Native Women Receive Protection; Women Eat Least, Last

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thumb pointing up The Tribal Law and Order Act of 2008, designed to lower sexual violence against American Indian and Alaskan Native women, was introduced July 23 by the Senate of Indian Affairs Committee. The bill would enable tribal police to enforce violations of federal laws on Indian lands and offer them greater access to criminal history information.

Amnesty International, which in a 2007 report found the rate of rape and other sexual violence for this population of women 2.5 times higher than that for other U.S. women, hailed the bill.


On July 17, the committee also held a hearing on the implementation of the Adam Walsh Act for tracking sex offenders, which the U.S. Congress passed in 2006 without tribal consultation. The law requires tribal governments to include all convictions for qualifying sex offenses in their registries and register offenders in the places where they live and work. Those that don’t comply will automatically cede jurisdiction to the state, reported the July 11.


The majority of tribes that are now working to create their own tracking systems face a 2009 deadline. The National Congress of American Indians has said that tribes that opt to implement the Adam Walsh Act should have the same rights and access to criminal databases as U.S. states.


More News to Cheer This Week:


  • One hundred members of Congress wrote a joint appeal to President Bush to urge him to stop any action on last week’s proposal limiting women’s access to birth control, ABC reported July 21. The administration’s draft proposal of a policy for the Department of Health and Human Services would require hospitals that receive federal funding not to discriminate against hiring clinicians who refuse to provide contraception due to personal religious beliefs.


  • Italy’s highest criminal court, Court of Cassation, overturned a ruling that women wearing tight jeans “cannot be raped.” In a controversial 1999 court decision a 45-year-old man in Potenza–convicted of raping an 18-year-old—was let off when the judge ruled that it would have been impossible to have taken her jeans off “without the collaboration of the person wearing them.” This month a 37-year-old man convicted of sexually assaulting a16-year-old based his appeal on that case. But the court ruled that "jeans cannot be compared to any type of chastity belt."


  • Jordan’s Ministry of Health will begin dispensing free condoms and birth control pills through public hospital and health centers, military hospitals and family planning organizations, reported the Jordan Times July 18.


  • Auckland, New Zealand, is promoting national cervical screening among Asian women, only 44 percent of whom have the test every three years, compared to 71 percent of other women nationwide, reported the July 23.


  • Two organizations working on sexual orientation and gender identity have been granted consultative status by The U.N. Economic and Social Council, which will allow them to deliver oral and written reports at U.N. meetings and organize events on U.N. premises, Human Rights Watch reported July 23. This will grant the COC Netherlands and the State Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals of Spain the same access as other nongovernmental organizations in the U.N . system.


  • The U.S. House of Representatives reauthorized a program that urges states to process nearly 400,000 untested rape kits nationwide, reported the Washington Post July 22. The Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program started in 2004. It is named for Debbie Smith, a rape victim, who gave congressional testimony about untested rape kits in 2001. The bill awaits Senate authorization.




thumb pointing down High food and fuel prices have pushed more than 130 million people across Africa, Asia and Latin America deeper into poverty.

a Washington Post feature story on July 20 finds female caretakers in Burkina Faso bearing the brunt in that country. Women interviewed there are eating last and least in their families.

A study by the aid group Catholic Relief Services, cited by the Post, indicates the majority of people in Burkina Faso now spending around 75 percent of their income on food and having little left for medical care, school fees and clothes. Higher costs have also increased the pressure on some women to turn to prostitution to survive.

A July 16 story by the Humanitarian News and Analysis looks at a similar situation in Afghanistan, finding that a combination of high food prices and drought there is driving women and girls into sex work. The majority are widows with little education who lack training for alternative employment..

More News to Jeer This Week:


  • The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit lifted the preliminary ban on South Dakota’s new law requiring doctors to tell women seeking an abortion that the procedure ends a human life, the Washington Post reported July 20. Doctors will have to state that the procedure "will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique living human being."


  • Same-sex marriages will not appear on the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau since the federal Defense of Marriage Act bars the agency from counting those unions, reported the Associated Press July 19. Same-sex marriages are legal in Massachusetts and California.


  • Photos of two drowned Roma girls covered in towels and surrounded by relaxing Italian sunbathers has drawn international attention to the country’s negative attitude towards Roma, reported the Sydney Morning Herald July 22. The incident occurred three weeks after U.N. experts denounced Italian politicians for seeking to fingerprint all Romani citizens, including children, as part of a crackdown on street crime. Roma are also widely known as gypsies, a term some in the group consider a slur.


  • At least eight women and one man have been sentenced to death by stoning in Iran after being convicted of adultery and sex offenses, reported the BBC July 20. Their lawyers say the execution could occur at any time even though Iran’s judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi imposed a moratorium on stoning in 2002.


  • Members of Parliament in Northern Ireland have tabled an amendment to the Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill to lift the country’s ban on abortion, reported the AP July 23. Abortion in Ireland is allowed only if the mother’s life is in danger. Each year around 1,000 women pay for private procedures in Britain.


  • Eight Hispanic women filed a Superior Court discrimination lawsuit against the San Luis Obispo County’s probation department in California seeking unspecified compensatory and general damages, the AP reported July 23. According to the lawsuit, the women were denied training and promotion opportunities available to white co-workers.


  • Taboos about sex in Pakistan—where Islamic law prohibits extramarital sex–are hindering safe-sex educational efforts in a country where at least 85,000 citizens have contracted HIV/AIDS, according to researchers at two Pakistani universities, the New York Times reported July 22.

Besa Luci, a native of Kosovo, is a recent graduate of the University of Missouri’s Graduate School of Journalism.

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