Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero has invited nine female ministers to join his 17-member cabinet during his second term, forming the first female-majority cabinet in the nation's history. Currently, more than 36 percent of Spain's lawmakers are women, and party electoral lists must be 40 percent female.
"The most unfair domination is that of one half of humanity over the other," Zapatero told the Earth Times on April 14. "The more equality women will have, the more civilized and tolerant society will be."
In Italy, Silvio Berlusconi was re-elected prime minister on April 16, and said Zapatero's government was "too pink," contending that Italy lacked enough qualified women in government to serve at top levels. He pledged to have four female ministers.
In Kenya, women cracked the political glass ceiling, with President Mwai Kibaki appointing seven women to his cabinet, a national record. Kibaki promised to reserve 30 percent of all public appointments and elective positions for women, Nairobi's The Nation reported April 14.
Across the world, women now comprise just under 19 percent of members in national legislative bodies, the Geneva-based International Parliamentary Union said in an April 16 report, up from 11 percent in 1975. Thirty percent is considered the benchmark for women to influence governments. Rwanda topped the global report card with women making up almost half its lower parliament.
More News to Cheer This Week:
- The United Nations Population Fund committed $500 million to the Women, Faith and Development Alliance, which will launch a $1.5 billion initiative to help low-income women and girls on April 21. It will aid in reducing poverty and improving education, basic health care and water access for over 1 million women and girls around the world.
- California Sen. Barbara Boxer used procedural tactics to scuttle an anti-choice phrase inserted by Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback into a resolution welcoming Pope Benedict to the United States, Fox News reported April 17.
- Iran freed Khadijeh Moghaddam, a women's rights and environmental activist who was arrested April 8 on suspicion of "acting against national security." An unidentified individual paid $110,000 toward her bail, Agence France Presse reported April 16. And Tehran's police chief, responsible for a violent crackdown on women who dress immodestly, was jailed for his involvement in an underground sex ring, the Associated Press reported April 15, after being caught in a room with six naked women.
- Two Ann Arbor, Mich., Girl Scouts refused to sell cookies to protest the loss of orangutan habitat in Indonesia, the Seattle Times reported April 6. Madison Vorva and Rhiannon Tomtishen, both 12, discovered that the cookie manufacturer failed to live up to a promise to use sustainably produced palm oil--a key ingredient in the cookies.
- Rachel Andres will receive the 2008 Charles Bronfman Prize for leading a project in Darfur, Sudan, to provide female refugees with solar cookers, reducing their need to collect firewood outside their camps and exposing them to rape and violence.
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Affordable HealthCare Options, based in Austin, Texas, is being sued by the state's attorney general for selling fraudulent discount health care cards to uninsured pregnant women, the Austin American-Statesman reported April 16.
The suit alleges that the card--sold for $199 to enroll and a $99 monthly fee to cover up to 60 percent of prenatial care, sonograms and delivery costs--were advertised by Google. Women were charged a $250 cancellation fee after the card was not accepted by the health care company's providers.
Texas state legislators cut $5 million from family-planning programs in 2005 and diverted the money to crisis pregnancy centers, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas announced on April 16 in a report analyzing how tax funds were used during two fiscal years and impacted women's health.
Crisis pregnancy centers are designed to dissuade women from seeking abortion services. At least eight states have diverted funding to them despite affiliations with religious groups. Critics have also accused the centers of using misleading advertising tactics to divert women from actual clinics.
More News to Jeer This Week:
- Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi is receiving a growing number of death threats, the BBC reported April 14. Wangari Mathaai, the Nobel Peace Prize winner from Kenya, faced death threats in March after her calls for peaceful resolution of her nation's turmoil.
- Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of women in California prisons are having their teeth pulled for a chance to rear their children, the San Jose Mercury News reported April 18. Women must be cleared of health problems--including bad teeth--before they can enroll in drug rehabilitation or work training programs. A benefit of being enrolled includes permission for the inmates to care for their infants in prison. Because prison dental care is inadequate, women are choosing to have their teeth removed rather than wait for treatment and miss the chance to be reunited with their children.
"It's unconscionable," said state lawmaker Sally Lieber, who proposed a bill to improve dental services. "We have women who are getting 16 and 18 out of 34 teeth pulled, and that really destroys their future job prospects."
- Yemen's parliament rejected a request from the Women's National Committee to raise the minimum marriage age to 18 after an 8-year-old girl made legal history by running away from an abusive marriage and showing up in court to request a divorce and sue her father. The girl accused her father of forcing her into marriage, the Yemen Times reported April 13. A sympathetic judge jailed both the father and the 30-year-old husband.
- Pakistan's Human Rights Commission recorded 636 honor killings, 731 rapes and 736 kidnappings in 2007, the BBC reported April 15. In one year, the number of documented women's rights abuses more than doubled--from 1,821 cases in 2006 to 4,276 cases in 2007--according to a commission study. Calling 2007 "a brutal year for women," the commission secretary warned that the statistics represent a "gross understatement" as many cases are not reported.
- A Saudi women's basketball team has been denied clearance by the government to compete in regional tournaments, the Washington Post reported April 15. Saudi Arabia is also among the few nations that is not sending female athletes to the Beijing Olympics.
- Two Alaskan radio disc jockeys have been suspended for slurring Native Alaskan women on the air, the Seattle Times reported April 16. Greg Wood and Chris Wilcox have been compared to talk show host Don Imus, fired last April from MSNBC for his derogatory comments against the Rutgers women's basketball team.
- Women of color are not benefiting from declines in breast cancer rates, which have dropped for white women, Reuters reported April 15. An American Cancer Society study suggested the decline in breast cancer is due to reduced use of hormone treatments for menopause, but the evidence is not definitive.
Shanelle Matthews is a Women's eNews intern and a recent graduate of the Manship School of Mass Communications at Louisiana State University. Dominique Soguel is Women's eNews' Arabic editor.
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