Cheers and Jeers



thumb pointing up

On her seven-country trip to Africa this week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sent signals that she intends to make women’s rights one of her signature issues and a higher priority, the Boston Globe reported. Throughout her visit Clinton pressed governments to crack down on sexual abuse and discussed retooling U.S. aid programs to emphasize women, the article reported.

During her visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo, she called for an end to the widespread sexual violence in the country. Women’s eNews has been providing extensive coverage of the situation in the Congo, where rape is being used as a weapon of war.

After touring a hospital on August 10 in Kinshasa, she said, “I hope that here [in the Congo] there will be a concerted effort to demand justice for women who are violently attacked and to make sure that their attackers are punished,” CNN reported.

Clinton also said that the U.S. will provide the Democratic Republic of Congo with more than $17 million in new aid to prevent and respond to gender and sexual violence, reported CNN.

Also in the Democratic Republic of Congo, much attention was paid to Clinton’s testy response to a Congolese student at a town hall meeting in Kinshasa on August 10. The student apparently asked about her husband’s views on Congolese politics and Clinton said: “My husband is not secretary of state, I am,” reported the Wall Street Journal. State Department officials chalked up Clinton’s reaction to her concern for women’s rights in Africa, the article reported, and confusion on the part of the questioner about the name of the current U.S. president.

Clinton’s trip to Africa included visits to Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Angola, Liberia, Cape Verde and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • Nepal’s single women staged a protest in Kathmandu on August 10 in response to the government’s offer last month of a cash incentive of 50,000 rupees ($650) to get married, reported the Associated Press. Hundreds of single women–including widows, divorcees, women whose husbands are missing and unmarried women above the age of 35–marched in protest of what they called “government-sponsored dowry” that treats them as commodities, the article reported. Activists at the march said that marriage is not the solution to single women’s problems; what would actually help is financial independence through employment for themselves and education for women’s children.
  • A new study shows that breastfeeding is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer among certain women. The long-term study, published in the latest issue of The Archives of Internal Medicine, looked at more than 60,000 women. It found that women with a close family members with a history of breast cancer had a significantly lower risk of developing breast cancer before menopause if they breastfed their babies, compared to women who did not breastfeed, ABC News reported. The amount of risk reduction was comparable to that seen by women at very high risk for breast cancer who take the hormone therapy tamoxifen for preventative purposes.
  • Women’s boxing will be included at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, the president of the International Olympic Committee announced August 13. Women will be able to compete in the flyweight 48-51 kg class, lightweight 56-60 kg and middleweight 69-75 kg, CNN reported. Women’s boxing has boomed in Britain since 2005, with the number of registered female fighters rising to 600 from 50, the article reported.


thumb pointing down

On August 11 a Burmese court extended the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s democratically elected leader, by 18 months. Suu Kyi was found guilty for violating an internal security law because she allowed an American man to stay at her home after he swam there uninvited in May, Voice of America reported.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has already spent 14 of the past 20 years in detention, mostly under house arrest. If she serves her full new sentence, the opposition leader will be prevented from taking part in elections next year, tentatively scheduled for March 2010.

The ruling drew international criticism from the United States, Britain, France and other countries. On August 13, the U.N. Security Council issued a statement, expressing “serious concern” about the situation, Voice of America reported. Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia, a Democrat, arrived in Burma on August 14 to meet with its military leaders as part of a five-nation tour of Asia.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • An estimated 50 million women in Asia are at risk of contracting HIV from male partners who engage in risky sexual behaviors, claimed a UNAIDS report released at the 9th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific. The conference took place in Bali, Indonesia, from August 9 to 13. The report “HIV Transmission in Intimate Partner Relationships in Asia” cites evidence from several Asian countries to demonstrate that most women are acquiring HIV from their male partners. Of the 1.7 million women living with HIV in Asia, more than 90 percent are believed to have acquired the virus from their husbands or long-term boyfriends, IRIN News reported.
  • A North Dakota judge ruled on August 12 that the state’s only abortion clinic, the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, must tell patients that they can see an ultrasound and hear a fetal heartbeat before having an abortion, the Associated Press reported. However, the clinic does not have to provide these services. The new state law, which took effect on August 1, requires the clinic to offer women the chance to see the images of their fetuses at least 24 hours before an abortion. The law had not been enforced prior to this ruling, the article reported.


A Muslim woman in Paris was banned from her local pool when she tried to go swimming in a head-to-toe “burquini,” the Associated Press reported. The 35-year-old woman, identified only as Carole, complained of religious discrimination after trying to go swimming the Paris suburb of Emerainville. On August 13 officials insisted that they banned the woman’s use of the Islam-friendly swimsuit because of France’s strict hygiene standards in pools, not as a hostile reaction to the garment.

Juhie Bhatia is contributing editor of Women’s eNews.

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