Archive for March 4th, 2008

Dear Friends


Professor Sheila Rowbotham has been told that her contract is not going to be renewed at the end of 2008. The University OF Manchester is forcing her to retire on the grounds that they cannot afford to pay her salary (she only wants a third of her current salary to continue teaching). The University is currently paying Martin Amis £80,000 for 28 hours…..A YEAR. Sheila is an immense asset to our University and WE CANNOT AFFORD TO LOSE HER.

Sheila was an integral part of many of the movements she teaches about, proving that her age is not a hindrance but that her experience and extensive knowledge make her teaching come alive.

To see for yourself, please visit and

If you have been taught by or influenced by Sheila in any way, please email the top shotters with whom this decision rests and FORCE THEM TO RECONSIDER THEIR POSITION. It doesn’t matter how big or small the influence, or long or short the email, just let them know you strongly disagree with this forced retirement.

Please email by 10th March 2008:
* Head of Social Sciences (professor)
* Dean of Humanities (professor)
* President and Vice Chancellor (professor)

Pls. c.c your letter of support to

Sheila is due to meet Prof. David Farrell, the Head of Social Sciences on 11th March about her request to stay on only at 1/3 of her current post. The Human Resources Department which processes her contract hardly knows who she is and Prof. Farrell himself admits that he is not acquainted with her credentials and background. In other words, people who have the authority to decide her future in the University is not familiar with her work as a scholar and teacher.

If her peers like yourself, fellow feminists and academics whom you know, and other internationally known academics who have known Sheila and her work could email the decision-makers before 11th March, it would help boost her case! The fact that 150 students have already signed up to support her attests to the fact that she is a valued asset for the University and the students love her.

You can also join the SAVE SHEILA ROWBOTHAM Group in and forward your emails you have sent to the University to us there.

Yours in solidarity,
SAVE SHEILA ROWBOTHAM Campaign group, University of Manchester, United Kingdom

Following feedback that the automatic archiving of WordPress are difficult to follow, we have set up an ‘index’ page of current postings.


24 March – Easter 2008
The Bomb Stops Here!
women’s gate at Aldermaston 2008

This Easter marks the 50th anniversary of the first march to the Atomic Weapons Establishment Aldermaston.

We are inviting all women to join us at the Women’s Gate, and to join with others to surround the base and create a colourful, effective, and massive demonstration.

Bring large kickers and hang them on the fence. Knickers to the Byelaws!

At Falcongate, where Aldermaston Women’s Peace Camp started 23 years ago, we will have a special timeless Women’s Space to celebrate and plot our continuing opposition to nuclear weapons and war, and register opposition to the byelaws which threaten the women’s camp.

Falcongate is next to the Falcon Pub, near junction north of Tadley, less than a mile from the main gate. Bring banners, musical instruments, food to share, pots and pans to make noise… we would really like to see all women who have ever – and never – been to camp. so come and join us!

Coaches are being organised to Aldermaston by local CND groups, see

Rebecca 07733360955;;

Amnesty International UK & Southall Black Sisters
Thurs 13 March 08 at 7.00pm

On Thursday 13 March at 7pm, Amnesty International and Southall Black Sisters invite you to a panel discussion on the findings of their new report on the impact of the No Recourse to Public Funds rule women trying to escape violence in the UK at an event to be hosted at Amnesty International’s headquarters in Shoreditch.

Leading legal experts, specialists in women’s rights and refuge workers will lead a discussion around the need for government reform to protect hundreds of women in the UK who are trapped in a cycle of abuse and violence because of this legal technicality.

Included on the panel will be Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, along with representatives from Southall Black Sisters – a leading organisation to protect the rights of women from black and Asian communities – and also a woman who had been a victim of violence and affected by this legal pitfall.

It will be chaired by Channel Four News presenter, Samira Ahmed.

A drinks reception will follow this panel discussion.

To attend the launch of the report, please visit the Amnesty website:

Amnesty International UK Headquarters, Human Rights Action Centre, 17 – 25 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EA
Time: 7.00pm – 9.30pm
Cost of Admission: Free, but booking is essential

We need you!

Currently there are around 20 core members involved in organising the festival and and we really need your help! We come from a variety of different backgrounds and all have different skills and interests. Ladyfests, like other activism, is very much about learning new skills and trying things you wouldn’t normally get to do in everyday life.

There is lots to do in the run up to the festival and lots of different ways you can get involved. No experience is necessary!

We currently need creative and organising types to join our publicity, fundrasing, merchandising groups, as well as people to get involved in organising performances, comedy and music.

If you are interested in helping out in any capacity please get in touch.

During the festival

Even if you don’t have time to get involved in the run-up to the festival, we are also going to need lots of people to help out during the actual weekend. If you can commit to at least one 4-hour shift between 9-11 May (plus ideally one afternoon or evening a couple weeks before the festival for a welcome/rota meeting) to staff information desks, steward, help with equipment etc, we can offer you a free day-pass to the festival for the rest of that day, plus a free lunch and travel expenses costs if required (within London only). If you can commit to helping out 4 hours a day for each of the three days you will have free entry to the whole festival.

Email or send us a message on Myspace to get in touch. Or just show up at our next general meeting on Wed 12 March at LARC (London Action Resource Centre), 62 Fieldgate Street, E1 at 7pm.

Ladyfest London 2008 promises to be bigger and better and has already had positive news coverage in the Guardian, the Observer and other national media titles. We are running many exciting events in the lead up including sponsoring a series of shorts during the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. See our forthcoming events listings for more details.


We are excited to be showing a programme of films documenting our favourite musicians including: It Changed my Life, Lucy Thane’s film about Huggy Bear and Bikini Kill’s 1993 UK tour. Katharina Ellerbrock’s film Female + Queer words + Beats featuring Le Tigre, Rhythm King and Her Friends and Lesbians on Ectasy. And Kerry Koch’s film Don’t Need You which focuses on the American Riot Grrl scene with rare footage of Sleater-Kinney, Bikini Kill etc. Ladyfest will also be showcasing African women filmmakers including Monique Mbeka Phoba’s insightful film about a young singer with 36 brothers and sisters – Anna from Benin and Rahmatou Keita’s film set in Niger – Al’leessi…An African Actress about a talented and experimental actress and her life after acting.


We are announcing out full music line-up in March- but we have already confirmed some gems currently making waves, including the fantastic Kimya Dawson (ex-Moldy Peaches) currently in the news for excellent work on the soundtrack of Juno; the fastest US selling soundtrack since Saturday Night Fever. She will headline Friday 9th May, her only London show.


As well as celebrating female creativity there will also be an extensive programme of talks, discussions and skill-sharing workshops. Highlights will include: panel discussion on women in the music business, talks by women campaigning for the rights of asylum seekers and migrants, discussions on the state of women in prisons, a panel discussion on riot grrrl with three of the contributing authors of ‘Riot Grrrl: Revolution girl style now!’, workshops on drumming, songwriting, bike maintenance, craft making, feminist activism, and comedy writing as well as many more still in the pipeline.


Ladyfest London will have its Comedy Event launch on the 8th May 2008 in Camden. Line up is under wraps but we’re all in store for a treat.


Ladyfest London is predominantly organised women, all of whom are volunteers.

The first Ladyfest was organised in Olympia, WA in 2000. Since then over 100 Ladyfests have taken place in worldwide, all independently organised by local teams of volunteers. The Ladyfest phenomenon has spearheaded a movement of progressive feminist and queer cultural activism, which Ladyfest London continues to build on.Each community that organises a Ladyfest has specific aims and home-grown concerns. This year’s Ladyfest London wants to place particular political focus women’s experiences of migration, asylum and refuge and women in prisons.All profits made by the festival will go towards relevant women’s charities, to be decided upon by committee.

Organisers meet regularly at the London Action Resource Centre (LARC) in Whitechapel – more volunteers needed and welcomed.

* or Nathalie 07852 932 209


16th March Ladyfest London films benefit
* Samantha Morton double bill with ‘Under the Skin’ and ‘Morvern Callar.’ Rio Cinema, 107 Kingsland High Street, E8, 2pm.

March 30th Ladyfest London @Southbank
* Ladyfest London sponsors a series of shorts at Lesbian and Gay film festival at the BFI SOUTHBANK, 6.40 pm.

* Women and children behind bars in the UK.
* Hear their voices. Show you care.
* With Juliet Stevenson and Harriet Walter

The heartbreaking and heroic journeys of women and children who have sought refuge in the UK, brought to life through personal testimony by refugees and performance by leading actors.

Due to overwhelming response to the sell out performance on Mother’s Day ( see there will be two further performances of Motherland on Sunday 15th March at 3pm and 7.30pm.

For details on booking go to Young Vic website page at or contact Women for Refugee Women at

All tickets £10 – free to asylum seekers (call 020 7922 2922)

Proceeds to Women for Refugee Women and the Yarl’s Wood Befrienders

New figures from the police’s Christmas campaign reveal 276 of the 721 incidents recorded across the whole force took place in Peterborough.

Police officers in the city also arrested 58 people as part of the campaign against domestic violence, which also took place over new year and saw specialist patrol cars operating in each of the force’s divisions.

And the total number of domestic violence crimes reported in the area almost doubled to 62, compared with 36 the previous year.

Deputy head of the force’s Public Protection Department Detective Chief Inspector Steve Selves said the campaign was very successful and the figures demonstrate how seriously they take domestic abuse.

He said: “Incidents that have maybe not been recorded as domestic violence in the past are now being treated as such and the specialist patrols have ensured all reports are investigated.

“Previously, many incidents have also ended with no further action being taken against those arrested because victims often do not make statements.

“However, the majority of people who have been dealt with so far have been cautioned or charged and very few, if any, have had no further action against them.”

Domestic violence forum co-ordinator at Women’s Aid, Sue Chapman said: “These figures, although higher than last year, show a concentrated effort to make it easier for victims of abuse to seek help.

“Domestic violence is still going to effect one in four and will account for a quarter of all violent crime, and that is not going to change, but campaigns such as this bring domestic violence to the front and make it easier for people to get the help that they need.

“We want the figures to keep going up as they help people to feel confident enough to come forward and find the help and realise that they don’t have to put up with it.”

Although the campaign, which was launched on December 14 has ended, Det Ch Insp Selves said the police would continue to gather as much evidence as possible toconvict the perpetrators of domestic abuse 365 days a year.

A recent Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies (HMIC) report ranked the force joint fourth in the country for public protection, which includes domestic violence. Cambridgeshire was the only Force in the eastern region to achieve a “good” for domestic violence.

If you want support, call 08454 103123 during office hours. The national Women’s Aid helpline is 0808 2000 247 and the number won’t show up on the bill.

Breakdown of figures by division in 2006 and 2007
WARD : 2006 : 2007
Central : 220 : 221
Northern : 222 : 276
Southern : 177 : 224
……Total : 619 : 726

Crimes reported by division
Central : 31 : 61
Northern : 36 : 62
Southern : 25 : 37
…..Total : 92 : 160

Number of arrests by division for 2007 only
Central : 28
Northern : 58
Southern : 34
…..Total : 120

Suffolk needs a culture change in how it approaches the issue of domestic violence in the wake of the murder of tragic tot Luigi Askew, a charity worker said today.

The four-week-old baby’s death and abuse against his young mother was a reminder of the dangers women faced from abusive partners, according to Ipswich Women’s Aid.

The charity, which runs two refuges for victims of domestic violence in the town, has called for a greater understanding about the incidence of abuse against partners, predominantly women.

Hilary Cadman, chief executive of Ipswich Women’s Aid, said: “We need a whole culture change to ensure that women properly understand what they’re going through and realise they are not alone and that there are organisations to help.

“It’s very difficult when women don’t know much about domestic violence and that this is what it can lead to. It does happen – two women are killed every week in England.”

Little Luigi was killed by his father Duncan Mills on May 26 last year.

Mills, a former rapper from London Road, Ipswich, is due to be sentenced on June 6 after being found guilty earlier this month after a trial at Ipswich Crown Court. He faces a mandatory life sentence.

Luigi’s mother, Samantha Askew, of Lanercost Way, Ipswich, was a victim of domestic violence at the hands of Mills. Before Luigi’s death she had attended Ipswich Hospital a number of times with injuries he inflicted upon her.

On the day Mills killed his baby son he also battered Miss Askew, now 23, causing her grievous bodily harm, including giving her the ultimatum that he would throw her off the landing of her home if she did not jump herself.

The baby’s death prompted a review by the Suffolk Safeguarding Children Board and resulted in 33 recommendations to a host of agencies responsible for the care of children.

Today Mrs Cadman said domestic violence needed an approach similar to that which had led to drink driving become a major public taboo.

She said: “When domestic violence first starts it starts with a small thing and women think that it’s their fault and try to do everything they can to address that issue but of course domestic violence isn’t straight forward.

“From the minute you appease in one area he will pick on another area because it’s about control and it arises out of insecurity.

“Very often women don’t recognise that it is domestic violence when it first starts. They often don’t have an income of their own and so are reliant on him to bring in an income and provide a home.

“But it’s not easy, people don’t want to be on their own.”

Ipswich Women’s Aid offers a total of 23 bedrooms for women in need in its refuges as well as other services and operates its own 24-hour helpline and co-runs the Suffolk Domestic Violence Helpline.

About 480 women called the Ipswich Women’s Aid helpline between April 1 last year and the end of January this year. About 500 called the Suffolk Domestic Violence helpline between January and December last year.

Victims of domestic violence can call the Ipswich Women’s Aid helpline on 01473 745111 or Suffolk Domestic Violence helpline 0800 7835121.

The approach will see all the agencies involved coming together to discuss cases they have identified as at highest risk to offer the best possible support to victims and their children.

It could be a woman fleeing her partner and needing a plan to get out and somewhere to stay, said Detective Chief Inspector Steve Hopwood, chairman of the newly-formed Bradford Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (Marac).

The agencies will include Bradford Council, the Police, the Probation Service, and representatives from housing, health and education and the voluntary sector.

They will meet monthly to share information from which they will develop co-ordinated action plans to help protect the victims and rebuild their lives.

Professionals have been invited to attend the launch event to learn more about Marac as they will be crucial to its success.

The event will include a 40-minute drama production called Hear My Voice by Interacting which looks at the difficulties faced by women who experience abusive relationships.

Bradford is hoping to achieve similar success to Cardiff which was the first place to hold Maracs. The level of reported repeat victimisation dropped from 32 per cent to less than 10 per cent in that area between 2004 and 2006.

Domestic violence covers psychological, emotional, physical, sexual and financial abuse between adults – both men and women – who are or have been partners, or family members.

Although agencies within the Bradford district have been working together for several years now, the Maracs want to build on those relationships and draw in a broader range of agencies.

Agencies use a 20-point checklist of factors with the victim in order to indicate the level of risk. Information will be shared on victims and perpetrators such as when an offender is released, when care and support of children is needed or crisis accommodation required.

Independent domestic violence advisors are also being introduced to help support and protect victims, assisting them from the point of crisis through to the time a case goes to court.

DCI Hopwood, who is also the violent crime lead for Bradford policing, added: “Domestic violence accounts for about 33 per cent of violent crime in the district. Different agencies bring together different information and sets of skills to the table.

“Together we can develop a full picture of the situation and more importantly, develop a highly effective and co-ordinated response.”

Councillor Martin Smith, chairman of the Bradford District Safer Communities Partnership, said: “Bradford Council will be leading and contributing to the funding of Maracs and we want to make it clear that domestic violence and abuse will not be tolerated in our district.

“We have some of the best domestic abuse services in the UK. However, we are determined to work together to provide the best possible solutions to this important issue.”

Letter to the Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Stephen Harper
par Rose Dufour, anthropologue

If you were given the opportunity to demand from the Canadian government the choice and the freedom for anyone to never prostitute herself, what would you do?

The upcoming 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver are making this issue relevant as the crowds expected at these Games are whetting the financial appetite of pimps and sexual exploiters of all stripes.

Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson recently rejected the prospect of legalizing brothels in Vancouver and Victoria – a welcome decision, but a woefully insufficient one. Are you aware that, in the current Canadian and Quebecois context, there is no policy whatsoever in force to remedy the conditions of entry into prostitution? Do you know that there is no policy either to support prostituted persons who want to escape ‘the life’? And that current practice is limited to passing out condoms and syringes, to allegedly reduce the harms of prostitution?!

Canada must do more and better. How? I invite you to read a statement from ex-prostitutes on this Sisyphe Web page and to follow it up by sending our Prime Minister the following letter (which you may modify at your convenience). You can mail it to him (no stamp necessary), or send it by e-mail or by FAX : 612-941-6900. And please, pass on this message to as many people as you can. Just imagine how effective an avalanche of such letters could prove ! Rose Dufour


Letter to the Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Stephen Harper


Mr. Stephen Harper
Prime Minister’s Office
80, rue Wellington
Ottawa (Ontario)
K1A 0A2
FAX : 612-941-6900

Mr. Prime Minister,

Although I rejoice in your government’s recent decision not to legalize brothels in Vancouver and Victoria for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, I demand that Canada immediately do more and better for women in situations of prostitution. No women, no girl, no person is born to become prostituted! If one can dream of becoming Prime Minister, I can assure you that no one ever dreams of being prostituted! Prostitution is basically a survival condition, forced on people impoverished by a tattered social security net, given the lack of social housing, of income security and of detoxification facilities, and because of other pressing problems – and urgent remedies – brought to the attention of your government by the House of Commons Standing Justice Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs more than a year ago. Your government has to chosen to ignore their recommendations.

I am demanding that the Canadian government provide substantial help to prostituted women by fulfilling their most pressing needs now. I am also demanding that, contrary to Minister Nicholson’s stated intentions, it stop immediately its harassment of women in situations of prostitution, to focus instead on the real sources of this problem : the procurers/traffickers – who publicly advertise their trade with full impunity, while police forces only badger women on the street – and the buyers of “sexual services” who should be dissuaded by a law, by public education work and by the promise of substantive sanctions, as is being done in Sweden with excellent results and is about to happen in the United Kingdom.

Choosing social justice calls for each of us to defend, protect and support the most threatened and fragile persons in our midst, instead of covering for their exploiters and adding to their marginalization by a selective judicial harassment. I await your response to these pressing needs and demands.

Signature :_________________________________
(PRINT NAME) _____________________________
Address :__________________________________
E-mail of Prime Minister :

Hundreds of university students in Victoria have turned to prostitution to pay their way through higher education, says Australian newspaper “The Sunday Age”.

Up to 40% of the female sex workers in Melbourne’s brothels are attending the city’s eight universities and other colleges.

Many of the women cite the costs of course fees, increased rent and a rise in the general cost of living for their decision to join the “oldest profession”.

One 22-year-old Monash student, who has been working as a prostitute and escort for 18 months, told The Sunday Age: “In an ideal world I wouldn’t be doing this work but it’s well paid and there’s no way I could afford to complete university and live out of home if I had any other part-time job.”

The huge earning potential for these girls is the biggest attraction of sex work. According to managers at numerous brothels across the city, a pretty woman can pocket as much as $1400 on a busy night.

Nearly all the brothels contacted by The Sunday Age this week admitted they had students working in their establishments. Many said that between 40% and 50% of their girls were in full-time education.

Glen Barnes, general manager at Melbourne’s largest brothel, the Daily Planet, said that university students often made the best workers. He explained: “We’ve got nearly 200 girls on our books and I’d say at least 35% are students, and they’re nearly always a pleasure to deal with.

“Typically they’re very career-oriented and know exactly what they want to get out of the job. Going to uni is obviously getting more and more expensive, and for many who haven’t got wealthy parents, this is the best way to make ends meet. Most of the girls say it’s the rising costs of fees and being a student in an expensive city like Melbourne that is making them consider the sex industry.

“We’re happy to have them and try to provide an environment which supports them. That means that if it’s quiet and they’re not with a client we allow them to get out their laptops and study in a spare room.”

Although there is no official register of sex workers in Melbourne’s brothels, industry insiders believe there are up to 2000 women who are selling their bodies in the city.

A spokeswoman for Top of the Town, another large brothel in the CBD, with about 90 girls on its books, said that girls from all backgrounds were involved.

“You really can’t generalise about the type of girl that will become a sex worker,” she said.

“We’ve got workers who went to the most prestigious schools in Melbourne and come from very affluent families. In their cases I think they’ve made the decision that they’d want to earn their own money rather than accepting handouts from their parents.

“We’ve also got girls who come from more disadvantaged situations, who can’t live at home while they study, or perhaps they don’t want to be a burden on their parents.

“By working in the sex industry they can earn a lot of money in a relatively short period of time.

“The shift work also means that it’s fairly easy for them to combine it with their studies.

“Brothels in Melbourne are very well run and offer a safe, clean environment and, after all, these ladies aren’t doing anything that’s illegal. Some people may object to it, but it really is very professional.”

The Top of the Town spokeswoman said one former sex worker had paid her way through a law degree by working one or two nights a week and, once qualified, had returned to the brothel to give legal advice to some of the girls.

“A lot of the time with students, the girls are very clear that they’ll only work while they’re studying,” the spokeswoman said. “Once they’ve got their degree or qualification that’s it, they’ll walk away.

“It’s not necessarily a choice for the rest of your life, just a way of paying your way until you get to where you want to go.”

The number of students working in the sex industry demonstrates the increasing cost of studying at university, according to the National Union of Students.

Statistics from the University of Melbourne show that rent and living expenses for those students who live in the city totals about $25,000 if living in university or shared accommodation in the city. This does not include tuition fees, which are deferred until after graduation. For a student living in a one-bedroom flat or studio, this cost can rise to more than $30,000.

Universities stress that they had provisions for students in financial need.

A spokeswoman for Monash University said: “Obviously these ladies are adults and are free to make their own choices about what work they want to enter into. However, we do have extensive services for those who are suffering money problems. Any student can visit our financial counsellors, who are available on all campuses.

“We also offer a wide range of grants, scholarships and bursaries, to those from financially challenged backgrounds.”

See also: “Tales of student prostitutes shock France

Women’s groups have blasted Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s hand-picked panel to oversee his Australia 2020 summit as too male and too white.

And the mother of one of Mr Rudd’s senior staff said she was shocked by the lack of women on the list of 10 prominent Australians to lead debate at the two=day talkfest.

The summit – billed as a meeting of 1,000 of the country’s best and brightest minds to hammer out big-picture ideas for the next decade – will be held in parliament’s Great Hall in April.

Actress Cate Blanchett, who will head the arts discussion, is the only woman on the panel, while Aboriginal surgeon Kelvin Kong is the only indigenous Australian.

The list includes former Nationals leader Tim Fischer, one-time Howard government minister Warwick Smith, and former treasurer Peter Costello’s brother Tim.

But equality advocates say the political bipartisanship is not matched when it comes to women and non-Anglo Australians.

Businesswoman Catherine Harris, whose son Lachlan is Mr Rudd’s senior media adviser, said the choice of panel was not only limiting points of view, it was not providing role models.

“All the young women coming out of school and at universities – they look up at this group of the supposedly 1,000 great thinkers in Australia and nine out of 10 of them are all men,” Ms Harris told ABC Radio.

“I suppose a lot of us were sitting back and thinking, women, there’s Therese Rein up there, he’s got a successful wife, he understands that most women are not actually at home, looking after the grandchildren or the children, they’ve got lots of other jobs as well.

“And this is just such a shock.”

Women’s Electoral Lobby spokeswoman Eva Cox said a woman should have been chosen to chair the sessions on strengthening communities and supporting families.

Instead, World Vision Australia head Tim Costello will lead the discussion.

“When I looked at the list this morning I felt slightly sick in my stomach about it – if this is an indicator of what they are trying to find for the future, it isn’t a good indication,” Ms Cox told AAP.

“I was disappointed, I would have expected a more diverse group.”

Touring Launceston, Mr Rudd defended his feminist credentials, pointing out that ministers Julia Gillard, Penny Wong, Nicola Roxon, Tanya Plibersek and Jenny Macklin, as well as parliamentary secretary Maxine McKew, would co-chair sessions at the summit.

“I just note for the record that six of our 10 from the ministry happen to be women,” he told reporters.

But lobby group Women On Boards said the list sent a message to future leaders that women were not good enough to be considered.

“Is there not one other woman with the qualifications and experience who can join Cate Blanchett and assume a leadership role in this important summit?” executive director Claire Braund asked.

The committee members will help select up to 100 participants for the summit and lead the discussion in their area of responsibility.

Mr Costello said he would ensure diversity among the 100 people he brings to the summit.

“I want there to be diversity, I want there to be people who have different views to the views I have,” Mr Costello told Sky News.

The Vatican has cracked down on feminist interpretations of the liturgy, ruling that God must always be recognised as Our Father.

In a move designed to counter the spread of gender-neutral phrases, the Holy See said that anyone baptised using alternative terms, such as “Creator”, “Redeemer” and “Sanctifier” would have to be re-baptised using the traditional ceremony.

The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith said yesterday: “These variations arise from so-called feminist theology and are an attempt to avoid using the words Father and Son, which are held to be chauvinistic.”

Instead, it said that the traditional form of “Father, Son and Holy Ghost” had to be respected.

The alternative phrases originated in North America and started to become popular only in the past few years.

The new phrases are particularly popular in the Church of England. It was recently reported that guidelines to bishops and priests advised them to avoid “uncritical use of masculine imagery”.

The Catholic Church and the Church of England are split over feminist issues.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and the Pope, met in Rome last year, but admitted that the ordination of women priests was a “serious obstacle” to closer ties.

The Pope, who wrote the latest ruling, has been a strong opponent of feminism in the Catholic Church.

In his book, The Ratzinger Report, he wrote: “I am, in fact, convinced that what feminism promotes in its radical form is no longer the Christianity that we know; it is another religion.”

Rosemary Radford Ruether, a professor of feminist theology at the Graduate Theological Union in California, said that among “liberal” Catholics, the Pope “is not our Pope”.

The Vatican said anyone baptised under the feminist terms could invalidate their marriage. Cardinal Urbano Navarrete, who wrote a formal commentary on yesterday’s ruling, gave warning that anyone who attempted to baptise someone with a gender-neutral form would be penalised. “It is seriously illegitimate and unjust,” he said.

Monsignor Antonio Miralles, a professor at the Pontifical Holy Cross University, said the new baptism “subverts faith in the Trinity” because it does not make the relationship between the three persons clear. “God is eternally Father in relation to His only begotten Son, who is not eternally Son except in relation to the Father.”

Meanwhile, the Pope also spoke out against gay marriage and abortion before his first trip to the United States before Easter. He praised Americans who respected the “institution of marriage, acknowledged as a stable union between a man and a woman”.

The International Development Committee said there had been little progress in reducing maternal deaths in developing countries in the last 20 years and it criticised a lack of political will to improve women’s health.

One in seven women in Niger dies in childbirth, compared to one in 8,200 in Britain, it said.

Of the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations in 2000, there had been least progress on the target of reducing maternal mortality by 75 percent, the committee said.

On current trends, the goal will not be met by the 2015 deadline.

“A key factor in this collective failure has been insufficient political will to drive actions to improve the health of women, both at the international and national levels,” it said in a report to coincide with Mothers’ Day in Britain.

Studies estimated maternal deaths worldwide in 2005 at 536,000 although the true figure could be as high as 872,000, because of a tendency to under-report such deaths and poor data, said committee chairman Malcolm Bruce, an opposition Liberal Democrat.

“It has … been estimated that for each woman who dies, 30 further women will become disabled, injured or ill owing to pregnancy, so it is reasonable to assume that millions of women suffer in some way due to childbirth,” he said.

Only two in five women in sub-Saharan Africa deliver their babies with the help of skilled medical staff, the report said.

Addressing a huge shortage of midwives worldwide and increasing the availability of emergency obstetric care to all women must remain the main focus of the British government’s overseas aid department, the committee recommended.

Increasing access to basic drugs and equipment including family planning supplies was vital, as was tackling gender inequalities that prevented women gaining access to health care.

The silence and taboo surrounding anal sex is putting millions of men and women at risk of HIV, delegates attending the fourth international microbicides conference in New Delhi, India, heard this week.

Often thought of as strictly a “gay thing”, studies are showing that anal intercourse is also part of heterosexual coupling, and is largely unprotected, said Jim Pickett, chair of International Rectal Microbicide Advocates (IRMA), which released a report on the subject at the conference.

The report, Less Silence, More Science warned that researchers could no longer afford to ignore anal sex – one of the biggest drivers of the epidemic – and called for more research into the development of a rectal microbicide.

“We must consider the possibility that unprotected anal intercourse, even when practiced rarely, may in fact be a significant source of HIV transmission in many contexts,” the report said. Women were also likely to engage in anal sex in cultures and regions where virginity was especially prized and contraception was not easily available.

The danger of unprotected anal sex is that the lining of the rectum is more fragile and contains more susceptible cells than the lining of the vagina and part of the cervix, making it easier to transmit HIV.

“This is a highly vulnerable region for infection … It’s a very easy portal for HIV infection,” Dr Ian McGowan, from the Microbicide Trials Network, told delegates.

Although progress has been made in the race towards an effective vaginal microbicide, studies looking at rectal microbicides lag behind. “Within 10 minutes of a vaginal microbicide going on the shelves, it will be going up someone’s butt,” said Pickett.

Potential microbicides include a range of products – such as gels, films and sponges – that could help prevent the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. No microbicide has yet been shown to be effective.

Rectal microbicides could offer both primary protection in the absence of condoms and back-up protection if a condom broke or slipped off during anal intercourse.

The only rectal microbicide safety trial so far is currently underway, and two more Phase 1 trials are in the planning stages, the report said. Phase 1 trials are where researchers test a new drug for human safety to determine a safe dosage range and identify side effects.

Pickett attributed the slow pace of research in this field to the scientific challenges in testing products rectally, as well as widespread stigma and homophobia, besides a lack of funding.

The fragile nature of the rectum – which is just a single cell-layer thick – could mean that it could be damaged by some of the study-related actions and tests, making it difficult to measure the safety of the product.

Stigma, homophobia major barriers

In Jamaica, a country where homophobia is “deeply embedded” and popular musicians sing about shooting men who have sex with men (MSM) in the head, Jamaican researcher Dr Nesha Haniff has been working with members of a local non-governmental organisation (NGO), Jamaica AIDS Support for Life, to advocate for new prevention approaches to protect MSM.

HIV prevalence in the Caribbean country is 2 percent at present, but an estimated 25 percent of the country’s MSM are estimated to be living with the virus. Haniff acknowledged that part of the dilemma in calling for rectal microbicides was the act of anal intercourse.

The practice is illegal in many countries, and the strong taboo and homophobia associated with anal sex makes it difficult for both MSM and heterosexual couples to find out about how they can protect themselves from HIV infection.

Ten U.N. agencies have launched a campaign to significantly reduce female circumcision by 2015 and eradicate the damaging practice within a generation.

In a statement released Wednesday, the agencies said female circumcision violates the rights of women and girls to health, protection and even life since the procedure sometimes results in death.

The agencies pledged to support all efforts by governments, communities, women and girls to reduce and end the practice.

Female circumcision, also called female genital mutilation, usually involves the removal of the clitoris and other parts of female genitalia. Those who practice it say it tames a girl’s sexual desire and maintains her honor.

“Today, we must stand and firmly oppose this practice because it clashes with our core universal values and constitutes a challenge to human dignity and health,” Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro told the Commission on the Status of Women where the campaign was launched.

“The consequences of genital mutilation are unacceptable anywhere, anytime and by any moral and ethical standard,” she said. “Often, female genital mutilation is carried out on minors, violating the rights of a child to free and full consent on matters concerning her body and body functions.”

According to a statement from the U.N. agencies, between 100 and 140 million women and girls are estimated to have undergone female circumcision, and 3 million girls are estimated to be at risk of undergoing the procedure every year.

It is practiced by Muslims and Christians alike, deeply rooted in the Nile Valley region and parts of sub-Saharan African, and is also performed in Yemen and Oman. Through migration, the practice has spread to Western countries like Britain.

Migiro said there were no quick or easy solutions to the problem and achieving results would require changing “collective behavior” that has supported female circumcision for generations.

“If we can come together for a sustained push, female genital mutilation can vanish within a generation,” Migiro said. “This goal demands both increased resources and strengthened coordination and cooperation among all of us.”

The 10 agencies are The Joint U.N. Program on HIV/AIDS; the U.N. Development Program; the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa; the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; the U.N. Population Fund; the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights; the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR; the U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF; the U.N. Development Fund for Women and the World Health Organization.

With the number of reported cases of children raped in Zimbabwe surging more than 40 per cent in the last three years, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has joined with the Government and religious groups in an awareness campaign to fight the scourge.

The Zimbabwean Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, the National Faith Based Council of Zimbabwe, and UNICEF yesterday launched their Stand Up and Speak Out campaign against child abuse, aiming to reach more than six million of the African country’s citizens.

“The Stand Up and Speak Out information campaign will confront all types of abuse of children – sexual, physical, neglect and verbal,” UNICEF’s Representative in Zimbabwe, Festo Kavishe, said.

“If perpetrators are going to be stopped and if children are going to have the confidence to speak out against these evils, then families, communities and schools must concentrate on the value of children, and how they deserve our love and respect,” he said.

In a press release, UNICEF said the information campaign is aimed at raising awareness of all forms of child abuse, the damage caused, how child abuse can be prevented, and importantly where to get help.

It said the campaign includes programming for radio, television, signage and print media, and well as training and materials for church sermons, Sunday school classes, and other religious activities.

Iconic Zimbabwean gospel singer Shingisai has written a campaign song, which will air on national radio and, hopefully, be sung in churches across the country.

Official police figures show that there were 2192 reported “rape cases involving children 16 years and below” in 2003. In 2006 this jumped to 3112, an increase of 42 per cent.

Harmful cultural practices such as female genital mutilation are hampering efforts to reduce poverty in Sierra Leone, which has the world’s worst child and maternal mortality rates, a top U.N. official said.

Discrimination against women is also partly responsible for the social problems that have persisted since the 1991-2002 civil war, said Ann Veneman, executive director of child agency UNICEF, after a three-day visit to rural clinics and schools.

“Sierra Leone needs to change a number of the harmful traditional and cultural practices,” Veneman told reporters late on Friday, citing female genital mutilation (FGM), child marriage and pregnancy, and under-age labour.

According to the United Nations, more than a quarter of children die before their fifth birthday in the former British colony, and one in eight women die in childbirth.

Seventy percent of the population live below the poverty line and fewer than 30 percent are literate.

Veneman criticised the high rates of sexual violence that have continued since the war when thousands of women were raped, kept as sex slaves and forced into marriage by rebels.

“A tremendous amount of sexual violence still goes on in this country,” Veneman told Reuters after the news conference. “It has to be unacceptable in this society to allow sexual violence against women and children to continue.”

Ignorance due to a tradition of not sending girls to school was contributing to problems such as feeding newborns with dirty water and rice milk instead of breast milk, which boosts the immune system, and the failure to use bednets against malaria.

“Poverty is the big problem,” Veneman said. “But the young girls have a double problem: they are highly discriminated against and there is a total disregard for women and girls.”

She also said girls were prey to secret societies — closed traditional groups solely for women, that meet in the bush.

“They have secret societies where you learn how to be a woman and how to take care of a man and this is where you get your FGM,” she said.

“These women who do this are running a business and have an economic interest in doing it. But it is a harmful practice: it can cause infection, bleeding and HIV/Aids.”

UNICEF estimates 90-94 percent of women in Sierra Leone are cut and Veneman says attitudes are not changing quickly enough.

“There are still young people out there who have suffered in such terrible ways,” said Veneman. “It’s a special burden.”

A new anthology of letters and notes by Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian and Albanian women brings together for the first time a female point of view from all sides of the brutal wars fought in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

The book, entitled “A Woman’s Side of War”, collects 120 stories by women who witnessed wars in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo, as well as the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia.

“I don’t know what’s more striking — the huge horror women experienced and testified about or the great love that exists in them,” said Lina Vuskovic of the Women in Black anti-war group that published the book.

Women suffered especially in the 1992-95 Bosnia war, when Bosnian Serb forces used the mass rape of Bosnian Muslim women as a tool of war to insult and demoralise their enemy. Dozens are still on trial, accused of running rape camps or participating in gang rapes, often in front of the women’s families.

The book, written in the closely related Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian languages, includes contributions from teenagers to grandmothers, with stories ranging from testimonies of sexual violence to the loss of close relatives, and having to flee ancestral homes for life as refugees.

Amina Begovic, an actress from Sarajevo, writes about surviving the 43-month siege of her city by Bosnian Serb forces.

“I had to take the ‘sniper’s alley’,” she says of a notorious street in central Sarajevo where dozens died as a result of sniper fire.

“I cleaned my shoes. there were two dogs in the yard. Ever since I can remember I’ve had a huge fear of dogs. But I didn’t have a fear of snipers, because I didn’t know what a sniper is.”

Ljiljana Odanic, a Serb from Novi Sad, describes how she felt when NATO bombs fell on her city as part of a campaign to drive Serbs out of the breakaway province of Kosovo and end the killings of civilians in a counter-insurgency war.

“The worst night was when they bombed Varadin bridge, some 200 metres from my place,” she writes. “Then the draft started. My fear was even bigger, I was afraid they would call up my brother. That was a bigger fear than that of bombs.”

The introduction of the book, now being translated into Albanian, says every testimony “is an act of creating an alternative women’s history, different than the exclusively male history, which is dry and ruthlessly depersonalised.”

“On one side, women have been the true victims of a specific war strategy, on the other, victims have been used as ‘cases’, as a weapon in the war propaganda,” the introduction notes.

The publishers presented the book through a theatre performance. Actresses read out the stories, which describe daily tales of courage and efforts to overcome trauma and get back to a normal life.

The event in central Belgrade was held under tight security, guarded by a dozen policemen.

Women in Black, which was set up in Belgrade in the early 1990s before spreading to other ex-Yugoslav countries, has been targeted by Serb nationalists for daring to confront taboo chapters in the nation’s recent history.

The said they did not request the security, but police came as a precaution against trouble makers. Since Kosovo declared independence on Feb 17, hardline groups have attacked and vandalised embassies, foreign firms as well as liberal, pro-Western broadcasters and parties.

Women’s organizations are reeling over Tuesday morning’s High Court ruling against their collective petition protesting former president Moshe Katsav’s plea bargain, in which Katsav avoided rape charges by pleading guilty to lesser charges and paying a monetary fine instead of serving jail time.

A collection of women’s groups, including the Women’s International Zionist Organization, Na’amat and the Association of Rape Crisis Centers, had petitioned Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz’s decision to accept the plea bargain on June 28, 2007. Tuesday’s decision may lead to further petitions and appeals from the women’s groups.

“We wish to express our deep outrage with the Supreme Court decision,” they said in a statement. “Even in our starkest predictions we did not entertain the possibility that the Supreme Court would uphold the plea bargain in such a clear-cut way. It was proven today that there is no justice in Israel; the rule of law is over.”

“This very much concerns us,” said Irit Gazit, head of legal services at WIZO’s Division for Advancement of the Status of Women. “We hope to get permission from the Supreme Court to try to pursue more legal action.”

The verdict troubles women’s groups for multiple reasons. On one hand, a general trust in the judicial system has been shaken.

“Justice has not been done,” said Talia Livni, president of Na’amat. “The state should review its attitude toward the way it handles sexual harassment of women and its treatment of high-ranking officials.”

Na’amat and WIZO were both rankled by the process as much as the result of Katsav’s trial, feeling that he “got away due to his position” because he had access to different pre-trial procedures and well-connected attorneys. “He had advantages,” said Livni, that the average citizen does not.

“Money and status have triumphed over the truth, women and society,” said Gazit.

On another level, these organizations fear that the verdict will have an adverse effect on the readiness of rape victims to come forward and press charges against their assailants. WIZO feels that the result of this case “may send them [the victims] the message that it’s not worth complaining.”

In its annual report to the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women last November, Tal Kramer, director of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers, presented statistics that show a drop in the number of rape victims reporting crimes to the police. He noted how difficult it is for women to go to the police and that something needs to be done to “break this cycle of silence.”

Tuesday’s ruling, activists said, stings of complete disinterest with regard to these trends.

In view of the ruling, WIZO is considering the establishment of a support system for women who do not want to concede their right to prosecute, but continue to seek truth and justice through civil procedures.

“We send our thoughts to these women [whose testimony against Katsav was disregarded] and to all victims of sexual harassment and assault,” said Gazit. “We encourage them not to give up.”