By Matthews and Soguel
Saturday, February 16, 2008
The United Nations has launched a $44 million program to reduce female genital mutilation by 40 percent by 2015, the Inter Press Service reported Feb. 12.
Ghana, Uganda, Morocco and Eritrea have passed laws banning female genital mutilation. In Nigeria, 11 of 36 states have introduced legislation against it. Egypt and Yemen have banned health-care professionals from performing the procedure.
Legal measures, the United Nations says, need to be coupled with culturally sensitive education and greater public awareness of the health costs--including increased complications during childbirth--linked to female genital mutilation.
Between 100 million and 140 million girls and women in over 28 countries have been cut, according to the World Health Organization. Every year, about 3 million girls and women undergo the procedure.
In a separate initiative, the United Nations Population Fund aims to raise $456 million between 2008 and 2011 to reduce maternal mortality rates in 75 countries. Half a million women die every year due to complications in pregnancy or delivery, and 10 to 15 million suffer long-lasting illnesses or injuries.
The fundraising effort comes after an intensive push by the international body to address high maternal mortality rates in the developing world after an announcement last year that international efforts were falling short in meeting goals set in 2000 to improve women's health.
Japanese authorities arrested a U.S. marine posted on Okinawa and accused him of raping a 14-year-old girl, the BBC reported Feb. 11. Sgt. Tyrone Luther Hadnott denied the rape charge but admitted to forcibly kissing the girl.
"This is a serious crime that contravenes a woman's rights and should not be forgiven," said the island's governor, Kirokazu Nakaima. The Japanese government asked U.S. officials to increase discipline among the 50,000 troops that are posted there.
Three days later, four other marines were formally charged by U.S. military authorities in the rape of a 19-year-old woman that occurred last October, the International Herald Tribune reported.
The cases are the latest involving U.S. military servicemen and accusations of rape that have inflamed tensions between the two nations. Protests erupted over the 1995 rape of a schoolgirl by three servicemen, and protests also occurred in 2006 after a U.S. civilian military employee was convicted of raping two women.
On Feb. 11, the American Association of University Women released its scorecard for the 110th Congress, which tracks the voting records of lawmakers, including the 89 who are female, on major women's policy issues. The 110th Congress raised the minimum wage, increased student aid and reauthorized Head Start. Overall, more than half of Congress voted to support AAUW's issues more than 80 percent of the time. Congress failed to pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and other advances for women were impeded by the threat of presidential veto and Supreme Court decisions, according to the Washington-based advocacy group.
Shanelle Matthews is a Women's eNews intern and a recent graduate of the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University. Dominique Soguel is Women's eNews Arabic editor.
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