India elected Meira Kumar, its first ever female speaker for its legislature, on June 3. Kumar, 64, is of India’s “untouchable” caste, the lowest social caste; she will be immediately replacing Somnath Chaterjee, a member of the highest caste. As a speaker, Kumar will preside over India’s Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament, reported the Indo-Asian News Service.
Kumar is the daughter of a former deputy prime minister, who is a prominent leader among the untouchables. She was previously a lawyer and has served as social justice minister in the past. Chaterjee, a member of the Communist Party of India, was recently removed from Parliament after a disagreement with the party leadership.
Meanwhile, Krishna Tirath, the new minister of state for women and child development, is determined to speed up the improvement of women and children policies, reported the Hindustan Times. Upon assuming the position on May 30, Tirath immediately became involved in setting up the National Mission for Empowerment of Women and restructuring government programs aimed at helping women and children, such as the Rashtriya Mahila Kosh, which assists the banking needs and development.
“As the chairperson of the parliamentary committee on empowerment of women, I had given many recommendations and sought many action-taken reports. I will try to take them to their logical conclusion,” Tirath told the Hindustan Times.
More News to Cheer This Week:
- New Hampshire became the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage on Wednesday. The bill went through a number of provisions, but was finally approved and signed by Gov. John Lynch. “Today we are standing up for the liberties of same-sex couples by making clear that they will receive the same rights, responsibilities–and respect–under New Hampshire law,” Lynch told the New York Times.
- The human papillomavirus, or HPV, vaccine is effective in women ages 24 to 45 who have not been infected with any types of the virus, reported The Lancet this week. The vaccine was previously thought to be effective only in girls 9 to 26 years of age, but now may also help women up to age 45 who have no previous record of cervical disease or external genital disease.
- About 100 sex workers took over the streets of Lima, Peru, on Tuesday to protest the discrimination against them and to request that they be covered by labor laws, reported the Agence France Presse. Angelo Villon, an activist for sex workers’ rights, told the news service that prostitutes are often subjected to violence at the hands of police, who provide them no protection from constant harassment and robbery. The sex workers are pressing for government benefits, which may include cash for building a house and pension payments.
- UN-HABITAT, the United Nation’s agency that assists communities in developing countries reduce crime, and UNIFEM, also an arm of the U.N., have teamed up to make cities around the world safer for females, reported the Xinhua General News Service. The agencies have proposed measures that include improved street lighting and female-only modes of transportation. According the agreement, signed on Wednesday, the agencies will develop practical measures that local authorities can use to make cities safer. Violence makes up at least 25 to 30 per cent of urban crime and women, especially in developing countries, are twice as likely as men to be victims of violent aggression, including domestic violence, the agencies reported.
A report issued this week by Physicians for Human Rights, based in Cambridge, Mass., indicates the long-term effects on Darfuri women who have experienced rape and sexual violence; these women have since fled the war-torn Sudanese region and now live as refugees in Chad.
The report–titled “Nowhere To Turn: Failure To Protect, Support and Assure Justice for Darfuri Women”–revealed that 88 Darfuri women interviewed in Chad described “profound” suffering and fear. Just over half of these women –46 of them–also said that they continue to live in fear of sexual assaults within the refugee camp.
Physicians for Human Rights is calling for the prosecution of rape as a war crime and urging the International Criminal Court to issue warrants against Sudanese suspects, reported the Washington Post. The group is also seeking better protection for refugees in the Chad camps by Chadian police and international peacekeepers.
More News to Jeer This Week:
- Jonathan Hock, a 20-year-old Phoenix resident, is now in custody for raping an unconscious woman. He performed the rape live on the Internet via Web cam on February 26. The police said that the woman had been unconscious for up to six hours prior to the assault and was not aware of it until she received text messages from friends who had seen or heard of the video, reported the Arizona Republic. Hock is now being investigated for similar alleged acts of sexual assault.
- A pregnant African woman was sentenced to 238 days in federal prison, which will force her to have her baby in jail. Quinta Layin Tuleh, 28, has had her prison sentence extended in response to an HIV-positive test result. Tuleh, a native of Cameroon, was on trial for having fake documents, for which the usual sentence is 114 days. U.S. District Judge John Woodcock ignored the federal sentencing guidelines and said his sentence would ensure that Tuleh’s baby has a good chance of being born AIDS-free.
- A new video game encourages acts of sexual violence and psychological abuse against women. Called “Stockholm: An Exploration of True Love,” the gamer can play the part of a kidnapper who must make women fall in love with him. The game offers the player options for making the various on-screen women fall in love with the gamer, including poison gas, sexual assault and psychological abuse.
- The Imo State House Assembly in Nigeria rejected the Women Reproductive Rights Bill on Wednesday. The bill, if passed, would have allowed abortions if the mother’s health was in danger. It was sponsored by majority leader Dr. Chukwuemeka Egbuchulam and 12 others. The bill, said to have pitched the church and civil liberty groups against each other, suffered a major setback following intense pressure from the public, the Catholic Church and Christian Association of Nigeria, reported This Day (Nigeria).
Kayla Hutzler, a Journalism major at Manhattan College, is an editorial intern with Women’s eNews.
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