Catholics Press for Rights; Israel’s Livni Snubbed

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Cheers and Jeers



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Catholic women marched in Rome to denounce the church’s ban against female priests, the Associated Press reported Oct. 16. In May, the Vatican reiterated its stance against female ordination and said women who take part will be excommunicated.

At the Women’s Ordination Conference held in Rome this week, activists urged the church to recognize women’s prominent leadership roles in the Bible, the group’s executive director, Aisha S. Taylor, said. Excluding women from church decisions has been devastating to public policy regarding women’s issues, she added.

Women are allowed to vote on church matters in Kentucky’s largest association of historically black Baptist churches for the first time, the AP reported Oct. 15. The decision places the Kentucky group more in line with national Baptist associations.

In Britain, Muslim scholar Amina Wadud became the first woman to lead a mixed congregation in prayer, the BBC reported Oct. 17. Wadud gave the "khutbah" sermon at Oxford University despite a small group of protesters outside.

Muslim Women have already led prayers in South Africa, Canada and the United States.

More News to Cheer This Week:


  • U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon announced on Oct. 13 that the United Nations is quadrupling its efforts to end obstetric fistula, a severe injury that develops in childbirth, leaving many women incontinent. At least 2 million women are affected, but most fistulas can be repaired with adequate medical care.


  • The Kapchorwa district in eastern Uganda has banned the deeply rooted cultural practice of female genital mutilation, the BBC reported Oct. 16. The local district council also submitted legislation to parliament to create a national ban. First ladies from seven West African countries–Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger and Togo–are meeting Oct. 20 in Burkina Faso to address how to end the practice in Africa.


  • For the fist time in Turkey’s history, a picture of a woman, novelist Fatma Aliye, will appear on a bank note when the new Turkish lira currency is issued in January 2009, Today’s Zaman reported Oct. 10.


  • Volleyball coach Jaye Flood and golf coach Holly Vaughn received $3.4 million from Florida Gulf Coast University to settle a case in which they claimed they had been retaliated against for complaints of sex discrimination in school athletic programs, WINK-TV in Fort Myers, Fla., reported Oct. 15.


  • Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi, co-founder of the African Women’s Development Fund in Ghana, and Janet Nkubana, who gathered Hutu and Tutsi women in Rwanda as a force for peace building and economic development, won the 2008 Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger. Christine Agnele Mensah-Atoemne, founder of a theater group to change attitudes toward girls and women in Togo; Kenyan women’s rights activist Faiza Mohamed; and Mmatshilo Motsei, a South African counselor, were also finalists for the award given by the Hunger Project.


  • Caryl Rivers, a Women’s eNews columnist and member of the board of directors, received the Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Society of Professional Journalists. Rivers, a professor at Boston University, has covered politics, the media, race and gender for national publications since the early 1960s.


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Ultra-Orthodox Israeli newspapers have banned photographs of Tzipi Livni, elected by her party to become Israel’s next prime minister, in their political coverage because she is a woman, the Daily Mail reported Sept. 23. This week, leaders of the United Torah Judaism party said they might not join a government coalition if Livni is the head, the Middle East World news reported Oct. 16.

Livni is expected to become the Israeli leader when she negotiates a coalition government. But United Torah Judaism member Rabbi Joseph Shalom Elyashiv said his party has not made a final decision about whether it will join, which could prove crucial to Livni’s ability to stay in power. "It is not simple to sit in a government when the prime minister is a woman," he said.

Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox believers, form 12 percent of the Israeli population and hold significant political power. Over the past two years, women accused of immoral behavior have been regularly and violently assaulted and Orthodox followers are imposing gender-segregation rules on women more forcefully, Menachem Friedman, a sociology professor at Bar-Ilan University, told the Guardian. More Haredi women are wearing veils and scarves to cover themselves.

More News to Jeer This Week:


  • Nicaraguan women’s rights activists are subjecting President Daniel Ortega, the Sandinista revolutionary, to the tribunal of public opinion by reviving accusations of raping his stepdaughter in the 1980s, Time reported Oct. 16. Ortega is in the process of rehabilitating his image as a progressive and revolutionary leader. Zoilamerica Narvaez, Ortega’s stepdaughter, has withdrawn her abuse case, said journalist and activist Sofia Montenegro, "but the protests will continue to grow."


  • Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons is facing a civil lawsuit from a Las Vegas waitress, Chrissy Mazzeo, who claimed he attacked and threatened to rape her while he was a candidate for office, the AP reported Oct. 15. Mazzeo is seeking $10,000 in damages; Gibbons has denied the claims and was cleared in a criminal investigation in 2006.


  • An Oct. 10 Chicago Tribune analysis found only one-sixth of the 19,000 domestic violence cases brought each year in Illinois’ Cook County result in convictions, leading victims to lose faith in the courts. Convictions in Chicago also dropped to 14 percent in 2007 from 20 percent in 2003.


  • Sexual harassment is routine and the biggest fear for Pakistan’s female journalists, the Inter Press Service reported Oct. 14. Fourteen percent of the Pakistan Association of Television Journalists members are women.


  • Sierra Leone, Africa’s poorest nation, has the greatest risk of death in childbirth, with 1 in 8 mothers dying, the Washington Post reported Oct. 12. In the United States, maternal deaths occur in 1 in 4,800 live births. Across the globe, more than 500,000 women a year–about one every minute–die in childbirth.


  • Fledgling efforts to reform Northern Ireland’s abortion laws were abandoned after officials warned that it could threaten ongoing peace negotiations with provincial leaders and undermine a fragile peace established in 1999 between Catholic separatists and Protestant loyalists, the London Telegraph reported Oct. 10.

In Memoriam:


  • Women’s health advocate Allan Rosenfield, dean of the Mailman School at Columbia University, died Oct. 12 in Hartsdale, N.Y. Focusing his efforts on the HIV-AIDS pandemic, Rosenfield helped bring comprehensive health care to over 500,000 women and children through programs to prevent transmission of the virus from mother to infant. He worked for over four decades advocating for reproductive rights and family planning programs.


  • Journalist, author and women’s rights activist June Levine died in Dublin on Oct. 14 from a stroke. Levine took part in the fight against Ireland’s ban on contraception, was a strong voice in denouncing the harsh lives of prostitutes and participated in supporting rape victims. She wrote for the Irish Times and the RTE’s "Late Late Show" where she helped create a show about the women’s movement and wrote books about her experiences with movement "sisters."

Iulia Anghelescu is a freelance writer in New York.

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