Cheers and Jeers



thumb pointing up

King Mohammed VI of Morocco formally banned discrimination against women during a speech to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Afrique en Ligne, a North African Internet news site, reported Dec. 12.

Officially, the king lifted Morocco’s “reservations” to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the 1979 treaty guaranteeing women’s equality known as CEDAW. Morocco signed the treaty in 1993, but like many other Arab nations, did so only with reservations to clauses that contradicted national or Islamic laws.

Moroccan women’s rights groups hailed the speech, Maghreb Arab Press reported Dec. 12. The king said the reservations were no longer necessary since Morocco passed an updated national family law in 2003 increasing women’s legal rights. The king also touted his reformist views in his speech. “Our country has become an international actor of which the progress and daring initiatives in this matter are readily recognized,” he said.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • In Swaziland, 500 battered women have become involved in 47 self-help groups formed to help them develop small businesses and gain financial independence, the Inter Press Service reported Dec. 8. The women generated about $15,000 in profit from their own businesses in one year.
  • The Swedish Feminist Initiative party is pushing for abortion to be recognized as a human right, the Associated Press reported Nov. 20. The party’s efforts are a response to religious pressure to remove abortion rights from the European Union agenda. On Thursday, Ireland agreed to hold a second vote on the European Union’s Lisbon treaty rejected by Irish voters in June partly because of public views that the treaty would threaten the national abortion ban. EU officials made some concessions in the treaty to allow member nations more autonomy on social issues.
  • Sierra Leone’s first lady, Sia Nyama Koroma, said she plans to ensure the sustainability of maternal and newborn health after attending a national health conference, the Concord Times reported Dec. 10. Koroma called for efforts to reduce maternal and newborn mortality. Sierra Leone has the world’s highest maternal and child death rates, according to UNICEF.
  • London’s women will have access to the birth control pill from pharmacies without prescription through a pilot program, the Independent reported Dec. 10. The pill will be offered after the women are interviewed by pharmacists. If the test run is successful, the pilot would extend to all of England.
  • Activist Esther Chavez received Mexico’s National Human Rights Award on Thursday in recognition of her work with battered women in Ciudad Juarez, the AP reported. Chavez helped draw the world’s attention to the scores of femicides that have occurred in the border city since 1993. Chavez is a Women’s eNews 21 Leader for the 21st Century 2003.
  • Sojourner Morell, a 17-year-old Briton, and Hannah Zeitlhofer, a 21-year-old Austrian, are the first women to be accepted to the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, the world’s oldest equestrian school, the Independent reported Dec. 11. In an effort to break the school’s male exclusivity, Elisabeth Guertler, a Viennese society hostess and owner of the Sacher Hotel, was appointed general director early last year.


thumb pointing down

Women fleeing their country due to a lack of protection from domestic violence find no help or security through the United States’ asylum policy, the international group Human Rights Watch said in a Dec. 10 report to mark International Human Rights Day.

The eight-year-old policy specifies that domestic violence victims are eligible for asylum and legal citizenship, but the federal government has not issued rules to implement the policy since it came into effect in 2000. As a consequence, some asylum cases are put on hold for years.

“After all the misery that survivors of domestic abuse have suffered, the failure to offer them asylum based on international standards puts them at risk of being returned to face anew the very abusers they fled,” said Meghan Rhoad, researcher in the women’s rights division at Human Rights Watch.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • Regardless of where they live, women may lose $434,000 in income compared to men over 40 years of working full time, according to “Lifetime Losses: The Career Wage Gap,” a report released Dec. 8 by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. The largest salary gender gaps arise in finance and management careers; the smallest in construction and maintenance.
  • Women did not significantly increase their numbers in senior U.S. corporate jobs in 2008, with 15.1 percent women on the board of directors this year compared with 14.8 percent in 2007, according to a Dec. 10 study from Catalyst, a nonprofit that promotes women in business, Reuters reported. Black, Asian and Latina women currently represent 3.2 percent of directors on corporate boards, compared to 3 percent in 2007, the study found.
  • The number of women in Maine murdered by intimate partners has nearly doubled in the past year, the Portland Herald Tribune reported Dec. 10. Eight women died in domestic violence killings in the state during 2007; so far in 2008, there have been 17 deaths.
  • The 400 women’s and human’s rights activists who marched Nov. 25 in Managua, Nicaragua’s capital city, protesting gender-based violence and calling for the decriminalization of abortion, were blocked by the ruling Sandinista Front, the Nica Times reported Dec. 4. The Sandinista government has a zero-tolerance policy toward all forms of civic protest.
  • The displacement of over 250,000 individuals in Congo’s North Kivu region has fueled brutal acts of sexual violence in the region, the South Kivu Women Media Association reported Dec. 12. Journalists reported at least 10 rapes where the perpetrators poured petrol on the victims’ vaginas and set them on fire. There is no comprehensive tally of sexual violence since the outbreak of fighting in August. Negotiations are underway in Nairobi to settle the conflict between rebels and the government, but no women are participants.
  • Abortion opponents are seeking to prevent the Planned Parenthood Federation of America from receiving public money for its programs and clinics, claiming the family planning funds should not be a priority in times of economic crisis, the Wall Street Journal reported Dec. 9. A third of Planned Parenthood’s budget–$335 million a year–comes from government grants for sex education and non-abortion health care for low-income women and teens.
  • George W. Bush appointed 311 federal district court judges during his presidency, and in a Dec. 8 analysis the Washington Post determined that the majority are white, male and conservative. A third of the nominees to the federal bench during Bush’s first term were former oil and energy industry lobbyists.


Applications from women to become egg donors and surrogate mothers are increasing as a result of the economic crisis, the Walt Street Journal reported Dec. 9. Applications rose 30 percent at the Chicago’s Alternative Reproductive Resources agency. The average compensation for egg donors is between $3,000 and $8,000, and $25,000 for surrogates.

Iulia Anghelescu is a freelance journalist 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].