Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee are expected to repeal or weaken the Bush administration policy known as the global gag rule that bars international aid to groups who work on abortion issues, the Hill newspaper reported June 5.

The measure will allow contraceptives to be shipped abroad to health organizations previously barred from receiving assistance. Rep. Nita Lowey of New York, who chairs the subcommittee, said the measure would help reduce the number of abortions and help prevent the spread of AIDS, Reuters reported June 6.

As the committee reviews budget legislation in the next two weeks, Democratic members may also attempt to add language to weaken the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funding of abortion. Because the policies are enacted by legislative amendment, they must be renewed annually; this year, because congressional control has switched parties, the Democrats have an opportunity to kill them by rejecting renewals.

A bill to allow U.S. funding of the United Nations Population Fund has been introduced into Congress by Rep. Joseph Crowley of New York. The Bush administration has cancelled funding to the Population Fund since 2002 because it says the agency supports coerced abortions in China. The population fund denies the allegation and works on family planning and health services and promotes gender equality around the world.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • New Jersey’s June 5 primary election resulted in a record number of female candidates seeking state offices, reports the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. For the state Assembly, 26 Democrat and 14 Republican women won their primaries; 11 Democrat and four Republican women will run for the Senate. The center said that bipartisan efforts to encourage women to run for office are paying off.

  • Arab businesswomen lead their Western counterparts in terms of firm size and revenue levels, the Daily Star of Lebanon reported June 5. In Bahrain, for instance, 10 percent of women-owned firms earn more than $100,000 a year. Forty-nine percent of Lebanese women expect their businesses to grow. A United Nations study found that Bahraini businesswomen poured $13 million into the national economy during last year, creating 258 jobs.

  • European women are increasingly moving into traditionally male trades. British Telecommunications has a target of making 25 percent of its telephone engineers female, the Hendon and Finchley Times reported June 6. In a recent BT hiring effort, 8 percent of the applicants were women. In France, two out of the three top butcher apprentices in a national competition were women, the first year that any woman won, the Washington Post reported June 6.

  • A Family Violence Prevention Fund poll timed to Father’s Day has found that 56 percent of men now believe that a family member or close acquaintance has been involved in a domestic violence or sexual assault situation. The poll of 1,020 men also found that 57 percent believe they can personally make a difference in preventing violence and 73 percent think they can make at least some difference in promoting non-violent relationships.

  • The U.S. Marine Corps has agreed to pay a $200,000 settlement to two female high school students who claimed they were raped by recruiters, the AP reported June 7. The Marines have also agreed to revamp practices so that female recruits are more aware of their rights. One in 200 frontline recruiters in all military branches was disciplined for sexual misconduct in 2005.

  • A federal appellate court has ruled that foreign victims of forced abortion can seek asylum in the United States, the Associated Press reported June 6. Two years ago, the court declared that people who have been forcefully sterilized were eligible for asylum.

  • Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has won the Orange Prize for her second novel, “Half of a Yellow Sun.” The prestigious British prize carries a $58,000 award and honors female fiction writers. She is the first African to win.

For more information:

“Female Africans Take Lead in Prize-Winning Fiction”:

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House Democrats approved a spending bill that would increase funding for abstinence-only sex education programs, which studies have shown to be ineffective.

“It’s a sell-out of historic proportions,” said James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C.

Wagoner and others were hoping Democrats–now in control of Congress–would cut funding for abstinence-only programs, which skyrocketed under Republican control of Congress. But Democrats on a House Appropriations subcommittee agreed to increase funding for abstinence education programs by $28 million to $141 million–almost exactly what President Bush asked for in his fiscal 2008 budget request, according to Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, an advocacy group in New York.

A recent study conducted on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services showed that abstinence-only sex-education programs have no effect on rates of sexual abstinence, the age of first intercourse or students’ number of sexual partners.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • One of Afghanistan’s most prominent radio journalists, Zakia Zaki, was shot seven times and killed as she slept with her infant son at her home, the Guardian reported June 6. None of her six children were hurt in the attack. Zaki, one of the few female journalists who spoke out publicly against the Taliban regime, ran the U.S.-funded Radio Peace since the U.S. invasion. Five days before Zaki’s slaying, 22-year-old Shakiba Sanga Amaj, a newsreader for an Afghan TV station, was murdered.

  • Threats of beheading and throat-slitting have been issued against Palestinian female TV broadcasters working in Gaza, the BBC reported June 4. BBC correspondent Alan Johnston has been missing there for the past 89 days. Swords of Truth, an Islamic group that claims to guard the spirit and morals of the Palestinian nation, said the women would be killed if they failed to properly wear the veil as they worked. The journalists have joined vigils for Johnston and publicly protested the death threats.

  • Since April 21, 284 workers at the Mansoura-Espana Garment Company have been on a sit-in strike protesting unpaid wages, the AfricanPath Web site reported June 5. Three-fourths of the workers are women; they have left their families to occupy the Egyptian facility–where they are sleeping on the floor–in defiance of the owner’s threats that it will be shut down rather than unionized.

  • Sierra Leone has banned marriage under the age of 18, but a provision to ban female genital mutilation was removed from the bill at the last minute in a meeting that barred the public and the press, the BBC reported June 8. About 90 percent of women in Sierra Leone have gone through the ritual.


Undocumented immigrant women are increasingly relying on smugglers to bring their children into the United States, the AP reported June 4. The smugglers in turn are hiring poor women to bluff their way past border guards by passing off the children as their own; the Border Patrol said the number of such cases is increasing as it becomes more dangerous for families to bring their children through desert crossings. A 34-year-old single mother now serving a 15-month prison sentence was caught sneaking a year-old baby through; smugglers offered to buy her son a $100 bicycle to do it.

Nouhad Moawad is managing editor of Arabic Women’s eNews, Allison Stevens is Washington bureau chief and Jennifer Thurston is associate editor.

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