Cheers and Jeers



thumb pointing up

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., introduced a bill to establish a 15-member federal commission on women modeled on the one established by President Kennedy in 1961, the Politico reported April 1. Speier cited women’s low representation in Congress–currently 17 percent–and the gender wage gap–currently 22 percent–as prime reasons why a federal commission is needed.

Sixty women’s groups have endorsed the idea, which Speier said in a press release would complement the White House Council on Women and Girls created by President Barack Obama in February. If approved into law, Congress and the president would appoint non-paid members of the commission and authorize a $2 million annual budget.

"The issues that affect us all–poverty; violence; inequities in health care, housing and employment–are still shouldered disproportionately by women," Speier said. "A Presidential Commission on Women will be able to examine these and other issues in a thorough, rational and bipartisan manner and help illuminate a path toward a brighter and more equitable future."

More News to Cheer This Week:


  • The U.S. Department of Defense has partnered with Man Can Stop Rape to launch a prevention campaign to reduce sexual assaults in the military on April 2. Rates of rape and sex assault against service members outpace rates among the civilian population. Print, TV, radio, digital and media materials will be delivered to every U.S. military installation in the world. The media campaign’s theme is "Our Strength Is for Defending . . . Preventing Sexual Assault Is Part of Our Duty."


  • In a study of 1,000 U.S. females teens aged 12 to 17, New York University researchers found that 92 percent properly understood how emergency contraception works, Reuters reported April 1. In a similar 2002 study of adult women, 93 percent understood. Sold under the brand name Plan B, emergency contraception prevents pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex but is most effective if taken within 12 hours. Currently the pills are restricted in sales, requiring a prescription for women 17 and under, but health advocates say the delays caused by the need for a prescription can reduce the drug’s effectiveness. Two weeks ago, a federal court ordered the Food and Drug Administration to review the age restriction.


  • On March 31, Eufrosina Cruz established a new civil society organization to organize women’s groups and establish equal political rights throughout Oaxaca, a Mexican state. In 82 municipalities in Oaxaca, women are barred from voting or holding political office, including Quiegaloni, where Cruz was prevented from running for mayor by town elders in 2006, the Inter Press Service reported.


  • Following the Catholic Church’s excommunication of a child rape victim’s mother and the medical team that provided an abortion, Brazilian activists who support reforms to the nation’s strict abortion law have been galvanized by strong public condemnation of the church’s stance, the BBC reported April 2. The law allows abortion only to save the life of the pregnant woman or in cases of rape but doctors have been fearful in the face of religious pressure and criticism. But now health advocates say the victim’s case has bolstered public support for the legal exceptions and improved the climate for health care providers.

For more information:

Men Can Stop Rape

Note: Women’s eNews is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites and thecontents of Web pages we link to may change without notice.




thumb pointing down

UNIFEM, the United Nations Development Fund for Women, has raised concerns over Afghanistan’s new Shiite personal Status Law signed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai on March 30, Reuters reported April 2. The law has also been questioned by some Afghan lawmakers, women’s rights activists and foreign governments.

Shiite Muslims comprise 15 to 20 percent of Afghanistan’s population. The new law restricts women in those communities from leaving their houses without permission, sanctions marital rapes and legalizes the marriage of girls at the age of puberty, the Times of London reported.

News of the president’s signing preceded an international conference of world leaders in The Hague on March 31 to foster regional stability and cooperation among Afghanistan’s neighbors, the Times reported. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the law was "antithetical" to Canada’s military presence in Afghanistan, hinting that it could potentially impact the level of troops stationed there at a time when U.S. President Obama is calling for increasing NATO and U.S. troops to quell an insurgency.

At the Netherlands conference, Karzai defended the law by saying it increased Shiite women’s rights, the BBC reported. The law allows a woman to divorce her husband if he fails to feed her or abandons her. A separate personal status and family law is being drafted for the majority Sunni Muslim population.

More News to Jeer This Week:


  • Women’s health is undervalued in legal debates over reproductive rights, Science Daily reported April 2. A University of Illinois professor studied recent court decisions and found flawed reasoning by some judges whose rulings, for example, restricted access to emergency contraception or abortion based on the availability of alternative health care providers or services, despite the possibility of delays or higher costs.


  • Ultra-Orthodox papers in Israel modified the official inaugural photographs of the Israeli cabinet by removing ministers Limor Livnat and Sofa Landver, the Associated Press reported April 3. The newspapers consider it "immodest" to print images of women.


  • The United Nations Development Fund has reported noticeable increases in domestic violence against women and in a general increase in gender violence since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip two years ago, the Inter Press Service reported March 30. Gaza has no shelters for women and few services available to help families and victims of violence.


  • An Australian government review of maternity services recommends that midwives who assist home deliveries should not be supported, the broadcaster ABC reported April 2. The review would increase some authority for midwives–such as prescribing drugs and carrying insurance–but would essentially illegalize home births and drive midwives’ home-birthing practices underground.


  • Rural women in northern regions of the Ivory Coast face a daily threat of rape and sexual violence, even when carrying a baby on their backs, the United Nations’ IRIN News reported March 30. The women often are attacked as they walk to their farm fields. The region has seen armed conflicts since a 2002 coup attempt. "Nothing happens to the men who do this," one woman said. "That’s why they continue to carry out such acts."


  • Kemafo Nonyerem Chikwe, Nigeria’s ambassador to Ireland, declared last week that the traditional custom of female genital mutilation has been eliminated in Nigeria, the Irish Times reported April 2. The ambassador’s remarks contradict an official Nigerian government report to the United Nations last year that said the FGM prevalence rate was 32 percent. Her remarks also came the day before an Irish court was to consider the asylum case of Pamela Izevbekhai, who fled Nigeria to prevent her two daughters from being ritually cut.


  • A 2002 Defense Department policy that omits emergency contraception from the list of required stock for military facilities and stores is still in effect, RH Reality Check reported April 1. The policy prevents 200,000 women who serve in the armed forces from accessing emergency contraception.

In Memoriam:

Janet Jagan, 88, died in Guyana, on March 28. American by birth and a naturalized Guyanese, Jagan was elected president of Guyana in 1997 following the death of her husband while holding the office. She was the first woman and the first white person to be president. She and her husband founded the People’s Progressive Party in the 1950s and were involved in anti-colonial politics and divisions between racial factions. Over her lifetime she was a nurse, radical activist, labor minister and newspaper editor. She stepped down from the presidency in 1999 after having a heart attack.

Jennifer Thurston compiled this report.

Women’s eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at