Maria Suarez is a free woman.

Released this week in California after 22 years in prison for aiding in the murder of her captor, a man who forced her into five years of sex slavery, Suarez was granted permission by the Department of Homeland Security to remain in the United States permanently.

Suarez was 16 when she and her family immigrated legally to the U.S. in 1976. Two weeks later, the Michoacan, Mexico-native was approached on the street by a woman who said she’d get her housework. Instead, Suarez was sold to 68-year-old Anselmo Covarrubias as a sex slave for $200. Five years later, neighbors who suspected Covarrubias was a witch doctor clubbed him to death. Suarez washed and hid the weapon and was convicted of conspiring in the murder. Suarez is now 43.

Citing battered woman’s syndrome, the California Board of Prison Terms granted her release, wherein she was paroled to a federal detention center on Terminal Island to await word on whether she would be deported. On Tuesday, word came that Suarez would be allowed to stay in the United States.

“It’s over, it’s over,” Suarez cried again and again, upon being released, before being whisked away to her mother’s home in Duarte, Calif.

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Global Summit of Women 2004
Seoul, Republic of Korea May 27-29, 2004:


The Asia-Pacific region has the lowest ratio of women in legislative office, according to a report presented at the Global Summit of Women 2004 in Seoul.

According to the report released this week, Europe has the highest number of female cabinet members, comprising 18 percent of the legislative body. Compared with 14.7 percent in the United States and 10.8 percent in Africa, the Asia-Pacific region comes in at 6.9 percent.

Today, 12 countries have no female ministers of any rank in government, according to the report. Nine of those are from the Asia-Pacific region; they are Brunei, Lebanon, Libya, Myanmar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Tuvalu.

Won-Hong Kim, a researcher of the Korean Women’s Development Institute, told the Seoul-based Korea Times that the low numbers are a result of patriarchy in Asian-Pacific society.

“Traditionally, Asian societies have been male-centered, denying access to women in many sectors, especially politics,” Kim said. “In order to improve the status of women, policymakers are required to give special attention to the problems and offer administrative support.”

Irene Natividad, president of the summit and a Women’s eNews 21 Women for the 21st Century, released the report that included 195 countries in its analysis.

“One woman minister can affect thousands,” Natividad told the Korea Times. “One woman minister can ensure women are open to all occupations. One woman makes a difference.”

— Shaya Tayefe Mohajer.