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6/26/2000 - Zimbabwe Women Fear Electoral Extinction
Women constitute over half of the country's population, but only 55 of the 566 candidates contesting 120 political seats are female in this year's elections. Although this is the largest number of female candidates in Zimbabwe's history, the numbers are a far cry from the goals created during the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. For instance, the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patrotic Front (ZANU-PF) last year voted to establish a 33 percent quota system of equal representation in Parliament, but this agreement is yet to be fulfilled. Thoko Matshe, the head of Zimbabwe's Women's Resource Centre and Network and global co-sponsor of the Feminist Majority Foundation's Feminist Expo 2000, argued that the focus on elections as a battle between political parties has stolen the spotlight from a needed dialogue on women's political representation.
Women's rights advocates in Kuwait may potentially experience a historic advancement in gender equality. Objecting to the government's 1962 election law that forbids women's right to vote, Mr. Adnan Al-Isa, filed a lawsuit against his local polling office for its refusal to allow five women to vote. For the second time in history, such a lawsuit has been sent to the Constitutional Court. According to Deutsche Presse-Agenturs, Al-Isa remarked, "It's a victory for women and an indication we are on the right track." A similar lawsuit was also sent to the high court in May, when female activist Rola Dashti launched an unprecedented legal attack on Article I of the election law. Last year, Kuwait's emir, Sheik Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah, issued a decree urging the Parliament to grant women the right to vote and hold office by the year 2003. But in November's bitter political debate, the measure lost by two votes, 32 to 30. Following these disappointing political defeats, women's rights activists have focused their attention on Kuwait's judicial branch, hoping that the courts will legitimize their cause by declaring Article I of the election law unconstitutional.
Pro and anti abortion forces demonstrated outside of Parliament in Northern Ireland on Tuesday over the possible extension of Great Britain's 1967 Abortion Act to Ireland. Despite the effort of pro-choice lobbying, the majority of the Stormont Assembly voted with anti-abortion forces. The motion passed without a recorded vote. An amendment proposed by Monica McWilliams of the Women's Coalition of South Belfast to discuss the 1967 Abortion Act within the Health Committee also fell. Currently women in Northern Ireland must travel to Great Britain for abortion services. McWilliams called the situation one in which women who pursue abortions are made to "feel like criminals". McWilliams noted, "If this assembly takes the moral high ground, it will do nothing to help those 2,000 women who feel the need to travel to Great Britain every year for an abortion".
6/26/2000 - Rwandan Women Gain Inheritance Rights
Ancilla Abondibana became one of the first Rwandan women to win a case under the new Rwandan law that gives women of Rwanda the right to inherit property. The law is a result of the changing political and social structure of Rwanda due to the country's 1994 genocide, which killed 500,000 people in less than 100 days. The provision states that men and women children inherit property "in equal parts without any discrimination between male and female children" (6/22/00 Christian Science Monitor). The new initiative is a landmark breakthrough for women's rights because most other African countries denies women the right to inherit land.
6/26/2000 - First Zanzibar Women to Run for President
Zanzibar Minister of Finance, Amina Salum Ali, announced her plans to run for the presidency of Zanzibar after the recent encouragement of Union President Benjamin Mkapa called for more women to pursue leadership positions government.
Thirty-eight Afghan passengers from a jet hijacked in February who were denied asylum in Britain by Home Secretary Jack Straw began their appeal yesterday. The hearings involved 32 Afghan men and women and six children.
Shaw refused asylum to the passengers on the grounds that they faced no danger of persecution in their home country. Straw has previously denied any attempt to prejudice the 69 asylum applications received by Parliament.
Barry Stoyle, director of the Refugee Legal Center, which is providing attorney's for many of the refugees, said that Straw's decision would force the asylum-seekers to return "to a country with no constitution, rule of law or independent judiciary and which commits human rights abuses on a massive scale."
To say that Afghans face no persecution in Afghanistan is to ignore the fact that the Taliban militia, which controls 90 percent of Afghanistan, has imposed a strict system of gender apartheid against all women living in areas controlled by the Taliban. The Taliban's edicts, which have been brutally enforced, banish most women from the work force, closed schools to girls and expelled women from universities, and prohibited women from leaving their homes unless accompanied by a close male relative.
5/5/2000 - Feminist Majority Foundation Condemns Taliban's Brutal Killing of Woman in Afghanistan and Calls for US Action
The Feminist Majority Foundation condemns the public stoning of a woman to death in Northern Afghanistan by the Taliban militia for allegedly committing adultery and calls for an end to the brutal gender apartheid regime that continues to terrorize the women and girls of Afghanistan.
"The on-going and increasing brutality of the Taliban regime is evident in this latest appalling human rights atrocity," proclaimed Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority.
The second reported public execution of a woman carried out in the past six months, the stoning took place in a sports stadium in Mazar-e-Sharif before several thousand people. There has been no report of what happened to the man involved in the alleged affair.
The Feminist Majority Foundation calls on President Clinton and Secretary of State Albright to publicly condemn this brutal murder and to increase US pressure to restore the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan fully and permanently.
Official Taliban decrees, punishable by beating, stoning, and death, ban women's work, education, and mobility. Afghan women and girls risk their lives daily to realize the very basic human needs. Even after international condemnation, the Taliban have only made slight and unofficial changes to their gender apartheid policies. Despite these changes, the overall reality of Afghan women and girls has remained unchanged. Women and girls in Afghanistan continue to live under virtual house arrest.
Afghan's continue to make up the world's largest refugee population with an estimated 2.5 million refugees in Pakistan and Iran alone. On-going Taliban military offensives have resulted in gross human rights violations and massive displacement of the civilian population, particularly women and children. According to UN estimates, over the course of 1999 an additional 200,000 persons have fled the fighting and an estimated 258,600 remain internally displaced. Ironically Afghanistan's estimated one million war widows ranks it among the countries with the highest female-headed household population.
Over 160 women's and human rights organizations join The Feminist Majority Foundation's Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan in imploring the United States and the United Nations to do everything in its power to help restore the rights of Afghan women and girls. The Campaign continues to press the United States government to deny the Taliban recognition until the rights of women and girls are fully and permanently restored, to increase humanitarian assistance directed to Afghan women and children, and to increase refugee admission of women and girls fleeing the brutal gender apartheid regime.
For more information go to www.feminist.org or call 1-888-WE-WOMEN.
U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said on February 26th that he saw no reason to segregate military training on the basis of sex. He said he was still open to comments regarding the issue, but that any changes must not cause women to lose any gains they have made in the military. After a series of sex scandals, some conservative legislators have asked for the segregation, saying that the co-ed training led to rape, sexual harassment and other types of abuses against women. Cohen commented after touring Lackland Air Force Base, "Based upon my observations here today, one would have to come up with some very compelling evidence why (training) should be handled differently."
An all-male institution since its foundation 155 years ago, the Vienna Philharmonic has agreed to admit women as players. In a vote which passed with a two-thirds margin, the group responded to pressures of feminist groups to boycott the Philharmonic's upcoming U.S. tour if it did not agree to admit women. Elena Osteleitner, an assistant professor at the University of Music in Vienna commented, "They were quite frightened by the feminist movements in the United States, and they realized it was no fun and no joking."
The group voted to admit Anna Lelkes, a harpist who had long played with the group, as an official member, thus granting her full payment and privileges after 26 years of service. In June, women will be able to audition for the positions available; the group needs a violist, tuba player and trumpet player. Last week, the new Austrian chancellor, Viktor Klima publicly told the group that there was, "creative potential in the other half of humanity and this should be used."
2/28/1997 - Amelia Earhart Flight to be Recreated
A Texan woman, Linda Finch, is planning to recreate Amelia Earhart’s last and most perplexing around the world. Finch found one of only two twin-engine Lockheed Electra 10E’s, the type Earhart used, known to exist and will fly it around the same path with many of the same stops as did Earhart. Pratt & Whitney is financing the $4.5 million project: $1.5 million was used to restore the plane and finance the project and another $3 million was used to create and distribute educational packets about Earhart, science, flight and geography. Finch commented that she will make many of the same stops along the way and hopes to "teach children they can and should dream big dreams."
Earhart, born in 1897, was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean and across the United States. On March 17, 1937 she attempted to become the first person to fly around the world at the equator. She made it three fourths of the way but then failed to arrive at a scheduled stop at Howland Island. They left absolutely no trace, and speculation remains to this day as to what happened to her and her navigator Fred Noonan.
Updates of the flight will be provided at http:/www.worldflight.org
2/28/1997 - Women's History Month Begins
The first International Women’s Day was March 8, 1911. In 1981, Rep. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) cosponsored a Joint Congressional Resolution proclaiming the week of March 8 National Women’s History Week. In 1986, the National Women’s History Project (founded in 1979 by Molly MacGregor) helped expand the celebration to the entire month of March. In 1987 and subsequent years, the National Women’s History Month Resolutions have been approved with broad-based, bipartisan support in both the Senate and House, and signed by the President.
Today, schools and communities celebrate the month with special curriculum and events, and many states and cities have extended the observance year-round by creating Women’s Halls of Fame.
For women's history calendar events, a quiz, links, and facts about the last 25 years of the women's movement, see our special section on Women's History Month 1997.
2/27/1997 - Vast Majority of British Support Abortion Rights
A recent MORI poll has found that 64 percent of British women and men support "legal abortion for all who want it." This number represents a ten percent increase in support of abortion rights over the past 17 years; an even larger number of persons approve the right for an abortion in cases of rape and incest, or when the woman's life is at stake. The poll found that 50 percent of Roman Catholics also approve the right to an abortion. David Paintin, Chair of the Birth Control Trust commented, "Politicians and policy-makers need to be aware that the option of abortion is essential for women's health and well-being in many circumstances and that there is support from a majority of people in this country for this."
2/27/1997 - Groups Urge Confirmation Hearing for Herman
Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal, together with other national women's leaders launched a campaign for the confirmation of Alexis Herman, nominee for U.S. Secretary of Labor at a press conference on February 26. Smeal said, "Although Senator Jeffords (R-Vermont) has made public his intention to schedule the hearing, we urge him do so quickly and cast aside any more lingering political hoops. Thus far in the nominating process Herman has faced the 'trial of a thousand leaks.' The Herman appointment must not be held hostage to current investigations of White House political fund-raising. We believe it is all the more disturbing that the only African-American woman nominated to the Cabinet has been held up in an unprecedented process."
As former Director of the Women's Bureau and as co-chair of a Presidential Task Force to promote business ownership for women under President Carter, Herman is uniquely qualified for this position. Herman has led the fight for equal employment opportunities for women and people of color as head of the Minority Women Employment Program and has had a lifetime of preparation for the position of Secretary of Labor.
Last week, the AFL-CIO’s executive council approved a resolution in support of Herman. The executive council resolution said, "The AFL-CIO calls for immediate hearings on the nomination of this African American Woman. It is time for Alexis Herman to be able to stand in an open forum and have her nomination considered by the United States Senate.
For the first time since 1921, Ireland has made divorce permissible by a Constitutional amendment. The predominately Roman Catholic country had banned divorce when Ireland gained independence from England. A similar attempt to legalize divorce was defeated in a 1986, but in a stunning blow to a scandal-ridden Church, the referendum passed in 1995. The procedure will be fairly complicated, involving a four year separation, filling out multiple forms and disclosing financial and other information before a hearing is set. Of the country's 3.5 million citizens, approximately 90,000 couples are currently separated.
2/27/1997 - Japan to Approve Use of Birth Control Pill
A Japanese government report unveiled on February 25th reported that contraceptive pills are safe and effective. The endorsement has paved the way for government approval of the pill's use. So far, nine pharmaceutical companies have submitted applications for approval of the pill. With its expected approval within the year, North Korea remains the only country where low-dose hormone pills are illegal
A progress report on the status of African-Americans in higher education has shown that fifty percent more African-American women than men enroll in college. Since the mid-1970's, the number of African-American women entering college has increased by 55 percent; the rate of African-American men enrolled has increased by only 20 percent. In the areas of law and medicine, the number of African-American women entering graduate schools has increased by 219 percent, but only 5 percent for African-American men. While gender gaps in enrollment also occur among the overall population, they are not nearly as large. Overall, enrollment of African-Americans has increased, but African-Americans are still underrepresented in colleges and universities in proportion to their overall population.
The Senate has voted 53-46 in favor a joint-resolution granting President Clinton’s request to release $385 million for international family planning on March 1 instead of July 1. Eleven Republicans joined 42 Democrats in supporting the measure on February 25. In January, Clinton requested the early release and certified that the delay in the release of funds was harming family planning programs. The February 25 Senate vote came almost two weeks after the House voted 220-209 in favor of the measure. Senate Democrats blocked immediate consideration of restrictions that would have linked the release of funds to restrictions against U.S. funds going to organizations that perform abortions. The House had voted in support of the restrictive language, a policy imposed by President Reagan and lifted by President Clinton. The issue of restricting the funding may yet surface again, however, as Sen. Tim Hutchinson has introduced a similar bill on which Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said he will seek a vote later this year. Such a debate is likely to lead to a Democratic filibuster. Though the close vote demonstrated that the 105th Congress has a strong anti-choice element, abortion rights advocates praised the decision to release funds March 1.
According to “Breaking the Silence,” a report by Amnesty International, lesbians and gay men are killed, tortured and imprisioned on the basis of their sexual orientation and face prosecution in up to 60 countries. The report cited death squads that kill gay men and transvestites in the name of social cleansing in Columbia and the use of the death penalty and public stoning as punishment for homosexuality in Iran. Homosexuality remains illegal in Nigeria, Romania, and India. Amnesty International called for the decriminalization of homosexuality worldwide, and it praised South Africa for including sexual orientation in its constitution’s anti-discrimination provision, the first country to take such a step. The groups also lauded policies in 10 U.S. states that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
The owner of the lesbian and gay Atlanta nightclub that was bombed February 21 is the sister of the late Dr. James McMahon, an abortion doctor who had been targeted for anti-abortion protests and hate mail. The FBI is investigating the link between Dr. McMahon and his sister Beverly McMahon who owns The Otherside Lounge where a nail-laden bomb injured five people Friday night. A second, larger bomb was found and detonated by officials using a robot. In 1983, Dr. McMahon helped develop the intact dilation and extraction procedure known as the D&X late term abortion. McMahon called the method a safer alternative for women in the later stages of a problem pregnancy and said it would improve their chances of bearing children again. The Army of God, known for its manuals on terrorizing abortion clinics, has written a letter claiming responsibility for the club bombing as well as the double-bombing of an Atlanta abortion clinic in January which the FBI is also investigating. Dr. McMahon died of a brain tumor in 1995.
Feminst Majority President Eleanor Smeal joined Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) and other domestic violence advocates in condemning proposed legislation that would gut the 1996 Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban, which currently prohibits individuals convicted on misdemeanor domestic violence offenses from owning or using firearms.
"Putting guns back in the hands of wife beaters and child abusers is outrageous. The Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban is a significant step forward in the drive to end domestic violence. We strongly oppose any attempt to weaken this pathbreaking law. Allowing those who already have been convicted of domestic violence to possess guns places the lives of women and children in needless jeopardy," Smeal stated.
S. 262 and H.R. 26 eliminate retroactive application of the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban. H.R. 350 exempts police officers and the military from the law’s coverage, allowing personnel convicted of domestic violence to have guns.
Smeal continued, "Batterers fall into a category of criminals that are likely to reoffend. Guns are often the weapon of choice for those who commit acts of domestic violence. And studies have found higher rates of domestic violence within police families -- 40% of police families experience physical marital violence compared to 16% of the general population. Knowing this, how can we accept any change in the law that would allow abusers to have guns?" Smeal pointed out that one half all 911 calls are related to domestic violence. “Victims of domestic violence should expect a sympathetic officer responding to 911 calls, not one who has committed domestic violence himself,” she said.
The Feminist Majority played a leading role in passage of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994. Its sister organization, The Feminist Majority Foundation, sponsors the National Center for Women in Policing, an organization of women police officers committed to improving police response to domestic violence and increasing the representation of women in law enforcement.
2/25/1997 - Extremist "Army of God" Group Takes Credit for Atlanta Bombings, Promises to Attack Again
An anti-abortion extremist group calling itself the "Army of God" has claimed responsibility for the bombs which exploded at an Atlanta abortion clinic and lesbian nightbar. The Army of God first gained visibility in 1982 with the kidnapping of Dr. Hector Zevallos, an abortion provider, and his wife in Granite City, Illinois. Members of the Army of God claimed responsibility for and were later convicted of the kidnapping. In 1994, an Army of God manual, which outlines how to bomb clinics and commit other acts of terrorism, was found in the backyard of Shelley Shannon, who was later convicted of shooting Dr. George Tiller and 30 counts of arson and bombings.
A unit of the group claimed responsibility in a letter it sent to an Atlanta news agency. The letter contains knowledge of what materials where used to create the bombs and promises to bomb again. The letter also calls for a "total war" against the U.S. government. Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, commented on the letter, "For some time, we have believed that a group of people have been acting in concert to terrorize abortion clinics. We have been saying that these extremists are not single issue and that they believe in justifiable homicide against lesbians and gay men and adulterers as well as abortion providers."
American and Russian archeologists have found skeletons of women buried with swords and daggers in Pakrovka. According to historic accounts, Greek soldiers on a campaign in the Black Sea region found themselves in combat against female warriors. Archeologists excavating graves in the Eurasian steppes have now found conclusive evidence that female warriors indeed existed. Among the skeletons recently found, one bow-legged woman, who obviously rode horses, had an iron dagger at her right, a quiver holding more than 40 arrows tipped with bronze at her left, and wore a leather pouch containing a bronze arrowhead around her neck. Dr. Jeannine Davis-Kimball who led the excavations commented, "[the nomad women seemed] to have controlled much of the wealth, performed rituals for their families and clan, rode horseback and possibly hunted saiga, a steppe antelope, and other small game." She also wrote that in times of crisis, "the women took to their saddles, bows and arrows ready, to defend their animals, pastures and clan."
These women lived 1,000 miles east of where the Amazons supposedly encountered by the Greeks, and Dr. Davis-Kimball suggests the groups may have been counterparts. The new discoveries have led anthropologists to reconsider the status and role of women in the Eurasian nomad societies. Three categories of women seem to have existed: warrior women, priestesses, and women who primarily tended to their families. Dr. Nicola DiCosma a historian at Harvard University said that the findings show, "women in early nomadic societies could have had a higher profile in their cultures than women in sedentary societies at the same time."
The Chicago Department of Public Health study shows that domestic violence is Chicago women's top health problem. According to the report, domestic violence affects significantly more women than breast cancer, sexually transmitted diseases or tuberculosis. The researchers used Chicago Police Department data and found that detectives investigated 36,628 counts of domestic abuse in 1995. The second most common problem, gonorrhea, affected 7,374.
2/25/1997 - FDA Ok's Morning After Pill Procedure
In response to a call from women's rights groups, the FDA has published the proper morning dosages for six brands of pills currently on the market. The FDA's action is essentially of preapproval, pending the filing of the correct paperwork, for contraception manufacturers to advertise morning-after contraception. Commissioner of the FDA, David Kessler commented on the report, "The best-kept contraceptive secret is no longer a secret. Women should have the information that this regimen is available." For years, European women have had contraception pills available in packages that contain the right does to take after unprotected sex in order to prevent pregnancy. U.S. manufacturers citing legal hurdles, however, have refused to sell the pills for "morning after" use and doctors have had trouble knowing what doses to prescribe for safe and effective use. Many women don't even know that they can take regular birth control pills in concentrated amounts to avert an unwanted pregnancy.
2/24/1997 - Police Pioneer Adelina Raducha Dies at Age 50
One of Chicago Police Department's first women patrol officers, Adelina Raducha, died February 21st at age 50. In 1980, she became the first Hispanic woman promoted to serve on the force as a detective after having worked undercover in the prostitution and narcotics divisions. Raducha retired from the force to become the superintendent of the 25th Ward. Sgt. Gillian McLaughlin, who began working with Raducha as one of the first fourteen women on the force in 1974, said of her, "She was a very dynamic individual, a fighter and a self-starter. She has been a role model for all us and an example of what a human being should be and strive for."