Archive for September 16th, 2008
The Spanish government has appointed a group of experts to advise on liberalizing abortion law by the end of 2009 or early 2010, the equality minister said last week.
“We can’t have a situation where a woman who needs to terminate a pregnancy can have legal problems,” Bibiana Aido said.
“That’s why we need a serious, calm and high-level debate which contributes to the drawing up of the best law possible.”
Spain decriminalized abortion in 1985, 10 years after the death of right-wing dictator Francisco Franco, but while the number of abortions has doubled in the past decade, the practice is controversial in the traditionally Catholic country.
Abortion is permitted in certain cases, for example up to 12 weeks for women who have been raped or up to 22 weeks if a fetus is malformed. It is also available if a birth poses a psychological risk to the mother.
Aido did not give details of the change she wanted to the abortion law but said it would “guarantee the fundamental rights and legality of women and the professionals who attend them.”
“It must guarantee geographical equality, so that there aren’t differences between autonomous regions,” she said.
Abortion came to the forefront of the political debate last year and in the run-up to the elections after a series of police raids on abortion clinics in Madrid and Barcelona.
Many clinics said they were being harassed by the authorities.
The group of eight experts who will advise the government on abortion include academics, gynecologists and lawyers, as well as representatives from the Health and Justice Ministries and the prime minister’s office.
Spain’s conservative PP party criticized the move.
“It would seem to me serious that an issue as sensitive for women … should be used today as a smokescreen to cover up the economic crisis,” Esteban Gonzalez, a party spokesman, told public television.
The popularity of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has sunk to its lowest level as Spain’s economy has slid close to recession in recent months, with the bursting of a housing bubble and unemployment jumping by 500,000 in a year.
The Jamaica Family Planning Association in its 50 years of service to Jamaica has become acutely aware of the practice of unsafe abortions among many of our females. It is our opinion that restrictive abortion laws contribute to this practice with their devastating impact on the lives and well-being of women in Jamaica.
At the global level, this is an issue of enormous proportion. In 2006, an estimated 19 million women and girls worldwide, faced with unintended pregnancies, experienced the harmful consequences of unsafe abortions. Each year, some 70,000 of these women and girls die, and hundreds of thousands of others are left with debilitating and frequently lifelong injuries. More than 96 per cent of these women come from the world’s poorest nations.
In Jamaica, there is an obvious truth being ignored. Criminalising and restricting abortion does not reduce its incidence; rather, it forces women to seek risky procedures that endanger their lives. It is a public health tragedy that women continue to die or suffer from complications from unsafe abortions. If we do not address unsafe, illegal abortion in Jamaica, it will continue to affect women’s lives and burden our health sector. When abortion is legal and services are safe and accessible, the chance of a woman dying or being physically harmed from an abortion is negligible. Greater public attention needs to be directed to improving access to safe services and improving women’s health in our country.
Letter published from the Jamaica Family Planning Association – firstname.lastname@example.org
Brazil’s Health Minister Jose Gomes Temporao defended in a Supreme Federal Court hearing women’s right to abortion in case the fetus is diagnosed as anencephalia.
Temporao said that Brazil’s public hospitals are fully capable of diagnosing fetus’s anencephalia, and the Brazilian law stipulates that a person without brain activity is considered dead.
“Forbidding a woman to abort a fetus who is doomed to die is cruel, it is a political use of women’s bodies,” Temporao said during the hearing, “we defend a pregnant woman’s right to advance the birth.”
Currently, Brazilian law considers abortion a crime, which entails a one-to-four-year imprisonment. If the abortion is made without the woman’s consent, it would lead to a prison term of three to ten years.
However, abortion is not punishable if the woman was raped, or the pregnancy poses a grave danger to a woman’s health. In both cases, women need an authorization from court to terminate the pregnancy, which yet is often hard to obtain in time.
Brazilian women are allowed to have an abortion in the case of anencephalia, but as authorizations are based on practical circumstances, the process to get approval is often complex.
Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court started the hearing on Aug. 26. Medical specialists, pro-life groups and representatives from several religions have attended the hearing by far.
The court will make the final ruling by November.
Victoria is one step closer to a more liberal abortion regime after landmark legislation was passed early this morning after a marathon session in the Legislative Assembly.
The Bill was passed 48-28 after 41 admendments were moved and defeated in a marathon sitting that ended at 12.48am.
The next hurdle is the upper house, where debate is due to begin next month and a tighter vote is expected.
After it was passed, Health Minister Daniel Andrews told Parliament that the debate had been “complex and challenging”.
“But I think it has been conducted in a spirit that I think does every member and this institution great credit,” he said.
Nationals leader Peter Ryan, who opposed the Bill, said the debate was conducted in the right spirit.
The Abortion Law Reform Bill has caused splits within parties, leading to the unusual sight of Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu sitting behind Premier John Brumby, while Deputy Premier Rob Hulls crossed the floor.
While opponents proposed a number of amendments, the Bill to decriminalise terminations up to the 24th week of gestation passed easily.
Abortions after 24 weeks will require the consent of two doctors.
The Bill marks the first time Victorian politicians have meaningfully tackled abortion law, and aims to remove terminations from the Crimes Act.
Current practice relies on common law and a 1969 Supreme Court ruling that outlines when abortion is legal.
About 20,000 abortions a year are performed in Victoria.
Mr Brumby said the Bill was not designed to increase that number, simply to remove the threat of criminal proceedings.
All parties have allowed a conscience vote, leaving the parties split.
Mr Baillieu supported the Bill while Mr Ryan, his Coalition deputy, voted against.
Sports Minister James Merlino was among the most outspoken opponents, saying the Bill would mean “open slather” and lead to more terminations. Mr Merlino led the opposition to the Bill, introducing a number of the proposed amendments.
The Bill has caused controversy, with protests inside and outside Parliament, as well as threats to pro-choice politicians. At least one threat has been taken so seriously the police are investigating.
Mr Brumby said on Thursday he was confident the Bill would be passed comfortably, although he conceded the vote would be closer in the Legislative Council.
“We’ve had a lot of debate,” he said.
“At times it’s been emotional debate, passionate debate, and we’ve seen that come through in the Parliament, but it’s also been respectful debate.”
Mr Hulls, also the Attorney-General, was the most senior Government minister to break ranks with Mr Brumby and vote against the Bill.
As close friends and colleagues since Mr Brumby’s days in the Hawke Government, the two discussed the matter before the vote.
The Premier said he respected Mr Hulls’s decision.
“I’ve made really clear in this debate that these are matters that are deeply held, and they are and that’s why there is a conscience vote,” Mr Brumby said.
“Rob thought long and hard about his position. He spoke to me about that yesterday [Wednesday]. His view, for personal reasons, was that he wished to oppose the legislation. He advised me of that, and I said he should vote as his conscience dictates.”
Mr Brumby was asked to expand on Mr Hulls’s reasons for opposing the Bill, but declined.
“That’s a personal thing for him, and everyone’s got their reasons,” he said.
An amendment to reduce the limit for an abortion from 24 weeks into a pregnancy to 20 weeks was defeated 48-30.
The debate leading to the Legislative Council’s vote on the legislation is due to begin next months. Amendments are expected to be proposed in that chamber as well.
Mr Brumby would not entertain speculation about what amendments might be acceptable to the Government.
He said he expected the legislation to become law by year’s end.
For three decades Catherine Smith was choked, sexually assaulted and beaten at the hands of her obsessive husband.
Despite her attempts to flee her abusive marraige, Catherine returned home upon her husband’s threats on her life and their children’s lives.
Catherine eventually became one in five female victims of domestic violence who turned on their husbands.
Professor Paul Mazerolle of Griffith University’s Violence Research and Prevention Program, who cited Catherine’s story at a symposium on domestic violence in Brisbane said 20 per cent of intimate partner homicides in Australia were committed by women.
“For women, this is an extreme form of help-seeking… after ongoing high levels of abuse, women reach a tipping point,” Professor Mazerolle said.
Catherine’s husband was finally jailed for kiddnapping their son – not for the numerous assaults on his wife.
Upon his release from jail, Catherine decided to kill her husband in fear of her life and her children’s lives.
However, Catherine relented and was eventually charged with attempted murder, but was aquitted by a jury.
The Australian Institute of Criminology figures for 2005/06 indicated there were 74 intimate partner homicides. In 53 per cent of intimate partner homicides there was a known history of domestic violence.
Professor Mazerolle, who has studied the factors and events associated with risks for intimate partner violence said female perpetrators often acted in “extreme fear and desperation”.
“Some woman see murder as their only escape,” Professor Mazerolle said. “One in five intimate partner homicides each year, are committed by women.”
Angela Browne of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire, who interviewed 42 women charged with murdering their spouses, found a link between the frequency of marital rape and homicide potential.
“More than 75 per cent of women who had committed homicide claimed they were forced to have sexual intercourse with their husbands,” Ms Browne said.
“Some 39 per cent said they had been raped more than twenty times.”
One woman Browne interviewed said, “It was as though he wanted to annihilate me… as though he wanted to tear me apart from the inside out and simply leave nothing there.”
That woman had stabbed her husband to death with a kitchen knife.
“Intimate partner homicide by women is usually the result of domestic conflicts that have been going on for relatively long periods of time,” Professor Mazerolle said today.
“By its own definition, intimate-partner homicide makes any policy intervention difficult. Intimate-partner homicides occur in the intimacy of the home where the amount of external social control is very limited, or non-existent.
“In addition, the reasons behind intimate-partner homicides are of a private and personal nature.”
Yet for Catherine Smith – and for so many other women and children – the violence is preventable Professor Mazerolle said.
While experts have been quick to blame failures in the “system”, Professor Mazerolle said prevention and intervention should come first from the community.
“We need to break down fences and boundaries and start looking out for our neighbours,” he said.
“Speak up… it could save someone’s life.”
The Canadian military is receiving an increasing number of reports about soldiers acting out violently against their families, according to the NDP defence critic.
NDP defence critic Dawn Black says reports of domestic violence in the military have been increasing. (CBC)Dawn Black, who is also MP for New Westminster-Coquitlam in British Columbia, has been collecting serious incident reports filed with the Canadian Forces. They suggest violence in military families is increasing, she told CBC News.
“Certainly there’s more reports of wife assault and angry soldiers exhibiting the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder after returning from Afghanistan,” said Black.
“What I’ve found over the last many months is that there are many more — maybe even 50 per cent more — reports of post-traumatic stress disorder acting itself out in domestic violence.”
Some soldiers have trouble reintegrating with their families when they return to Canada, she said, and they need better supports to help them deal with the issue.
“This is something that just must be dealt with,” she said. “To really support the troops, there has to be the kind of care and treatment provided to ensure that they and their families get through this experience.”
‘Families are falling apart’
At Canadian Forces Base Shilo in Manitoba, a woman who is a victim of domestic violence agrees the military needs to take action.
Since her husband, a combat soldier, returned from his second tour of duty in Afghanistan, his behaviour has changed and he can be easily triggered into a rage, said the woman, who did not want to be identified out of fear of retribution.
Hundreds of soldiers are returning to Canadian Forces Base Shilo in September, after a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan. (CBC)The woman still can’t believe the abuse she suffered at the hands of her spouse: he’s punched her, choked her and slammed her against a wall, with their children just a bedroom away, she told CBC News.
“How I kept quiet, I don’t know. I think it was just, ‘I can’t believe this is happening,’” she said.
Hundreds of soldiers are returning to Shilo in September from a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan. By speaking out now, the woman said, she hopes the military will take action to help other families so they don’t experience what she has.
“They offered him no help. No psychological help. He never saw a doctor. He never got a debriefing. He had nothing,” she said.
“Families are falling apart. It’s time for them to get off their collective butts and put things into place.”
Military officials say the Canadian Forces watches for signs of psychological trouble.
Most soldiers returning from Afghanistan undergo a five-day “decompression” in Cyprus, and they are also required to undergo a psychological assessment three to six months after they return to Canada, said military counsellor Capt. Wayne Brockington.
Capt. Wayne Brockington, a military counsellor, said he has not seen a large increase in domestic-violence cases in Winnipeg. (CBC)But not all soldiers complete the assessment.
In April, of the nearly 9,000 soldiers who were supposed to have completed the psych test, just 71 per cent had completed it.
“I know that typically 71 per cent do get the screening within the three to six months. The other 29 per cent are usually caught up to, usually within their medicals, which happen every two years,” said Brockington.
“The military is looking for 100 per cent completion, and they’re probably addressing these issues as we speak.”
Brockington said he couldn’t comment on specific numbers, but he hasn’t seen a large increase in domestic violence cases in Winnipeg in the couple of years he’s been there.
But the Shilo soldier’s wife says that’s not what she’s seen and heard on the base.
“I know I’m not alone,” she said. “I know so much that I’m not alone, and that’s why I thought someone needs to speak up.”
The Czech helpline for victims of domestic violence (DONA) has received nearly 24,700 calls since its foundation seven years ago according to Petra Vitousova, head of the Bily kruh bezpeci (White circle of safety) NGO.
Bily kruh bezpeci that helps crime and domestic violence victims has been operating the line since September 11, 2001.
Some 94 percent of the callers were women, Vitousova said.
Over 60 percent of the cases directly concerned domestic violence – mostly victims themselves called DONA.
One-fourth of the callers are relatives and friends who wanted to help the victims.
Domestic violence has been considered a crime in the Czech Republic since June 2004.
As of January 2007, the Czech police are authorised to evict for ten days those who harm their relatives to save the victims from further violence.
According to BKB data, 1321 people, mostly men, were evicted from January 2007 till August 2008.
Vitousova said the helpline markedly helped shorten the time for which people endure offences and beating without seeking expert assistance. While in 2002 it was after six years of violence, now it is after less than three years on average.
Most calls are received at the beginning of the week because the situation in families and between partners often culminates during weekends.
The helpline’s website http://www.donalinka.cz offers Czech and English information on how to proceed in domestic violence cases.
Mara Carfagna, the Italian Minister for Equal Opportunities and a former “calendar girl” and television showgirl, came under fire from prostitutes’ representatives for condemning women who “sell their bodies for money”.
Introducing a new law making street prostitution a crime, with fines for clients as well as prostitutes, Ms Carfagna, 32, said that at present in Italy, “as in the great majority of Western countries”, brothels and the exploitation of prostitutes by pimps were illegal but prostitution as such was not.
She added: “It’s a shameful phenomenon. As a woman it makes me shudder, I am horrified by it. I don’t understand how someone can sell their body in the street for money. But I realise that it exists and, like drugs, cannot be wiped out. We intend to make it more difficult and to combat the criminal organisations who make an obscene profit by reducing these women to slavery.”
Carla Corso, a founder of the Italian Committee for the Rights of Prostitutes, said that she was “fairly astounded” by the minister’s remarks. “After all, the lady used her own body to get where she is today, by posing for calendars” she told Corriere della Sera. “You only have to look on the Internet to see her charms.”
Ms Carfagna, who has a law degree, was a Miss Italy contestant and worked as a topless model and television showgirl before joining Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party. She was appointed a minister when Mr Berlusconi won elections in April, taking office for the third time with a commanding majority.
This summer Italian media reported that phone calls between Ms Carfagna and Mr Berlusconi intercepted by magistrates during an investigation into alleged attempts by the Prime Minister to obtain jobs for actresses on RAI, the state broadcasting service, were “erotic” in nature. The intercepted exchanges have never been published and both Mr Berlusconi and Ms Carfagna deny the allegation.
The new measure, which was approved by the Cabinet last Thursday and is certain to be passed by Parliament, is the first major bill to tackle the problem of sex for sale for half a century. It outlaws prostitution in public places such as streets and parks, defining it as a serious offence causing “social alarm”. Both prostitutes and their clients face up to 15 days in jail and fines of up to €3,000 (£2,400).
The move, which is part of the Berlusconi Government’s promised crackdown on crime and illegal immigration, comes on the fiftieth anniversary of the abolition of brothels in Italy in a law devised and named after Angelina Merlin, a post-war politician who died in 1979.
Critics of the Merlin Law, which shut down some 700 brothels or “closed houses”, say that the result has been a proliferation of roadside prostitution, with prostitutes — many of them foreigners — a common sight both night and day on the outskirts of Italian cities.
According to the Italian Parliament social affairs committee there are an estimated 50,000-70,000 prostitutes — known colloquially as “lucciole” (fireflies) — about 70 per cent of whom work on the streets. Many are illegal immigrants from Eastern Europe and Africa who are exploited and maltreated by criminal gangs.
Ms Carfagna said that she had no intention of bringing back brothels or introducing red light districts or regulated co-operatives of “sex workers”. Under the new law sex with under-aged prostitutes aged 16 to 18 carries prison terms of up to four years and fines of up to 6000 Euros. Those caught “pimping” minors under the age of 18 face jail terms of up to 12 years and fines of up to €150,000.
Some Catholic charities praised Ms Carfagna for having the courage to “take on prostitution as a serious social evil”. However Oliviero Forti, spokesman for the Catholic aid agency Caritas, said that it would merely “drive prostitution indoors”.
The charity Save the Children said that it had written to Mr Berlusconi to express concern over a provision in the new law for under-age prostitutes to be repatriated. It said that minors should be asked whether they wished to stay in Italy and be taken into care rather than return to countries where they might be subjected to “persecution and vendettas”.
Livia Turco, social affairs spokeswoman for the opposition Democratic Party, said that the law was hypocritical and would not help women to escape from prostitution. “Once again the weakest members of society are being sacrificed on the altar of propaganda” she said.
The bill is Ms Carfagna’s first major initiative as a minister. Since taking office she has spoken out against same-sex unions, abortion and stalking, and said that her priority was to help boost Italy’s birth rate, one of the lowest in Europe.
Sex and the sari by Kiran Desai
In March I travelled to coastal Andhra Pradesh, to the delta region of the Godavari river. On the streets of a village we drove through, I noticed an overabundance of beds. Beds being delivered, new old beds, makeshift stage set beds, cheap beds being varnished in the sun, mattresses in the dust. Around this strangeness of beds proliferating, village life seemed as benign as Narayan’s Malgudi stories that had created my idea of what it meant to be Indian in this world, in the sweetest incarnation possible. Little shops for cigarettes and sweets; cows wandering; men riding cycles on their way to the banana market by the river’s edge, bananas tied to the handlebars, their colour macaw shocking-green and yellow, green and yellow, the greenest green and the yellowiest yellow. Sound of water pouring into pails, out of pails. A jeep going by with some policemen poking their heads out. This world was normal.
Except it was really entirely something else.
The women getting children ready in tiny shorts and mini-ties on elastic bands were all sex workers. The children with their homework were the children of men who stayed five minutes for a “shot”. The cycle rickshaw men were pimps who’d found extra business when auto rickshaws drove down their income, the gas station men were also pimps, and so were the dhaba men. A 20 per cent or 30 per cent cut. The lorry drivers, the coolies were clients. Others in the street were “brokers”, some 300 of them. Men coming back with groceries were “temporary husbands”. The old lady at her gate was a brothel madam, haggling over the price of girls she was buying from desperately poor parents. Coloured Christmas stars over bungalows revealed a missionary drive to save the fallen. The policemen were slowing down, hoping to catch someone soliciting. They’d let her go again in exchange for free sex.
Say “Peddapuram”, and every man grins. This is a village of “high-class” sex workers from the Kalavanthalu subcaste, hereditary courtesans and temple dancers famous for their elegant beauty. Almost every family is involved in the trade.
They trace their lineage from the days when they were protected by royalty, priests and landowners, all the way downhill to a franker prostitution as patronage crumbled in a modernising India of another shade of morality. “There is still a lot of money in this dhanda (business).” The price of a high-class sex worker in Peddapuram: all the way from Rs 200 ($5) a shot, and Rs 1,500 ($37) for a night, to Rs 1,000 ($25) a shot, Rs 10,000 ($250) for a night; depending on beauty, fairness of skin. “Shot” always said in English, with movie swagger. All ages were sought after, from teenagers to “auntys”, for younger men feel safer with “auntys”, explained a sex worker. And, guffawing hard: “Those policemen are smiling at you because they think maybe you’re a new girl with lipstick on especially for them.”
Article continues at http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/article4686532.ece
Sarah, 20, set herself ablaze in a desperate bid to end her life after four years of marriage to a drug addict in Sheendand District in western Afghanistan.
Her family extinguished the fire and took her to the hospital.
“I was sad when I opened my eyes in the hospital,” the severely burnt woman told IRIN. Sarah’s husband is a jobless drug addict who often beat her for alleged “insubordination”.
“I wanted to die and never come back to this life,” she told IRIN from her bed in the Herat city hospital.
Doctors said up to 40 percent of her body was severely burnt and it would take her months to recover.
Over the past six months, at least 47 self-immolation cases have been recorded by Herat city hospital alone, of whom seven were saved but 40 died.
“Ninety percent of the women who commit self-immolation die at hospital due to deep burns and fatal injuries,” said Arif Jalai, a dermatologist at the Herat hospital.
Almost all the women had doused themselves with petrol and set themselves alight, according to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC).
More than six years after the ousting of the Taliban regime in 2001 when all women were denied the right to work and education, many women suffer domestic and social violence, discrimination and lack of access to unbiased justice and other services, women’s rights activists say.
“Domestic violence against women not only has serious physical and mental effects on women but also causes other grave problems such as self-immolation, suicide, escape from home, forced prostitution and addiction to narcotics,” according to a study by the AIHRC in 2007 [http://www.aihrc.org.af/Evaluation_Rep_Gen_Sit_Wom.htm].
At least 184 cases of self-immolation were registered by the AIHRC in 2007 against 106 in 2006.
The phenomenon is feared to have increased further in 2008, women’s rights activists said.
“We have been unable to collect data and information about all incidents of self-burning due to a number of reasons, but overall the situation is not promising,” said Homa Sultani, a researcher on the rights of women at the AIHRC in Kabul.
The AIHRC in Herat and Kandahar confirmed a marked increase in reported cases of self-immolation.
Sultani’s concerns were echoed by Seema Shir Mohammadi, director of the women’s affairs department in Herat Province: “Women are increasingly paying back the violence they receive at home and outside by self-immolation and suicide.”
However, some people say the increase in the reported incidents could also indicate the improved capacity of rights watchdogs, the media and other civil society actors to report them.
The police and judiciary do not launch any formal investigations to determine the causes and motivations of suicide and self-burning by women, according to the AIHRC.
As a result, men who force and provoke women to self-immolation and other forms of suicide remain immune from all legal and penal repercussions.
“The government must ensure proper investigations into cases of suicide among women and where needed bring those responsible to justice,” said Sultani of the AIHRC.
In Afghanistan’s patriarchal culture, however, it will be difficult to indict the men who force women to commit suicide, specialists say.
“There is a culture of impunity for those who push women to self-immolation and suicide,” Sultani said.
Even as people grapple with the tragedy of being displaced by the floods in Bihar, there is a silent disaster that is unfolding.
With a large number of people migrating to Delhi and other cities, NGOs and activists warn that trafficking of women and children is likely to see an upsurge.
Of the 3.3 million people that have been affected, an estimated 42% are below 18 years. Activists say this is the most vulnerable group, prone to being misled into commercial sex work or bonded labour by middlemen on the pretext of providing help.
Rishikant of Shakti Vahini said, “Our colleagues working in the field in Bihar have said that there are a large number of women and children who are being picked up. We are monitoring the trains arriving from Bihar.” According to a Unifem-NHRC study, the population of women and children in sex work in India is said to be between 70,000 and 1 million. Of these, 30% are under 20 while nearly 15% began sex work when they were below 15.
Statistics by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) show that 89 cases of trafficking were registered in 2004, a 93.5% increase since 2003. Significantly, of the 89 cases, 35 — the second highest — were from Bihar.
Despite mounting vigilance, there has been little success in rescuing women and children in the past two weeks. NGO Pratidhi’s Raj Mangal Prasad, who works with children in need of care and protection, said there was no monitoring at entry and exit points.
“There is no vigilance mechanism at railway stations that are hubs to find missing, kidnapped or trafficked children,” Prasad said.
He added that every disaster led to mass displacement of vulnerable groups. “Some parents send their children to relatives in other cities. They go missing or are trafficked after that,” Prasad said. Activists have also said that identifying those being trafficked was very tough and with many people travelling ticketless, there was no way to check the passenger’s antecedents. Diversion of trains from New Delhi railway station to other stations has added to the chaos.
HIV/AIDS is as the bubonic plague of our time. Though HIV/AIDS is a talking point on street corners, many people still are not informed scrupulously what HIV/AIDS absolutely means. They are not informed how to keep safe themselves as well. In this regard gender literacy may play an important role to make aware of HIV/AIDS.
HIV/AIDS becomes progressively concentrated among poor populations in the less develop countries. Although, the develop countries learn to protect themselves and have the resources to make HIV/AIDS into a chronic, not deadly, disease, but the poor remain vulnerable. This is both a result of the characteristics of poverty itself – low education levels, gender discriminations, stigma, limited access to HIV/AIDS information or to health services – and the consequence of the lack of finances to fight the disease.
The Bangladesh consist most traditional background that gender discrimination is common feature, gender-insensitive country in the world. For example, phenomena such as female feticide and infanticide have led to one of the most distorted sex ratios in the world: 940 females to 1000 males. Gender insensitivity and the low social and economic status of girls and women often make it difficult for them to say no to unsafe, often forced, sex. Biological issues make women even more vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV.
There is clearly a need for more effective reproductive, gender education and prevention strategies, better health facilities, and larger numbers health care workers.
Mainstreaming gender touches on the statute, norms, customs and practices thoroughly as the stepping stone to sustainable development. Gender equality defines equality of treatment under the rule and neutrality of opportunity for females and males. An essential fact is that women are always struggling against both a virus and structured discrimination in trying to conquer the threat of HIV/AIDS especially in the developing country.
Women should be made campaign for their fundamental rights. Women living with HIV/AIDS have to be able to develop their inner beings and life skills that they may raise their voices in the face of a huge number of impediments. It results in that they have the courage to face a number of situations which raise the danger of HIV infectivity by way of existing gender discrimination.
HIV/AIDS increases acute threats to the education system over the years. It affects the education programs and projects comprehensively. The principle of present national curriculum has to highlight the learning need issues linked to the HIV/AIDS epidemic prevention, such as general health awareness, safe sex practices, coping with illness and death in the family, lessening discrimination towards people living with HIV/AIDS and enhancing life skills. Consequently it has an integrated impact on ministries, departments, agencies, and policy makers liable for proper scheduling and allocation of education resources and services.
The Ministry of Education has to have a great inclination to take a number of initiatives to prevent HIV/AIDS from spreading with the help of NGOs to ensure community people’s participation. In this case some NGOs are already conducting various programs to achieve ‘goal number 6’ of MDG which includes one target related to HIV/AIDS, namely to have halted the epidemic by 2015 and begun to reverse its spread. For example Rainbow Nari O Shishu Kallyan Foundation is a non government organization conducting some HIV/AIDS related program. Rainbow Nari O Shishu Kallyan Foundation has identified its various advocacy issues through participatory procedure giving main concern to RTI/STI (sexually transmitted infections) management (including prevention of HIV/AIDS), training, sex education and connected adolescent reproductive health initiatives, qualitative health and related behavioral research, gender-based violence as well as male participation in reproductive rights and gender equity. The aim of these activities is to achieve a HIV/AIDS free Bangladesh.
This is the time for Bangladesh to take strong initiatives to provide HIV/AIDS and sex related education in the school context. Because many people are still traditional, thinking sexuality is a private matter, they hesitate to talk about it and young people have not sufficient knowledge about HIV/AIDS.
Zimbabwean women have been urged to openly discuss HIV and Aids issues as this is an effective tool in fighting stigmatisation and discrimination.
Zimbabwean women have been urged to openly discuss HIV and Aids issues as this is an effective tool in fighting stigmatisation and discrimination.
The call was made by women’s organisations at an interface meeting organized by women’s action group, wag at one of the events lined up to commemorate the organisation’s 25th anniversary.
Women’s organizations in the country are intensifying efforts to educate people against stigmatization and discrimination of people living with HIV and Aids.
Speaking on the sidelines of the meeting, the sexual and reproductive health and rights officer for wag, Ms Sally Dura said there is also need to educate women so that they can understand and claim their rights.
30 vulnerable women from Tombo Village and its environs over the weekend received their certificates including start up kits and seed money, to embark on self reliance projects in their respective communities, after completing six weeks of training at the Lumtubum skills training center in Tombo.
The skills training program was organized by the Society for Women and Aids in Africa Sierra Leone Chapter (SWAASL) in collaboration with their funding partners Global Fund for Aids that focuses on vulnerable women who need empowerment to control and prevent the spread of HIV/ AIDS in Sierra Leone.
Speaking at the graduation ceremony Sister Monica Green of the Marie Stopes Society who chaired the program expressed thanks and appreciation to SWAASL, the funding agency Global Fund for Aids and the trainees for completing 6 weeks of skills training in Gara tie dying, Batik, and soap making.
She highlighted the role of women in fighting to alleviate hunger and poverty which is a recipe to get infected with HIV/ AIDS; she noted that it was against this backdrop that SWAASL deemed it fit, to identify with the vulnerable women of Tombo so that they can be empowered with skills to generate income.
Monica Green further examined both the causes of the high infection rates among women and the economic and social burden of the pandemic on women in the home and their communities, she added that the best approach to HIV/AIDS is education, prevention and treatment which she said will help to reduce the infection rates among women.
Programs Director of SWAASL Marie Benjamin noted that HIV/Aids is driven by poverty and growing consumerism, the long-term solution is sustained economic development, with expanded career and educational opportunities for young women.
In the meantime, they are explicitly focusing on education and prevention programmes on the dangers of HIV/ Aids.
Mrs. Benjamin expressed thanks and appreciation to the Global fund for Aids in Africa for the significant role they are playing in providing the much needed funds and expertise on the prevention, control and treatment of the disease in the country particularly for vulnerable women and called on the trainees to make good use of the knowledge gained and implement it accordingly to fight against poverty in their communities.
She noted that they are empowering women to overcome the negative and social effects of HIV /Aids among people living in abject poverty who are vulnerable to gender based violence against women, including rape, enforced marriages and the economic dependency of women on men entrenched by gender inequality and gender injustice.
Marie Benjamin maintained that access to care and treatment services, protection from violence and building the capacity of vulnerable women, and partnering for the distribution of anti-viral foams and condoms are part of the organization major activities in the country.
Margaret James of SWAASL properly explained about their activities in the country and further spoke about the historical background of the organization which started with the International Aids Society that established the Sierra Leone chapter since 1988, as they can now boast of regional offices as far as Kailahun targeting vulnerable women at the border and other vulnerable communities in the country.
The Community Development Head Foday Kamara, Mrs. Lucinda E. Orielly of Tombo Radio and Chernor Sesay of the same community commended SWAASL for training the grandaunds and appealed for future training of trainers program that will help more women in the area, Distribution of certificates, start up kits and seed money formed a high point of the graduation ceremony.
In the years gone by, human rights’ violations against women were rampant. Rights abuses such as: sexual harassment, gender discrimination, harsh and punitive widowhood rites, forced childhood marriages, harmful traditional practices, disinheritance of wives and daughters. From birth, females are considered inferior to men, most especially, in developing countries. Most parents preferred, and still prefer, to have male children, probably to carry on the family’s name as heir apparent since their female counterparts will definitely marry and change their maiden name some day. Most people believe that the main role of a woman is to perform domestic services, child bearing and only compliment the effort of the husband on his instruction.
Nigeria is traditionally a male-dominated society, though women make up to half of our estimated 140 million population, they are, however, only seen than heard. In some places, like Northern Nigeria, women are not even seen at all. They face barriers to full employment and other rights due to ethnicity, culture, religion and inadequate education. Traditionally, women in Nigeria face deep prejudices, discrimination, and barriers to their progress in areas of education, politics, economics, nutrition, healthcare and equality.
Women in Africa are treated as second class citizens with little or no respect, while also having to cope with physical violence from the homefront. In some societies, women are punished for committing adultery unlike the opposite sex. Also in some cultures, wives are always accused of being responsible for the death of their husbands as they pass through ordeals, ranging from drinking the water used in bathing their husband’s corpse, in order to prove their innocence, and the total dispossession of her late husband’s property. In other cases, she is banished into exile by the kinsmen or her in-laws, leaving her with little or nothing. This will further subject her to life of abject penury.
At the death of a father or husband, female, whether as wives or children, are excluded from the inheritance bequeathed by the departed breadwinners. This act is promoted by selfish male-chauvinists and primordial custom and cultures. It is rampant in Africa to treasure boy, this is based on the assumption that boys are more fruitful. There are significant cases where only the boys are sent to school, leaving the girls behind, thuscontributing to the high level of illiteracy amongst girls and women these days. In most cases, the womenfolk are excluded from taking decisions on pressing issues, both in the family and in the society at large, as a result of the assumption that it is a man’s world.
Many societies continue to celebrate the birth of a male-child, while a girl born to a family is accorded little or no celebration. What it means is that boys are of more economic importance and generally valued to girls. This explains why some men engage in polygamy once the first wife could not bear a male child. This prompted the craze by many wives’ desire to have male children for their husbands. The womenfolk are indeed faced with too much of troubles not to talk of the pain in labour and the genital mutilation, which is rampant in developing countries. In fact, the barbaric mutilation, through non-sterilized equipments without anesthetics, not only exposes the victims to long term health effects such as HIV/AIDS, urinary and reproductive tract infection, it may also lead to premature death from excessive bleeding.
In Nigeria , there is little law banning the practice of female genital mutilation without enforcement. It is the responsibility of the state to prevent and eliminate harmful practices and laws against women. According to the 1999 constitution of Nigeria in chapter 3 section 26(2)(a), when a Nigerian man marries a foreigner, the woman becomes a citizen of the country, but the reverse is the case for a woman who marries a foreigner. Her husband is not recognised as a citizen and still needs to apply for a visa to enter his wife’s country. We are all equals, why shouldn’t women be given the same rights as men?
These several unbecoming practices against women clearly violates human rights and dignity of women. It is necessary to call on government to take drastic measures to reduce the level of illiteracy in the rural areas, while parents must send their girls to school. Government should enact laws that will prohibit harmful practices against women, which must be vigorously enforced. Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Human Rights Watch and other non-governmental organisations must intensify efforts to ensure that women are liberated from these unfair treatments being meted to the womenfolk. Religious leaders, too, should preach against theses acts while the media should carry out a radical campaign to sensitise the general public on the implications of ill-treatments meted out on womanhood. It requires a collective effort in united solidarity to end traditional practices and harmful laws that harm women.
As the saying goes “what a man can do, a woman can do better”. The errorneous impression that the womenfolk can contribute nothing positive to the society has been proved wrong by the likes of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Dora Akunyili, Oby Ezekwesili, Gambo Sawaba, Laila Dogonyaro etc. It’s high time we gave women their rightful place in nation building.
Getting as many people as possible to report a rape was one of the achievements of the Phapamani Rape Crisis Centre in Uitenhage, which celebrated its 10th anniversary last month.
The centre offers counselling and moral support to rape survivors.
Centre director Ntombi Kubalo said it was initially difficult to get people to report rape because women feared being victimised.
“We found that most rape cases involved people known to the victims. This made it even more difficult for people to report rape.
“We are also glad that we are in partnership with government departments like correctional services and the SA Police Service.”
Correctional Services community corrections unit manager Luvuyo Mase said his role in the centre was to explain to the public that offenders had been released on parole or sentenced to correctional supervision.
“We also address issues raised by the community, especially cases where offenders are sentenced to indirect imprisonment.”
Thobeka Festile, field worker for the VW Community Trust, said the trust was involved in various community projects, mainly focusing on women and children abuse.
“We are here to celebrate the centre‘s achievements because it has made a difference to the community of Uitenhage,” she said.
Incidents of reported sexual violence and harassment are on the rise with an average of nearly 1.5 cases a day for the first six months of this year, a rape crisis group said.
Anti-480 group executive director Linda Wong Sau-yung said there were 260 victims of sexual crimes in the first six months of this year compared with 234 for the same period last year and 242 during the second half of 2007.
The crisis center also received 1,029 calls in the first half of the year against 853 for the same period last year and 986 for the rest of 2007.
Of the calls made since last year, 17 percent were from victims of sexual violence, 8 percent from victims of sexual harassment and 75 percent from those experiencing emotional distress from witnessing acts of sexual violence.
Police said they received only 47 reports of sexual assault during the first half of this year representing a 19 percent drop on last year.
However, Wong said the figures are misleading as most victims were reluctant to approach police.
An online survey of 75 people conducted in May also revealed that family support for rape victims is severely lacking.
Of the 62 respondents who knew a sexual assault victim, only 11 percent said victims had confided in their families and 19 percent told a member of their extended family.
The majority of victims, 66 percent, confided in their friends while 48 percent were only prepared to reveal their experiences to school or workplace colleagues.
According to the survey, 58 percent said victims had experienced sexual harassment, 30 percent witnessed others exposing themselves in their presence and 40 percent felt they were being mentally undressed by others.
Eight percent of respondents had lewd pictures of them taken by others, 62 percent had been touched or groped and 19 percent said their friends had been victims of rape.
Wong said that contrary to belief, men were also victims of sexual assault and harassment, and that 80 percent of assailants were either friends or family members.
Around the world an estimated 3,500 girls under the age of 15 become child brides every day, while another 21,000 get married before reaching the age of 18.
The consequences of such early marriages, according to a new report by the Christian humanitarian organisation, World Vision, include an increased risk of HIV and maternal death, an abrupt end to a girl’s education and a greater chance of violence and abuse.
The practise of coercing girls into early marriage occurs all over the world, but the report, “Before She’s Ready”, lists 15 countries where it is most prevalent.
In Bangladesh, which ranks number one, more than half of all girls (52.5 percent) are married before they turn 16; in Niger the proportion is 37.6 percent, and 34.9 percent in Chad. Other countries included in the top 15 are Ethiopia, India, Nigeria and Mozambique.
The report combines the observations of World Vision staff working in many of these countries with previous research on the issue, and identifies poverty as one of the main factors driving early marriage.
In communities hit by natural disasters or conflict, where families traditionally receive a “bride price” when daughters marry, early marriage can be a desperate bid to raise money to feed the rest of the family. Recent sharp increases in food prices have seen the practice become more common in places such as rural Afghanistan.
Growing numbers of girls orphaned as a result of HIV/AIDS are also being pushed into early marriages by extended family members no longer willing or able to care for them.
Orphanhood is also a significant risk factor for sexual abuse resulting from forced early marriage. The report tells the story of Jane from Ghana, who was orphaned at the age of five and taken in by her aunt. At the age of 13, she was “given” to her aunt’s husband as a second wife. She bore him two children before running away.
Culture and religion also play a role. In some cases, parents believe marrying off their daughters at a young age will protect them from the dishonour of becoming pregnant or sexually active outside of wedlock.
Catherine Demba, World Vision’s national child protection coordinator, observed that in some parts of Chad it is considered a curse for a girl to begin menstruating while still living under her parents’ roof.
“Resisting sexual intercourse isn’t an option in most early marriages, where consummation is considered the male’s right,” notes the report. Forced sex can cause tissue damage, making girls more susceptible to contracting sexually transmitted infections from husbands who may have other partners or wives.
Research cited in the report from both Kenya and Zambia found higher rates of HIV infection among married adolescent girls than among their unmarried, sexually active counterparts.
Pregnancy and childbirth also carry much greater risks for pre-teen and teenage mothers. Pregnancy-related deaths are the leading cause of mortality among girls aged 15 to 19 worldwide, and complications such as fistula – a tearing of the tissue that separates the bladder or bowel from the vagina – are more common when girls give birth when they are too young.
Studies show that women married as children are also significantly more likely to experience domestic violence and abuse. A survey in India found that girls who married before the age of 18 were twice as likely to report being beaten by their husbands than girls who married later, and three times more likely to have been forced to have sex in the previous six months.
Besides the health risks, early marriage usually means that girls are denied the opportunity to continue their education, which in turn limits their future ability to support themselves and their children. Lower education levels have also been associated with higher risks of HIV infection.
The report points out that laws prohibiting child marriage exist in most countries but have done little to stop the practise, especially where it is linked to the genuine economic needs of struggling families.
Addressing these needs may be the best way to delay marriage and childbearing. World Vision recommends job training, microfinance schemes and agricultural input programmes to remove the necessity of offering a daughter for marriage.
Prolonged joblessness is tearing bigger holes in the U.S. unemployment insurance system, critics say. They want an overhaul that starts qualifying part-time, short-term and low-income workers, among whom women are prevalent.
Kathy M. Henry, a 37-year-old single mother of three, has been out of work for a year. She and 15 other employees of a Chicago advertising agency were let go last August after the firm lost a major contract.
“I never expected to be in this position,” said Henry, who earned a bachelor’s degree while working full-time as an administrative assistant. “In addition to sending out hundreds of resumes, I’ve networked, cold-called and attended job fairs. I’ve had a few job interviews but no offers. I’ve considered moving to another state where job prospects might be better, but my kids are doing well and don’t want to leave their schools.”
Henry’s financial situation turned grim in February when her $322 a week in unemployment insurance expired after 26 weeks, the juncture when benefits end for most recipients. “I worry about our family ending up homeless when my meager savings are gone, and I can no longer afford to pay the $682 a month rent on our modest apartment,” she said.
She did get some relief from the 13-week extension of jobless benefits that Congress authorized at the end of June in an $8.2 billion amendment to a $162 billion military spending bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Another extension may be necessary after the current one expires in March if projections of a 6.9 percent unemployment rate by December 2009 are on target.
In July 1.6 million workers–over 40 percent of them women–had been jobless for at least 27 weeks.
“Once concentrated among males employed in manufacturing plants in the Middle West, long-term unemployment has spread to service sectors across the country where large numbers of women work in retailing, financial services, real estate and other industries,” said Christine L. Owens, executive director of the New York-based National Employment Law Project.
The impact on women is severe, said Monica Halas, a senior attorney in the employment unit of Greater Boston Legal Services, which provides free civil legal assistance to low-income people.
“Women earn less than do men and have fewer assets to fall back on when they are unemployed for prolonged periods,” she said. “Low-wage women lose their health care and suffer life-threatening illnesses. Foreclosures rise, leaving women and children homeless. Domestic violence becomes more common.”
In July, 5.7 million workers–the highest number in 14 years–reported they had worked part-time because full-time jobs were unavailable.
The unemployment rate rose from 5.5 percent in June to 5.7 percent in July, the highest rate since March 2004 and a percentage point over the level a year ago. However, job loss was more prevalent than the July total indicates because the Bureau of Labor Statistics did not include in its calculations the 5.2 million “discouraged workers” who have given up trying and no longer believe that there are jobs for them.
“There is a lot of hidden unemployment,” said Ross Eisenbrey, vice president of the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington-based progressive research organization. “In July 5.7 percent of workers said they worked part-time because full-time work was unavailable. If the Bureau of Labor Statistics had included the number of discouraged and part-time workers in its calculations, the unemployment rate would have been 10.8 percent.”
Even if the job market recovers, critics say that the unemployment insurance system needs an overhaul to meet the needs of the 21st century labor force, with its large number of working women, many of whom don’t currently qualify.
Not only are benefits running out on many workers before they can find work, the checks are fairly meager, averaging $290 a week, which would equate to an annual salary of $15,080. Federal poverty guidelines consider a family of four poor if it relies on less than $21,200 in income.
Only 37 percent of unemployed workers now receive unemployment benefits, down from 55 percent in 1958 and 48 percent in 2001, according to the Government Accounting Office. Fewer than 15 percent of low-wage workers receive unemployment benefits because they don’t meet eligibility criteria.
Eligibility for jobless benefits varies from state to state, but typically an applicant must have had earnings for four of the past five calendar quarters and reach a specified threshold in earnings. These rules can land a heavier blow on seasonal workers in tourism, who may have trouble qualifying. Applicants are also typically required to earn a certain amount in the quarter of highest earnings; hourly workers often don’t qualify because their wages are too low.
Leaving a job voluntarily to take care of an ill or disabled family member or because child- or elder-care arrangements have collapsed also disqualifies applicants.
“As a result, low-income workers like single mothers who need unemployment benefits the most don’t receive them,” said Owens. “Relief measures are also needed to enable workers who have fled a domestic violence situation or who have accompanied a spouse who has accepted a position in another place to qualify.”
In addition, half the states require the unemployed worker to be looking for full-time work even if the worker meets the minimum earnings criteria, was working part-time and is seeking a comparable part-time position.
“These requirements don’t take into account that one out of six workers in the U.S. works part-time today,” said Eisenbray. “Women are hard hit because one out of four women works part-time.”
In the past Rep. Jim McDermott, D., Wash., has introduced legislation to provide financial incentives to states to institute reforms to their unemployment programs.
He predicts unemployment insurance benefits will receive more attention by Congress and the new administration in 2009.
“Polls show that the economy is the No. 1 issue in the election,” said McDermott, who led the House fight to extend jobless benefits and is chair of the Income Security and Family Support Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee. “Providing another extension and modernizing the system will be top priorities; the country can’t let these workers down.”
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