Cheers and Jeers



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About 300 women marched in the streets of Kabul on April 15 to protest a new Afghan law that restricts their freedoms, despite facing a violent counter-demonstration, the Ottawa Citizen reported. Men shouted at the protestors, who were mostly young women, calling them “whores,” among other epithets, threw stones and smashed the tail-lights of the protestors’ bus. The Afghan police kept the mob at bay as the women marched.

Despite the hecklers, the women walked two miles to the parliament building, where they delivered a petition calling for the law’s repeal. The law was signed last month by Afghan President Hamid Karzai and has been criticized for introducing a range of restrictions on women’s rights and legalizing marital rape. The legislation was proposed by Afghanistan’s Shia community and requires, for example, that women obtain permission to work for pay or visit a doctor.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • The Australian Government recently decided to allow the use of its foreign aid funding for the provision of abortion services and information overseas, reported RH Reality Check. After six months of parliamentary debate, it was decided to overturn this 12-year restriction on how foreign aid can be spent. The Australian Government’s decision follows the lead of U.S. President Obama, who repealed the “global gag rule” earlier this year.
  • Campaigners in Romania have effectively used the media to help break the public’s silence around the issue of domestic violence against women and to lobby for changes in laws, reported the Inter Press Service. For example, ads featuring celebrities with artificial bruises and scars have been widely featured and discussed in the media, and public debates on domestic violence have been organized. A study conducted last year by the Centre for Urban and Regional Sociology, in Bucharest, showed that over 21 percent of women in Romania have faced assault, either in their current relationships or in the past.
  • The 800-year-old Tibetan Drukpa lineage of Buddhism is empowering women by reviving the ancient tradition of women masters and monks, the Indo-Asian News Service reported. Its head, the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa, has given the order to its first ever female master, despite protests by some Buddhists. This form of Buddhism is based in Nepal and practiced in Bhutan and India.


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Sitara Achakzai, one of Afghanistan’s leading women’s rights activists, was murdered earlier this week in Kandahar by Taliban gunmen, The Independent reported. Achakzai, a member of the Kandahar provincial council, was standing outside her home when two men on a motorbike shot her in broad daylight. Earlier this year, Achakzai helped organize a nationwide sit-in of more than 11,000 women, in seven provinces, to mark International Women’s Day.

Afghanistan’s police have arrested two men accused of gunning down Achakzai, but the suspects have not been identified and there are no further details about the arrests, Reuters reported.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • The U.S. newsrooms have changed little in gender and race composition during the past 10 years, according to the annual report issued by the American Society of News Editors. In 1999, 49 percent of the reporters in newspaper were female; now 45 percent of the reporters are. Ten years ago, 21 percent of newspaper copy editors and those with similar tasks were female; now 23 percent are and 10 years ago, 22 percent of supervisors were female; now 25 percent of the bosses are women. Women have comprised 60 percent or more of the graduates of journalism and communication college programs for the past decade.
  • A new report by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran indicates that the persecution of women’s rights advocates has intensified in the past year. For example, Alieh Eghdamdoust, a women’s rights activist, has been jailed for three years for participating in a peaceful demonstration, in which 70 other people were also arrested. Iranian authorities have also shut down the Defenders of Human Rights Center, run by 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, a supplier of no-cost legal defense and other support for the women’s rights movement. During the past year, numerous members of groups working to change Iran’s discriminatory laws have been arrested, searched, interrogated and prevented from meeting.
  • China now has 32 million more boys under the age of 20 than girls as a result of bias in favor of male offspring, a new study shows. The study, published online by the British Medical Journal by two Chinese university professors and a London researcher, provides some of the first hard data on the extent of the gender disparity in China and the factors contributing to it. The researchers have attributed the imbalance almost entirely to Chinese couples’ decisions to abort female fetuses.
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    Cheers and Jeers