Cheers and Jeers
United Nations agencies around the world are teaming up with rights organizations in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign from Nov. 25 through Dec. 10.
The U.S. Agency for International Development reaffirmed its commitment to strengthening women's education in Pakistan and providing support to women of earthquake-affected areas, reported Pakistan-based newspaper Daily Times on Nov. 29. In a separate dispatch India-based Zeenews.com reported Nov. 30 that 80 percent of Pakistani women will face violence at some point in their lives and 7 million are missing.
At a conference in Benoni, South Africa, 22 African countries pledged to work together to end violence against women and children in their respective countries, Graphic Ghana newspaper reported Nov. 30.
The article also quoted Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, executive director of the United Nations Population Fund, as saying 89 governments had legislative provisions against domestic violence, 104 countries had laws criminalizing marital rape, 90 governments had legislative provisions against sexual harassment and 93 nations had legal provisions against human trafficking.
The week, however, was also studded with news of violence against women.
- Dozens of members of women's rights group Women of Zimbabwe Arise say that they were beaten by police during a peaceful demonstration in Bulawayo timed to coincide with the U.N.-sponsored campaign. Annie Sibanda, speaking on behalf of Women of Zimbabwe Arise, said that when the women began reading out a charter they had drafted on social justice, riot police charged and began beating women and infants. Police refused to confirm details of the report.
- The Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center in New York, meanwhile, released a statement Friday saying it was "saddened by the recent news of the murders of four women in Atlantic City." Three of the women had past prostitution arrests; the fourth was believed to have been a sex worker as well.
- Canada said it would be closing three-quarters of the offices of Status of Women Canada by April 2007, a federal agency dedicated to advancing women's economic equality and human rights and eliminating violence against women, reported the Toronto Star Nov. 30. A spokesperson said the regional offices do little to serve women directly and money can be better spent by streamlining services. But Liberal Member of Parliament Maria Minna denounced the cuts. "With the closure of these regional offices, the government is taking away one of the very few remaining resources for women."
- Nigeria fails to punish police and government officials who rape or sexually abuse female teens and women, Amnesty International said in a report released Nov. 28. Only 10 percent of reported rape cases are successfully prosecuted, the report said. The rights group added that security forces often used rape and sexual slavery to intimidate communities and as a means of torture to extract confessions from suspects in custody. "If you are a woman or a girl in Nigeria who has suffered the terrible experience of being raped, your suffering is likely to be met with intimidation by the police, indifference from the state and the knowledge that the perpetrator is unlikely to ever face justice," said Kolawole Olaniyan, Africa director at Amnesty.
- New Hampshire will become the first state to provide Merck's human papillomavirus vaccine Gardasil, for the prevention of cervical cancer, at no cost to girls and teens between 11 and 18 as part of the state's immunization program for minors, reported the Associated Press Nov. 30.
- Forty years after independence, the Botswana Defense Force, established in 1977, plans to recruit its first female soldiers in March, reported Reuters Nov. 22. The military says it aims to expand its involvement in the country's anti-AIDS efforts and peacekeeping operations, giving women an opportunity to serve in a greater variety of non-combat roles.
- A new, more comfortable imaging system has the promise of equaling or surpassing mammography in detecting breast cancer, reported Connecticut-based HealthDay News Nov. 27. The Cone Beam Breast Computed Tomography scanner, developed by a professor at the University of Rochester, takes a number of pictures of the breast from various angles then merges them into a single 3-dimensional image. The system clearly displays tissue around the ribs and outer breast near the armpits, which may allow for earlier detection of abnormalities among women with denser breast tissue.
- The French cabinet approved a proposal to encourage political parties to promote more women, reported BBC News Nov. 28. Regions and towns with more than 3,500 people would be obliged to ensure parity among women and men appointed to top positions. Ministers are hoping to get the bill passed into law before next year's presidential and general polls, though it will not take effect till 2008.
- The Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Nov. 28 the donation of nearly $2.2 million to the Population Council for the development of a microbicide candidate known as PC-815 that would substantially reduce transmission of HIV and possibly other sexually transmitted infections when used during intercourse.
As the international community commemorated World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, a study finds international agencies and governments failing to meet their goals to provide HIV/AIDS treatment to women and children in the developing world, the International Herald Tribune reported Nov. 28.