Female parliamentarians in Canada’s Liberal Party are calling for a series of policy reforms to benefit women in a bid to widen the party’s lead among female voters, the Toronto Star reported Dec. 6.

The caucus includes 21 women and calls for reforming the Federal Divorce Act to allow abuse and domestic violence to be considered in settling child custody agreements.

Policies targeting female poverty include a national housing strategy to facilitate women’s access to adequate, affordable housing and a revision of the work-permit system for foreign workers. The caucus also called for more research on rural poverty and more resources for indigenous women. The proposals build on a women-focused “pink book” initiative released last year.

At the same time, Liberal leader Stephane Dion blasted the Tory government of Stephen Harper, the Canadian Press reported Dec. 6.

“Women continue to suffer discrimination, they continue to suffer abuse and violence, they continue to struggle for basic equality and on all of this the government’s track record is abysmal,” he said.

The current Tory government cut back women’s programs and canceling the national child care program launched by the previous Liberal government.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of the Philippines made strong statements in support of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, currently under house arrest in Myanmar. Arroyo said Myanmar’s decisions over whether to release Suu Kyi could influence the Philippines’ decision to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the region’s economic bloc, Reuters reported Dec. 7.
  • The University of Colorado has settled a five-year-old lawsuit with two female plaintiffs for $2.85 million, the Denver Post reported Dec. 6. The former students claimed they were raped by football players at a party and charged the school with allowing a “tawdry, sex-charged” athletic culture. “There’s a level of shock in signing a settlement this big,” Hank Brown, university president, said.
  • Female teens took top honors in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology on Dec. 3. Isha Jain from Bethlehem, Pa., and Janelle Schlossberger and Amanda Marinoff of Plainview, N.Y., received $100,000 scholarships for their scientific research. Eleven of the 20 finalists were young women and 48 percent of the entries were from females, Business Week reported.
  • Korea’s Ministry of Health promised a January review of regulations that criminalizes abortion, the Korea Times reported Dec. 4. Currently, exceptions are only allowed in cases of rape, incest and medical risk to the woman or fetus. Record low fertility and birth rates are heating up debates on abortion law, but the review comes amid concerns that abortions are occurring at high rates. In 2005, there were 342,233 reported abortions compared to 476,000 births.
  • Legislation to reauthorize funding to combat international sex trafficking sailed through the House of Representatives with near unanimous support on Dec. 4. The bill would also ease rules regarding prosecution of traffickers. It now awaits action in the Senate. “Sex trafficking is a human issue, not a political issue,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney. “It speaks volumes that the fight against trafficking has brought together Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, religious leaders and feminists.”
  • India’s Supreme Court has called on lower courts to treat rape offenders with a “heavy hand,” the Indian Express reported Dec. 4. It also ruled that rape is a legal rather than a medical issue, which will facilitate prosecutions in which victims were not physically injured.

For more information:

Canada Liberal Party, “The Pink Book: A Policy Framework for Canada’s Future”

Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology, 2007 Winners:

National Center for Health Statistics, Teen Birth Rates:

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The birth rate among U.S. teens aged 15 to 19 rose 3 percent in 2006, reversing a 14-year decline in teen pregnancy rates, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics.

Although researchers did not link the increase in teen pregnancy to sex education, the rise coincides with a federal policy of emphasizing abstinence programs, which currently receive about $176 million in annual funding. Congress is considering increasing that by $28 million, the Washington Post reported Dec. 6.

The teen birth rate peaked in 1991 at 61.8 births per 1,000 female 15-to-19-year-old teens. Following that peak, the Clinton administration emphasized comprehensive programs, including contraception, in federally funded programs. The 2006 rate was 41.9 births per 1,000.

Robert Rector, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told the New York Times that the rise in teen birth rates was due to young women who lacked education and saw no need for marriage but were devoted to motherhood. Rector was a key architect of the 1996 federal overhaul of welfare programs that strongly emphasized marriage as an alternative to public assistance.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • The percentage of women who coach in college athletics has fallen to an all-time low despite 35 years of effort under Title IX gender equality legislation to increase their ranks, the Los Angeles Times reported Dec. 2. In 1972, when Title IX was passed, 90 percent of women’s teams were coached by women, but that dropped to 42 percent in 2006.
  • Women in the European Union work more and earn less, the Guardian reported Dec. 6. A Cambridge University study found that the average work week is 68 hours for women and 55 hours for men. Women take a bigger share of household work and struggle to rise up professional ranks. The regional survey of 30,000 people reinforced previous findings that part-time work and child care responsibilities lock women into low-paying jobs.
  • Republican presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was dogged by accusations that he had let a convicted rapist, Wayne DuMond, go free too soon, CBS News reported Dec. 6. DuMond was convicted in 1985 for the rape of a distant cousin of Bill Clinton and, at the time, the conviction was publicly criticized by conservative pundits as too harsh and politically tainted. In 1997, Huckabee wrote DuMond a letter that said, “My desire is that you be released from prison.” DuMond was released in 1999, and was later convicted for the rape and murder of a second woman.
  • South African female ministers and gender activists are protesting the African National Congress Women League’s decision to nominate mostly men to its six top positions. The ANC will decide this month whether to expand its 30 percent quota for women to 50 percent, Johannesburg’s Business Day reported Dec. 6.
  • In Alaska, where a court overturned a state law that required parental consent for minors seeking abortions in November, 11 state lawmakers are supporting a constitutional amendment to reinstate the restriction, the Juneau Empire reported Dec. 3.


  • Fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains have been added into the federal food assistance program Women, Infants and Children, but less dairy and egg products will be provided. Over 8 million people receive WIC food vouchers, averaging $39 a month.
  • The United Arab Emirates busted a major prostitution ring, Al Arabiyya reported Dec. 5. Dubai police conducted a covert crackdown on 22 brothels, arresting 170 prostitutes, 12 pimps and 65 prospective clients. In March, Dubai police reported 4,300 sex workers had been deported during 2006, the BBC said.

Dominique Soguel is Arabic editor, Sarah Seltzer is editorial intern, Allison Stevens is Washington bureau chief and Jennifer Thurston is associate editor.

Women’s eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at editors@womensenews.org.