For the first time, the United Nations has formally addressed violence against indigenous women. The International Indigenous Women’s Forum urged on Oct. 16 the adoption of the U.N.’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which includes an article to draw special attention to the needs of women. The forum, based in New York, issued the recommendation in a companion report to the Oct. 9 "Study on Violence Against Women" sent to the secretary-general, Kofi Annan.

Rodolfo Stavenhagen, the U.N. special rapporteur for indigenous issues, said at a United Nations panel discussing the companion report that violence against indigenous women does not receive adequate attention. Migration, human trafficking, and interference with traditional land and resource rights are factors in the violence they face, the report said.

"Indigenous women are at the very bottom of the heap," said Stavenhagen. "Contrary to what the general public believes, violence against women is not only inflicted by those of the non-indigenous society. Women suffer from the violence of men-folk within their own communities." He added that the later type of violence is rarely discussed.

More News to Cheer This Week:


  • Portugal’s parliament approved a national referendum that will allow voters to decide whether abortion should be legal during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, reported the Inter Press Service News Agency Oct. 19. Abortion is only legal in Portugal during the first 12 weeks when the mother’s life is at risk, if the fetus is deformed, or in case of rape. Portugal is the only European Union country where women who undergo an abortion procedure face prison sentences of up to three years, with the sentence read out during a public trial. The voting will be in early 2007.


  • The Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation is awarding grants totaling $3 million to 150 struggling family shelters in all 50 states as part of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Each shelter or safe house will receive a $20,000 grant to help keep their doors open as well as fund repairs, programs and other items that their budgets don’t cover. Mary Kay has also partnered with Women’s eNews to sponsor a special series on domestic violence trends and innovations.


  • Ruling against a challenge by the Catholic Church and other religious groups, the New York State Court of Appeals left intact the state’s Women’s Health and Wellness Act of 2002, that requires company-paid health insurance policies offering prescription drug coverage to cover contraceptives for women, reported the New York Law Journal Oct. 20.


  • More than 1 million poverty-stricken women in the western Indian states of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh will benefit from a new $208 million program to provide legal training to address issues such as child marriage, domestic violence and dowry demands, the Hindustan Times reported Oct. 14. The program, partly funded by the United Nations, also aims to expand women’s roles in rural areas beyond domestic and agricultural work.


  • A bill requiring health care providers to screen women who have recently given birth for postpartum depression took effect Oct. 17, reported New Jersey’s Bergen Record. The law also provides $4.5 million in funding for education efforts and screening.


  • Six women will be honored by Canada’s governor general, Michaelle Jean, for their contribution to improving women’s lives, according to the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action. Among them will be feminist Charlotte Thibault and Joyce Hancock, who advises the premiere on social development. They will receive the Person’s Day Award for their advocacy for women’s equality in Canada. The award commemorates a 1929 legal case in which five Alberta women were declared persons in the eyes of the law.

For more information:

International Indigenous Women’s Forum:

"Dangerous Trends, Innovative Responses":

United Nations Population Fund:





News from Australia, Fiji and Africa continue to highlight international concerns for maternal health issues.

Indigenous Australian women die during or soon after pregnancy at more than five times the rate of other Australians, reported the Australian Associated Press Oct. 18. The national health institute says that 45.9 indigenous women died for each 100,000 who gave birth, compared to 8.7 deaths per 100,000 non-indigenous women.

In Fiji, James Fong, a government consultant gynecologist and obstetrician, said that several deaths of mothers during childbirth over the past four years were the result of possible misdiagnosis by medical personnel on duty, reported the Fiji Times Oct. 18.

The problem of maternal mortality is particularly serious in Africa where an estimated 700 women die each day of complications from pregnancy or childbirth, reported Voice of America Oct. 17. Fama Ba of the United Nations Population Fund says while money has been spent on new hospitals and clinics, many developing countries find it difficult to prevent their staff from leaving for wealthier countries.

Ba said that although there has been some success in reducing the maternal mortality rate in Senegal by 20 percent, more money must go toward women’s health and family planning. "It is confirmed by many studies that investing in reproductive health and family planning is absolutely critical to empowering women and to have them contribute their full potential to the development of their countries," said Ba.

More News to Jeer This Week:


  • A new study shows that African American women living in Chicago are more likely to die from breast cancer than white women, reported the Chicago Tribune Oct. 18. Although the odds of a woman dying from breast cancer have declined steadily for nearly 20 years, African American women have seen increases. In the study, black women saw 40.5 breast cancer deaths per 100,000, compared with 23.4 deaths for white women.


  • Lester Crawford, the Food and Drug Administration chief who abruptly resigned last September and was criticized for the agency’s delays in approving over-the-counter sales of emergency contraception, will plead guilty to falsely reporting that he sold stock in companies, the AP reported Oct. 18. Crawford continued to hold shares in firms governed by FDA rules, including Pepsico, while he was a member of the agency’s Obesity Working Group.


  • Former heavyweight boxing champion and convicted rapist Mike Tyson is serious about his desire to fight women in his upcoming world tour, reported Sports Illustrated Oct. 17. He is interested in fighting professional boxer Ann Wolfe, who has a record of 21 wins and one loss with 15 knockouts. "That’s the first we’ve heard of it," said Russ Young, Wolfe’s promoter. "No state would sanction that. She would be outweighed by 60 to 70 pounds."


  • Over 33 percent of women in Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan are unemployed, more than double the rate of their male counterparts, the United Nations’ IRIN news agency reported Oct 16. Many women struggle to find work because of social and religious restrictions, including not being allowed to work closely with men.


  • In an Oct. 15 debate with American Civil Liberties Union president Nadine Strossen, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said that he favors a strict interpretation of the constitution, the Los Angeles Times reported Oct. 16, especially when it comes to abortion and homosexual rights. "Nobody ever thought that they had been included in the rights contained in the Bill of Rights, which is why abortion and homosexual sodomy were criminal for 200 years," said Scalia.

Irene Lew is editorial intern at Women’s eNews.

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