Cheers and Jeers



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Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., will chair a new Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy, and Global Women’s Issues, her office announced Feb. 5. It will be the first Senate subcommittee to include a specific, global focus on women.

Boxer said the subcommittee would address the “overlooked issue” of violence against women. “Too often, we turn our eyes away as women are persecuted, abused and treated as second-class citizens. But even the most conservative historians have noted that when women are given the freedom to live up to their full potential, society as a whole flourishes,” Boxer said.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof praised the subcommittee’s formation on his newspaper blog. “Issues like trafficking and maternal mortality and sexual violence finally seem to be getting some traction . . .” he wrote. “The new Senate subcommittee reflects all this progress and presumably under Senator Boxer will accelerate it.”

Boxer also introduced the International Women’s Freedom Act of 2009 on Jan. 13. Sponsored in the House by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., the bill would establish a State Department office on international women’s rights headed by an ambassador-at-large and a federal commission reporting to Congress and the president on international women’s rights.

More News to Cheer this Week:

  • The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Feb. 2 that the free-speech rights of Women on Waves, a Dutch reproductive rights organization, were violated by the Portuguese government in 2004, Radio Netherlands reported. Women on Waves sails a medical clinic ship to countries where abortion is illegal and provides women with on-board medical abortions. In 2004, the Portuguese government blockaded the ship and prevented it from entering Portugal. The incident influenced the nation’s elections that year and abortion in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy now has been legalized.
  • Arizona State University paid $850,000 to settle a lawsuit from a former student who claimed she was raped in her dorm room by a football player, the Arizona Star reported Feb. 3. The university did not admit liability in the case and the football player was not convicted of rape, but under the settlement agreement a statewide safety office will monitor how three universities respond to sexual discrimination, harassment and violence complaints.
  • Pat Summitt, the legendary basketball coach of the University of Tennessee’s Lady Volunteers, earned her 1,000th win Feb. 5 after the Lady Vols beat their University of Georgia opponents 73-43, the Tennessean reported. Summit has lost only 187 games during her 35-year career. No other coach in NCAA history–woman or man–has achieved the 1,000-win milestone.
  • Bonnie Newman, a Republican businesswoman in New Hampshire, was appointed to fill the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Judd Gregg, nominated to be secretary of commerce in the Obama administration.
  • Robin Carnahan, Missouri’s secretary of state, announced Feb. 2 that she will run for the U.S. Senate seat once held by her mother, Jean Carnahan. Jean Carnahan was appointed to the seat after her husband, former Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan, died in a plan crash while campaigning for the Senate in 2000. Although deceased, he won the Senate election.


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Girls’ education in developing countries for the first time received marquee attention at the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, the Associated Press reported Feb. 2. At a Jan. 31 forum session, World Bank managing director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala called for a $20 million effort to education and train girls in post-conflict nations.

Gates Foundation co-chair Melinda Gates said a “mind shift” was needed among foundations and nongovernmental organizations to adequately address the education needs and legal rights of girls. Girls are 70 percent of the 130 million children who do not attend school.

The humanitarian needs of women and children are increasing around the world as emergency situations increased in 2008. UNICEF is seeking over $1 billion in humanitarian aid to assist them this year, the United Nations agency announced Jan. 27. The funding request is 17 percent higher than last year’s, and reflects intensified needs caused by the unfolding cholera and economic crisis of Zimbabwe as well as continuing conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda. Emergency aid is sought for women and children in 36 nations.

UNICEF estimates that the risk of hunger will increase for 50 million people by 2010 as a result of climate change. Over the next decade 65 percent of those affected by global climate change will be women and children.

More News to Jeer this Week:

  • A lack of support for widows and women in Iraq has spurred Nawal al-Samarai, the nation’s minister of women’s affairs, to resign, Reuters reported Feb. 5. Al-Samarai said she is frustrated with lack of authority and resources to address hardships Iraqi women are facing, including the “army of widows, unemployed, oppressed and detained women” created by the war and sectarian violence. She was allowed to open only one office, in the fortified Green Zone. “Because there is not a single office in any province, how can any Iraqi woman reach me or send me her complaints?” she said.
  • An HIV-positive woman who claims she was sterilized against her will has filed a complaint against Chile with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights announced. Known as F.S., the woman claims she gave birth at a state hospital and doctors performed a surgical sterilization without her consent because of her HIV status.
  • The Pregnant Women Support Act, introduced into Congress by Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., on the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, would establish “life support centers” to offer services to pregnant women, RH Reality Check reported Feb. 5. The centers would not be required to provide medically accurate information in their efforts to prevent abortion.
  • Iran detained three more women’s rights activists last week, Reuters reported Feb. 1. Authorities have detained 47 activists since 2006, the beginning of the One Million Signatures Campaign that petitions for equal rights for women.


  • Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the only woman on the U.S. Supreme Court, had pancreatic cancer surgery Thursday, the Associated Press reported. The news opens up questions as to whether Ginsburg, 75, will remain on the court as long as she intended. She has consistently voted to uphold reproductive rights and women’s legal rights as justice since 1993.
  • Fifty-eight percent of Americans in a recent Gallup poll disapproved of President Obama’s decision to lift the global gag rule that saddled family planning aid to international groups with anti-abortion restrictions, US News reported Feb. 3.
  • The average age for U.S. women to have their first child has declined from 25.2 years in 2005 to 25.0 in 2006, National Center for Health Statistics data show, the Wall Street Journal reported Feb. 3. The decline–the first reported since the government began keeping records–was attributed to a 5 percent increase in first births to women between 20 and 24 as well as a growing population of Hispanic women and a baby boomlet generation entering its childbearing years.

Jennifer Thurston is managing editor of Women’s eNews.

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