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7/28/2000 - Dangerous Prospects for Afghan Asylum Seekers in Britain

The Immigration Appeals Centre in London has denied the asylum appeal of four of the 31 Afghan asylum seekers who were on board the hijacked Afghan aircraft that arrived at Stansted airport in Essex on February 7 of this year. A 21-year-old former medical student told immigration officials, "I'm not prepared to go back to Afghanistan under any circumstances. If the worst comes to the worst you will have to kill me and send my body back to Afghanistan." He reported that he had received lashings and been imprisoned by the Taliban militia for serving women in his work at a tailor shop. The brutal gender apartheid policies of the Taliban have systematically stripped women and girls in Afghanistan of their visibility, voice, and mobility. Judge Hubert Dunn described the medical students claim to asylum as "all but non-existent." Alarmingly, one woman was among the most recent four denied asylum.

The asylum-seekers appealed Home Secretary Jack Straw's decision to deny them political asylum because they claim to fear that the Taliban militia will kill them if they are returned to Afghanistan. Those denied asylum have 10 days to make a final appeal. The verdict on the remaining appeals are expected to be handed down in the next few days.

7/28/2000 - U.S. Urges Establishment of Tribunal To Prosecute Sierra Leone Rebel Leaders

The United States is pushing for the creation of a war tribunal that would prosecute rebel leaders in Sierra Leone for their war crimes, including rape and mutilation of women and girls. The U.S. is in particular seeking to prosecute rebels of the evolutionary United Front, who held 500 U.N. peacekeepers hostage for several weeks in May. Foday Sankoh, leader of the Revolutionary United Front rebel group, is currently in government custody and will most likely be one of the first people prosecuted. Although the call for the tribunal's creation represents a positive step, establishing an International Criminal Court (ICC) that prosecutes war criminals across the globe is more likely to secure gender equality and justice in the long-term. The ICC would serve as a breakthrough for the ongoing protection of women's rights by providing a mechanism for bringing to justice perpetrators of inhumane crimes against women and girls. In July 1998, 120 countries, excluding the United States, voted to establish the ICC.

7/27/2000 - Violence Prevention Plan Will Aid Latin American Women

To stem the rampant levels of domestic violence that afflict Latin American women, five international organizations have backed a plan that will establish networks of prevention and rehabilitation for survivors of psychological and physical abuse. The ground-breaking plan will include home visits by nurses and social workers to those who are at risk or have already experienced abuse, as well as violence prevention seminars and educational programs. Between 10 and 30 percent Latin American women suffer physical violence at the hands of their husbands, according to a study by the Prevention of Violence at the Pan-American Health Organization. In urban cities such as Cali, Santiago, Rio de Janeiro, and Caracas, over fifty percent of the women questioned admitted to having suffered domestic violence.

The effect of domestic violence on women is devastating, according to Dr. Pamela Hartigan, the acting director at the World Health Organization's (WHO) Department for Violence and Non-Intentional Injury Prevention. "Abused women are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, psychosomatic symptoms, eating problems and sexual dysfunction," she remarked. In addition to the mental and physical health consequences, survivors of domestic violence are less likely to earn money. In one city in Nicaragua, "abused women earned 46 percent less than women who did not suffer abuse, even after controlling for other factors that affect earning," Hartigan pointed out.

7/27/2000 - African Women Convene to Focus on Impoverished Women

Forty delegates from finance sectors across 14 African countries will convene in South Africa this week to discuss methods of empowering poor women. The conference, organized by Women's World Banking (WWB), will establish a regional network representing 326 institutions that aims to increase women's access to finance, technology, and markets. "What we need are more institutions committed to sustainable microfinance. The organization emerging from this meeting will make a difference in the lives of millions of poor Africans," stated Nancy Barry, the president of WWB.

7/27/2000 - Women in Malaysia Petition Government for Equal Rights

Ninety women non-governmental organizations are proposing that the Malaysian government become more gender-sensitive by allowing women to have a voice in every aspect of the country's development plan, the Eighth Malaysia Plan. Their proposal would give women voices in all areas including entrepreneurship, agriculture, and sports. Datuk Shahrizat, who is in charge of the women's affairs department for the Prime Minister, said that the Prime Minister appeared

7/27/2000 - Ban on Domestic Violence in China Urged

Women’s rights advocates and legal experts are pushing to reform China’s existing marriage law to ban family violence, which occurs in 30 percent of Chinese families, according to surveys conducted by the All-China Women’s Federation.

Chinese women are targets of domestic abuse because of their economic dependence on husbands and poorer educational backgrounds, according to Pi Xiamoing, author of “White Paper on Family Violence” and a prominent lawyer. Approximately 32 percent of the abused wives were regularly beaten four times a month, and an additional 39 percent were beaten more than once every month.

7/25/2000 - Women NGO Workers Fight for Safety in Pakistan

The safety of NGO workers in Peshawar, Pakistan is endangered by Islamic extremists who charge that NGO activities violate the codes of Islam. In early July, Maulvi Ziaul Haq, a local Islamic cleric who resides near the headquarters of the NGOs, accused NGOs in weekly sermons of spreading secularism. Six years ago, more than 15 people were killed in an armed movement by extremists who sought to enforce Islamic law in the area. The Amal Project, which has established 40 community-based schools for girls, has been targeted by extremists. NGO workers suggested that the Islamic clerics' opposition to gender equality largely explains the hostility towards NGOs. The clerics "do not want educated women around and feel threatened by them," remarked Noor Marjan, a local woman working in the Amal Project.

7/25/2000 - Domestic Violence Against Women Increases in War-Torn Kosovo

Violence against women has increased in Kosovo, suggesting that postwar trauma has added yet another threat to women's safety. Domestic violence is still not considered a crime in Kosovo, and lawyers are often reluctant to take cases that target husbands for wife beating and rape. "Violence on women has deep roots in the Kosovar Albanian society, where force is respected, beating is a kind of education and shutting up, an unwritten rule," remarked Rachel Wareham, a writer of a U.N. sponsored report on domestic violence in Kosovo. According to Wareham, a quarter of women in Kosovo have experienced domestic violence in the last two years.

7/25/2000 - Spanish Women Sue Islamic Author For Wife-Beating Advice

Spanish women's organizations sued a prominent Islamic leader for writing a book that offers detailed instructions on wife-beating. Spain's Federation of Separated and Divorced Women, which presented the lawsuit on July 24th in Barcelona, accused Mohammad Kemal Mustafa, author of Women in Islam, for inciting violence and discrimination against women and violating article 510 of the Spanish code. "That article expressly states that advocating violence or discrimination on grounds of sex or family situation is a punishable offense," remarked the federation's lawyer, Maria Jose Varela. Mustafa, who as Imam of Fuengirola leads one of the country's largest Muslim communities, describes in his 120-page book how to beat a woman while avoiding discovery; the fine and light rod, Mustafa recommends, does not "leave scars or bruises on the body."

7/25/2000 - Women in Eastern Europe Caught in Sex Trade

Tens of thousands of young Eastern European women are being lured into the sex trade by criminals who are making enormous profits. By coercing them into leaving the poverty of their own countries, like Bosnia and Macedonia, for a better life in Western Europe, these criminals deceive women into becoming prostitutes and then enslave and abuse these women. The International Organization for Migration reports that at least 300,000 women from Eastern Europe work as prostitutes in Western Europe, while the U.N. and other sources estimate that indirect global profits from the sex trade range from 7 billion to 12 billion dollars a year. The success of the criminals who engage in and support the Eastern European sex trade is linked to the cooperation of many corrupt government officials in the former Yugoslav federation, who share in the profits.

7/24/2000 - More Iranian Women Attend Universities

The number of Iranian women attending a university has risen substantially in the past two years. Between 1990 to 2000, the number of women entering universities tripled, and women students outnumber men in disciplines such as medicine and social sciences. Despite these changes, women only constitute 14 percent of the labor force and are overrepresented in the unemployment rolls by a factor of 2 to 1, according to a recent United Nations report on human development in Iran. The universities, which ban visitors and music for women and closely monitor dress and reading materials, continue to impose strict restrictions on the women's lives.

7/24/2000 - Irish Women Have More Late Abortions

Irish women are nearly three times as likely to have late abortions than British women, according to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS). Of the 6,214 Irish women who traveled to Britain to have abortions, almost 40 percent of the clients at BPAS had not received counseling. Currently, more than six thousand women in Ireland, where abortion remains illegal, must travel to Great Britain for abortion services. Ann Furedi of the BPAS commented that the "additional obstacles that they have to surmount to get over to Britain" explained the lateness of the women's abortions, pointing out that the costs of travel and absence of legal support were difficult barriers.

7/24/2000 - Sexual Harassment Not Given Enough Attention in China

Sexual harassment victims in China do not feel that they are receiving enough support, according to a recent survey by the Chinese Women's College that included 4,000 women residing in urban areas. Many reported that they frequently witnessed situations of sexual harassment at the office and in public, but that they did not realize such behavior constituted a violation of women's rights.

7/24/2000 - Women in Okinawa Demand Child Support from US Servicemen

Social service agencies and children's rights groups estimate that there are about 4,000 children in Okinawa abandoned by American servicemen. According to Annette Eddie-Callagain, who has opened a private law practice to help the deserted Okinawan families, the children are deprived of basic human necessities such as food and education due to the desperate economic situation of their mothers. Additionally, the children endure prejudice from the Japanese society, which still does not accept multiracial children. While the United States and some European countries have agreements allowing women to receive financial support for children in the case of military personnel abandonment, no such agreement exists between the United States and Japan.

7/24/2000 - Taliban Holds Public Execution in Afghanistan

In Kabul this past weekend, a crowd of thousands watched the first public execution in Afghanistan since an Afghan woman was stoned to death in May for adultery. The brother of one of the killer's victims was able to cut the man's throat because it follows the Taliban's strict interpretation of Islamic law where a victim's family can execute the convicted killer. The Taliban advocates the killing of convicted murderers and adulterers, the amputation of limbs for thieves and beatings for people found guilty of any lesser crimes. Afghan officials also announced that they are considering lifting the ban on television so that the medium can be used to promote Afghan culture and Islam.

7/21/2000 - Taliban Refuses to Lift Ban on Women Aid Workers

Despite efforts on the part of the United Nations to demand gender equity, the Taliban continues to refuse to lift a ban on women working for aid organizations even though foreign aid officials say that projects in health, education and the provision of food largely depend on women workers. The ban has halted work on the UN's World Food Program where 600 Afghan women were employed as surveyors in bakery projects that were responsible for feeding almost 270,000 people every day. The United Nations expressed disappointment in the Taliban's refusal to soften their position and alluded to the fact that members of the Taliban militia were very displeased that local women were working with international aid groups.

7/21/2000 - Worst Drought in 30 Years Ravages Afghanistan

Between three and four million people in Afghanistan may starve as a result of severe drought, according to the United Nations World Food Program. The drought comes at a time when people in Afghanistan are suffering from civil war, a devastated economy, and the oppressive aggression of the Taliban regime. Earlier this week the World Food Program appealed to donors for $55.4 million to help feed starving Afghans. Rain is not expected until next May or June for Afghanistan.

7/21/2000 - Diamond Industry Agrees To Ban War-Related Gems

The world's diamond industry approved the ban on "conflict diamonds" that fund some of Africa's bloodiest civil wars, agreeing to adopt strict measure that monitor manufacturing centers. People at the World Diamond Congress, held in Belgium on July 19th, promised to institute an International Diamond Council, which would regulate the expulsion of traders and potentially prosecute them with criminal charges. The industry's move has been praised by non-governmental organizations, the U.N., and governments that have long pushed for corporate responsibility. Conflict diamonds have partly fueled a multitude of brutal wars in Africa, where hundreds of thousands are left raped, mutilated, and killed in Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to Human Rights Watch and U.N. groups, women and girls as young as the age of 10 were repeatedly raped and tortured by rebel forces in Sierra Leone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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