In response to a growing controversy about the arrest of a leading female investigative reporter, the Mexican government announced the creation of a special prosecutor’s office to investigate crimes against journalists.

The Associated Press reported Feb. 14 that a state governor and a well-known businessman in Mexico were allegedly revealed on tape discussing plans to jail Lydia Cacho, a journalist and activist. The tape was dropped off anonymously at a Mexico City newspaper and radio station, causing an uproar and prompting the federal government to condemn the plot.

The tape reportedly records Puebla state governor Mario Marin telling the businessman that Cacho will receive “no impunity” from the law. On tape, the businessman thanks Marin and offers to send the governor “a beautiful bottle of cognac.” At one point, they discuss how to have Cacho raped in jail. Marin has refused to resign over the scandal, Reuters reported Feb. 16.

“Democracy is suffering because problems that affect the daily lives of Mexican citizens are going unreported,” Carlos Lauria of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists told Reuters.

Cacho published a book in May 2005 alleging the involvement of prominent Mexican businessmen in child pornography rings in the country. She was accused of slander and defamation–which are considered crimes in Mexico–and arrested on those charges in December. She was quickly released on bail, but still faces a possible prison sentence between six months and four years. Women’s eNews profiled Cacho as a Journalist of the Month in January.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • The Massachusetts state board that oversees pharmacies has ruled that Wal-Mart must stock emergency contraception pills in all its pharmacies in the state, making Massachusetts the second state after Illinois to make such a ruling, the Associated Press reported Feb. 14. The unanimous decision was made two weeks after three women sued Wal-Mart for failing to carry the drug in its 44 Wal-Mart and four Sam’s Club stores in Massachusetts.

  • Saudi Information Minister Iyad Madai is encouraging Saudi women to push for the right to drive in the kingdom, the Qatar-based Gulf Times reported Feb. 13. Addressing the Jeddah Economic Forum, he said there was nothing in Saudi Arabian law to prevent women from obtaining a license. Earlier in December 2005, Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud hinted at the possible lifting of the informal ban on female drivers although he said Saudi men would still have the final say.

  • The U.N. Population Fund is donating almost $100,000 worth of delivery kits to health workers in Malawi to assist them in providing quality reproductive health services to women, according to the Malawi newspaper The Chronicle. The kits will be used at clinics and to assist the many Malawian women suffering from anemia who are too weak to travel to a health center to give birth and must deliver at home. Post-rape kits for emergency contraception are also part of the donation.

For more information:

“Cacho Faces Defamation Charges in Mexico”:

“Women Fight State Brutality in Streets of Zimbabwe” https://womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/2522/

Center for Women in Government, University of Albany
Women in State Policy Leadership,
1998 – 2005 An Analysis of Slow and Uneven Progress

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Women have made little progress increasing their representation in state governments over the last 10 years and currently hold fewer than a quarter of the top jobs, revealed a Feb. 14 study from the Center for Women in Government and Civil Society at the University of Albany, State University of New York.

From 1997 to 2005, the percentage of women in state government leadership positions–such as statewide elected officials, state legislators, high court judges, department heads and top advisers in governors’ offices–marginally rose from 23.1 to 24.7 percent.

“After reporting for almost 10 years these very modest gains for women, I have come to believe it is a very persistent social phenomenon,” said the study’s project director, Judith Saidel. “The problem does not appear to be going away.”

One area where women made significant gains occurred among justices at the highest state courts. Between 1998 and 2005, the pattern of only one female justice serving on the highest court of many states has changed. Female judges have now won election or appointment to two or more judicial leadership posts in over half the states. State legislatures, on the other hand, have only 22.6 percent female representation.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • Two Iraqi women whose husbands and children were killed by U.S. troops in Iraq have been refused entry into the United States to speak at anti-war events, the Common Dreams Web site reported Feb. 16. The State Department said the reason for rejecting the visa applications was that the women didn’t have enough family in Iraq to prove that they didn’t want to stay in the U.S. permanently. The women had been invited by the San Francisco-based human rights group Global Exchange and the Venice, Calif.-based section of the women’s peace group Code Pink as part of events commemorating International Women’s Day on March 8.

  • Zimbabwe police arrested more than 400 people, including 242 members of the Bulawayo-based civic action group Women of Zimbabwe Arise, during a Valentine’s Day protest against economic hardship, Reuters reported Feb. 14. The protest march, under the banner “Bread and Roses,” demanded affordable prices for basic food commodities. Among the arrested women were some with infants strapped to their backs and Jenni Williams, founder of the group who previously has been arrested 18 times.

  • The Afghan Parliament is debating whether elected female members of parliament must travel with male chaperones when they are away from their homes, as an ultra-strict interpretation of Sharia could require, the Christian Science Monitor reported Feb. 15. A recent trip by two female members to London to participate in a conference offended some of their government colleagues who argued that Sharia rules forbid women from taking journeys of more than three days unless accompanied by a male companion.

  • A 67-year-old man is on a hunger strike in Idaho to persuade state lawmakers to outlaw abortion, the Associated Press reported Feb 12. The man who has been consuming only water and salt tablets since Jan. 9 insists that the Idaho Legislature “approve the definition of a person (as) being from conception to death.” In Indiana, the state assembly passed a proposed bill Feb. 1 that would order doctors to tell Indiana women seeking an abortion that life starts at conception.

Anju Mary Paul is an editorial intern with Women’s eNews. She has an M.A. in journalism from New York University.

Women’s eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at editors@womensenews.org.