Australian Women Form Party; Iraqi Women Worry

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(WOMENSENEWS)–

Cheers

The What Women Want political party launched in Brisbane, Australia, on June 28, The Age newspaper reported. Justine Caines–an advocate for maternal health–founded the party in April to encourage all Australian women to participate in politics and help shape the policies that affect them.

“We are seeing our policy makers saying that they want greater participation from women and yet it is seemingly only on their terms,” Caines said.

Caines will be the party’s New South Wales Senate candidate while other women from the party will run for seats in the Senate and House of Representative for other territories.

The party has 700 members–including 38 men–and will fund candidates through membership fees, Caines told the Adelaide Advertiser. The party platform will emphasize issues such as paid maternity leave, child care and career support. Caines said it is not likely the party can make significant inroads into Australia’s two-party system but can help put women’s issues on the public agenda.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • More than 1,500 Nepali women have signed up for a chance at a career in the British army, after an announcement that the Brigade of Gurkhas would allow women to enter its ranks, Reuters reported June 27. The elite Gurkha soldiers are drawn from a tribe in the Himalayan foothills known for their fierce combat abilities and have served in the army since 1815. It will be two years before the first female Gurkha is deployed, the army estimated. About 3,400 Gurkhas have fought in Iraq.
  • Legislation calling on the Japanese government to issue a formal apology for enslaving “comfort women” during World War II sailed through the House Committee on Foreign Affairs June 26. The nonbinding resolution is aimed at putting pressure on Japan to acknowledge its history in coercing thousands of women into sexual slavery during the war. The resolution is expected to come to the House floor for a vote in July.
  • Egypt’s health minister, Hatem al-Gabali, banned every doctor and member of the medical profession from carrying out female genital mutilation on June 27. The ban followed the controversial death of a 12-year-old girl from the procedure, Agence France Press reported June 27. The cultural practice, which affects 97 percent of both Muslim and Christian women in Egypt, was banned in 1997 but doctors were allowed to do it “under exceptional circumstances.”
  • The Alliance of Women Film Journalists, based in New York, released a Top 100 Films 2007 list in response to the 10th anniversary of the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest Movies List. The women’s group noticed that of 400 films nominated for the institute’s list, only five were directed or co-directed by women. The group also noted a lack of female writers and strong female characters.
  • Doctors at the British Medical Association’s June 27 annual conference recommended overturning a requirement that women obtain a referral from two doctors before seeking a first-trimester abortion, the Guardian reported.
  • Sarah Pavan, a Canadian volleyball player at the University of Nebraska, was named the female college athlete of the year, the Globe and Mail reported June 26. Pavan had a 33-1 record with the Cornhuskers during the last season.

Jeers

More than 150 Iraqi women’s organizations say that international governmental and media support, which has bolstered women’s rights in the past decade, is greatly lacking now as sectarian violence escalates, the Inter Press Service news agency reported June 25. The groups are lobbying to ensure that women’s rights are enshrined in Iraq’s new constitution.

To date, the network of women’s groups has not received official international support but has written to U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, noting “a sequence of disappointments.”

The groups object to Article 41 of the proposed constitution, which would impose Islamic law on women and govern marriage, divorce and custody proceedings. The United States was instrumental in lifting a similar measure in 2003 and helped establish guaranteed representation in parliament, which also led to record numbers of women voting in the 2005 election.

Hanaa Edwar, founder of the Iraqi Al-Amal Association, warned that Article 41 could deepen sectarian divisions in Iraq if it remains. “We feel that this is not a women’s demand, it is a national demand,” she told the IPS. “This is important for national security.”

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • Louisiana state lawmakers approved a ban on a specific abortion procedure, called intact dilation and evacuation, the Times-Picayune reported June 25. The state ban follows an April Supreme Court decision that upheld a similar federal law and is the first of what is expected to be a proliferation of similar bills in state legislatures. Last year, the state passed a law that would immediately ban all abortions when and if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its 1973 decision that legalized abortion.
  • The National Board of Medical Examiners has refused to accommodate Sophie Currier’s request for extra break time so she can nurse her 7-week-old baby during a nine-hour exam. Currier, who holds a dual medical-doctoral degree, must pass the exam in order to begin her residency. The board says breastfeeding is not an official disability and cannot accommodate her request for 20 minutes of extra break time.
  • The Maendeleo ya Wanaume men’s organization is asking the Kenyan High Court to stop the government from allocating and disbursing funds to women or any other person based on sex, the Nairobi Nation reported June 27. The group claims that funding women’s groups is discriminatory.
  • Female bank employees in Saudi Arabia were partitioned away from their male coworkers, the Associated Press reported June 25. Bank managers refused to say who issued the gender segregation order. Women in Saudi Arabia make up less than 10 percent of the work force but are 15 percent of the staff in banks.

Noted:

Israeli President Moshe Katsav resigned June 29, two weeks from the end of his term, after striking a plea bargain with prosecutors. Originally charged with rape, sexual assault and abuse of power stemming from sexual harassment charges by former female employees, Katsav will plead guilty to committing an indecent act without consent through the use of pressure, sexual harassment and harassing a witness, the Jerusalem Post reported. Ordinarily, the agreement would bring a prison sentence of 10 years, but he received a one-year suspended sentence and lost his office.

Jacqueline Lee is a Los Angeles-based reporter interning with Women’s eNews, Nouhad Moawad is managing editor of Arabic Women’s eNews and Allison Stevens is Washington bureau chief.

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

For more information:

Alliance of Women Film Journalists Top 100 Films List:
http://awfj.org/2007/06/25/awfjs-top-100-films-list/

“Rights Group Lashes U.S. on Status of Iraq Women”:
http://www.womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/3089/

“Israeli Activists Urge President to Step Down”:
http://www.womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/3045/

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