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7/25/2000 - Women in Eastern Europe Caught in Sex Trade
Tens of thousands of young Eastern European women are being lured into the sex trade by criminals who are making enormous profits. By coercing them into leaving the poverty of their own countries, like Bosnia and Macedonia, for a better life in Western Europe, these criminals deceive women into becoming prostitutes and then enslave and abuse these women. The International Organization for Migration reports that at least 300,000 women from Eastern Europe work as prostitutes in Western Europe, while the U.N. and other sources estimate that indirect global profits from the sex trade range from 7 billion to 12 billion dollars a year. The success of the criminals who engage in and support the Eastern European sex trade is linked to the cooperation of many corrupt government officials in the former Yugoslav federation, who share in the profits.
7/24/2000 - More Iranian Women Attend Universities
The number of Iranian women attending a university has risen substantially in the past two years. Between 1990 to 2000, the number of women entering universities tripled, and women students outnumber men in disciplines such as medicine and social sciences. Despite these changes, women only constitute 14 percent of the labor force and are overrepresented in the unemployment rolls by a factor of 2 to 1, according to a recent United Nations report on human development in Iran. The universities, which ban visitors and music for women and closely monitor dress and reading materials, continue to impose strict restrictions on the women's lives.
7/24/2000 - Irish Women Have More Late Abortions
Irish women are nearly three times as likely to have late abortions than British women, according to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS). Of the 6,214 Irish women who traveled to Britain to have abortions, almost 40 percent of the clients at BPAS had not received counseling. Currently, more than six thousand women in Ireland, where abortion remains illegal, must travel to Great Britain for abortion services. Ann Furedi of the BPAS commented that the "additional obstacles that they have to surmount to get over to Britain" explained the lateness of the women's abortions, pointing out that the costs of travel and absence of legal support were difficult barriers.
Sexual harassment victims in China do not feel that they are receiving enough support, according to a recent survey by the Chinese Women's College that included 4,000 women residing in urban areas. Many reported that they frequently witnessed situations of sexual harassment at the office and in public, but that they did not realize such behavior constituted a violation of women's rights.
Social service agencies and children's rights groups estimate that there are about 4,000 children in Okinawa abandoned by American servicemen. According to Annette Eddie-Callagain, who has opened a private law practice to help the deserted Okinawan families, the children are deprived of basic human necessities such as food and education due to the desperate economic situation of their mothers. Additionally, the children endure prejudice from the Japanese society, which still does not accept multiracial children. While the United States and some European countries have agreements allowing women to receive financial support for children in the case of military personnel abandonment, no such agreement exists between the United States and Japan.
7/24/2000 - Taliban Holds Public Execution in Afghanistan
In Kabul this past weekend, a crowd of thousands watched the first public execution in Afghanistan since an Afghan woman was stoned to death in May for adultery. The brother of one of the killer's victims was able to cut the man's throat because it follows the Taliban's strict interpretation of Islamic law where a victim's family can execute the convicted killer. The Taliban advocates the killing of convicted murderers and adulterers, the amputation of limbs for thieves and beatings for people found guilty of any lesser crimes. Afghan officials also announced that they are considering lifting the ban on television so that the medium can be used to promote Afghan culture and Islam.
7/21/2000 - Taliban Refuses to Lift Ban on Women Aid Workers
Despite efforts on the part of the United Nations to demand gender equity, the Taliban continues to refuse to lift a ban on women working for aid organizations even though foreign aid officials say that projects in health, education and the provision of food largely depend on women workers. The ban has halted work on the UN's World Food Program where 600 Afghan women were employed as surveyors in bakery projects that were responsible for feeding almost 270,000 people every day. The United Nations expressed disappointment in the Taliban's refusal to soften their position and alluded to the fact that members of the Taliban militia were very displeased that local women were working with international aid groups.
7/21/2000 - Worst Drought in 30 Years Ravages Afghanistan
Between three and four million people in Afghanistan may starve as a result of severe drought, according to the United Nations World Food Program. The drought comes at a time when people in Afghanistan are suffering from civil war, a devastated economy, and the oppressive aggression of the Taliban regime. Earlier this week the World Food Program appealed to donors for $55.4 million to help feed starving Afghans. Rain is not expected until next May or June for Afghanistan.
7/21/2000 - Diamond Industry Agrees To Ban War-Related Gems
The world's diamond industry approved the ban on "conflict diamonds" that fund some of Africa's bloodiest civil wars, agreeing to adopt strict measure that monitor manufacturing centers. People at the World Diamond Congress, held in Belgium on July 19th, promised to institute an International Diamond Council, which would regulate the expulsion of traders and potentially prosecute them with criminal charges. The industry's move has been praised by non-governmental organizations, the U.N., and governments that have long pushed for corporate responsibility. Conflict diamonds have partly fueled a multitude of brutal wars in Africa, where hundreds of thousands are left raped, mutilated, and killed in Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to Human Rights Watch and U.N. groups, women and girls as young as the age of 10 were repeatedly raped and tortured by rebel forces in Sierra Leone.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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."
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."
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 (http://www.feminist.org/afghan/intro.html) 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.