Malalai Joya



A federal judge in New York ruled that a 2003 federal law requiring U.S. health groups fighting AIDS to sign a pledge that condemns prostitution violates the free speech rights of those groups, Long Island Newsday reported May 10. The groups must sign the pledge in order to receive funding for assistance and education programs.

The plaintiffs–Pathfinder International in Watertown, Mass., the New York-based Open Society Institute and an affiliate–argued that denouncing prostitution placed restrictions on their ability to provide “life-saving” services and information to prostitutes. The groups also claimed that the policy was unconstitutional because it was vague and it required private organizations to adopt the government’s position.

“It’s really a tremendous victory for public health,” said Rebekah Diller, who is the lawyer for the health groups that filed the suit. “It will enable these organizations to serve very vulnerable women.”

More News to Cheer About

  • Actress, drag queen and radio host Vladimir Luxuria is the first transgender women to sit in the Lower Chamber of the Italian Parliament after she was elected April 18. Born Vladimiro Guadagno, Luxuria is a lifelong activist for lesbian, gay and transgender issues and was scorned by ministers and harassed by militants during the campaign. Luxuria said she was happy transgender people now have a representative in the newly formed government that ousted the center-right coalition of Silvio Berlusconi.
  • Reversing a complete ban on abortion, Colombia’s Constitutional Court voted to partially legalize the procedure on May 10, the Associated Press reported. These changes–which permit abortion in cases of rape, incest, danger to the fetus and to protect the life of the woman–are expected to influence groups pressing for abortion rights around Latin America.

For more information:

Open Society Institute:

Save the Children–
State of the World’s Mothers Report 2006:

American Association of University Women:


Sub-Saharan Africa is the worst place in the world to be a mother. In Angola, 1 in 7 women dies in pregnancy or childbirth; in Somalia, the rate is 1 in 10, reported the Save the Children Foundation, Westport, Conn., in its annual “State of the World’s Mothers” report on May 9. The overall risk of a woman dying from maternal causes in her lifetime is 1 in 16 in the region, and 1 in 5 mothers has lost a newborn.

Taking a variety of indicators into account–such as the lifetime risk of maternal mortality, the percentage of pregnant women with iron-deficiency anemia, the percentage of women using modern contraception, and adult female literacy rates and political participation–Save the Children ranked the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Liberia, two countries ravaged by recent wars, lowest in the world.

Globally, it is estimated that 529,000 women die in childbirth each year.

“It is tragic that all too often, what should be one of the most joyous times in a mother’s life–having a baby–becomes a dance with death,” said Anne Tinker, director of Save the Children’s Saving Newborn Lives Initiative.

More News to Jeer About

  • Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., influenced the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to steer the content of a scientific panel away from its focus on the failure of abstinence-until-marriage programs, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported May 6. After a critical e-mail message from Souder, organizers of a conference on sexually transmitted diseases changed the panel’s name from “Are Abstinence-Only Until Marriage Programs a Threat to Public Health?” to “Public Health Strategies of Abstinence Programs for Youth.” They also replaced two scheduled researchers with two pro-abstinence doctors who had not gone through a required mandatory peer review process. A Harvard University study published this week found that more than half of teens who sign public pledges to remain abstinent until marriage have sex within one year.

    “At the CDC, they’re beside themselves,” organizer Jonathan Zenilman said. “These people aren’t scientists; they haven’t written anything. The only reason they’re here is because of political pressure from the administration.”

  • Some 40 percent of U.S. adults know very little or nothing about the financial situation of their mother, who as a woman will likely outlive her male peers, according to a recent poll conducted by the Washington-based American Association of University Women. The poll also found that younger adults are less likely to grasp the role that Social Security will play in their mothers’ economic future. “The best gift you can give mom this Mother’s Day would be to supply her with financial information concerning her retirement,” said research director Catherine Hill.
  • Malalai Joya, an outspoken member of the Afghan Parliament, was physically and verbally attacked by her fellow lawmakers after she said in a speech that some of them were criminal warlords that should not be allowed to sit in Parliament, the Associated Press reported May 8. Joya, who apparently was unhurt, said several female lawmakers hit her with empty plastic water bottles and male lawmakers made death threats.
  • On May 8, a South African judge acquitted Jacob G. Zuma, formerly South Africa’s deputy president and the country’s leading official on HIV-AIDS, of charges that he raped the daughter of a family friend. In an interview with the BBC, Zuma said he was confident he would be cleared of the charge, but apologized for having unprotected consensual sex with the woman, who is an HIV-positive advocate for AIDS patients.

  • The Senate passed a $70 billion tax cut package Thursday that is largely aimed at the wealthy, clearing it for the president’s signature. The vote angered women’s rights groups, who said the tax cuts cannot be justified in the wake of spending cuts at federal programs that aid the poor, a majority of whom are women.


  • In Nebraska, Maxine Moul won the state’s May 9 Democratic primary and will take on Republican incumbent Jeff Fortenberry in November.
  • Many female challengers prevailed in primaries in Ohio, North Carolina and Indiana on May 2, the most notable of whom is Democrat Betty Sutton. She is in a contested race to take the House seat vacated by Sherrod Brown.