By Anju Mary Paul
Saturday, March 4, 2006
Among the 39 countries that held parliamentary elections in 2005, the ratio of women elected to public office increased in 28 of them, the Geneva-based nonprofit Inter-Parliamentary Union announced Feb. 27. By the end of 2005, 16.3 percent of upper and lower house members were women, sustaining the progress made since 1995 when the proportion of women in parliament was only 11.3 percent.
Many African nations now have a third of their parliaments comprised of women. The Rwandan Parliament is 49 percent female--the highest in the world--thanks to a quota system which requires gender parity. Other African parliaments that are at least one-third women include Mozambique (34 percent), South Africa (32.8 percent), Burundi (30.5 percent) and Tanzania (30.4 percent).
Margaret Mensah-Williams, deputy speaker of the Namibian Senate, told the Voice of America that with the increased presence of women in parliaments, legislation on education and inheritance now take women's concerns into consideration. However, many female parliamentarians still encounter harassment from their male colleagues.
"A speaker from Lesotho said female MPs now feel they can't speak," Mensah-Williams said, "because men heckle . . . and use interjections like 'Shut up, you are a woman,' 'Keep quiet.' Things like that which intimidates some women."
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-0 to lift a nationwide injunction protecting women's health clinics from violent protests and demonstrations by anti-abortion groups like Operation Rescue and the Pro-Life Action Network, the Washington Post reported Feb. 28. The court held that the Hobbs Act, a federal anti-racketeering law that makes it a crime to use robbery, extortion or violence to obstruct commerce, was not the correct basis for issuing the injunction.
A federal appeals court in Chicago ruled that there was a nationwide pattern of illegal activity and protest against women's health clinics and abortion providers that qualified as "physical violence" under the Hobbs Act. But in the decision that combined two earlier cases, the Supreme Court held that abortion providers were already protected from illegal violence under the federal 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.
"I initiated this case almost 20 years ago as the president of the National Organization for Women to stop the reign of terror perpetrated by anti-abortion extremists at clinics across the country," Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation in Arlington, Va., said in a press release. "I only hope that the loss of the injunction does not embolden anti-abortion extremists to escalate domestic terrorism towards women's reproductive health clinics."
--Jennifer Thurston contributed to this story.
Anju Mary Paul is an editorial intern with Women's eNews. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University. Jennifer Thurston is associate editor at Women's eNews.
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Baseball Hall of Fame: Effa Manley http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/hofers_and_honorees/manley_effa.htm
Amnesty International: Abuse of Women in Custody http://www.amnestyusa.org/women/custody/abuseincustody.html
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