Spain’s parliament has approved a national law to guarantee that 40 percent of political candidates are women in what Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero called an effort to transform Spanish society “radically, and for good,” the Inter Press Service News Agency reported March 15.
In addition to political affirmative action measures, the new Law of Equality establishes enforcement for guaranteeing gender equality in the workplace, expands maternity leave for women and provides men with 13 days of paternity leave for the first time. Companies with more than 250 employees will be required to develop gender equality plans and appoint women to 40 percent of board seats within eight years.
“Today is the first day of a different society,” Zapatero said during the debate in Parliament, according to the BBC. Since coming to power in 2004, Zapatero has made gender equality and women’s issues a cornerstone of his domestic policy; he also appointed women to half his cabinet seats.
Spain also agreed to donate $3.9 million to the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women this week, and became the fund’s largest contributor last year.
More News to Cheer This Week:
- Thirty-one women have been appointed to serve as Egypt’s first female judges, the Associated Press reported March 14. The women, who were previously state prosecutors, are expected to serve in family status tribunals rather than criminal courts, but the move follows decades of efforts by women’s rights activists to put women on the bench. The order from the head of the Supreme Judicial Council came despite widespread opposition from some Islamic factions.
- Janet Conney, a former professor at the University of California-Los Angeles, will receive a $4.07 million jury award in a sex discrimination and harassment case, the American Association of University Women Legal Advocacy Fund, who represented the plaintiff, announced March 14. Conney was denied a promotion and reassigned with a reduced salary to a part-time position, while her male colleagues were paid double or more.
- Since South Africa legalized abortion in 1996, deaths from clandestine abortions have dropped 91 percent, the International Herald Tribune reported March 8. In the decade since, nearly 530,000 women had abortions, according to Ipas South Africa. The reproductive rights group estimates 4.2 million unsafe abortions are performed across the African continent annually, resulting in about 30,000 maternal deaths each year.
- South Africa has also launched a five-year plan to reduce the number of HIV infections by 50 percent, the AP reported March 14. The plan follows a government report that linked a lack of coordination and monitoring with an increased death rate, especially among women. About 5.5 million South Africans are infected with the virus; among women aged 25 to 29, the infection rate is 40 percent.
- Vienna, Austria, has launched a campaign to place signs in all city buildings that reflect changing gender roles, the Christian Science Monitor reported March 14. Signage will include pictures of men changing diapers and women riding elevators; stickers for reserved seating on public transit will feature elderly women and women with disabilities; and building exit signs feature a woman in a skirt with wind-blown hair.
- Mexican journalist Lydia Cacho will receive the 2007 Ginetta Sagan Human Rights Award from Amnesty International. Cacho’s book, “Children of Eden,” reveals ties between business and government interests in forcing girls into prostitution. She was arrested in 2005 after the book’s publication and sued for defamation; charges have since been dropped. Cacho, who also runs a center for abused women in Cancun, will tour the United States after receiving the award later this month.
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“Cacho Faces Defamation Charges in Mexico”:
“South African Teen Risks Motherhood, AIDS”:
The North Dakota Senate is debating a bill to ban all abortions in the state, allowing an exception only to save a woman’s life, the Bismarck Tribune reported March 14. If approved, the ban would become what’s known as a “trigger law,” meaning that it would automatically come into effect if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion rights.
“North Dakotans deserve to make these personal, private decisions free from government intrusion,” said Sarah Stoesz, president of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, in a press statement. “This bill attempts to substitute political opinion for medical judgment and endangers women’s health and safety in the process.”
About 1,200 abortions are performed in the state each year; abortion providers would be subject to felony criminal charges if the law is implemented.
The North Dakota bill follows the defeat of an abortion ban in neighboring South Dakota by voters last November. Following the election, a modified version of the ban, which added exceptions in cases of rape, incest and to protect the health of the woman, was rejected by the Legislature in February.
More News to Jeer This Week:
- A recent survey of over 1,200 domestic violence programs across the United States found that more than 50,000 adults and children were served by those programs in a single day, the National Network to End Domestic Violence announced March 13. More than 14,000 people sought emergency shelter and 8,000 were in transitional living facilities. The survey data is being collected to support advocates’ efforts to secure full funding for the Violence Against Women Act.
- The number of reported domestic violence cases in Japan reached a record high in 2006, Agence France Presse reported March 8. Cases rose 8 percent from the previous year. Ninety-eight percent of the cases involved women.
- Honor killing is still tolerated in Jordan as the nation’s law continues to be lenient toward those who kill relatives in order to protect a family’s honor, the U.N. news agency IRIN reported March 11. Parliament rejected a bill recommended by a royal commission in 1999 that would have established stiff penalties for killers. Women’s rights activists finger cultural and political influences for the lack of action on the issue.
- The Texas Legislature has blocked an executive order from Gov. Rick Perry requiring that all sixth-grade girls receive the HPV vaccine, the Houston Chronicle reported March 14. Perry’s order met stiff resistance from lawmakers and religious constituents, who argue the vaccine promotes promiscuity.
- A Pakistani woman and two men were stoned and then shot to death for committing adultery in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province, Reuters India reported March 15. A government official said the three had confessed to the jirgha, or tribal council, who carried out the death sentences after Islamic activists caught them in “a compromising position.” Sex outside of marriage is a crime in Pakistan.
Legendary women’s basketball coach Jody Conradt resigned her position at the University of Texas-Austin after 31 years on the job, the San Antonio Express-News reported March 13. Conradt is only the second coach in the history of the National Collegiate Athletic Association to reach 900 wins during her career, but her team failed to reach the finals for the second year in a row, prompting her departure. “She’s left her footprints all over the game and all over a lot of us coaches,” said University of Tennessee coach Pat Summitt.
Contributors: Theresa Braine, Women’s eNews Mexico bureau chief; Nouhad Moawad, managing editor of Arabic Women’s eNews; Jennifer Thurston, associate editor of Women’s eNews.
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