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Congress Responds to Violence; Index Disregards It

Saturday, July 28, 2007

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(WOMENSENEWS)--


Cheers

The U.S. House of Representatives authorized $1 million in funding to combat sexual crimes against American Indian and Alaska Native women, in a 412-18 vote on a budget amendment, the Inter Press Service reported July 26. The funding will create a tribal sex offender and protection order registry to identify offenders. Another $1 million was earmarked for a baseline study on violence against Native women.

The measure follows an April report by London-based Amnesty International on high rates of sexual crimes committed against Native women, with a large portion committed by non-Native men. An Indian woman is at least two and a half times more likely than other U.S. women to be raped.

"Violence against Indian women is a national crisis. We applaud the congressmen that stepped to the podium on behalf of Indian women," said Karen Artichoker, director of Sacred Circle National Resource Center to End Violence Against Indian Women in South Dakota. (Artichoker is a Women's eNews 21 Leader 2006 for her anti-violence work.)

Rapes against women on Indian reservations around the nation routinely go unreported and uninvestigated, National Public Radio reported July 25. This is partly due to the overlapping jurisdictions of tribal police, federal and state agencies. The Bush administration has authorized $16 million in funding to add 50 new police officers on reservations that are stretched thin. The House also approved $430 million to fund programs under the Violence Against Women Act, including $6 million to assist children exposed to sexual or domestic violence and $6 million to help teens. Both those earmarks devote 10 percent of the funds to tribal programs.


More News to Cheer This Week:

  • The number of women in the Turkish parliament more than doubled to 50 from 22 in the July 22 election, the Middle East Times reported July 24.
  • India will soon launch a free nationwide telephone helpline for women who have obstetrics and gynecology questions, the Hindustan Times reported July 23. Trained personnel will counsel callers by relying on a database of answers to common health questions or seeking additional help from doctors and hospitals. Organizers hope to reach women in remote areas with little access to immediate medical care and information.

  • Pratibha Patil, India's first female president, was sworn into office on July 25 and promised to defend women's rights and work to end gender-selective abortions, the Middle East Times reported July 25.

  • A group of 25 Muslim women from different countries is participating in a summer leadership program at the U.S. Congress and George Washington University, Voice of America reported July 23. The program focuses on traditional Islamic jurisprudence and how Muslim women can best handle issues such as domestic violence and other abuses against women. Participants will study the ways in which Islamic law provides for freedom of expression, freedom of association and the right to own property regardless of gender.
  • The Communications Workers of America--representing more than 700,000 individuals in 1,200 chartered local unions--expanded its 19-member executive board to include four "diversity" seats on July 17 and at least two will be women. The seats will represent four geographic regions. Currently, the board includes four women.


Jeers

The Economist Intelligence Unit released the Global Peace Index--the first study to rank countries according to their level of peacefulness--on May 30, but failed to measure the level of violence against women and children in their calculations, reported the Christian Science Monitor July 26. The exclusion meant that such human rights violations as female genital mutilation, honor killings, female infanticide, domestic violence, sexual abuse and systematic medical neglect of girls were disregarded.

Instead, the index is based on 24 indicators--measuring ongoing domestic and international conflict, militarization, and safety and security in countries--such as the number of wars fought, level of respect for human rights, the size of the jailed population, level of violent crime, number of armed services personnel and ease of access to weapons. Of the 121 countries studied, the United States ranked 96th while Libya, Cuba and China all received better scores. Chile was ranked 16th.

According to the Global Peace Index Web site, the study has been endorsed by individuals and groups such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, President Jimmy Carter and Amnesty International "as a groundbreaking piece of research that demonstrates the urgent need to study peace." The Economist Intelligence Unit is a research firm affiliated with the British newsmagazine, the Economist.


More News to Jeer This Week:

  • Zimbabwean women mobilizing to confront their government's human rights violations are facing increasing repression, Amnesty International reported on July 25. Women protesting economic and social conditions have been treated violently during arrests and detentions. All women in Zimbabwe face harassment, such as having food and goods confiscated by police. "Zimbabwean women have demonstrated incredible resilience, bravery and determination in the face of increasing government repression. They are aware of the dangers they face but refuse to be intimidated into submission," said Secretary General Irene Khan.

  • Portuguese women face obstacles exercising their new right to abortion because doctors are refusing to perform the procedure, raising "conscientious objections," the Inter Press Service reported July 20. Hospitals are placing women on waiting lists for mandatory counseling and to determine gestation ages, delaying the process up to 15 days. A law that legalized abortion in the first 10 weeks took effect on July 15.

  • Saudi domestic intelligence forces arrested five women and two leading reform activists on July 19, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch. The women demanded trials for relatives imprisoned without charge in a peaceful demonstration three days earlier.

  • Amidst rollbacks to self-reporting standards on toxic emissions, the Colorado Public Interest Research Group estimated that 38 million pounds of chemicals known or suspected to cause reproductive disorders have been released into the air and water, the Web site RH Reality Check reported July 17. New York's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene recently reported that 25 percent of the city's adults have elevated levels of mercury in their blood due to fish consumption, the Washington Post reported July 23. Women in the Big Apple, ages 20 to 49, have three times the amount of blood mercury level than national counterparts and almost half of the city's Asian women have elevated levels.

  • The abaya--the simple black head-to-toe robe worn to meet ultra-conservative Sharia rules requiring women to cover themselves--has been influenced by fashion fads, Reuters reported July 23. Sales in the Arab Gulf countries of abayas with decorated or gold-embroidered designs now surpass the plain designs. But the mutaawa--or religious police--have warned merchants not to sell them and have made seizures.

  • Tiger Time Lawn Care and Property Management, a new business based in Memphis, Tenn., has a service where women cut lawns wearing bikinis, Memphis station WMC-TV reported July 22. "In the fall we'll go pick up leaves in the bikinis if need be," said owner Lee Cathey. The business does not have men cutting lawns in swimwear because there have not been requests for that service, she said.

Jacqueline Lee is a Los Angeles-based reporter interning 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.


For more information:

NPR, "Rape Cases on Indian Lands Go Uninvestigated":
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=12203114

Global Peace Index:
http://www.visionofhumanity.com/

Amnesty International, "Zimbabwe: Between a Rock and a Hard Place":
http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engafr460172007

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