The Republic of Benin’s National Assembly voted July 17 to pass the country’s first comprehensive sexual harassment legislation aimed at protecting girls and women in schools, workplaces and in homes, according to the Women’s Rights Initiative, a program of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
"By punishing sexual harassment and allowing women to stay in the workplace without being sexually harassed, Benin is improving the chances for the country to develop economically," said Lyn Neylon, a legal and gender specialist for the initiative.
In Benin, a small nation on the west coast of Africa, many girls opt out of school because they are sexually harassed by teachers, Neylon said. With no punishment for the men, some girls find it easier to drop out of school. About 50 percent of girls enroll in primary school and a majority of them drop out by secondary school, according to UNICEF. Only 25 percent of Benin women age 15 and older are literate.
All but one assembly member out of 64 approved the measure. Three women are currently on the assembly, including Lamatou Alaza, who introduced the legislation.
More News to Cheer This Week:
- Lebanese TV journalist and critic of Syria May Chidiac came back to Lebanon earlier this month after being treated for injuries caused by an assassination attempt, the Daily Star reported July 26. In September 2005, Chidiac was riding in her car when a bomb exploded inside, destroying her left leg and arm. With a new prosthetic arm and leg, Chidiac is now hosting a show called "With All Courage."
- Women now comprise a majority of broadcast TV reporters and anchors, the Washington Post reported July 27, marking an exodus of men from TV newsrooms. The number of women anchoring the news became equal to men in the early 1990s. Last year, women made up 57 percent of the anchor slots, according to the Washington-based Radio and Television News Directors Association. More than half of news writers and producers nationwide are women and, in 2004, women accounted for two-thirds of bachelor’s degrees in journalism and mass communication. Women were only 25 percent of news directors in 2006.
- A Chinese women’s organization has won second place in the 2006 Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy, the China View reported July 11. The Shaanxi Mothers Environmental Protection Volunteers Association has campaigned in rural northwest China to plant trees and trained over 8,000 women in how to use methane gas as an alternative to heavier polluting fuels and firewood.
- Swaziland Princess Sikhanyiso, 18, spoke out against polygamous relationships, drawing links from the enduring custom to the fast spread of HIV, which affects about 40 percent of Swaziland’s people, the Integrated Regional Information Network reported July 21. Standing against polygamy in Swaziland is politically unpopular. Many men in Swaziland revere King Mswati III, the princess’s father, who has 13 wives and two dozen children.
For more information:
Human Rights Watch, "Swept Under the Rug" report
"Argentine Experts Study Juarez Murder Remains"
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Domestic workers in at least 12 countries work in slave-like environments, experiencing exploitation, physical and sexual abuse, and garnished wages, the New York-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch said in a July 27 report. After several years of research, Human Rights Watch has identified countries such as the United States, Guatemala, Togo, Morocco, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and Singapore as having "swept under the rug" issues of abuse against women and child laborers.
"As a domestic worker, you have no control over your life," said Hasana, who started working at age 12 in Indonesia. "No one respects you. You have no rights. This is the lowest kind of work." In the United States, tens of thousands of domestic workers, mostly women, arrive yearly, Human Rights Watch said. Many earn less than $100 a month and experience psychological or physical abuse.
More News to Jeer This Week:
- A cancer study of 20,000 women revealed that the popular drug tamoxifen, touted as a breast cancer prevention drug when it was approved in 1998, has little impact on reducing mortality, Reuters reported July 24. In the Sept. 1 edition of the journal Cancer, researchers from the University of California-Davis say the drug may actually cause uterine cancer and blood clots. For women who are at lesser risk of breast cancer, tamoxifen may cause more harm than good, but women who are at greatest risk for breast cancer do benefit from taking the drug.
- The percentage of corporate officer positions held by women has decreased by 0.23 percentage points a year for the past three years, according a 2005 Catalyst survey. The New York-based advocacy organization said that in top corporate jobs, men outnumber women more than 6-to-1. In addition, the hiring of women into these top positions has slowed down in the past few years. Catalyst predicts that it will take women another 40 years until they reach parity with men in the corporate world.
- Eight Iranian women await death by stoning after being convicted of different crimes under Iranian law. One of them is 31-year-old Ashraf Kalhori who was convicted for adultery, the Boston-based Women’s Forum Against Fundamentalism in Iran announced July 27. The group has called upon the international community to intervene and stop the practice of stoning. Both men and women are sentenced to stoning. Kalhori was arrested in 2001 and has since been in an Iranian prison. Her execution, where she will be buried up to her chest and stoned, will take place in the next two weeks.
- Mexican officials ended a three-year investigation into the rape-strangulation of 14 women in Juarez, a border city in Mexico, the Houston Chronicle reported July 25. The case was privately closed by federal prosecutors who claimed there wasn’t enough evidence to prove a federal crime. Since 1993, about 400 women have been murdered near Juarez.
Dorothea T. Church, 83, the first black model to strike it big on the French couture runways in the 1950s, died July 7 in her Manhattan home, the New York Times reported July 23. In 1949, the Texas native visited a sister in Paris and landed a modeling job with Dior. For the next five years, Church overstepped high hurdles set in front of models of color, and became an inspiration for many black women. After modeling in Europe, Church returned to the United States, continued to model and used her talents to support fashion-show fundraisers for black women’s organizations.