsibility for sexual violence committed by imperial troops during the war.

7/17/2000 - Tamil Rebels Force Girls to Serve As Child Soldiers

Tamil rebels invade schools, homes, and orphanages to seize hundreds of children, some as young as 9 and 10 and many of them girls, and send them into battle against the Sri Lankan Army, reported the University Teachers for Human Rights. Since the rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam began their fight for control of a northern region in the island, the number of children seized for military use has skyrocketed. "Girls have been in a large majority in the current round of recruitment in schools," the report noted. The Tamil Tigers regularly use torture and executions to prevent children from escaping.

Despite the gruesome nature of these atrocities, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a key United Nations document that protects children in armed conflict, has not been ratified by the Senate. President Clinton signed the document on July 5th, but Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has blocked the Convention's ratification.

7/17/2000 - U.N. Urges Taliban to Reverse Ban on Women Aid Workers

The United Nations has begun formal talks with the Taliban to convince them to reverse their ban on Afghan women working for international relief agencies. According to U.N. officials, women workers in Afghanistan are crucial to safeguarding the health and education of Afghan women because male workers are forbidden to meet with women in the Taliban-controlled parts of the country.

The ban has come at a time of a resurgence of fighting between the Taliban and Northern Alliance, devastating drought, severe poverty, and land decimation. United Nations aid workers estimate that tens of thousands of displaced people who refuse to submit to the Taliban are living in tents in rural areas. Abdul Karim, one soldier in the rebel force, condemns the Taliban's interpretation of sharia (Islamic law) as oppressive and inaccurate. He remarked, "They say they're bringing sharia. But it's not sharia to beat women and children or build terrorist bases."

7/17/2000 - Thousands of Rape Survivors in Thailand Are Silent; Abortion Laws Remain Stringent

Women's groups are fighting to help rape survivors in Thailand, where the stigma and shame associated with rape has pushed thousands of young women into muted suffering and suicide. The rape of young girls is also an important part of a larger campaign that will widen Thai women's access to abortion and to legal counsel. Abortion remains illegal in Thailand, except in circumstances where the mother's life is threatened or in which the women can prove in court that they have been raped. An estimated 300,000 Thai women undergo illegal abortions every year.

7/14/2000 - Vancouver RU 486 Doctor Receives Death Threat

The day after Dr. Garson Romalis, an abortion provider in Vancouver, British Columbia, was stabbed outside of his medical office, another prominent Canadian doctor received a death threat on her answering service. Dr. Ellen Wiebe, an abortion provider who also recently initiated the first Canadian clinical trials of mifepristone, immediately called police and received an escort to her office. Due to the marked increase in violence against abortion providers and a notable drop in Canadian doctors who provide abortion services, healthcare professionals and government officials will be holding an emergency meeting to discuss security issues for doctors, nurses, clinic workers. Also on Thursday, the Canadian newspaper The Province received a call from a man claiming that a group called the "The Baby Liberation Army" was responsible for the stabbing and "They were sorry that [Romalis] didn't die." However, after consultation with law enforcement and Canadian and American pro-choice and anti-choice groups, all say they have no prior knowledge about such a group.

Recently, an anti-abortion advocate, Stockwell Day, won the leadership of the conservative Canadian Alliance party. Day, who also opposes gay and lesbian marriages, has been hailed as a major contender in the upcoming elections for prime minister. Marilyn Wilson, president of the Canadian Abortion Rights Action League, commented, "Day's going to try and deny that he would support any violence, and maybe he wouldn't follow up his beliefs with violence, but [our] position is that his platform and his rhetoric does incite other people who share his beliefs against abortion to violence."

7/14/2000 - Women's Rights Groups Use Internet to Fight Taliban Oppression of Women

Cyberspace is crucial to uniting Afghan women against the Taliban oppression and heightening public awareness of the regime's atrocities. Mavis Leno, a spokesperson for the Feminist Majority's Campaign To Stop Gender Apartheid remarked, "It creates a brilliant way to have a very active participation in world politics, particularly with regard to human rights, a way that was never available to people without the Internet." The Feminist Majority's Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid website ( is a proven organizing tool to pressure the United States Government and the United Nations, through American public action, not to support the Taliban. Women's rights organizations all over the world, including the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), have seized the power of the Internet in advocating women's issues that are often not a focal point of international media. Thanks to the websites and ongoing issue raising by groups like the Feminist Majority and RAWA, the catastrophic situation of Afghan women and girls brought on by sadistic Taliban laws are included in U.S. and U.N. humanitarian and foreign policy matters.

7/14/2000 - Women in Ghana Protest Serial Murders

On July 10th hundreds of women demonstrated in front of the police headquarters in Accra, Ghana, demanding resolution to the serial murders of 25 women. The women threatened not to vote in the upcoming December elections until the police take firmer action on the murders and establish hotlines for reporting rape and violence. Chanting and carrying placards that read "If the Killings Don't Stop, No Vote For Any party," the women vowed to strike in their homes and workplaces. These murders have persisted for the past two years, but police have not yet prosecuted any suspects.

7/13/2000 - HIV/AIDS Pandemic, Millions Projected to be Orphans by 2010

The 13th International AIDS Conference held in Durban, South Africa has helped to raise international attention to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. A report by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) states that the AIDS virus would orphan 30.2 million children in sub-Sahara Africa. The USAID report indicates a 10 million increase in orphans from the numbers provide by a recent United Nations Children's Fund Report (UNICEF). USAID states that its number is higher than UNICEF's because of estimates including children who lose either a mother or father or both.

Research shows that there are currently 16 million children who have lost at least one parent because of HIV/AIDS and 90 percent of those children are located in sub-Sahara Africa. UNICEF reports that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is particular threat to the lives of girls with teenage girls being infected at a rate 50% higher than that of boys.

Protecting women and girls from the HIV/AIDS epidemic is difficult due to the ongoing challenges to women's access to reproductive healthcare and stereotypical attitudes brought on by traditional cultures that do not encourage the use of condoms. Medical scientists have been researching microbiocides that would kill HIV in the vagina as a method to help women protect themselves form the virus in lieu of cultural attitudes.

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

7/13/2000 - Taliban Accuses Relief Worker of Spying and Anti-Taliban Propaganda

International relief agencies have been working in an renewed climate of danger to their well-being since last week's Taliban edict ordering all aid agencies and the United Nations to dismiss all Afghan women staff. The Taliban now says this edict as motivated by consensus that Afghan women international aid workers could serve as spies.

Taliban officials took into custody Mary MacMakin after the release of the edict but has been deported from Afghanistan because of Taliban charges of spying and the spread of anti-Taliban propaganda. MacMakin dismisses the Taliban charges saying instead that she is a "threat for the Taliban because my work is with women.'' MacMakin who heads the Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Support for Afghanistan, has worked since 1997 to help Afghan women find home-based income generating projects. MacMakin states that "they (the Taliban) don't want women to work outside of the home, don't want them to be educated or give them a hint of freedom or be creative."

Since the Taliban control of the Afghan capitol Kabul in 1996, the extremist regime has enforced laws that refute women and girls access to education, employment outside of the home and quality medical care. The Taliban's attacks on the human rights of women and girls have contributed to Afghanistan's ranking of having the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world. A report released by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights indicates that every day in Afghanistan an average of 45 women die of pregnancy related causes resulting in 16,000 maternal deaths annually.

7/13/2000 - New Laws in Britain Would Increase Number of Women And Black MPs

If Britain's Labor Party succeeds in passing new laws that mandate quotas, every political party will be legally required to select women and black members of Parliament (MPs) in parliamentary seats. In the upcoming elections, only one woman has been selected to run in the 29 available seats. Advocates of the new laws argue that the quota system is a necessary first step to erasing pervasive discrimination against women and minorities. Women's political representation in Britain ranks nearly at the bottom of developed countries. A dismal 18 percent of MPs are women compared with 43 percent in Sweden, 36 percent in Finland, and 31 percent in Germany.

7/13/2000 - Reproductive Rights Key to Empowering Women, UN Reports

The United Nations' commemoration of World Population Day on July 11th emphasized the crucial link between reproductive rights and women's empowerment. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan remarked, "Too many women still cannot choose when or whether to become pregnant. Too many women resort to abortions that are not safe." Every minute a woman dies because of pregnancy or childbirth complications, according to a report recently released by the United Nations Population Fund. The report stated that sexual violence, female genital mutilation, and lack of access to contraceptives and reproductive health education contribute to women's poverty, transmission of AIDS and STDs, unemployment, and death.

7/13/2000 - Egyptian Throws His Wife From Window Over Chicken Dispute

An Egyptian oil ministry official flung his wife from a third-floor window after she refused to give him a larger helping of chicken than his sons. Doctors are treating the woman for a fractured spine in the hospital, while the police has arrested the husband.

7/12/2000 - Taliban Orders Relief Worker to Leave Afghanistan

With the arrest of relief worker Mary MacMakin on July 11 and her deportation ordered by the Taliban on July 12, non-governmential aid organizations in Afghanistan are working in a tense atmosphere. A survey of the 40 international aid organizations in Kabul conducted yesterday revealed that their Afghan women employees had not gone to work, fearing Taliban retaliation. U.N. officials are still deciphering whether a far-reaching "crackdown" on women's employment has been ordered, or whether a single Taliban minister is behind the move, the Associated Press reported late yesterday. International humanitarian groups received a letter of warning last week, and American relief worker Mary MacMakin was arrested yesterday and held in a juvenile detention center, apparently as a part of a crackdown, and was ordered today to leave Afghanistan within 24 hours.

U.N. officials confirmed, in a late-breaking story by the AP, that MacMakin and the seven Afghan women arrested with her were released today and ordered to leave Afghanistan. The women say they were treated well. MacMakin's Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Support of Afghan Women (PARSA) teaches practical farming and crafts skills to Afghan widows.

Since the Taliban forcefully took power in Afghanistan, women and girls have been living under a reign of terror. Barred from working outside the home, women are forced to wear the all-covering burqa, and are living under virtual house arrest. Employing Afghan women is essential not only to the economic survival of the 28,000 widows in Afghanistan (where women are not allowed to leave the home without a close male relative), but to the thousands of children served by international humanitarian aid organizations.

7/12/2000 - U.S. and Others Could Have Prevented Rwanda Genocide, Report Says

The United States and other nations and institutions should pay a "significant level of reparations" for their failure to stop genocide in Rwanda in 1994, reported an independent international panel. The seven-member group targeted the U.S., France, Belgium, and the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches for their apathy and inaction during the massacres that claimed the lives of up to 800,000 people. Thousands of women were raped and killed in this brutal period, but nations and institutions largely ignored these atrocities. Though President Clinton and Belgium's government have apologized to Africa for the absence of international aid, neither France nor the Roman Catholic Church have accepted blame for their complicity in the genocide.

7/12/2000 - U.S. Military Crimes Against Women Continue in Okinawa

The Okinawa Women Against Military Violence says that more than 4,700 crimes have been committed by U.S. troops in Okinawa, Japan since 1972, many of which have been offenses against women and girls. On July 3rd a drunk U.S. soldier entered the home of a 14-year-old girl and is facing charges of molestation. Since the incident, the United States military has imposed a limit on alcoholic beverage consumption and a 5 a.m. curfew for soldiers after a hit and run accident that involved an intoxicated U.S. military officer.

7/12/2000 - UNIFEM Cites Gender Digital Divide As Global Issue

Unless information and communications technologies (ICTs) are equally shared between women and men, the economic and social gap between sexes will worsen, warns Noeleen Heyzer, the head of the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). In Guyana, for instance, a group of rural women generated new wealth when they used their website to sell 17 hand-woven hammocks, 1000 dollars each. But male leaders took control of their ICTs, leaving women to comment, "We women do most of the work, and the men get rewarded." Though ICTs can potentially eradicate poverty and increase global connectivity, they can also exacerbate gender inequality. "If the global community and national level policy makers are not pro-active about ensuring that the benefits of ICTs are equally available to and shaped by women and men, we will fail to reap the full potential of these powerful tools," Heyzer said.