In commemoration of World Population Day on July 11, the United Nations Population Fund has called on men around the world to become partners in maternal health care.
“Experience shows that men’s involvement and participation can make all the difference. By discouraging early marriage, promoting girls’ education, fostering equitable relationships and supporting women’s reproductive health and rights, progress is made,” said Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, the Population Fund’s executive director. “It is time for all men as fathers, brothers, husbands, community and religious leaders, and government officials to become partners in maternal health.”
About 525,600 women die annually from pregnancy and childbirth complications. Every minute, a woman loses her life. And for every woman who dies, 20 experience serious complications such as obstetric fistula, a debilitating childbirth injury that affects more than 2 million women around the world.
The U.N. will work with governments and other partners to guarantee that every woman has access to three reproductive health services saving women’s lives: voluntary family planning, skilled attendance at birth and emergency obstetric care if complications arise during delivery. For instance, international relief groups are training Darfuri midwives to help reduce Sudan’s maternal mortality rates, currently the fifth highest in the world, the Christian Science Monitor reported July 10.
More News to Cheer This Week:
- A 10-point action plan, the Nairobi Call to Action, was developed by 2,000 delegates from 95 nations during the International Women’s Summit on HIV and AIDS that concluded in Kenya on July 7. The 10 points call for meaningful involvement of women in health policy and political decision-making; promoting gender equality and the human rights of women and girls; ensuring their physical, sexual and psychological safety and security; and ensuring their education, economic security and access to resources, including the right to own and inherit property. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, South Africa’s deputy president, urged African journalists to “rebrand” Africa by taking into consideration the “positive social, political and economic development witnessed all over the continent,” Medical News Today reported July 12.
- The increase of women’s participation in college athletics has not had a detrimental impact on men’s sports, a July 12 report from the Government Accountability Office concluded. The congressional investigative agency found that although opportunities have increased for both female and male athletes between 1991 and 2005, women have not yet achieved parity in athletics programs.
- London’s Metropolitan Police has offered a $40,000 reward for information to prosecute female genital mutilation, the Guardian reported July 11. The penalty for arranging or performing the procedure is up to 14 years in prison, but no one has been prosecuted under the laws that ban it so far. An estimated 66,000 cases have occurred in Britain, primarily among immigrant communities where the custom is practiced in the sending nations.
- The Nazareth-based organization Women Against Violence, as a direct result of media coverage of the rape case against former Israeli president Moshe Katsav, reports that the number of Arab women seeking assistance in dealing with sexual assault rose 23 percent in May and June, compared to the same period last year, Ha’aretz reported July 10. About 100 Arab women approached the group, director Aida Toma-Suleiman said, noting that Arab women are often reluctant to report sexual crimes.
- An anonymous student Web site in Spain has launched a “Cows Want to Run” petition to demand gender equality at Spain’s most famous festival, the annual San Fermin running of the bulls in Pamplona, the Associated Press reported July 10.
For more information:
U.N. Population Fund, Men at Work campaign:
Cows Want to Run
Family Violence Prevention Fund:
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Dr. Richard Carmona, the former U.S. surgeon general, has accused the Bush administration of political interference, such as censoring his speeches and preventing him from speaking publicly on issues such as contraceptives and abstinence-only sex education, Reuters reported July 10.
“I was blocked at every turn . . . Anything that doesn’t fit into the political appointees’ ideological, theological or political agenda is ignored, marginalized or simply buried,” Carmona testified before Congress. “The problem with this approach is that in public health, as in a democracy, there is nothing worse than ignoring science.”
Carmona’s term expired in July 2006. The nominee to replace him, Dr. James Holsinger, has been denounced by the Human Rights Campaign, the HIV Medical Association and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force for authoring a 1991 paper that made a medical argument against homosexuality. The American Public Health Association is also “very concerned with Dr. Holsinger’s past writings regarding his views of homosexuality, which put his political and religious ideology before established medical science.”
More News to Jeer This Week:
- One in 20 pregnant women in the United States are abused or killed during their pregnancies, Newhouse News Service reported July 7, totaling 324,000 each year. Four pregnant U.S. women–Tasha Nowlin, Dawna Wright, Jennifer Nielsen and Jessie Davis–were killed in a six-day span in June, highlighting the level of violence. Women in abusive relationships often experience escalating violence during their pregnancy.
- A South African female AIDS and gay rights activist, Sizakele Sigasa, and her friend Solome Masooa were killed July 8. Sigasa was bound and shot six times in the hate-motivated crime, her employer, the Pretoria-based Positive Women’s Network said. The group noted that the stigma of living with HIV-AIDS combined with discrimination against women and lesbians results in the rape of a South African woman every 26 minutes and a death at the hands of a male partner every six hours.
- The president of the International Olympic Committee acknowledged that there are not enough female members on the committee, the AP reported July 7. Sixteen of the 115 members are female; only one woman sits on the 15-member executive board. Anita L. DeFrantz, the first woman to serve as vice president, lost her bid to join the executive board last week. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, 45 percent of athletes will be female, up from 42 percent at Sydney in 2000.
- After a group of women were invited by a cleric to pray in a mosque in Howli, India, the mosque’s board issued a fatwa order declaring that women could not pray there, the Times of India reported July 10. During the June 29 prayers, the women were careful to stay in a separate enclosure from the men, but the fatwa said it was un-Islamic for them to pray in the mosque at all.
- Nguyen Ba Thuy, Vietnam’s deputy director of the National Committee for Population, Family and Children, warned that a serious gender gap among newborns faces the country despite a ban on selective abortions, the Vietnam News Service reported July 10. In the northeast, there are 122 boys born to every 100 girls; the ratio is 114 to 100 in the north central regions and 110 to 100 in the Mekong Delta.
- India’s government has proposed that all pregnancies be registered with the government in an effort to thwart gender-selective abortions, the Hindustan Times reported July 13. Women would also need the permission of a doctor in order to get an abortion. India has a skewed sex ratio, with 927 girls born for every 1,000 boys.
- Nicknamed the “Romeo and Juliet” defense, an Indiana state law has modified the way a person who has sex with a minor who is 14 or 15 years old can be charged, FOX News reported July 8. The defense can prevent a felony sex charge if the person is under 21, is no more than four years older than the victim and is involved in a dating relationship.
Jacqueline Lee is a Los Angeles-based reporter interning with Women’s eNews and Nouhad Moawad is managing editor of Arabic Women’s eNews.
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