By Amusa and Moawad
Saturday, July 29, 2006
The Republic of Benin's National Assembly voted July 17 to pass the country's first comprehensive sexual harassment legislation aimed at protecting girls and women in schools, workplaces and in homes, according to the Women's Rights Initiative, a program of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
"By punishing sexual harassment and allowing women to stay in the workplace without being sexually harassed, Benin is improving the chances for the country to develop economically," said Lyn Neylon, a legal and gender specialist for the initiative.
In Benin, a small nation on the west coast of Africa, many girls opt out of school because they are sexually harassed by teachers, Neylon said. With no punishment for the men, some girls find it easier to drop out of school. About 50 percent of girls enroll in primary school and a majority of them drop out by secondary school, according to UNICEF. Only 25 percent of Benin women age 15 and older are literate.
All but one assembly member out of 64 approved the measure. Three women are currently on the assembly, including Lamatou Alaza, who introduced the legislation.
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Domestic workers in at least 12 countries work in slave-like environments, experiencing exploitation, physical and sexual abuse, and garnished wages, the New York-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch said in a July 27 report. After several years of research, Human Rights Watch has identified countries such as the United States, Guatemala, Togo, Morocco, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and Singapore as having "swept under the rug" issues of abuse against women and child laborers.
"As a domestic worker, you have no control over your life," said Hasana, who started working at age 12 in Indonesia. "No one respects you. You have no rights. This is the lowest kind of work." In the United States, tens of thousands of domestic workers, mostly women, arrive yearly, Human Rights Watch said. Many earn less than $100 a month and experience psychological or physical abuse.
Dorothea T. Church, 83, the first black model to strike it big on the French couture runways in the 1950s, died July 7 in her Manhattan home, the New York Times reported July 23. In 1949, the Texas native visited a sister in Paris and landed a modeling job with Dior. For the next five years, Church overstepped high hurdles set in front of models of color, and became an inspiration for many black women. After modeling in Europe, Church returned to the United States, continued to model and used her talents to support fashion-show fundraisers for black women's organizations.
Malena Amusa, from St. Louis, is an editorial intern at Women's eNews. Nouhad Moawad is the Arabic site intern at Women's eNews
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