President Bush signed legislation Jan. 10 that provides $360 million over two years to combat human trafficking in the United States and abroad. The bill provides money for studies of the problem and to compile statistics on the sex industry.
Funding is also set aside for programs assisting victims of sex trafficking and helping law enforcement agencies prosecute the crime in the United States. The new law makes it easier to prosecute criminals through the use of racketeering and money laundering statutes.
“It takes a perverse form of evil to exploit and hurt those vulnerable members of society,” Bush said, according to The Associated Press. “We’ll continue to call on other nations to take action against trafficking within their own borders.”
The State Department reports that as many as 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States each year. About three-quarters are enslaved in the sex industry, but others have been forced to work in sweatshops, bars, restaurants and as domestic servants. At least 700,000 human beings are trafficked across international borders annually, but many advocacy organizations say the figure is much higher and the problem is increasing.
More News to Cheer This Week:
New York women scored a legal victory this week when the state Supreme Court turned back an attempt by Catholic Charities of Albany to dismantle the Women’s Health and Wellness Act, according to a Jan. 12 American Civil Liberties Union press release. The Catholic organization opposed the law because it requires insurance companies to cover contraceptives in policies that include prescription drug benefits. Even though the charitable organization was exempt from the requirement because they are a religious employer, their lawsuit sought to discard the law’s requirement for all employers. In 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a similar insurance requirement in California. The decision comes in the same week that Pope Benedict XVI repeated the church’s condemnation of both the abortion pill RU-486 and same-sex unions in remarks that were widely reported.
A bill pending in Brazil’s Congress would legalize abortion, Reuters reported Jan. 10. Currently, abortions are allowed only in cases of rape or when a woman’s life is in danger. The bill allows pregnancies to be terminated up to 12 weeks without restriction, up to 20 weeks in cases of rape and in all circumstances to protect a woman’s health or if the fetus is not viable. The Brazilian health ministry estimates that 31 percent of pregnancies in the nation end in abortion, mostly illegal procedures, and deaths from botched abortions are the fourth-highest cause of maternal fatalities.
Argentine homemakers are now eligible for retirement pensions from the state, the Inter Press Service News Agency has reported, after a presidential decree makes them eligible even if they never received an income for their work. Although the details are still being determined, homemakers will be able to receive retirement benefits and will be exempted from the rule that they contribute financially to the pension program for at least 30 years, normally required of paid workers.
For more information:
“Activist Fears for Cambodia’s Trafficked Women” http://www.womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/2564/
“Women’s TV Network Targets Sex Trafficking” http://www.womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/2501/
Prenatal sex determination followed by selective abortion has led to the death of 10 million female fetuses over the past two decades in India, according to an article published Jan. 9 in the British medical journal The Lancet. Researchers surveyed 1.1 million households in India and concluded that 1 in 25 female fetuses are aborted, averaging 500,000 per year over the past two decades.
The practice is common in India–despite an official ban–and is most prevalent among the better educated, according to a report in the Christian Science Monitor. “More educated women have more access to technology, they are more privileged, and most educated families have the least number of children,” Sabu George, a researcher with the Centre for Women’s Development Studies in New Delhi, told The Monitor. “This is not just India. Everywhere in the world, smaller families come at the expense of girls.”
The Indian Medical Association has refuted the study, according to the BBC, saying that gender-selective abortions have actually declined since 2001 since the government took a stronger stance on the issue. But the phenomenon, according to The Monitor, affects all religious groups in the country.
More News to Jeer This Week:
Utah state Rep. Kerry Gibson, a Republican, introduced legislation that would require doctors to gain consent from a parent at least 24 hours before performing an abortion on a pregnant minor, according to a Jan. 10 story in the Salt Lake Tribune. Under current state law, doctors must notify a girl’s parents before ending her pregnancy, but are not required to obtain permission. The legislation provides exceptions for girls who fear abuse from their parents, for those who are pregnant because of incest and for those whose health or life is threatened by the pregnancy, the paper reported.
Germany’s Dresdner Bank AG is facing a $1.4 billion sexual discrimination lawsuit from female employees in New York, Dow Jones reported Jan. 9. The suit, brought by six women, claims that women aren’t allowed to advance to senior positions and that male supervisors and employees are allowed to make inappropriate comments and behavior. A Dresdner spokesperson said the company is confident the claims are “without merit.”
Women’s rights activists say an anti-abortion advertising campaign has gone too far in plastering its message over the public transportation system in the Bay Area, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Jan. 13. Many of the ads–which bear the tagline, “Abortion: Have We Gone Too Far?”–have been torn down or defaced by passengers, so many in fact, that the supply has been exhausted and the posters will have to be reprinted. Responding to criticisms that they shouldn’t have allowed the $43,200 campaign from Oakland’s Catholic Diocese, transit officials said they are not “in the business of censorship.”
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America announced Monday it appointed the daughter of former Texas governor Ann Richards to head up its organization. Cecile Richards was most recently founder and president of America Votes, a coalition of progressive groups dedicated to increasing voter participation. She also served as deputy chief of staff for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and has spent more than 20 years working on issues involving labor and reproductive rights.
Jennifer Thurston is associate editor and Allison Stevens is Washington bureau chief for Women’s eNews.
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