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Iraq Constitutional Push; Darfur Rapes Continue

Saturday, August 6, 2005

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Cheers

A group of female Iraqi leaders met with a U.S. ambassador in an attempt to urge drafters of Iraq's new constitution to protect women's rights, reported Reuters on Thursday. The women say the current draft of the constitution could roll back many of the rights, such as property inheritance and divorce laws that women had under Saddam Hussein's secular Arab nationalist rule.

Meanwhile, A bipartisan group of U.S. female senators wrote a letter to President Bush urging him to demand that Iraqi officials withstand pressure to weaken a provision in the nation's current, temporary law that sets the goal of giving Iraqi women 25 percent of the seats in the transitional assembly, according to a release issued Thursday by Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland. The National Assembly is scheduled to approve a draft of Iraq's constitution by Aug. 15, with a vote on the document by Oct. 15.


Other News to Cheer This Week:

  • For the first time, a woman will run in Egypt's presidential elections, reported Arabic News on Wednesday. The lawyer and presidential hopeful, Ashgan Ahmed al-Bukhari, will run in the election on Sept. 7.
  • Minnesota's Mayo Clinic will open a health clinic for perimenopausal and menopausal women, reported the Star Tribune on Tuesday. Obstetrics, gynecology and pregnancy are currently at the forefront of women's healthcare, but not menopause.
  • A group of Democratic lawmakers sent a second letter to President Bush on Monday asking him to clarify his position on contraception, according to a statement issued by New York Democrat Rep. Carolyn Maloney. The lawmakers complained that White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan has twice declined to detail the president's position on the issue during press briefings.
  • Thanks to a helpline for trafficked people that was recently established by the Geneva, Switzerland-based International Organization for Migration, a group of enslaved Ukrainian women was discovered and freed from a Turkey basement, the Middle East Times reported Friday. One of the victims was able to make a phone call to the organization, which notified the police.
  • Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. advocated on behalf of gay rights activists, clouding perceptions of the nominee in both conservative and liberal camps, The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday. Roberts donated some of his time to help gay rights activists persuade the Supreme Court to rule in 1996 in favor of protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, the paper reported.

Jeers

Widespread rape and sexual violence continue to ravage the women of Darfur, with very few assailants being brought to justice, reported the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, according to a number of newspapers, including the San Francisco Bay View on Friday.

Despite small efforts by the Sudan government, it continues to hold responsibility for the violence, often perpetrated by the military and law enforcement officials themselves, according to Arbour. "When rape is not established by the courts, rape victims risk facing criminal charges themselves," Arbour said, adding that the government has been ineffective in resolving the issue in part because it denies the severity of the problem.


Other News to Jeer This Week:

  • Republican New York Gov. George Pataki on Thursday vetoed a bill to make emergency contraception available in pharmacies without a prescription, according to combined news reports on Friday. Pataki said he did not approve the bill because there was no age limit, control over how many doses could be purchased, counseling for consumers or restrictions on men purchasing the drug. He said he would re-consider legislation if it had more restrictions.
  • Lebanese-Australian girls and women have sought help from the Australian embassy in Beirut to flee their marriages, The Associated Press reported Wednesday. Instances have involved girls of Lebanese descent being taken from Australia to Lebanon, where marriages have been arranged. Afterwards their husbands do not allow them to return to Australia.
  • Even though heart disease is the most common cause of death among women, a study by the Washington-based Society for Women's Health Research shows that women fear death caused by breast cancer twice as much, reported Copley News Service on Sunday. In fact, lung cancer, also less feared, is more of a threat to women than breast cancer, said Phyllis Greenberger, president and CEO of the Society for Women's Health Research.
  • The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops along with the Roman Catholic Bishop of Manchester, N.H., on Thursday filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Supreme Court to reverse a lower court ruling that a New Hampshire parental notification law violated the Constitution because it did not include an exception for the health of the mother. The Supreme Court is expected to hear the case, Ayotte vs. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, this fall.

-- Allison Stevens contributed to this report.

Rachel Corbett is a Women's eNews intern and freelance writer based in New York City. Allison Stevens is Washington Bureau Chief for Women's eNews.