New Hampshire became the fourth state to allow civil unions of same-sex couples on Jan 2. Ceremonies began shortly after midnight and over 40 couples said vows at the Portsmouth State House, the Boston Globe reported. At the South Church Unitarian Universalist Church in Portsmouth 11 same-sex couples made their commitments by the end of the afternoon.

The legalization of civil unions comes as a huge victory for lesbian and gay rights activists in New Hampshire. Local politicians, however, warned that it could become a contentious issue during this year’s presidential elections and that couples will need to fight to preserve these rights.

Meanwhile, in Havana, Cuba, a lesbian couple had a symbolical and politically charged wedding celebration in a state facility, the Inter Press Service reported Dec. 26. Monica and Elizabeth–whose last names were withheld–both wore white dresses as they were married in a courtyard. Activists are lobbying parliament to recognize same-sex unions and guarantee equal rights this year.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • Two women who were sexually harassed by a mob of nearly 50 men during New Year’s celebrations in Mumbai, India, are finally seeing a hint of justice after police arrested 14 suspects on Jan. 4. The victims were pinched, grabbed and groped outside a five-star hotel, the AP reported. Photos of the incident hit the headlines of local newspapers and television channels. The media attention prompted public criticism against Mumbai’s police commissioner, who initially failed to adequately pursue the perpetrators and blamed the media for overplaying a commonplace incident.
  • A bill to allow rape victims to obtain abortions has been introduced into Egypt’s parliament, Gulf News reported Jan. 1. Egypt has an estimated 20,000 cases of rape annually and current law bans abortion except on the grounds of “necessity,” which includes instances when a woman’s life or health is in danger or in cases of fetal anomaly. An influential Sunni cleric announced his support for the bill but said women must “do their best” to resist rapists. He also said that abortions were necessary in rape cases in order to assure “social stability,” Agence France Presse reported.
  • The number of women who run major U.S. corporations rose to a record 12 last year, USA Today reported Jan. 2, an increase of three from the previous year. Stock performance at women-run companies also matched those of firms with male CEOs. Only 2.4 percent of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies are female.

For more information:

National Center for Lesbian Rights:

“Egg Initiatives Crack Open the Case Against Women”:

Women’s eNews Spotlight on 2008 Presidential Campaign:

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An abortion clinic in Albuquerque, N.M., received a Molotov cocktail as a Christmas present, setting the roof on fire on Dec. 25, while a second was vandalized, the Associated Press reported. Another clinic was burned to the ground on Dec. 6.

On the political front, other attacks on abortion rights are also intensifying.

In Missouri, a 2008 ballot initiative, if approved by voters, could result in the nation’s most restrictive abortion ban, the Baltimore Sun reported Jan. 3. The initiative would require abortion providers to investigate the backgrounds of pregnant women in order to determine whether they have been coerced into seeking the procedure; opponents say that would make abortions virtually unobtainable. The proposal also would require women to be informed of abortion’s link to suicide, substance abuse, depression and other psychiatric problems, which pro-choice activists say have been decisively disproved by science.

In Wisconsin, state Sen. Scott Fitzgerald introduced a bill to ban an abortion procedure used after the 12th week of pregnancy. Supporters say it will allow the state to prosecute doctors who break the law with prison sentences up to 15 years and will make the state’s law consistent with a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.

In Montana, anti-choice activists are working on a ballot initiative to define human embryos as “persons,” the Missoula Independent reported Jan. 3. The initiative echoes similar proposals in Colorado, Mississippi and Michigan.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • Surrogate pregnancies are practiced worldwide but India is pushing forward as an industry leader, the AP reported Dec. 31. Increasingly, Indian women are matched with infertile women abroad. In the western city of Kaiva, more than 50 women are now pregnant with the children of couples from the United States, Taiwan and Britain. The women earn more than many would make in 15 years. While pregnant, they spend months living in small clinics that cater to their physical and psychological needs.
  • A proposed policy intended to increase the number of federal contracts awarded to women-owned businesses was blasted by activists this week, who said it was a token effort that would achieve nothing, the Los Angeles Times reported Jan. 3. In 2000 Congress ordered the U.S. Small Business Administration to implement a 1994 law that required 5 percent of contracts in four male-dominated industries to be awarded to female owners. Critics of the proposal that came back said it would not increase opportunities for female businesses, which currently receive 3.4 percent of contracts. Announcing the program, the agency said the proposal had “limited scope.”
  • Exotic dancers and club owners are resisting a $5 “pole tax” that would fund rape prevention programs and crisis centers in Texas, the London Sunday Telegraph reported Dec. 30. The state surcharge is applied to every customer at strip clubs and was pushed by anti-violence advocates. The Texas Entertainment Association is also suing to block the tax as a violation of free expression.


Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential frontrunner momentum further deflated after she failed to secure a victory in the Jan. 3 Iowa caucus. CNN reported from exit polls that 35 percent of Democratic women overall voted for Sen. Barack Obama, and 30 percent voted for Clinton. Among women 60 and over, Clinton received 43 percent, while Obama received 19 percent and former Sen. John Edwards 26 percent.

On the Republican side, caucus victor Gov. Mike Huckabee received 40 percent of the women’s vote, followed by Gov. Mitt Romney’s 24 percent.

Altogether, 57 percent of voters who participated in the caucuses were female, according to Women’s Voices, Women Vote. Unmarried women in particular had a strong turnout, the voter education group announced. Single women comprised 28 percent of Democratic caucus-goers but represent only 22 percent of registered voters in Iowa.

Dominique Soguel is Women’s eNews Arabic editor and Jennifer Thurston is associate editor.

Women’s eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at [email protected].