thumb pointing up Significant progress for Chinese women’s rights have taken place over the past five years, including the creation of 27,000 agencies for women and children, according to a report delivered at the Tenth National Women’s Congress in Beijing held Oct. 28. The government had called women from around the country to attend to the congress and draft a blueprint for women’s progress in the next five years, the South China Morning Post reported Oct. 29.

Chinese women are increasingly becoming police, judges, models and politicians, and account for 45 percent of the paid work force. The government is also trying to increase women’s involvement in state affairs and social and economic development, said Huang Qingyi, deputy chair of the All-China Women’s Federation, the nation’s largest nongovernmental organization for women. Huang said the government also is working to eradicate discrimination and the gender income gap.

Younger women attended to represent their generation’s independence, the China View reported Oct. 29. “We have grown in a different environment from that of the older generations so we tend to pay more attention to ourselves and our quality of life,” said policewoman Jiang Min, a hero in the earthquake relief effort last spring.

International human rights groups have criticized the Chinese government for its human rights record, including enforcement of its one-child law.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • Iraq’s female lawmakers are slowly gaining power, USA Today reported Oct. 30. Female legislators comprise 25 percent of the parliament but were often relegated to “soft” issues such as family law. Now they are increasingly speaking out and influencing committee meetings. One sign of change came when the women boycotted a parliamentary session after Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, the parliament speaker, said women make poor leaders because they are easily distracted by worries their husband might take a second wife.

  • Muslim American women are encouraged by their communities to run for political office and their number has significantly increased as a result, the Associated Press reported Oct. 30. “Before Sept. 11, less than 5 percent of Muslim political candidates were women,” said Agha Saeed, founder of the American Muslim Alliance. “Now about 1 in 3 is.”

  • The world’s largest female-only institution of higher learning, the Riyadh Women’s University in Saudi Arabia, is expanding and will include 13 colleges and a 700-bed teaching hospital. Officials laid the hospital’s first stone on Oct. 29, the Arab News reported. The university has already enrolled 17,000 students, said Princess Al-Jowhara bint Fahd, its president.

  • Hawaria Fattah, a Muslim professor, has been nominated to the post of imam in a southern Belgium mosque to supervise the preaching activities for women. Her selection was approved by the Belgian Justice Ministry, Islam Online reported Oct. 25. Fattah is believed to be the first female imam in Europe.

  • Female playwrights are holding a town hall meeting Nov. 3 to denounce gender inequity in the theater industry, the New York Times reported Oct. 24. Four times as many leading Off Broadway plays are written by men than by women.


thumb pointing down Rape, assault and sexual harassment during military service were reported by 14.5 percent of female veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a study released Oct. 28 by the Veterans Administration, U.S. News and World Report reported Oct. 28.

Seventy-six percent of those women were diagnosed with a mental illness such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or drug addiction. The female soldiers experienced rape rates nearly three times higher than women in the general population.

It is unclear when those sexual abuses occur, study co-author Joanne Pavao told the magazine. “It could have occurred at any point during the service history of these men and women.”

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • A 23-year-old woman was buried up to her neck and stoned to death in Somalia after an Islamic Sharia court found her guilty of adultery on Oct. 20, the first such public killing by militants in about two years, Reuters reported Oct. 28. Witnesses said a child was also killed by guards who fired into a crowd when a relative and others surged forward in an attempt to intervene.

  • Esha Momeni, a graduate student at the Northridge campus of California State University and a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, has been arrested in Teheran and faces accusations over her involvement with a women’s rights equality campaign, Agence France-Presse reported Oct. 28. Momeni traveled to Iran to carry out research for her thesis on women’s rights.

  • Women with a disability are more likely to experience a physical assault by relatives and intimate partners than those without a disability according to a new government study, Reuters reported on Oct. 27. Thirty-seven percent of women with disabilities report abuse from intimate partners, compared to 20 percent of women without disabilities.

  • West Hollywood residents reported a hate crime when they saw an effigy of GOP vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin hanging by a noose in a Halloween display, the Los Angeles Times reported Oct. 28. Mayor Jeffrey Prang called the display “problematic” and said it should be removed; the sheriff’s department said a “hate crime” definition was inappropriate.


  • A fatwa–or religious decree–by Sheikh Abdel Hamid al-Atrash of Al-Azhar University, an influential center for Sunni Islam religious doctrine, grants Muslim women the right to hit their husbands in self-defense, the AFP reported Oct. 28.

  • Tzipi Livni, elected to lead Israel’s Kadima party and the acting prime minister, failed to form a coalition government this week, thereby reducing her chances to become the nation’s next prime minister, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported Oct. 30. Livni called early elections for Feb. 10 and could still become prime minister if her party is elected to retain power.

In Memoriam:

  • Edith Evans Asbury, 98, died in her New York home on Oct. 30. Asbury started out as a reporter in 1929, eventually joining the metro staff of the New York Times in 1952. She remained at the paper as a tenacious general assignment reporter for the next three decades, covering everything from the Fifth Avenue Easter parade to public housing to desegregation to birth control. While at the the Times, she audited courses at Columbia University School of Law after she was denied admission because of her gender. She explained later that she had no intention of practicing law, but believed the training would make her a better reporter.

    Asbury was a close friend of Rita Henley Jensen, founder of Women’s eNews and hundreds of other women from each of the generations who followed her lead into the field of journalism. “She was enormously generous with her wit, her sarcasm and her possessions,” Henley Jensen said. “She gave me a handmade quilt and many pairs of her shoes. I sleep each night under the blanket of her warmth and regard and often find myself literally standing in her shoes, while feeling unworthy to do so.”

  • Sally Yudelman, a senior scholar at the International Center for Research on Women, died last week from brain cancer, the center announced. Yudelman was a lifelong advocate for women’s economic development and her research focused on women in Latin America. “Her legacy will live on through her tireless work to uphold the rights of marginalized populations and her scholarly work to improve the lives of women in developing countries,” said center President Geeta Rao Gupta.

Iulia Anghelescu is a freelance writer in New York.

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