Female immigrants who have experienced domestic violence can now seek asylum in the United States, thanks to a decision made by the Obama administration in a recent immigration appeals court filing, the New York Times reported July 16. The case involved a Mexican woman who said her husband had repeatedly raped her at gunpoint, held her prisoner and once tried to burn her alive while she was pregnant in Mexico. She escaped with her children and came to the U.S. in 2004, the Associated Press reported. Just last year, the Bush administration insisted in the same case that the woman did not meet U.S. asylum standards.
The new standards set forth by this decision require women to prove that they were abused, treated as subordinates or property and that they could not find help or safety in their own country, the New York Times reported.
More News to Cheer This Week:
- In a settlement announced July 15, the state of Michigan will pay $100 million to more than 500 female inmates who said they were sexually assaulted, abused and harassed by the male correction staff, reported the Detroit Free Press on July 16. The decision comes after two female prisoners were awarded almost $60 million in a previous trial, reported the article. "This is a good deal for the state," Deborah LaBelle, the female inmates’ lawyer, told the Detroit Free Press.
- The equal opportunities committee of Uganda’s Parliament has requested that the government build a safe haven for girls in Sabiny–an eastern province of Uganda–who are at risk of undergoing female genital mutation, New Vision (Uganda) reported July 15. The committee is asking for a boarding school to be created where young girls can be sent; it is hoped this school will allow the girls to escape the community-based practice of cutting, common in Sabiny. Many parents don’t want their daughters to undergo this painful experience, yet the community often pressures them, the newspaper reports.
Shadi Sadr, a women’s rights advocate, lawyer and journalist, was arrested on the morning of July 17 in Tehran, Iran, on her way to attend Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s sermon, the Los Angeles Times reported July 17. Sadr is a Women’s eNews 21 Leader for the 21st Century 2004. Rafsanjani is a former president of Iran and is now a leader in the opposition movement; his prayer service was attended by thousands. Witnesses say that Sadr was walking with a group of friends when officers in plain clothes forced her into a waiting car. The article reported that Sadr has had clashes with the authorities after her 2007arrest and two-week jail stay.
Also, Jeanne Brooks, a committed Women’s eNews reader, brought to the attention of Women’s eNews editors that statements in the Afghan marriage law, which we cheered last week, allow a husband to cut off his wife financially if she does not submit to him at his request. The law also has a clause that allows a wife to work outside the home only with her husband’s permission. Activists criticized the law this week: A July 14 article by the Associated Press reported that "critics saw it as a return to Taliban-style oppression of women by a government that was supposed to be promoting democracy and human rights."
The activists’ criticism coincides with a new report from the U.N. showing that risks to women in Afghanistan are growing under President Hamid Karzai’s administration. According to the report, entitled "Silence is Violence," it’s not just Islamic militants who are to blame–the violence comes from all sectors of society and is worsening due to little intervention by government institutions and leaders, reported Eurasianet on July 15.
More News to Jeer This Week:
- Natalya Estemirova, a 50-year-old human rights activist in Chechnya, a Russian republic in the Caucasus region, was found dead on the side of a highway in a neighboring republic, Canada’s National Post reported July 16. Estemirova had been captured outside her home around 8:30 a.m. and was found later that afternoon with bullet wounds in her chest and head, the article reported. The activist had most recently been looking into numerous kidnappings that she believed were ordered by Chechen president Ramzan A. Kadyrov. On July 15 Kadyrov said he would "spare no expense" to find her killers.
- A new report from the U.N. highlights the growing problem of rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo and how little is being done to protect women and children in the country, the Associated Press reported July 16. The report states that only 27 soldiers were convicted for crimes of sexual violence in the provinces of North and South Kivu in 2008; there were 7,703 cases of rape reported in these regions last year. The report also estimates that only 11 percent of donor funds for sexual violence have been allocated for the physical protection of women and girls, according to MONUC, the U.N.’s Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Kayla Hutzler, a journalism major at Manhattan College, is an editorial intern with Women’s eNews.
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