UNFPA Releases 2006 State of the World Report

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) released its 2006 State of the World Population report yesterday in a morning briefing in Washington, DC, emphasizing the importance of women’s issues and international migration. According to the report, women migrants typically leave their native countries to escape the oppression they face and to gain freedom in a new country. However, while half of all migrants are women, they often face double discrimination because of their gender and their foreign-born status. Approximately one-third of households headed by foreign-born women are at or below the poverty line. Often the sole or primary providers, women also tend to contribute the majority of the $232 billion that migrants send back to their families in their home countries every year, said Maria Jose Alcala, principal author of the report.

The panel of speakers releasing the report also focused on trafficking, to which migrant women are often susceptible. Luring migrants to a new country through false promises of legitimate jobs and protection, traffickers expose victims to violence and unsafe conditions, according to Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). Women are disproportionately targeted: of the 2.5 million people who are trafficked each year, 80 percent are women, and of these women, 11 percent are forced into sex trafficking, which involves being forced to have sex while enduring violence, rape, and threats of being sent back to their home countries.

The panel’s promotion of more gender specific laws include the “Pimp Tax” law, a current project of Maloney’s. Because federal, state, and local mechanisms to prosecute sex traffickers are weak and difficult to enforce, Maloney proposes that the law investigate and arrest traffickers on tax evasion. Because “pimps” do not pay taxes on the money they make off of trafficked women, Maloney’s law would enable the IRS to become involved. In 2005, Maloney also helped pass the Trafficking Victims Reauthorization Act which better equips US law enforcement officials to study trafficking and enforce laws against traffickers.

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Texas: Youth Relationship Violence High, State Responds

In a recent survey conducted by the Texas Council on Family Violence of Texans between the ages of 16 and 24, approximately 75 percent of respondents reported knowing someone (themselves included) who had experienced dating violence. About half of the 918 young people surveyed reported being a victim of verbal, physical, or sexual abuse. According to Salon, this rate is much higher than the national average of about one-third.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott released these statistics on Monday, committing Texas to tackling the problem of youth relationship violence with a $2 million, three-year campaign, the Houston Chronicle reports. The Texas Department of Health and Human Services has launched a public awareness campaign called Red Flags which aims to educate young Texans about warning signs and ways to help themselves or friends in potentially violent relationships. The campaign targets both women and men, abusers and victims, and behaviors ranging from embarrassing a dating partner in public to using violence or threats to telling a dating partner how to act.

Not surprisingly, dating violence was more prevalent among teens who had witnessed a parent in a violent relationship. “Red Flags” will attempt to re-teach healthier behaviors. Sheryl Cates, CEO of the Texas Council on Family Violence and the National Domestic Violence Hotline, said, “With Red Flags, we hope to teach young Texans at a critical period in their dating lives, helping them learn to distinguish healthy behaviors from dangerous onesÉ This is the time to learn how to make the best choices in relationships.”

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Russian Police Look to Women to End Corruption

The Russian Police have announced that, in an effort to reduce corruption, it will create its first women-only traffic police unit. According to Mikhail Tsukruk, the police chief in the southern Russian city of Volgograd, research shows that women are less inclined to accept bribes, BBC reports.

Currently, traffic police units are male-dominated, and traffic violations are often ignored after a bribe exchanges hands. According to Reuters, this corrupt culture among traffic police contributes to the danger of Russian roads; about 35,000 people are killed in accidents annually.

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Significant Increase in Misconduct by Military Recruiters

In a recent investigative study, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported a significant increase of inappropriate conduct by military recruiters. From 2004 to 2005, incidents of recruiter misconduct increased by 50 percent, and criminal violations – including sexual harassment – increased by over 200 percent, Reuters reports.

According to the Associated Press, more than 100 women in the past year received unwanted sexual attention from a military recruiter. Eighty military recruiters have been disciplined in the past year for sexual misconduct, and some victims are coming forward to press charges. Barry Vogel, a lawyer representing a young woman who is suing the Marines, told CBS about his client’s case: “[The recruiter] said to her, outright, if you want to join the Marines, you have to have sex with meÉ She was a virgin. She was 17 years old.”

Allegations range from rape to inappropriate touching to consensual romantic relationships, but many agree that any non-professional relationship between recruiters and recruits is inappropriate. Former Marine Corps recruiter Ethan Walker told CBS: “Any recruiter that would try to claim that, ÔOh, it’s consensual,’ they are lyingÉ The recruiter has all the power in these situations.”

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One-Fifth of Citadel Women Have Been Sexually Assaulted

According to an internal investigative survey, the Citadel found that nearly 20 percent of its current female cadets reported being sexually assaulted since enrolling in the military college. Citadel President Lt. General John Rosa, a 1973 graduate of the Citadel, requested that the school conduct the survey last spring in order to improve the campus climate. According to The State, Rosa plans to create a Values and Respect program based on the results of the survey that will educate and train cadets about sexual assault, alcohol abuse, and racism. Responding to those who might be surprised that the Citadel would publicize negative information about the institution, Rosa says, “My reason is simple: In order for us to address these issues, we must discuss them openly,” the Associated Press reports.

All of the 118 women and about 530 of the 1,770 men enrolled in the school last year were asked to fill out the survey; 114 women and 487 men responded. Among the women, 27 incidents of sexual assault were found, but only 10 were reported to authorities; half of the female cadets who did not come forward about their abuse reported fear of ostracism, harassment, or ridicule. Twenty-five of the 27 offenders were fellow cadets, and most of the reported assaults occurred on campus. To better assess daily campus climate, the survey also asked how many women experienced sexual harassment, including inappropriate sexual stories, jokes, and remarks; 68 percent of women reported this type of behavior.

There were 23 incidents of sexual assault among the surveyed men, which suggests that about four percent of male cadets at the formerly all-male school experience sexual assault.

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Three Male Suspects Identified in Connection to Juarez Murders

A man arrested Monday in Denver on illegal immigration charges has been named by US and Mexican authorities as one of three suspects in dozens of rapes and murders in Juarez, Mexico. Taken to El Paso to be turned over to Mexican authorities, Alvarez Cruz was under investigation in Mexico in at least 10 of the rapes and murders in Juarez before he fled to the US, according to the Associated Press. The US ambassador to Mexico has called Cruz’s arrest a “major break” in the ongoing investigation of the deaths of hundreds of women over the past 16 years in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

The two other suspects named by US and Mexican authorities are Jose Granados se la Paz, presumed to still be in Mexico, and Alejandro “Cala” Delgado Valles, found in West Virginia, who is in the process of being deported, reports the El Paso Times.

In May, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution, sponsored by Hilda Solis (D-CA), condemning the violent murders of Juarez women and calling on the US and Mexican governments to solve the open cases and work to prevent any more deaths.

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Lawyers Killed in Iraq for Defending Women’s Rights

Since October 2005, some 38 lawyers in Iraq have been killed, many of whom were defending women’s rights. IRIN News, a United Nations humanitarian news and information service, reports that at least 120 lawyers have fled to surrounding countries since January because of the threats to their safety.

Lawyers at special risk for death threats and murder are those who take cases involving violations of Islamic law, such as adultery, so-called honor killings, and cases of women asking for custody of their children. In July, Iraqi lawyer Salah Abdel-Kader was found murdered in his office with a note that read, “This is the price to pay for those who do not follow Islamic laws and defend what is dreadful and dirty,” according to IRIN. He frequently took on cases involving custody disputes and honor killings.

The threat of violence has had a chilling effect on lawyers willing to take these cases. “We are afraid and terrified by such killings, and many of my colleagues have stopped accepting such cases Ñ even if it could bring good money Ñ because our lives could be in serious risk,” said Iraqi lawyer Qusay Ahmed, according to IRIN News.

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UN Study Declares Violence against Women a Widespread Problem in Afghanistan

A new report by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) is shedding light on the extent of violence against women in Afghanistan. Uncounted and Discounted is based on over 1,300 incidences of violence against Afghan women between January 2003 and June 2005. Among the main conclusions of the report are that women are subjected to physical and psychological violence, often from an early age, and that neither employment, education levels, or marital status determines who will be victimized.

Intimate partners are often the abuser and often act “with impunity,” as there are few repercussions, either legally or within families. Furthermore, Afghan women who are suffering violence at the hands of family members often have nowhere to turn to for support. The report suggests that while further research is necessary to understand the full extent of violence against women, the state must step in immediately to provide support to those against whom acts of violence are committed.

Meanwhile, a resurgence of the Taliban in recent months has brought an increase in militia bombings, burnings of girls’ schools, and the killing of teachers. Under the Taliban regime, education for Afghan women and girls was banned. Attacks on girls’ schools began immediately following the reopening of the schools by the new Afghan government in 2002, but the current situation has reached crisis proportions, undermining the rights that Afghan women and girls were just beginning to enjoy.

LEARN MORE about FMF’s Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls.

Iran Stops Stoning Sentence for Ashraf Kolhari

After receiving a petition with signatures from over 100 Iranian women’s rights activists and 4,000 concerned individuals, Iran Ayatollah Shahroudi has acted to stop the execution of Ashraf Kolhari, a mother of four who was sentenced to death by stoning for having sex outside of marriage. Kolhari’s sentence was protested by human rights and women’s rights organizations across the world, objecting to the cruel and unusual punishment to which she was condemned for having an affair. In response to Kolhari’s situation, over 5,300 Feminist Majority Foundation activists sent emails to Ayatollah Shahroudi and the United Nations Human Rights High Commissioner to protest Kolhari’s execution and the practice of stoning.

In an open letter, Kolhari’s lawyer Shadi Sadr wrote, “It is a wonderful feeling to see people coming together to save the life of another human being. I should also say that it is a great pleasure for me, as her lawyer, to share my happiness with all of you who were with us and supported the effort to save her.”

Kolhari’s fate, however, is not completely clear yet, and the cruel practice of stoning in Iran is still legal. While the Ayatollah’s announcement is good news for women and human rights in Iran, Sadr adds that feminists and activists must remain vigilant: “I am asking you to please continue your efforts and keep your voices loud until we make sure that [Kolhari] is safe. Furthermore, we must demand a change in the law that makes stoning illegal as a Ôsentence’ for any crime.”

TAKE ACTION Urge Ayatollah Shahroudi and the United Nations to end the practice of stoning.

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South Africa: Women Celebrate Historic Women’s March

In celebration of Women’s Day, thousands of South African women re-enacted an historic march through South Africa’s capital, Pretoria, on Wednesday. In addition to honoring the 20,000 women who marched against apartheid laws 50 years ago, the march was held in protest of South Africa’s high rate of domestic violence, reports BBC News.

Today in South Africa, women comprise a third of the parliamentarians and 43 percent of the President’s cabinet, and they have made limited gains in the corporate world, according to IRIN News. In spite of advances in gender equality in the past 50 years, South Africa still has high levels of violence against women and one of the highest rates of rape in the world, reports IRIN News.

South African President Thabo Mbeki spoke at the march, saying, “…[W]e must uphold the perspective that none of us is free unless the women of our country are free – free from race and gender discrimination, free from poverty and loss of human dignity, and free from fear and violence,” Business Day reports.

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Taliban Kills Woman and Son in Afghanistan

A woman and her son were killed Monday in Dast Mastan, Afghanistan, by Taliban militants on accusations of spying for local troops and the local government. Both were shot dead and the bodies were hung in the town as a warning to other villagers who might sympathize with the NATO troops stationed in the province or with the local government, said local province officials, according to DPA. The son had recently joined the local police forces, but no connection could be found between the woman and the local government.

Local Afghan officials and community leaders gathered yesterday to condemn the Taliban’s actions. President Hamid Karzai said in a statement, “The gruesome act is unforgivable and no one can justify it. This shameful act is an affront to all Afghans and their historical traditions,” according to the New York Times.

LEARN MORE about FMF’s Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls.

Woman Sentenced to Six Years for Attempted Clinic Bombing

A Louisiana woman was sentenced yesterday to six years in prison for leaving an incendiary device outside of a clinic in Shreveport, Louisiana last December. Patricia Hughes, 25, pleaded guilty last month to leaving an ignited Molotov cocktail bomb near the entrance of the Hope Medical Group for Women. The bomb consisted of a bottle filled with gasoline, a rag, and a candle. It caused minimal damage to the clinic and did not interrupt the clinic’s services.

The maximum sentence Hughes could have received was 40 years in prison. Because of her guilty plea, she was able to reduce that sentence. Hughes’ boyfriend, Jeremy Dunahoe, 19, pleaded guilty to being an accessory to the crime. He is scheduled to be sentenced today.

DONATE to the Feminist Majority Foundation to support its National Clinic Access Project

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Pakistan to Consider Amending Rape Laws

The Pakistani parliament will consider and likely approve a bill that would ease overly strict restrictions applied under Islamic law that make it nearly impossible to prove a woman has been raped. Under the Hadood Ordinance, developed by the former dictator Gen. Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq in 1979, rape victims are convicted of adultery unless they have four male witnesses, which human rights groups say makes a rape conviction impossible.

The amendment, if passed, will erase that onerous requirement and require instead that anyone who accuses a woman of adultery produce four witnesses, according to . In addition, forced marriage and kidnapping, as well as trafficking women for prostitution, will be more thoroughly addressed. Those convicted of gang-rape will be sentenced to death and it will be a crime to publish the address of a rape victim, reports Reuters.

Mahnaz Rafi, chairwoman of the Pakistani Parliament’s special committee for women’s development, said, “This will be a historic change and it will end decades of miseries for women,” reports the Associated Press. Naeem Mizra, director of the non-profit Aurat Foundation, added, “The amendments proposed by the government shatter a myth held for 27 years that Hudood laws are divine laws,” according to Reuters.

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Woman Police Officer Files Discrimination Lawsuit against State

Elizabeth Dempsey, a Delaware State Police trooper, filed charges against the state on Friday, claiming that she experienced discrimination based on her gender. The charges concern the state’s actions after a 2003 domestic dispute between Dempsey and a fellow trooper. According to Dempsey’s lawsuit, Master Cpl. Brian D. Maher broke into Dempsey’s apartment and threatened a male guest who was with her, the News Journal reports. The lawsuit claims that after Dempsey reported the incident, she received a more severe punishment than Maher.

Reportedly, Maher’s actions were felony-level, but he was only charged with a misdemeanor. Dempsey’s lawsuit also claims that Maher pleaded guilty to conduct unbecoming a trooper and was demoted to corporal for one year. After Maher was arrested, Dempsey was forced to change shifts so that the two would not have to work together.

In 2005, Dempsey was charged with falsifying a report related to the incident and was fired. She appealed the decision, however, and was reinstated at a lower rank. Dempsey’s demotion was supposed to last one year – ending in January 2006. She remains, however, at the lower rank today, even though Maher’s rank has been restored.

According to the News Journal, the Delaware state police was charged earlier this year by a different female trooper claiming she experienced gender-based discrimination.

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Iranian Woman Sentenced to Death by Stoning

Ashraf Kolhari, a 37-year-old mother of four, has been sentenced to death by stoning for committing adultery in Iran. Kolhari was arrested five years ago and has been awaiting her sentence in prison. Recently, she received the decision that she would be executed by the end of July.

Reportedly, Kolhari had an affair after her request for a divorce from her husband was denied. According to Iran Focus, she was sentenced on two charges: she received 15 years imprisonment for participating in the murder of her husband and death by stoning for having extra-marital sex.

Under the Islamic Republic of Iran’s penal code, Kolhari must be buried up to her neck and killed by stoning for committing adultery. Though several ayatollahs have released fatwas – religious edicts – to stop deaths by stoning, Iranian women’s rights lawyer Shadi Sadr told the Adnkronos International, an Italian news agency, that fatwas are not sufficient to stop this cruel practice: “Single judges are not obliged to respect the fatwas. To stop stonings, we need a change in the law.”

According to the Women’s Forum Against Fundamentalism in Iran, there are eight other women in Iranian prisons who have been sentenced to death by stoning.

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South Dakota Law Could Turn Abortion Providers into Murderers

A new memo released by a South Dakota State Medical Association (SDSMA) lawyer concludes that under the changes to the state’s homicide laws in 2005, abortion providers could be charged with murder should the recently passed abortion ban take effect.

South Dakota’s homicide law was altered in 2005 to make the premeditated killing of “any unborn child” first-degree murder. However, South Dakota currently has other state laws that make providing abortions legal, despite this provision of the homicide law. If the abortion ban passed in March takes effect, then it is possible that abortion providers could be charged with first-degree murder under the homicide law, in addition to being charged under the anti-abortion law, according to the Kaiser Daily Women’s Health Policy Report.

The abortion ban, which provides an exception only to prevent the death of a pregnant woman, was originally supposed to go into effect this month, but pro-choice activists collected enough petition signatures to stay the ban and place it on the 2006 ballot as a referendum so voters can weigh in. Anti-choice activists intend to use the law and subsequent legal challenges to force the Supreme Court to reconsider Roe v. Wade.

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‘Close to Anarchy’ in Afghanistan

NATO’s commander in Afghanistan recently described the situation in the country as “close to anarchy,” saying Afghan and coalition forces are “running out of time”. Lt. Gen. David Richards, who will lead NATO as it takes control of the US-led coalition in southern Afghanistan at the end of the month, spoke at a conference in London of “a lack of unity between different agencies,” according to the Guardian.

Gen Richards also spoke of his concerns that “poorly regulated private security companies” are “all too ready to discharge firearms,” as well as a shortage of equipment for NATO forces, the Guardian reports. This grave depiction contrasts sharply with his interview in TIME magazine which appeared earlier this month when he said, “If I didn’t have optimism about what we are doing, I shouldn’t be here.”

Pro-Choice Supporters Rally in Mississippi

Pro-choice forces held a rally on Saturday in Mississippi to counter a week of planned protests by the anti-abortion group Operation Save America (formerly Operation Rescue). The rally, held in a park directly across from the Governor’s mansion, featured Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW); Nancy Kohsin-Kintigh of the Feminist Majority Foundation; and Michelle Colon, president of Jackson NOW. The Feminist Majority Foundation has been working with local activists and the Jackson clinic, providing emergency resources.

Operation Save America (OSA) is targeting the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the last remaining clinic in Mississippi, to make Mississippi “the first ‘abortion-free’ state in America.” Flip Benham, the director of OSA, has said “We will not wait for the President, Congress, or the Supreme Court to end abortion.”

The pro-choice rally was evacuated following the speaking program when police received a bomb threat. “This is what abortion providers are dealing with on a daily basis,” said Kohsin-Kintigh.

DONATE to help save the only remaining women’s health clinic in Mississippi that provides abortions.

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Fresno Football Players Arraigned in Rape of 11-Year-Old Girl

Two Reedley College football players were arrested and several other college football players are said to have been involved in the alleged rape of an 11-year-old girl at a Fresno, California apartment. Fresno City Police charged two suspects on Wednesday, Mackey Davis, 20, and Eddie Scott, 19, with one count each of molestation of a child under age 14 and oral copulation with a victim under 18. Six football players from Reedley or Fresno City College have been questioned by police, according to the Salinas Californian.

The girl had run away from a group home Friday and was found Saturday night after she fled the apartment. The LA Times reported that the evidence collected at the scene collaborated with the 11-year-old’s story.

According to the Associated Press, Davis and Scott pleaded not guilty and the bail is set for $55,000 each. Sexual conduct with a person under 14 is a felony child molestation charge under California state law.

This is another in a spate of recent cases involving college athletes and sexual violence against women.

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Ghana Launches Campaign Against Domestic Violence

Women in Ghana have launched a campaign against domestic violence in support of a bill addressing domestic violence introduced in parliament. The Foundation of Female Photojournalists (FFP) developed a documentary addressing domestic and gender-based violence in order to “motivate viewers to support initiatives that would assist victims of gender violence and the quest to build a society of equal rights to all,” Ghana News Agency reports. The documentary provides information regarding gender and domestic violence, as well as strategies to address these issues.

According to Esther Obeng Dapaah, a member of Ghana’s parliament, the existing domestic violence laws under the criminal code provide punishments to perpetrators, but do not provide compensation for the victim or counseling for the victim and abuser, reports the Ghanaian Chronicle. Dapaah is advocating for support of the Domestic Violence Bill currently being considered by parliament, which will address these and other shortcomings in the existing criminal code.

Mardey Owui Ofoe, executive director of FFP, said that gender-based and domestic violence still persist in Ghana and have “become a menace worsened by culture of silence,” according to the Ghana News Agency. The French Embassy, which provided funding for the documentary, expressed hope that the documentary will be broadcast nationwide in order to promote gender equity and increase public education on gender and domestic violence issues.

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