cheers and jeers



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Yuriko Koike is the first woman in Japan to seek national leadership after announcing the she will run for prime minister within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in the Sept. 22 elections, Agence France-Presse reported. Koike is the nation’s first female defense minister and said she would run following the Sept. 8 resignation of Yasuo Fukuda as prime minister.

“I would like to put into practice policies from the viewpoint of women, so that female power can be put to better use and women can be a part of society while being free from anxiety to give birth and raise children,” Koike said at a news conference, Japan Times reported.

Koike, with 16 years of political experience under her belt, also pledged to focus on the economy and the environment.

Facing at least four male contenders for party leadership–a requisite to become Japan’s prime minister–her candidacy remains a long shot. Japan ranked 91 out of 128 countries in the World Economic Forum’s 2007 Global Gender Gap Report.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • More than 1.4 million economic stimulus checks disbursed to “deadbeat” parents this year by the federal government have been seized and directed to their custodial parents, most of whom are women, the Associated Press reported Sept. 9. Child-support agencies have collected $831 million since last spring, when the checks–made out for $600 for most individuals, plus another $300 per child–first went out.
  • The government of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh will provide microloans to women with reduced interest rates of 3 percent over the next five years, the Economic Times reported Sept. 11. Microfinancing typically has much higher interest rates–ranging from 15 to 50 percent–and targets the economic development of women, who comprise 70 percent of the world’s 1.3 billion people who live on less than $1 a day.
  • A bill decriminalizing abortion for women up to 24 weeks of pregnancy passed the lower house of parliament in the state of Victoria, Australia, Sept. 11. The Abortion Law Reform Bill also legalizes abortions after 24 weeks if the woman obtains the approval of two medical practitioners. Previously, the state only permitted abortions necessary to preserve a woman’s health, Australia’s ABC reported.
  • Women’s rights activists launched a campaign to decriminalize abortion during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy in Northern Ireland, Irish News reported Sept. 9. Abortion is strictly limited to cases that endanger the physical or mental health of the woman. No provision is made for fetal anomaly.
  • Saudi Arabia is training health professionals in Jeddah to recognize the symptoms of domestic violence and child abuse, Arab News reported Sept. 6. The new Committee of Social Protection will monitor and respond to cases of physical, emotional and sexual abuse, as well as child negligence.
  • Roz Savage, 40, successfully completed the first stage of her cross-Pacific journey Sept. 1 after she rowed solo for 99 days, covering 2,900 miles between San Francisco and Hawaii. Savage will become the first woman to cross the Pacific Ocean alone if she is able to complete the second and third legs–from Hawaii to Tuvalu, and then to Australia–in 2008 and 2009. She is trying to raise awareness about the environment: “I’m not saying I’ve changed the world, but I’ve started creating a few ripples. I’m a real believer in the ripple effect. The message will spread,” she told the AP.


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HIV infection rates in the United States are higher than previously estimated and black women are among the hardest hit, Medical News Today reported Sept. 12. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new data looking at the impact of the disease on different demographic groups.

The data show an infection rate that is 15 times higher for African American women than for white women and four times higher than for Latinas. African Americans represent only 12 percent of the total population but comprise 45 percent of new infections.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • State Department officials are denying U.S. passports to children delivered by midwives near the Texas-Mexico border due to suspected forgeries, the Washington Post reported Sept. 9. The move has prompted a lawsuit by the New York-based American Civil Liberties Union, which alleges ethnic discrimination.
  • The New York City Health Department attributed 44 percent of all murders of women in the city between 2003 and 2005 to domestic violence, amNew York reported Aug. 13. About 40 women are killed by their intimate partners each year in the city.
  • Women are underrepresented in Brazil’s municipal elections, the Inter Press Service reported Sept. 11. They are competing for only 10.3 percent of seats in mayoral elections and 21.8 percent of town council seats despite a quota requiring parties to reserve at least 30 percent of seats for women. Political parties in Brazil have disregarded this 1997 quota–even at the congressional level–with impunity.
  • Som Southevy, a 68-year-old transgender woman, is the first person to file a gender-violence case before the international tribunal investigating war crimes of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, the Inter Press Service reported Sept. 11. Southevy said she was repeatedly gang-raped, forced to wear men’s clothing and forced to marry another woman. “I am lucky to have survived and be able to tell my story,” she said.
  • The Dutch government announced a ban on Islamic dress for all schools, including private religious establishments, the British Telegraph reported Sept. 9. The ban targets the Islamic garments that conceal a woman’s face and body–but not the hijab or veil. Muslim mothers whose faces are covered would also be banned from picking up their children at school. Parliament will vote on the proposal next year.
  • Women’s rights activists warn that self-immolation is on the rise in Afghanistan, with at least 47 cases registered at a Herat hospital in the first six months of 2008, the United Nations’ IRIN News reported Sept. 9. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Comission registered 184 cases of female self-immolation–or suicide by burning–in 2007, up from 106 in 2006.
  • Budget shortfalls have led Alabama to cut subsidized child care for up to 15,000 low- and middle-income families, the Montgomery Advertiser reported Sept. 6. The state blamed economic downturn and reductions in federal spending for the cuts.


In the week since Republican presidential nominee John McCain nominated Sarah Palin to run alongside him as the party’s first female vice-presidential nominee, white women have swung dramatically to his side, Reuters reported Sept. 9. The Washington Post poll showed a 20-point shift among white women, who now back McCain 53 to 41 percent.

Women’s rights activists this week sharply criticized Palin’s record in supporting rape victims. While Palin was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, the town charged sexual assault victims between $300 and $1,200 to cover the cost of their rape kits and forensic exams to collect criminal evidence, the Associated Press reported Sept. 11. Alaska has the highest sexual assault rate in the nation.

Selected readings on Sarah Palin

Two Views on Sarah Palin and Women of Color
Who Pays Palin’s Child Care? Don’t Ask the GOP
Palin’s Delivery? Don’t Try This in Real Life

For more information:

Lynn Paltrow, “Open Letter to Sarah Palin”

Cathy Young, “A Great Moment for Women”

Camille Paglia, “Fresh Blood for the Vampire” print.html

Anne Applebaum, “Sarah Palin Brings the Hillary Clinton Era to an End”

Sarah Seltzer, “‘Sarah Palin Feminism?’ More Like Sarah Palin Sexism”

Tanya Melich, “The Republican Wonderland: Down the Rabbit Hole With McCain-Palin”

Madeleine M. Kunin, “The Irony of Sarah Palin’s Extreme Conservatism”

Dominique Soguel is Arabic editor, Jennifer Thurston is associate editor and Allison Stevens is Washington bureau chief for Women’s eNews.

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