cheers and jeers



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Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius won U.S. Senate confirmation on April 28 to serve as the nation’s health and human services secretary. The pro-choice Democrat will be heading the agency, which oversees women’s health issues and is directing the government’s efforts against the swine flu outbreak.

The Senate voted 65 to 31 to confirm Sebelius, who is a two-term governor, after the Democrats urged quick action to approve Sebelius in light of the swine flu outbreak, The Associated Press reported. Sixty votes are needed in the 100-seat Senate for confirmation. Sebelius’ confirmation had been stalled, as Republican opponents raised concerns over her pro-choice stances, among other issues.

Sebelius’ confirmation completes President Obama’s cabinet.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • A California bill, called Assembly Bill 612, cleared its first hurdle this week when it was approved by the Assembly Committee on Judiciary. The bill seeks to prohibit courts from considering nonscientific theories when making decisions on child custody or visitation. Supporters of the bill say that one of these unscientific theories, the parental alienation syndrome, where a child is essentially brainwashed into thinking the other parent is the enemy, has fueled bitter child custody battles and has been used by some abusive parents to regain custody of the abused child.

  • The Fawcett Society, the United Kingdom’s leading campaigning organization for women’s rights, will launch a campaign on May 4 to encourage more black women to exercise their right to vote. Fawcett’s research has found that ethnic-minority women in the U.K., particularly black women, are less likely to be registered to vote than white women and ethnic-minority men. They are also less engaged in mainstream politics: there are only two black female MPs, while there has never been an Asian female MP. The organization will also be promoting a new guide to democracy for ethnic-minority women in advance of local and European elections on June 4.

  • The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HR 1913) this week. The vote is being applauded by organizations such as the American Association of University Women, who say it’s a strong statement against bias-motivated crimes that can destroy communities. The organization also said that the current federal law does not do enough to protect victims, especially women, who are completely ignored under the federal statute and for whom statistics for such crimes aren’t collected.

  • The number of married Filipinas using contraceptives is increasing while the incidence of infant mortality in the Philippines is declining, according to statistics released this week, the Manila Standard reported. The number of married women using any family planning method climbed to 51 percent in 2008, up from 47 percent in 1998. The same survey found that for every 1,000 live births in the Philippines, 34 children die before reaching the age of five, as opposed to 54 deaths in 1988 to 1992.

  • The Pakistani Government has decided to establish 39 more Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Centres for Women in various districts of the country for the rehabilitation of victims of violence and to provide temporary shelter, psychological counseling, and free medical and legal aid, The Pakistan Newswire reported. The funds to establish these centers are to be part of the budget of financial year 2009 to 2010. Twenty-five of these centers have been created at the district level during the current financial year.


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Mu Sochua, a senior MP in Cambodia’s opposition Sam Rainsy Party, the largest opposition party in the country, is facing legal action and a possible suspension of her parliamentary immunity. This is in response to her announcement last week that she is suing Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen for defamation and insults.

Sochua is suing Sen for calling her cheung klang, or “strong leg”–a term that she says is especially offensive towards women–during an April 4 speech, the Phnom Penh Post reported. The comments made by the prime minister didn’t name Sochua directly, but she says she was clearly the target.

“This is the first time, and I do this on behalf of Cambodian women. I do it on behalf of women in general, because women who are raped, who are assaulted–verbally, sexually, physically and so on–who don’t have a voice, cry in silence, are ruined inside. This is a symbolic case and also an unprecedented case,” Sochua, who was previously the minister for women’s affairs in the coalition government, told ABC Radio Australia.

The prime minister struck back this week by filing a lawsuit against Sochua for defaming him during the news conference where she announced her legal intentions.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • The United Nations said this week that the vast majority of Iraqi women face domestic violence on a regular basis and many commit suicide because of it, Reuters reported. In response to this, the UN mission in Iraq said that Iraq and the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan should take measures to stop violence against women, including honor killings and female genital mutilation.

  • Saudi Arabia is clamping down on the growing number of unlicensed female gyms, Reuters reported. The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs recently closed three gyms for not having a license. Gyms are sexually segregated in Saudi Arabia and female participation in sports has long been a controversial issue. While male gyms get licenses from a government sports body, female gyms have no official authority overseeing them.

  • U.S.-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi, who was sentenced to eight years in prison in Tehran this month on charges of spying for the United States, has gone on a hunger strike to protest her conviction, her father told the Agence France-Presse. He added that his daughter would keep up her protest until she is released. In response to her case, Iranian human rights lawyer and 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi has joined Saberi’s legal team, telling Democracy Now that the journalist’s trial was unfair and violated Iran’s laws.

Juhie Bhatia is contributing editor of Women’s eNews. Sam Saleh contributed reporting to this column and is currently a student at Mercy College in New York.

Women’s eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at [email protected].


Cheers and Jeers

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