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Researchers in the US have discovered a potential new way to detect ovarian cancer. Currently, tumors are difficult to detect in the early stages of ovarian cancer, and there is no effective mass screening program.
The study, which was published on August 26 in the journal Cancer, followed 4,051 post-menopausal women for an 11-year period. Scientists have long known that levels of the protein CA125 are higher in the blood of women with ovarian cancer, so the women's CA125 levels were tracked through yearly blood tests. The participants were sorted into low-, medium-, or high-risk of cancer groups based on their protein levels, and women who had high levels were referred to a gynecologist for an ultrasound. Several women were then treated for early stage cancer.The findings suggest this screening method may be effective at early detection of cancer.
Early detection is vital because currently the survival rate is 90 percent if it is caught early, but only 30 percent if it is caught in the later stages. Symptoms of ovarian cancer, such as bloating and abdominal or pelvic pain, are often dismissed, so women may ignore them until they are already in the late stages.
"Early detection of ovarian cancer will be the key to transforming survival rates. However, this study is very small, and there is no guarantee that the results will be replicated on a larger scale," Annwen Jones, the chief executive at Target Ovarian Cancer, said in a statement.
Trials of 50,000 women are ongoing in the UK and expected to be completed by 2015. If the UK trials confirm the findings from the present study, tracking CA125 levels could become routine practice.
8/23/2013 - American Photojournalist Gang-raped in India
A 22-year-old American photojournalist was gang-raped in an isolated Mumbai neighborhood Thursday night, Indian police said.
The woman, an intern at an American magazine that has not yet been named, was on-assignment with a male colleague when the attack occurred. Five men tied the colleague's hands with a belt and beat him. They then took the woman to another part of the lot and raped her.
Police said she was in stable condition and expected to make a full recovery. She underwent a minor surgical procedure Thursday night.
One man has been arrested and confessed to the crime, police said. He also gave the names of the other four attackers.
The attack is reminiscent of a similar gang rape that occurred in December in New Delhi. In that case, a 23-year-old woman was gang-raped in a New Delhi bus and later died. This most recent assault sparked a silent protest of about 1,000 people Friday night.
In response to the attack in December, the Indian government passed a strict law that increases prison length for rape and makes acid attacks, stalking, voyeurism and the trafficking of women punishable under criminal law.
An Indonesian education official has proposed that all high school-aged girls be required to pass a "virginity exam," in order to attend school.
Muhammad Rasyid, who leads the education office in South Sumatra's district of Prabumulih, says the mandate would discourage young girls from premarital sex and promiscuity. Although he said the tests could begin as early as 2014, the proposal has come heavily under fire from public education NGOs and other Indonesian officials.
The test would involve an invasive vaginal exam to determine if the girl's hymen has been torn. Critics of the plan have noted that hymens can be torn from activities other than sex - including sports or health problems - and that education is a fundamental human right regardless of sexual activeness.
A coalition of educational organizations issued a press release on Wednesday, saying "The purpose of such a test is absurd. The 1945 Constitution as well as the 1999 Human Rights Law stipulate that education is one of every citizen's constitutional rights. Therefore, the right of access to education cannot be denied under any circumstance. The planned test also violates the 2013 National Education Law, which stipulates that education shall be maintained with justice and without discrimination."
Nurul Arifin, a female politician from the Golkar Party, called the proposal "discrimination and harassment against women." Another province attempted to implement a similar plan in 2010, but it was abandoned following a public outcry.
Women in Sweden have started to wear hijabs in public in response to an attack against a pregnant Muslim woman.
Over the weekend, a Muslim woman wearing the hijab had her scarf ripped off and her head slammed into a car. Her attacker shouted racist slurs, prompting the authorities to consider the case a hate crime. She was hospitalized with a concussion, and her case prompted other women to come forward about attacks they themselves have suffered based on their beliefs.
In solidarity, other Swedish women have started to wear the hijab in public and posting photos to Twitter with the hashtag #hijabuppropet (#hijaboutcry). The campaign has been joined by politicians Asa Romson and Veronica Palm and TV host Gina Dirawi. Dirawi, who even changed her profile picture is support, tweeted: "Risk of being beaten and discriminated against for how they choose to dress, everyday life for many women in Sweden 2013."
Men have also joined the campaign, wearing headscarves and tweeting their support. One male supporter tweeted: "Yes wear veils today to show solidarity for all women, are put up with harassment and attacks!"
In an opinion piece published in Aftonbladet by #hijauppropet organizers, that demanded that Justice Minister Beatrice Ask and Swedish lawmakers "ensure that Swedish Muslim women are guaranteed the right to personal safety and religious freedom, without being subject to verbal and physical attacks."
"In addition, we demand that responsible politicians actively draw attention to and fight the structural discrimination that affects Muslim women," they wrote. "We believe that's reason enough in a country where the number of reported hate crimes against Muslims is on the rise - and where women tie their headscarves extra tight so that it won't get ripped off - for the prime minister and other politicians to take action to stop the march of fascism."
Minister Ask has agreed to meet with the campaign members on Tuesday, and told reporters the situation "must be taken very seriously."
No arrests have yet been made in the case.
A law legalizing same-sex marriage in New Zealand takes effect today.
The country's Births, Deaths, and Marriages department reported that 31 same-sex couples planned to wed the first day the law went into effect. They also reported that over 1,000 marriage applications were downloaded in a week since they became available for same sex couples, about three times the average download rate. New Zealand is the 14th country worldwide to legalize same-sex marriage and is the first in the Asia-Pacific.
Paul McCarthy, an Australian resident who married his partner Trent Kandler , told Reuters "Being able to marry here as an equal citizen, even though we're not citizens of this country, means we're being viewed as equal - and that's all we really want."
Reverend Matt Tittle, who performed the ceremony for another same sex couple who took advantage of the new law, told reporters, "The world is still a dangerous and even deadly place for gay, bisexual and transgender people. We thank God that's not true in New Zealand. All love is holy."
The law was passed by Parliament in April by a vote of 77 to 40, despite opposition from religious groups.
8/16/2013 - Afghan's Youth Celebrated in Bamyan
Afghanistan celebrated International Youth Day on Thursday with a large, free outdoor concert in Bamyan. Over 7,000 people of all ages came together to listen to over a dozen acts by Afghan musicians from around the globe and speeches from provincial leaders. The event was organized by UNAMA, the United Nations Assistance Missions in Afghanistan, and last about four hours.
Bamyan's Deputy Governor, Asif Mubaligh, focused on education in his speech to the crowd. "Focus more on education to garner medals and other accomplishments," he said. Habiba Sarabi, provincial Governor, spoke about the importance of youth engagement, emphasizing that "young people today belong to the largest generation of youtrh the world has known." In Afghanistan, two-thirds of the estimated population of 27 million are young people.
"I call on the government, the private sector, civil society, and academia," said UNAMA's head for western Afghanistan, Andrew McGregor, "to keep the doors wide open for young people." He expressed hopes that young people would grow to be democratic leaders and productive Afghan citizens.
The UN General Assembly declared August 12 International "Youth Day in 1999. It was first observed in 2002.
8/15/2013 - Women in Papua New Guinea Face Severe Violence
A new report reveals that women in Papua New Guinea (PNG) face severe gender-based violence, affecting two thirds of families.
The study, by Australian organization ChildFund, was based on interviews [PDF] with 37 women and 14 men in four different villages. In the interviews, women reported being attacked with knives, axes, and whips. One woman was beaten by her husband using the body of their unconscious one-year old child.
Another woman, Helen, had her lower lip bitten off in a random attack by a stranger near her home in the capital city. She told interviewers [PDF] "Sometimes when I sleep, I dream he will come to me and I am really scared about it. I think he is coming back again."
None of the women interviewed told ChildFund that their husband had not beaten them.
Nigel Spence, CEO of ChildFund, told reporters "It is appalling the level of inaction, taken against these instances of violence, and despite recent statements by the Prime Minister, which are very welcome, there's a huge amount to be done for government to improve its effort, to take this issue seriously."
According to AFP, life expectancy for women in Papua New Guinea is 65 years, and the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) reports that 70% of PNG women will be raped or experience violence in their lifetime. The country is ranked 134 out of 148 countries in the UNDP Gender Inequality Index.
Afghan member of Parliament, Fariba Ahmadi Kakar, and her three children were kidnapped on Saturday while they were traveling in Ghanzi by members of the Taliban. Kakar's two daughters and son have been released after an operation lead by NATO forces and Afghan intelligence. Kakar remains in custody.
The kidnappers have demanded the release of four Taliban prisoners in exchange for Kakar's freedom. According to a spokesperson for the Parliament, it is the first time a member of Parliament has been kidnapped in 10 years.
This abduction is the most recent in a long string of attacks on high profile women leaders in the region. Last week, a female senator and her family were attacked by Taliban gunmen, who killed the senator's eight year old daughter and left the senator wounded. In March, a female teacher in Pakistan was murdered on her way to teach at a girls school. And in December 2012, the head of Women's Affairs in Laghman province was killed just months after assuming the role after her predecessor was murdered in July of the same year.
8/13/2013 - Afghan Activist and Former MP Seeks Asylum
Noor Zia Atmar, one of the first female members of parliament in Afghanistan and an outspoken leader for women's rights in the country, has requested asylum after fleeing from her abusive husband.
Atmar was in office from 2005 to 2010 and championed reforms to benefit Afghan women and girls. However, after fleeing from an abusive husband and being disowned by her family, Atmar has lived in a shelter for the past two years. Now she has requested asylum, citing that she is no longer welcome in her home country.
"Women are in a worse condition now. Every day they are being killed, having their ears, noses cut. It is not just women in villages - it is also people like me," Atmar told the Sunday Telegraph. She elaborated to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, "I was the victim of abuse. I had a very bitter life while I was with that man. He was getting drunk and hitting me every day. That was his routine. It reached the point where he threw a knife and other sharp objects at me. [That's why] I'm currently in a women's shelter."
Atmar also fears what will happen to women like her if shelters are closed. Recently, the Parliament failed to pass the End Violence Against Women act (EVAW) when the decision was tabled. If EVAW had come to a vote and been rejected, it could have forced women's shelters across the country to close their doors. "I'm worried that if these shelters close, my sisters [Afghan women] and I who have suffered from domestic violence won't have anywhere to go. This is our worry," she told reporters. "If a woman has had her arm or leg broken or has had her nose or ears cut off, should we throw them on the street? In the current situation in Afghanistan the shelters are the only places of refuge for women."
The British embassy has refused to grant Atmar asylum, citing that they do not give asylum for domestic violence alone.
After being shut down in mid July, a local radio station devoted to women is back on the air in the Afghan province of Sar-e Pol.
The radio network, "Voice of Women," owner alleged that it was shut down after they refused to pay the police $400 a month in bribes. Though the police refute the claims, owner Shafiqullah Azizi took the case to the governor of the province. The radio station came back on the air earlier this month.
The shutdown and subsequent relaunch of the radio station highlight the precarious situation of women's rights in Afghanistan. The Afghan government has pledged that women's rights are non-negotiable in the peace negotiations with the Taliban. However, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has voiced concerns that without international support women's rights could be rolled back in Taliban sympathetic areas or even by the government in order to reach a peace deal.
Tensions continue between Russia and the United States in light of an anti-gay law that could jeopardize athletes during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
American Olympic athletes have pledged that they will still attend the Olympics despite calls for a boycott from activists. Nick Symmonds, a 800-meter runner and supporter of gay rights, posted on his blog that if he races against a Russian athlete, "I will shake his hand, thank him for his country's generous hospitality, and then, after kicking his (butt) in the race, silently dedicate the win to my gay and lesbian friends back home." Johnny Weir, Olympic figure skater and openly gay, has said he is prepared to be arrested at the Olympics. "In Russia, just the sheer fact that you could be gay, you can get arrested, fined, and it's a terrible thing to even think of," he said. "Myself, even, just walking down the street, going to get Starbucks in the morning, and somebody could arrest me just because I look too gay." But he resolved that despite the threat he will go "Because [this is] what I'm trained to do and [this is] what I've devoted my life to."
While the Olympics are putting the country in the spotlight, Russia's anti-gay laws are an example of a trend that is spreading in Eastern Europe. Earlier this year, Poland's former president Lech Walesa told reporters that LGBT members of Parliament should have to sit in back "and even behind a wall." On the Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnel, Stuart Milk, LGBT activist and nephew of Harvey Milk, told Lawrence "This is what we're seeing not just in Russia, but throughout eastern Europe. You know, I just got back from the Baltic states, from the backyard of Moscow, and we've seen these law come up for a vote. And even in the European Union. At the heart, these laws reflect some of the societal attitudes that we have been working on."
Afghan Senator Rouh Gul Khairzad and her family were ambushed by Taliban on Wednesday in the Ghazni Province of Afghanistan. Khairzad's daughter as well as her driver were killed, and Khairzad and her husband were seriously injured and taken to Muqur District Clinic for treatment. There is no word about the senator's condition in the hospital. Senator Khairzad with her husband and family attempted to go to their home province Nimroz from capital city Kabul for Muslin holiday Eid. The ambush took place between Nimroz and Kabul on the main highway in Ghazni province. Ghazni is one of the provinces where the Taliban has a strong present.
Zabiullah Mujahid, Taliban's spokesman could not confirm or deny the responsibility of this attack and "saying it was hard to obtain information from the area." On Tuesday, Mullah Mohammad Omar, a Taliban leader, publicized a massage related to Eid and said that he wants a better relationship with the world and would support "modern" education and will respect ethnic and religious communities in Afghanistan.
Nicholas Haysom, the UN Secretary-General's Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and acting head of the UN Assistance Mission of Afghanistan, said in a statement "We condemn this attack in itself - but what makes it worse is that it took place on the eve of Eid-ul-Fitr, a time of peace and goodwill."
According to Associated Press, Khairzad was elected in upper house in 2010, and she is also the head of the defense and internal security commission.
7/30/2013 - Women's Rights At Stake in Afghan Peace Talks
The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has voiced concerns that the rights of women in Afghanistan may be compromised in the interest of peace negotiations.
The Afghan government has pledged that women's rights are non-negotiable in the peace negotiations with the Taliban. However, the committee is concerned that without international support women's rights could be rolled back in Taliban sympathetic areas or even by the government in order to reach a peace deal.
At a news briefing, the chair of the committee, Nicole Ameline, told reporters We have had official assurances ... I would like to consider a government's word as credible. But she suggesting that women's rights may be compromised. We are worried about Afghanistan because we're at a decisive moment. If we don't manage to preserve the rights of women after having devoted so much energy, resources and support in all forms in this country, it will mark a failure by the international community, she said.
The committee cited high prevalence of domestic violence, forced marriages, and an increased number of Taliban attacks on girls' schools. Ameline explained, Afghanistan displays a concentration of forms of violence which for the most part are linked to patriarchal and ancestral systems, and which are exacerbated when they occur in zones which are not necessarily under direct state control.
7/29/2013 - Bananas Thrown at First Black Italian Minister
At a political rally on Friday, an unknown person threw bananas at Cecile Kyenge, Italy's first black minister. This act comes after a fellow politician, Roberto Calderoli, commented earlier this month that the new minister reminded him of an orangutan. Although Calderoli did apologize after negative public reactions to his comment, he remains in office.
Before the rally police found mannequins covered in red paint with signs that said "Immigration kills." The right-wing extremist party Forza Nuova has admitted involvement with the mannequins, but no suspect has been identified for the bananas.
Kyenge has been the target of much racial hostility since her appointment in April. Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but naturalized as an Italian citizen, the new minister for integration aims to reform laws to grant citizenship to all persons born on Italian soil, regardless of their parents' immigration status. Her opposition comes from right-wing extremists who find fault with her race and political agenda.
Kyenge has spoken out against the racist attacks , declaring the banana incident "sad" and a "waste of food." She has called for change in national opinions about race and immigration, declaring that "the courage and optimism to change things has to come above all from the bottom up to reach the institutions."
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) published a report Monday saying that 30 million girls are at risk for female genital mutilation (FGM), despite a global decline in the practice. The report (PDF here) covers data from over 20 years in 29 countries across Africa and the Middle East where the practice is still prevalent.
The report cites cultural acceptance as a reason for the practice's persistence in some areas. Some countries have shown a promising decline in FGM, yet in others, like Somalia, Guinea, Djbouti, and Egypt, 9 out of 10 girls are subjected to the practice. In places where FGM is in decline, both men and women oppose its practice. About 125 million women in the world have already undergone the procedure.
FGM is widely recognized as a violation of human rights, including by the United Nations. According to UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta, "FGM/C [sic] is a violation of a girl's rights to health, well-being and self-determination. What is clear from this report is that legislation alone is not enough. The challenge now is to let girls and women, boys and men speak out loudly and clearly and announce they want this harmful practice abandoned."
7/19/2013 - USAID Announces Plan for Afghan Women
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced a new $200 million program Thursday for Afghan women. The five-year plan, called Promote, is expected to increase economic, social, and political participation of women between the ages of 18 and 30 through education, job training, microfinance and credit for female entrepreneurs, and training for policymaking.
Under the Taliban rule, women faced serious restrictions that regulated their dress, conduct, education, economic participation, health, and activities. While there have been some improvements in women's rights since the fall of the Taliban rule in 2001, many are concerned that the withdrawal of US troops next year will result in a regression of those advances as well as halt further improvements. According to a Human Rights Watch report, "half of all girls are still not in school and female literacy remains extremely low. Child marriage and forced marriage are common, with 39 percent of girls married before age 18."
It is estimated that international donors will contribute another $200 million to the program, bringing total funding for the program to $400 million. Head of USAID in Afghanistan, Rajiv Shah, stated that"It is a unique effort to ensure that women are a major part of Afghanistan's social, economic and political fabric over the next decade, because if they're not Afghanistan is not likely to be successful."
7/16/2013 - Bangladesh Passes New Garment Factory Labor Law
On Monday, the Bangladesh Parliament approved a new law aimed at expanded worker rights, especially in the garment industry. The law grants factory workers the right to unionize, as well as requires insurance for factory workers.
An important part of this law is that workers in the factory do not need approval from the factory owners for trade union, which previously was a major barrier to labor rights. In addition, all structure changes to factories must be approved by governmental inspectors before beginning construction. The law also requires that 5% of annual profits be deposited in employee welfare funds.
Many lawmakers hailed the legislations as a major advancement. The head of the parliamentary sub-committee on labor issues, Israfal Alam, told reporters "the new laws are historic." However, labor leaders are reluctant to praise the measures just yet. Labor leader Wajedul Islam told reporters "We had raised some concerns. We hope they have addressed those issues. Otherwise this legislation will be a futile exercise." The president of the Workers Party of Bangladesh and a member of parliament, Rashed Khan Menon, said "They have made progress but the government rushed with it. They should have spent more time to deliberate on the issue of compensation for the injured and dead, maternity benefits and rights of domestic workers."
The legislation comes after Bangladesh received international scrutiny in the wake of a garment factory collapse that killed over 1,000 workers, mostly women. Approximately 80% of the garment factory workforce in Bangladesh are women who are often responsible for providing for their families. Under grueling working conditions, workers in garment factories can make as little as $26 a month. Last month, President Obama revoked trade privileges with Bangladesh, citing the poor working conditions in factories.
Last week, the UN Women, the UN body charged with advancing gender equality, announced that Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka from South Africa would take the position of Executive Director.
The announcement came on Wednesday from the office of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka was the first woman to become the deputy president of South Africa,
after climbing the political ladder from her role as a member of parliament in 1994. Prior to that she was the first president of the Natal Organisation of Women, which aimed to increase women's rights in the country.
In a recent interview with Al Jazeera, Mlambo-Ngcuka said
"I would like to take this work to a much larger constituency so the work of the woman is embraced by a larger constituency, beyond the traditional constituency for women... The issue of human rights is definitely at the top of the agenda.[For] women in areas where there is conflict and women in areas where there is peace, domestic violence is huge problem across the board and in different parts of the world. Poverty, poverty, poverty - this is one of the biggest challenges facing women."
Mlambo-Ngcuka will start in her new position in August. She will replace former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, who resigned in March to begin another presidential campaign in her home country.
7/12/2013 - Ireland Passes First Abortion Exception Law
Early Friday morning, Irish lawmakers passed a bill allowing abortions if the mother's life is in danger. For the first time the Roman Catholic country approved a bill in the lower house of the parliament (Dail) in a 127 to 31 vote. The controversial bill will allow a woman to terminate her pregnancy if two physicians can verify that there is a "real and substantial" risk to the mother's health in continuing with the pregnancy. Only one physician's verification is necessary if the health risks to the mother are immediate. One of the more controversial aspects of the bill is the provision that allows three physicians to approve a termination if the woman is in danger of committing suicide due to the pregnancy.
This legislation was prompted by the preventable death of Savita Halappanavar in November 2012. Halappanavar was 17-weeks pregnant when she arrived at University Hospital Galway complaining of severe back pain. Doctors determined that she was miscarrying, and despite serious threats to her health, the physicians refused to remove the fetus because there was a heartbeat. After the heartbeat stopped, she was transferred to intensive care where she died three days later of a condition similar to blood poisoning.
Many countries in the world are now facing debates on abortion laws. Most recently, an 11-year-old Chilean girl who was raped and faces serious health risks if she chooses to continue the pregnancy has sparked serious debate in her country. And a woman from El Salvador was forced to challenge the country's Supreme Court in order to receive an abortion that would save her life, in which the court rejected.
The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) has requested details from the Vatican on child sexual abuse cases from November 1995 to January 2014.
The information has been requested in connection with the Holy See's scheduled appearance in front of UNCRC in January. The information requested includes what victim support systems are in place, how perpetrators have been handled, and what steps are being taken toward prevention.
There is some hope that newly appointed Pope Francis will be tougher on sexual abuse than the Vatican has been in the past. When Pope Francis took office in March he said the Church must "act decisively as far as cases of sexual abuse are concerned, promoting, above all, measures to protect minors, help for those who have suffered such violence in the past [and] the necessary procedures against those who are guilty."
Barbara Dorris, the Outreach Director for the Survivor Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said in a statement, "We are grateful for this [request] and hope it inspires other international institutions to take similar steps to protect the vulnerable, heal the wounded, expose the truth and prevent more heinous crimes... This step by the UN's Committee on the Rights of the Child is encouraging. We hope the Vatican will respond on time and in good faith. And we hope other secular authorities will begin to find the political will to put the safety of innocent, vulnerable children above the comfort of complicit Catholic officials."
A case of three Afghans who were jailed for torturing a girl has been reversed by the Afghan Supreme Court. Sahar Gul was sold for $5,000 to a 30 years old man New York Times said . She was forced to marry in 2011 in her 13 or 14 years of age. As a result, she refused the marriage and she had locked in the basement. She refused to be a prostitute in 2011. She was found in the dark corner of cellar with severe injury in December 2011.
The Supreme Court convicted Gul's in-laws last year and sentenced them to 10 years in jail. After the Supreme Court send the case to an appeals court, the court overturned the in-laws' convictions. The mother and sister-in-law were released on Monday. It is unclear if the father was also released.
Women's and human rights activists are outraged over the court's decision. Manizha Naderi, the executive of Women for Afghan Women said to New York Times "this poor girl was in the basement for months, if she was not rescued, she would be dead. She was starved and burned and had her fingernails pulled out. How is this not attempted murder?"
The court ruling comes few months after the Afghan Parliament delayed a vote on the Elimination of Violence against Women law after two hours of vociferous debate between conservative religious and more liberal members of Parliament. The Speaker did not specify when the measure would be placed on the floor for a vote again.
Many gay, lesbian, and HIV-positive Somali refugees now fear persecution, jail, and even death sentences upon their return home after fleeing to Kenya to avoid harsh punishmentsharsh punishments under Sharia law.
Next month Kenya will be host to international leaders and groups like the International Organization for Immigration as they discuss the impending repatriation of the over one million Somali refugees still living on Kenyan soil. Meanwhile, refugees like Said Elmi maintain that a return to Somali would only result in deadly persecution for LGBT refugees. After having experienced this harsh treatment firsthand, he insisted that "all gays, lesbians, HIV/AIDS positive people and other minorities will be killed. It will be a massacre."
This reality for marginalized Somali refugees has seemingly been ignored by leaders like UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and UNHCR officials, who show no sign of slowing plans for orderly return of the refugees. While the UN urges a return to the homeland in order to alleviate the overcrowded Kenyan refugee camps, threatened Somali refugees see their homeland as nothing more than "a death chamber for gays and lesbians" while rebel war lords still run the state.
7/8/2013 - 11-Year-Old Chilean Rape Victim in Jeopardy
The life threatening pregnancy of an 11-year-old rape victim is sparking debate around abortion in the socially conservative country of Chile. The girl is fourteen weeks into the pregnancy, and doctors are reporting that both she and her fetus are at high risk. The pregnancy is the result of rape by her mother's partner. The man, who has confessed to repeatedly raping the young girl for two years, is now in police custody.
Until 1973 Chile allowed limited abortions due to medical reasons, but during the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet all abortions were outlawed. Today the socially conservative Latin American country still strictly prohibits abortions under any circumstances despite legislative attempts to challenge the harsh restriction. This past year, three bills that could have loosened the ban,allowing exceptions for medical reasons or rape were rejected in the Chilean Senate. But in light of this case, many Chileans are contemplating the need for change. Citizens of Chile took to social media sites Friday to express outrage, and some even started an online campaign advocating for different amendments to the law. Eduardo Hernandez, a 30-year-old web designer stated, "When I heard about this little girl my first reaction was to support abortion because I think it's the best option in this case." He continued, "It's the first online petition I've signed in my life, but I think this case really deserves it. We should have a law. I hope this case serves as precedent to have a serious discussion about abortion."
The case comes on the heels of several others in which women with life threatening conditions were denied the right to terminate the pregnancy. Most recently, a woman in El Salvador who was dying of kidney failure had to undergo an early C-Section because she was denied the right to terminate her unviable pregnancy. Ireland made international headlines last year when a woman died after she was denied an abortion while miscarrying. In 2012, a 16 year old woman with cancer in the Dominican Republic was denied an abortion and not given chemotherapy because it would harm her fetus.
Chile is one of six countries in the world that has such extreme abortion restrictions, where terminations are not granted in order to save the mother or the fetus.
The Irish Parliament voted to support a bill that would allow a pregnancy to be terminated if the woman's life is at risk. After a vote of 138 to 24 it now faces a second reading and possible amendments. The final vote on the legislation will take place next week.
Ireland has had a constitutional ban on abortion since 1986, meaning that the lives of the woman and the unborn fetus are defined equally under the law. This new bill would allow abortions for women who are suicidal and at risk of ending their lives because of the continuation of the pregnancy. The consent of three doctors would be required prior to the abortion. The Catholic Church is criticizing the bill because they believe that the suicide-threat rule is too vague and therefore at risk of being abused.
Ireland's absolute abortion ban came under international scrutiny last year when a woman died after being denied an abortion. Savita Halappanavar was 17 weeks pregnant when she arrived at University Hospital Galway complaining of severe back pain in October 2012. 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).
On Monday, the United Nations passed a resolution to address the use of rape as a war tactic and establish the rights of victims of war-time rape to include comprehensive sexual and reproductive health. UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon addressed the Security Council before the debate, "Sexual violence, whenever and wherever it occurs, is a vile crime. It must be exposed and met with the anger and action that it deserves."
Resolution 2106 [PDF] was approved unanimously by the 15 member UN Security Council. In the Resolution, the UN states that it
"Affirms that sexual violence, when used or commissioned as a method or tactic of war or as a part of a widespread or systematic attack against civilian populations, can significantly exacerbate and prolong situations of armed conflict and may impede the restoration of international peace and security; emphasizes in this regard that effective steps to prevent and respond to such acts significantly contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security; and stresses women's participation as essential to any prevention and protection response."
Resolution 2106 urges member states to provide victims with comprehensive reproductive healthcare. The resolution continues [PDF],
"Recognizing the importance of providing timely assistance to survivors of sexual violence, urges United Nations entities and donors to provide non-discriminatory and comprehensive health services, including sexual and reproductive health, psychosocial, legal, and livelihood support and other multi-sectoral services for survivors of sexual violence, taking into account the specific needs of persons with disabilities."
UN Special Envoy Angelina Jolie addressed the Council, urging the members to have a realistic picture of rape as a war crime. "Let us be clear what we are speaking of: Young girls raped and impregnated before their bodies are able to carry a child," she demanded.
The Global Justice Center's President Janet Benshoof applauded the decision, saying "Although the word 'abortion' was not used, the 'non-discriminatory health services' provision is an enormous breakthrough in the fight to end the deadly denial of abortion for female victims impregnated by war rape."