Laws Block Trafficking; Sexual Terror Ignored

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(WOMENSENEWS)–

Cheers

The Washington-based Center for Women’s Policy Studies published the first state-by-state evaluation of human trafficking legislation May 23. The “Report Card on State Action to Combat International Trafficking” honors lawmakers who have made positive efforts to halt human trafficking.

The Center for Women’s Policy Studies issued the report card as a way to increase visibility of the human trafficking issue and spur new legislation in additional states.

The report found that half of all states’ laws now make trafficking a felony, nine state laws provide restitution to victims and 11 states enacted laws providing for victim protection. Many Midwestern states, including Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska, had additional laws such as those to regulate travel service providers that facilitate sex tourism.

New York, a major hub for the more than 20,000 people trafficked each year, passed its first comprehensive state legislation May 22 to fight trafficking. The legislation creates a task force to fight trafficking and enforces punishments for the crime. The laws outlaws “prostitution tourism” and makes sex trafficking a felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said he will investigate human rights violations committed during a 2002-2003 rebellion in the Central African Republic, the BBC reported May 22. The investigation will focus on at least 600 rapes, along with killings, beatings and other abuses, but is distinct among similar court investigations in that it will focus on rape as a war crime.
  • Caitlin Snaring, 14, is the first female in 17 years to win the National Geography Bee, ABC reported May 23. Snaring, a home-schooled student from Redmond, Wash., was the only girl among 10 finalists. Snaring won a $25,000 scholarship and said she will go to a good school.
  • Cruise line USA Royal Caribbean International has named its first female captain, Swedish mariner Karin Stahre-Janson, Marine and Maritime News reported May 14. Stahre-Janson, captain of Monarch of the Seas, serves in the line’s 21-ship fleet and is the first woman in the industry to command a major cruise ship.
  • South African lawmakers passed a law to expand the definition of rape to include forced oral and anal sex, Agence France Press reported May 23. The law also allows courts to order HIV testing of accused sex offenders and to provide victims with AIDS drugs at the expense of the state. About 55,000 rape cases were reported to South African police between 2005 and 2006, and half of the nation’s rape victims are estimated to be children.


Jeers

Governments around the world are eroding women’s rights, Amnesty International reported in its annual assessment of human rights worldwide released May 23, and said the international community did not react quickly or strongly to human rights violations overall.

More than 2,200 women and girls have been murdered in Guatemala since 2001, for example, but few cases have been prosecuted or even investigated. Discrimination has resulted in higher rates of maternal mortality, the report concluded. In Sierra Leone, the lack of police response to crimes against women leaves them “at the mercy” of customary laws.

In many countries, women are not protected from marital rape. In Hungary marital rape is unlawful, but women have to prove they physically resisted.

“Billions of dollars are being spent to fight the ‘war on terror,’ but where is the political will or the resources to fight sexual terror against women?” Amnesty’s secretary-general, Irene Kahn, wrote in the report.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota are not sponsoring the Equal Rights Amendment reintroduced in late March in Congress, the Miami Herald reported May 21. None of the five Republican women in the Senate support it either. McCaskill said her decision reflects her emphasis on societal change. “Sometimes I think we put the energy into making the laws and not enough energy into changing the social dynamic that brings about equality,” she said.
  • Malalai Joya, one of Afghanistan’s most controversial female lawmakers, was removed from her post on May 21 after she referred to the lower house of parliament as “worse than a stable” in a TV interview. Joya has been an open critic of Afghan tribal leaders since she was elected in 2005. In neighboring Pakistan, Nilofar Bakhtiar, the minister of tourism, was forced out of office after a pro-Taliban cleric criticized her for hugging a parachute instructor, Reuters reported May 22. Bakhtiar hugged the instructor while she was in France, after making a jump to raise money for the October 2005 earthquake that killed 73,000 people in Pakistan.
  • Dua Khalil, 17, was stoned to death in northern Iraq while police and crowds looked on, CNN reported May 21. One filmed the murder on a cell phone. Two family members were arrested for the “honor killing” and police are looking for four other suspects, including a cousin of the victim. Authorities believe Khalil was killed because her family, who practice the pre-Islamic religion of Yazidism, thought she married a man from a different religion.
  • A May 22 report evaluating 23 of the nation’s 246 Catholic dioceses and archdioceses said that women are not on equal ground with men in leading religious education or other top jobs. The Catholic watchdog group based in Maryland, Women’s Justice Coalition, found that women are 29 percent of seminary faculty, compared with 37 percent of women in secular universities. Women shared equally in some areas, including communion ministers and church scholarships.

Noted:

  • The Food and Drug Administration recently approved a birth-control pill that is the first to indefinitely stop a woman’s monthly periods, the Associated Press reported May 22. Lybrel, a pill that can both halt menstruation and prevent pregnancies, is the first of its kind to receive approval for continuous use. Wyeth, the manufacturer, plans to begin sales in the United States in July.
  • Female sharks can reproduce without a male through a process called “parthenogenesis,” a team of U.S. and Irish researchers reported in the British journal Biology Letters. The scientists delved into the issue after a female hammerhead shark mysteriously was born in a tank with three female adults at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Neb.

Alison Bowen is a New York-based reporter with Women’s eNews and Nouhad Moawad is managing editor of Arabic Women’s eNews.

Women’s eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at editors@womensenews.org.


Center for Women Policy Studies:
http://www.centerwomenpolicy.org/

Amnesty International, State of the World’s Human Rights 2007:
http://thereport.amnesty.org/eng/Homepage

“Women’s Leaders Put ERA Back on Agenda”:
http://www.womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/3112/

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