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1/4/2013 - Malala Yousafzai Released from Hospital
Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani teenager who was shot in the head by Taliban forces for her outspoken support of girls' education, was released yesterday from Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, UK. She is currently staying with her family at a temporary home in the United Kingdom before going back to the hospital for reconstructive surgery within the next month.
Dr. Dave Rosser, the hospital's medical director, told reporters, "Malala is a strong young woman and has worked hard with the people caring for her to make excellent progress in her recovery. ... Following discussions with Malala and her medical team, we decided that she would benefit from being at home with her parents and two brothers."
Yousafzai was targeted by the Taliban early in 2012 after she published a diary under a pen name, published by the BBC, criticizing the Taliban and the opposition faced by girls trying to get an education in Pakistan. In October, she was shot in the head after two men approached her school van on her way home from school. She was immediately rushed to a Pakistani hospital where doctors removed the bullets lodged in her head. She was then transferred to Queen Elizabeth Hospital for specialized treatment.
The brutal gang rape and death of a 23-year-old female medical student in India has prompted global outrage, Reuters reports.
The physiotherapy student was tortured and raped by a group of six men who were armed with a metal bar on a private bus in New Delhi on December 16th. The woman was raped for nearly an hour before a metal rod was pushed inside her, critically damaging her internal organs. The victim was flown to Singapore for medical treatment where she died of her injuries Saturday morning. Her body was cremated and her ashes were scattered in the Ganges river Tuesday morning
Police have detained five men and a teenager in the case and are seeking the death penalty against four of the accused, one senior police source told Reuters.
The incident has sparked protests across India, the world's largest democracy, where a woman is estimated to be raped every twenty minutes, with Delhi being labeled the "rape capital" of the country, according to the Associated Press. Huge protests and demonstrations have voiced anger regarding the treatment of women in India and calling for tougher laws on violence against women.
12/21/2012 - South Korea Elects First Female President
On Wednesday, Park Geun-hye was elected President of South Korea. She will be the first woman to ever hold the position in that country.
Park, the leader of the country's conservative party, defeated liberal Moon Jae-in by 3.5%, and promised to return the conservative leadership to a more moderate stance than her predecessor Lee Myung-bak. Her campaign featured economic reform, as well as a "women's revolution" featuring issues like child care. However, some critics argue that while she may be willing to advance some women's rights issues, she may not be a champion for gender equality in the country. She also has promised firm reform in relations with North Korea.
Park is the daughter of Park Chung-hee, the dictator who led the country until his assassination in 1979. After her mother was killed in a failed assassination attempt of her father in 1974, Park Geun-hye filled the public role of "First Lady" next to her father.
12/20/2012 - Indian Activists Protest Gang Rape
Protests erupted in India yesterday in response to a violent gang rape on a bus in South Delhi. Protesters, mostly students and women's organizations, held protests in streets of the city of Delhi and demonstrated in front of the city's police headquarters calling for new attitudes towards rape. Protesters who gathered outside of the home of Delhi's Chief Minister were blasted with a water cannon from police forces.
On Sunday, a 23 year old medical student and her male partner was accosted while riding a bus in South Delhi. Both were beaten and the woman was raped repeatedly by four men. She has required multiple surgeries for head and intestinal injuries. A few days later, a 15 year old was raped in the northern state of Bihar.
Sehba Farooqui, an activist for Indian women's rights, said "We have been screaming ourselves hoarse demanding greater security for women and girls. But the government, the police and others responsible for public security have ignored the daily violence that women face." A student protester told reporters "We want to jolt people awake from the cozy comfort of their cars. We want
people to feel the pain of what women go through every day."
12/19/2012 - Irish Government Announces Change in Abortion Laws
On Tuesday, the Irish government announced that it will draft new legislation to clarify the country's restrictive abortion ban. The news comes after international pressure and two on-going inquiries following the death of Savita Halappanavar after she was denied an abortion while miscarrying.
In a statement released by the Irish health department, the government affirmed that it will draft legislation that "should provide the clarity and certainty in relation to the process of deciding when a termination of pregnancy is permissible, that is where there is a real and substantial risk to the life, as opposed to the health, of the woman and this risk can only be averted by the termination of her pregnancy." Health Minister Dr. James Reilly spoke with reporters on the government's decision to draft new legislation. "I know that most people have personal views on this matter," he said. "However, the Government is committed to ensuring that the safety of pregnant women in Ireland is maintained and strengthened. We must fulfill our duty of care towards them."
Though there is little talk of expanding exceptions to the ban, this move on behalf of the Irish government seemed impossible to many pro-choice activists. James Burke, a member of the Termination for Medical Reasons Ireland campaign, told the LA Times, "We can see our government will be taking this issue seriously. It's definitely a step forward." He continued that in light of Halappanavar's death many people are becoming aware of what issues there are with vague legislation. "We hope it opens the door to more discussion in the future," he said.
Savita Halappanavar was 17 weeks pregnant when she arrived at University Hospital Galway complaining of severe back pain. Hospital staff determined she was miscarrying, however doctors refused to remove the pregnancy until three days later. After the pregnancy was removed, Savita was transferred to intensive care where she died three days later of what was determined to be septicaemia (similar to blood poisoning).
12/19/2012 - Gender Gap Drastically Increases After Motherhood
According to a new report released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the gender gap in wages increases drastically after a woman has a child.
The report looked at the economic standing of women in 34 of the developed member country and found that on average all women earn 16% less than men. Without children, the gap between men and women was only 7%. However, after a couple has even one child, the wage gap increases to a staggering 22%.
The OECD reported that the gender gap begins before children leave school - early educational disparities between girls who tend to be stronger in reading skills than boys but weaker in math tend to funnel women away from scientific fields that feature higher wages. After women have entered the workforce, limited child care options and motherhood demands can prevent women from moving further in their careers.
In addition, the OECD found that reducing the gender gap would lead to stronger economies and an increase in GDP. In his remarks on the report in the LA Times, Secretary General of the OECD said "Closing the gender gap must be a central part of any strategy to create more sustainable economies and inclusive societies."
12/18/2012 - UPDATE: Philippine RH Bill Passes Third Reading
Yesterday the Philippine House of Representatives passed the Reproductive Health Bill (RH Bill), which will provide government-funded sex education and birth control across the country. After sitting in the Philippine Congress for almost 15 years, the RH Bill will be sent to President Benigno Aquino on Wednesday after a reconciliation committee condenses differences between the House and Senate versions.
The RH Bill has been heatedly debated in the country due to the prominence of the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines spoke about contraceptives covered under the bill in a statement, "These artificial means are fatal to human life, either preventing it from fruition or actually destroying it." While more than 80% of people in the Philippines identify as Catholic, the RH Bill had widespread public support.
President Aquino will sign the bill into law as early as Wednesday. His administration is credited by many with helping the RH Bill move forward after being buried for so long. A spokesperson for the president told reporters, "The people now have the government on their side as they raise their families in a manner that is just and empowered."
The factory fire in Bangladesh last month that killed over 100 people has been ruled by officials as "sabotage."
112 workers died in the factory that was producing clothes for Walmart and other Western retailers was originally attributed to an electric short-circuit, an official investigation ruled that the fire was deliberately started. Main Uddin Khandaker, who led the investigation, told the AFP "The statements of the witnesses revealed that it was an act of sabotage. There was no possibility of the fire originating due to an electric short-circuit or any other reason." However, it is still unclear who was behind the act. In addition to being a deliberate act, the investigation determined that up to nine officials prevented workers from leaving the building and even padlocked exits.
The investigation also found severe evidence of negligence on behalf of the factory owner, Delwar Hossain. Hossain had originally denied that the factory was unsafe, however the factory's fire certificate had expired before the fire. In addition, the building only had permission to be three stories high but was in fact nine and lacked sufficient emergency exits. According to Khandaker, "There was also gross negligence on the part of the owner. We have suggested legal action against him and nine of his mid-level managers who barred the workers from leaving the burning factory."
Women's rights activists are protesting the draft constitution proposed by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi that will be voted on by the general public on December 15th, 2012. Many activists are worried that the draft constitution does not protect women's equality under the law and instead inserts women into the law as defined by traditional roles.
One of the most controversial aspects of the constitution is the assertion of Sharia, Islamic law, as the primary foundation of legislation. Many secular and women's activist believe that this assertion will allow for religious extremism to become the basis for laws restricting women's rights.
In addition, women activists believe that women's rights are not protected fully and the constitution reasserts women to traditional family roles. Article 10 provides free maternal and child health services, but also states the government will "enable the reconciliation between the duties of a woman toward her family and her work" which many fear is an indication the government will push women back into the home. Article 11 empowers the Egyptian government "to safeguard ethics, morality..." which could lead to extremist controls on women's freedoms under the guise of "morality." While proponents of the constitution argue that women are included as part of an equality article, many critics feel this article does not sufficiently protect women from discrimination under the law.
In a press conference, the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights said "The current draft constitution does not represent Egyptian women in any way, but progressively ignores their rights as citizens." An activist group, Nazra, issued a statement declaring: "The draft constitution ignores political participation of women, it did not adopt an electoral system to ensure their effective participation or that women are represented democratically within different elected assemblies."
"Women have not been mentioned in the constitution, only in family and divorce. Seventy-five per cent of Egyptian women work and there is no mention about their rights in the constitution," protester Mona Elwakel told the Toronto Star from Tahrir Square.
In December 2011, thousands of women gathered in Cairo as part of the "Million Women March" to protest police brutality towards female protestors. The march followed a widely broadcasted incident in which security forces brutally beat, kicked, and dragged a woman protestor. According to the New York Times, "Historians called the event the biggest women's demonstration in modern Egyptian history, the most significant since a 1919 march against British colonialism inaugurated women's activism here, and a rarity in the Arab world." Women were also a large population of protesters in the 2011 revolution protests in Tahrir Square that lead to the fall of former President Hosni Murbarak.
On Thursday, the Philippine House of Representatives passed the second reading of a controversial bill known as the Reproductive Health Bill (RH Bill) which would provide contraception to poor citizens free of charge, despite pressure from the Roman Catholic church. The RH Bill requires that the government provide contraceptives to the poor free of charge as well as provide information in schools on family planning and reproductive and sexual health.
In a vote of 113 in favor of the bill and 104 against, the RH Bill passed the second reading aloud in Congress. Before it can become law, the bill must pass a third reading no earlier than Monday and be signed by President Benigno Aquino III. A version of the RH Bill is also in the Senate for a second reading. The RH Bill has been stuck in the Philippine Congress for almost 15 years.
The biggest opposition to the bill has come from the Catholic Church, which has a strong base in the country. While voting was taking place, many Catholic bishops were seated in the gallery, while priests and nuns prayed outside the building.
Magdalena Lopez, Director of International Programs at Catholic for Choice, issued a statement on the decision: "Today is a victory for those in the Philippines who want to save lives and improve families' well-being, an achievement that could not have come about without the pro-RH champions in Congress and the advocates who fought for it over a decade. ...Today is also a defeat-for the bishops and their myopic point of view, which tries to override individual conscience and the rights of the women who have no means to decide whether or when to have children, and whose health and lives may be at risk without contraception."
12/11/2012 - Women's Rights Advocate Slain in Afghanistan
Najia Seddiqi, the head of women's affairs for Laghman province and known women's rights activist, was murdered yesterday on her way to her office. She was getting into a rickshaw when two gunmen on a motorbike shot her. She was traveling with no bodyguards despite multiple requests for protection from authorities, according to her family. As of Tuesday, no one had claimed responsibility for the murder, though an investigation has been launched to determine if political extremists are responsible. Sediqqi's predecessor as the head of women's affairs was murdered five months earlier by a bomb planted in her car as she was traveling.
Despite the fact that women in Afghanistan have reclaimed voting, educational, and employment rights, many fear that new talks between the government and the Taliban could lead to new restrictions. In addition, a report from the United Nations found that violence against women and girls is still mainstream in Afghanistan despite new laws that aim to legally protect women from abuse.
12/10/2012 - Mobile Phone Campaign Against Maternal Mortality
A new campaign in East Timor plans to tackle high rates of maternal and infant mortality with a mobile phone program designed to provide families with information about health and wellbeing.
Mobile Mums will provide new mothers and families with information on how to plan ahead for medically necessary travel, danger signs to look out for during pregnancy, and nutritional guides. The messages will also remind women to go to their pre-natal checkups and birth planning visits.
Beth Elson of Health Alliance International, told reporters "We discovered through our household survey that mobile phone ownership is rapidly increasing, so we thought this could be the perfect opportunity to combine traditional approaches to improve health outcomes with an innovative one using mobile phones."
Currently 97% of East Timor has mobile coverage available. One of the biggest challenges to the program is that only 73% of women in East Timor are literate. However, according to Elson, a study by the HAI found that all of their respondents have at least one person in their family who could read the messages. Elson explained that in East TImor, "often it's the husband or the mother-in-law that makes some decisions about health seeking behaviours. So the more people reading those health messages in the households, the better."
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Mexico determined that a state law could not be used to prohibit same-sex marriage in the southern state of Oaxaca.
The Court found that the law, which included the statement "one of the purposes of marriage is the perpetuation of the species," could not be used to prohibit same sex marriage because it "violates the principle of equality." While the court's decision does not challenge the constitutionality of the law, it does assert that the law cannot be interpreted to define marriage as between a man and a woman. According to Alex AlÃ MÃ©ndez DÃaz, the lawyer defending the couples involved, "The court did not declare the unconstitutionality of the law, but the effect of its application is that the justices said that one would have to understand marriage is a contract celebrated between two people without any reference to the sex of those who enter into it."
Activists hope that this could spread a wave of change through the country. LGBT activist and blogger from Mexico City, Enrique Torre Molina, told the Washington Blade "It's not going to be long before same-sex marriage is a reality in the whole country. ... It's a matter of same-sex couples who have been thinking about getting married and haven't done it either because they're not in Mexico City and traveling is not an option or because they were going to get no for an answer. It's just a matter of time of trying it out as these couples in Oaxaca [did] and sort of contribute to this history."
Currently, same-sex marriage is only legal in the capital, Mexico City. Wednesday's decision will also give precedent for cases in other parts of the country.
The Mexican Supreme Court's decision comes while the United States Supreme Court considers whether or not to take a case that challenges the American federal ban on same-sex marriage, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
For the first time in the history of public education in Saudi Arabia, new textbooks will feature photographs of women.
The textbooks, designed for third year high school English students, feature a woman as a nurse about to give someone an injection. In the photograph, she is wearing a headscarf and a surgical mask. The photograph is also accompanied by an exercise asking students to discuss men and women's changing involvement in traditional jobs. The textbooks also picture a woman in a science lab. In the original photograph she was not wearing a veil, but the publishers of the textbook altered the image to cover her face before final publication.
Photographs of women have been banned from Saudi textbooks since the country first adopted a public education system in 1926. If women were pictured in a textbook, it was only a drawing and not a picture of a real woman. The textbooks are currently only in an experimental phase and have limited circulation. At the end of the current academic year, the textbooks can then become authorized for full circulation in the school system.
12/5/2012 - Bihar Village Bans Use of Cell Phones by Women
On Sunday, the self-appointed village council of Sunderbari within the state of Bihar in India prohibited the use of mobile phones by unmarried women and girls. The use of mobile phones by married women has also been restricted to when they are indoors and in the company of a relative. The ban resulted from fear of immoral relationships outside of marriage increasing due to the use of the use of mobile phones. Women who violate the ruling can face severe fines of up to 10,000 rupees.
Members of the all-male panchayat (an informal, but respected council of village leaders) justified their ruling by arguing that the reputation of their village has been compromised by the handful of single women who have eloped with their partners as well as some married women who have left their husbands by eloping with their current partners. Manuwar Alam, head of the committee to enforce the new ban, said that it was shameful every time someone asked who had eloped. "So, we decided to tackle it firmly," he told Reuters, "Mobile phones are debasing the social atmosphere."
Women's rights activist Jagmati Sangwan, the vice president of the All India Democratic Women's Association, claims the ban is illegal and the village councils "want women to get cut off from the processes of modernization, education and employment." Another activist, Suman Lal, described the ban as "nauseating" on a debate on local television.
Women have been the target of other village councils, according to the New York Times. In the Bagpat district of Uttar Pradesh, the panchayat banned unarranged marriages and the ability of women under the age of 40 to attend markets. In addition, these councils have also lowered the age of marriage to 16 in response to an increase in sexual assault, predicting that this adjustment will "keep women sexually satisfied." The new ban that restricts women from using mobile phones is under investigation.
Students in the Chinese city of Wuhan protested outside the Human Resources and Social Security Department on Monday against the requirement that women who apply for civil service positions in China have a gynecological exam as part of the screening process.
Ten university students carrying signs denouncing the exams and wearing large underwear that had "examine" written on the front and crossed out held a demonstration outside the government building. The exams have been required of applicants since 2005 and require that women have an invasive gynecological exam to check for STIs and tumors. Women are often asked to give information on their menstrual cycles as part of these exams.
One of the protesters told local reporters, "We believe that pelvic exams have little connection with the duties of civil servants, and they violate the privacy of citizens. Through this demonstration, we call on government departments to drop the examinations." Another protestor who is currently a medical student say there is no reason for exams because STIs would not be spread through daily work tasks and "even more serious STIs, like syphilis, can be detected through blood tests." Many legal scholars in China have stated that the policy could possibly be in violation of Chinese labor and employment law.
Civil service is one of the most competitive job markets in China. Approximately 1.12 million people took the civil service exam, and only 21,000 will receive a position with the government.
On Thursday, Praveen Halappanavar announced that he will take the Irish government to the European Court of Human Relations over his wife's death after she was denied an abortion last month.
According to Gerard O'Donnell, Halappanavar's lawyer, Halappanavar believes the government did not investigate Savita Halappanavar's death in October sufficiently. As a result, he plans to challenge the government under article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that "Everyone's right to life shall be protected by law."
Savita Halappanavar died last month in Ireland after she was denied an abortion while miscarrying her pregnancy. She was 17 weeks pregnant when she arrived at University Hospital Galway complaining of severe back pain. Hospital staff determined she was miscarrying, however doctors refused to remove the pregnancy until three days later after the fetal heartbeat had stopped. After the pregnancy was removed, Savita was transferred to intensive care where she died three days later of what was determined to be septicaemia (similar to blood poisoning). During the days before her death, Halappanavar begged to have the pregnancy terminated, but was told she was in "a Catholic country."
Her death has made international headlines and increased external and internal pressure for reforming Ireland's abortion ban. The government has launched two investigations into Halappanavar's death, however both were private investigations and have not satisfied Praveen Halappanavar or Savita's family, according to CNN.
11/29/2012 - Russian Court Bans Pussy Riot Videos
On Thursday, a court in Moscow ruled that videos of Pussy Riot's performance at Christ the Savior Cathedral must be removed from websites. The court ruling stated that the group's performance that made international headlines was "extremist" and ruled that access to four videos of the feminist punk band's performances be immediately blocked from the internet.
After a thirty day appeal period, Russian Internet providers must block access to the videos. Any Russian servers that host forbidden content can face criminal prosecution. The Russian office for Google told reporters they would not remove the content until they received a court order. Servers and hosts outside of Russia will not be affected by the court's ruling.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Marina Alyokhina, 24, are currently serving two-year sentences for "hooliganism" after they were arrested for performing a "punk prayer" (video) on the altar of Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral in dissent of Vladimir Putin. A third member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, was released from prison after an appeal. The members entered the church wearing bright colors and balaclavas, singing "Mother of God, Blessed Virgin, drive out Putin!" The band members said their intent was to challenge the Church's political support for Putin and to show their dissatisfaction with Putin's 12-year political dominance.
Last week the governing body of the Church of England voted against allowing women to become bishops. While the measure did receive the necessary two-third votes in the House of Bishops and the House of Clergy, the measure just fell short in the House of Laity.
Bishops who supported the measure are currently working to find a way to save the legislation in time for the next meeting of the General Synod in July 2013. A memo leaked to the Times of London indicates a plan for drafting simpler legislation, such as a clause, that could be proposed at that time. However, if a substantial plan is not discovered, the measure will have to start again in 2015.
11/27/2012 - Women in Saudi Arabia Tracked by Text Message
Women in Saudi Arabia are having their movements tracked by the government and sent to their husbands through text message, according to Saudi activists across the country.
News spread about the text message alerts when a couple leaving the country received a message from the government that the wife had crossed the country's border. As part of a new electronic passport system established in 2010, when a woman or child crosses the border into a different country the Interior Ministry sends a text message to alert their male guardian. Originally the alerts were only sent to those who signed up for the service, however the husband who received the message never registered to participate in the service.
When the husband received the message, the couple contacted Manal al-Sharif, a prominent Saudi women's rights activist who protested the ban on women drivers. Al-Sharif immediately began organizing around the alerts and told CNN, "It's very shameful. ...It shows how women are still being treated as minors." As soon as the couple told her what happened, she began to tweet what was happening and it soon went viral.
"It's a power that's being used over women," according Eman Al Nafjan. Al Nafjan is Saudi writer who advocates ending the practice of male guardianship in the country all together. "Women are not free. No matter how old you are, you're always a minor. It's almost like slavery. Guardianship is practically ownership." Currently every woman and underage child in Saudi Arabia must be granted permission to leave the country by their male guardian, who is either their father, husband, or brother.
11/26/2012 - UN Declares Contraception a Human Right
In its annual report released on November 14th, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) declared that it will now consider contraception a global human right. The report, titled "The State of World Population 2012: By Choice, Not by Chance: Family Planning, Human Rights and Development," conveys the basic message that contraception is a "human right" and is essential to the "sustainable development" of nations.The report insists that legal, cultural and financial barriers to accessing contraception and other family planning methods infringe upon women's human rights.
Currently 222 million women in developing countries have little to no access to family planning. UNFPA believes that an additional $4.1 billion is needed to provide for current family planning resources. UNFPA estimates that maternal and newborn health costs would decrease by $11.4 billion if voluntary family planning was made available to everyone in developing countries.
Along with the economic costs, UNFPA claims that ignoring the right to family planning results in poverty, poor health, and gender inequality. By enabling individuals to choose if and when they want to have children, both women and their children are more likely to live healthier, longer lives. According to a statement from UNFPA Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, "Family planning has a positive multiplier effect on development. ...Not only does the ability for a couple to choose when and how many children to have help lift nations out of poverty, but it is also one of the most effective means of empowering women. Women who use contraception are generally healthier, better educated, more empowered in their households and communities and more economically productive. Women's increased labor-force participation boosts nations' economies."
However, this classification by the UNFPA is not legally binding and the United Nations cannot force nations to take any immediate action following the release of the report.
11/14/2012 - Woman Denied Abortion Dies in Ireland
Savita Halappanavar died last month in Ireland after she was denied an abortion while miscarrying her pregnancy. She was 17 weeks pregnant when she arrived at University Hospital Galway complaining of severe back pain. Hospital staff determined she was miscarrying, however doctors refused to remove the pregnancy until three days later. After the pregnancy was removed, Savita was transferred to intensive care where she died three days later of what was determined to be septicaemia (similar to blood poisoning).
Praveen Halappanavar, Savita's husband, told the Irish Times that she had asked for an abortion multiple times while she was miscarrying, but was told that the hospital could not do anything until the fetal heartbeat stopped. Savita experienced vomiting, shivers, shakes, and even physically collapsed in the three days before the fetal heartbeat stopped. When Savita asked if the hospital could induce labor to end the pregnancy, a hospital employee told the family that Ireland is a Catholic country and "as long as there's a foetal [sic] heartbeat we can't do anything."
In 2010, the European Court of Human Rights determined that Ireland had to have a system in place to grant women an abortion in accordance with their rights established by the government. In Ireland, abortion is legal "when there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother." However, many hospitals have been hesitant to terminate pregnancies in these situations because the statute is vague regarding specific guidelines for when the procedure is permissible. Fiona de Londres, a law professor at Durham University England told Bloomberg "[Savita's death] clearly underlines the need for a change in the abortion laws. It is a ludicrous situation. There is a clear need for legal guidelines to be introduced so that doctors know precisely when they are legally entitled to provide an abortion when requested."
University Hospital Galway has launched an internal investigation into Savita's death, and the Health Service Executive, Ireland's executive health board, is also launching an investigation. Pro-choice activists across Ireland and the U.K. are planning protests to challenge the restrictive abortion laws in Ireland.
Praveen Halappanavar accompanied his wife's remains to India for her funeral and cremation on November 3rd, 2012. News of her death made international news when her community cancelled the city's Hindu Diwali festival, which Savita had helped organize.
11/9/2012 - Kenyan Government Proposes Marriage Reform
The Kenyan Government has proposed a law that would ban mandatory bride-price payments, recognize co-habiting couples, and legalize polygamy. The Marriage Bill 2012 was approved by the cabinet but must also pass parliament before becoming national law.
Marriage Bill 2012 will eliminate the current customary law that dictates a marriage is not legal until a bride-price has been paid. This custom is practiced by more than 40 different ethnic groups in Kenya. The bill does not outlaw the practice, however, so families wishing to pay a bride-price would be allowed to do so.
The proposed marriage reform law would also recognize a couple that has been living together for six-months, so called "come-we-stay" relationships, as legally married. This provision of the proposed law aims to recognize these relationships in part to protect any children born to such couples that then separate, leaving one person alone to raise a child or children.
Marriage Bill 2012 would also legalize polygamy in respect to different cultures within Kenya where polygamous marriages are considered the norm. According to Africa Review, the cabinet issued a statement that the proposal seeks to bring together Christian, Hindu, Islamic, civil and traditional laws and provide protections for all different types of marriages in the country.
Other reforms included in the proposed law would protect widows from wife inheritance, raise the minimum age for marriage to 18, and give men and women equal status within all marriages. The bill does not recognize same-sex couples and defined marriage as the "voluntary union of a man and a woman intended to last for their lifetime."
According to the BBC, the vast majority of members of parliament are men and are likely to oppose sections of the bill on the basis of cultural and traditional values.
A 15-year-old Pakistani girl named Anusha was the victim of an "honor killing" last week at the hands of her parents. The specifics of what happened are uncertain, however reports indicate that Anusha died after her parents poured acid on her for turning to look at a boy or boys. It was reported that she was beaten by her father and then both of her parents poured acid on their daughter, resulting in much of her body being covered with burns. Anusha's parents did not take her to the hospital until the morning after the incident.
Though "honor killings" are frequent occurrences in Pakistan, as well as in other parts of the world, police report that Anusha's murder was the first of its kind in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, where such an act is a criminal offense that can lead to life imprisonment. While some deaths are not reported, there were at least 943 honor killings in Pakistan last year, according to the Huffington Post. A report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan found that "throughout [last] year, women were callously killed in the name of honor when they went against family wishes in any way, or even on the basis of suspicion that they did so. Women were sometimes killed in the name of honor over property disputes and inheritance rights."
Anusha's parents have confessed to the honor killing and are being charged with murder. Human rights activists are working to end honor killing by attempting to control the sale of acid, creating a documentary on those who have survived acid attacks, and implementing educational programs.
Pakistani authorities arrested three men today who were allegedly involved in the shooting of teenage activist Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan's Swat Valley earlier this week. According to the Atlantic Wire the arrested men all named another man, called Attaullah, as the mastermid of the attack. Attaullah remains at large. On Tuesday, Pakistani Taliban members claimed responsibility for the shooting.
Malala Yousafzai is known for her outspoken criticism of Taliban atrocities. She was shot in the head after two men approached her school van on her way home from school Tuesday.
In early 2009, under a pen name, Yousafzai published a diary for the BBC that highlighted the Taliban ban against girl's education in the northwest Swat district of Pakistan. Yousafzai was awarded a cash prize and an award for her courageous peace work to raise awareness by the Pakistani government in 2011. In that same year, Yousafzai was also nominated for an International Children's Peace Price.