Cheers and Jeers



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Former Costa Rican Vice President Laura Chinchilla announced her candidacy for the presidency in 2010 elections, Inter Press Services reported Oct. 22. If elected she will be the first female head of state in Costa Rica.

President Oscar Arias has said that he prefers to hand over the presidency to a woman. Chinchilla resigned as his vice president in order to be eligible as a candidate for the National Liberation Party under Costa Rica’s electoral laws. A 1996 law requires parties to field at least 40 percent female candidates for parliamentary election, and 38 percent of parliamentary seats are currently held by women.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • The British government has proposed increasing women’s access to full state pensions, including those who care for children or relatives, Reuters reported Oct. 24. Because pensions are based on earnings, unpaid caregivers are penalized, and only one-third of British women are eligible for full pensions because they have not contributed to the system for the required 39 years. Under the proposal women will be allowed to “buy back” up to 12 years and contribute payments in order to reduce the retirement gender gap.
  • Women’s rights activists in Egypt applauded the sentencing of a man for sex assault after he groped a 27-year-old woman on the street, saying the court ruling signals a cultural change in addressing harassment, the Middle East Times reported Oct. 22. Police initially refused to register the woman’s complaint until she brought the perpetrator directly to the station. The man received a fine and a three-year prison term with hard labor. Earlier this month, a mob of 150 men harassed women in a Cairo neighborhood during Eid celebrations, spurring demands that penalties be stiffened to reduce the widespread harassment of women.
  • Two Methodist women who dissent with official church policy that welcomes gays and lesbians as members but regards the “practice of homosexuality” as “incompatible with Christian teaching” were ordained during a ceremony organized by the Church Within a Church Movement in Baltimore Oct.19, the Baltimore Sun reported.
  • Morocco’s interior minister, Chakib Benmoussa, announced that financial incentives will be offered to the political parties that field the most female candidates in the June 12, 2009, local elections, the Magharebia Web site reported Oct. 17. The offer corresponds with the women’s movement’s goal of occupying one-third of legislative seats.
  • Syrian officials recommended the repeal of legal articles discriminating against women, including those that afford lighter penalties for murderers in so-called honor crime cases and give harsher penalties to women who commit adultery than to men. The recommendations mark a step forward in the effort to reform the criminal code and curb honor killings as without the government’s green light the laws will not be amended, the Damascus-based Syrian Women Observatory reported Oct. 19.
  • An Argentine journalists’ network has proposed 10 commandments for coverage of gender-based crimes, the Inter Press Service reported Oct. 21. The document to be released on Nov. 25 includes using terms such as “femicide” to describe murders of women rather than as “crimes of passion.” The document will be made public on Nov. 25, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
  • Johnson and Johnson, the world’s largest maker of health-care products, paid $68 million to settle thousands of complaints from women who used the Ortho Evra birth-control patch, Bloomberg reported Oct. 20. The complaints blamed the patch for the death of 20 women and 4,000 others having suffered side effects. More than 5 million women have used the patch since 2002. Johnson and Johnson has never gone to trial over Ortho Evra.
  • Members of the British group Feminists Fightback chained themselves on Oct. 20 to the Department of Health building in London to pressure officials to legalize abortion in Northern Ireland, the group announced on its Web site. The province is the only part of the United Kingdom where abortion is illegal.


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African American women, including those with health insurance, are more likely to die from breast cancer because they have less access to breast-cancer treatment facilities, according to Dr. Elizabeth Marcus, who runs the breast oncology division at Stroger Hospital, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Oct. 22. Studies over the past few years have increasingly shown disparities in breast cancer treatments and death rates for women of color.

Breast cancer deaths in Chicago rose dramatically last year, and black women are now twice as likely to die from the disease as white women, according to the Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force.

Latinas weren’t part of the latest study, but their death rates are probably on par with African Americans, said Steven Whitman, director of the Sinai Urban Health Institute and a task force member. Black women’s death rates have not dropped in 25 years, he added.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • Despite $4 million in federal grants to process evidence from rape kits, the Los Angeles Police Department hasn’t used the funding, according to an audit released by Human Rights Watch Oct. 20. The group says the police have failed to comply with state laws and the number of untested rape kits is growing.
  • The U.S Supreme Court has refused to hear Tory Bowen’s lawsuit challenging the decision of a Nebraskan judge, who ordered that she not use the words “rape” and “victim” in her testimony against the man who sexually assaulted her, the AP reported Oct. 21. The criminal case has twice resulted in mistrial.
  • Two women appointed as ministers in Kuwait took heat from a conservative panel for not wearing the Islamic hijab to cover their heads. The panel contested the appointments of Nuriya al-Sebih and Mudhi al-Humoud, based on the country’s election law which requires women to “abide by Islamic regulations while voting or contesting the elections,” AFP reported Oct. 19.
  • Women are most at risk in natural disasters–up to 80 percent of the Indian Ocean Tsunami deaths and 91 percent of the 1991 Bangladesh cyclone deaths were women–according to Asian Development Bank data released in October.
  • Marriages of minors under 18 increased 28 percent between 2006 and 2007 in Morocco, and have increased by 50 percent in rural areas, according to a Democratic League of the Women’s Rights study, Afrique en Ligne reported Oct. 20. The group blamed judges’ extensive powers to grant waivers for the increase in underage marriage.
  • Malaysia’s National Fatwa Council has banned women from wearing men’s clothing and lesbians from having sexual relationships, the London Telegraph reported Oct. 24.
  • An 11-year-old Jaipur girl suffered 90 percent burns after she was set ablaze with kerosene by a relative who said he was enraged by the clothes and lipstick she wore, the Times of India reported Oct. 18. The girl’s father wrote in his police statement that his daughter was set afire because she resisted the relative’s harassment.
  • A 43-year-old Japanese piano teacher was jailed after murdering the Maple Story virtual character of her ex-husband because he suddenly divorced her online, the Associated Press reported Oct. 23. The Web-based game is similar to Second Life, popular in the West. The woman has been charged with illegally accessing a computer and manipulating electronic data. If convicted, she faces a five-year prison term or $5,000 fine.

Iulia Anghelescu is a freelance writer in New York; Dominique Soguel is Arabic editor and Jennifer Thurston is managing editor of Women’s eNews.

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