Girls Gain Schools; Retiring Boomers Face Poverty

Impoverished girls in the Middle East are gaining more access to education.
Yemen announced it would rescind primary school fees for girls and the European Union said it would fund 200 new "girl friendly" schools for disadvantaged girls throughout Egypt, the United Nations Integrated Regional Information Networks reported in two stories published May 7 and May 15.
Yemen’s fees for primary school have been low, but still prohibitive for over 1 million eligible girls.

Working Is Good for Moms; U.S. Teens Outpace Peers

Casting doubt on a popular conception that women who play triple roles–earner, wife and mother–are overstressed and unsatisfied, researchers from University College London found that women who ‘triple-task’ tend to be in better health than women who do not perform all three tasks. The researchers followed 1,200 British women between the ages of 15 and 54 and studied longitudinal data compiled by the British government.

Court Strikes Sex Work Pledge; 1 in 16 Mothers Die

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersA federal judge in New York ruled that a 2003 federal law requiring U.S. health groups fighting AIDS to sign a pledge that condemns prostitution violates the free speech rights of those groups, Long Island Newsday reported May 10. The groups must sign the pledge in order to receive funding for assistance and education programs.The plaintiffs–Pathfinder International in Watertown, Mass., the New York-based Open Society Institute and an affiliate–argued that denouncing prostitution placed restrictions on their ability to provide “life-saving” services and information to prostitutes. The groups also claimed that the policy was unconstitutional because it was vague and it required private organizations to adopt the government’s position.”It’s really a tremendous victory for public health,” said Rebekah Diller, who is the lawyer for the health groups that filed the suit. “It will enable these organizations to serve very vulnerable women.”More News to Cheer AboutActress, drag queen and radio host Vladimir Luxuria is the first transgender women to sit in the Lower Chamber of the Italian Parliament after she was elected April 18. Born Vladimiro Guadagno, Luxuria is a lifelong activist for lesbian, gay and transgender issues and was scorned by ministers and harassed by militants during the campaign.

EU Debates Chemicals; Rapes Plague Border Migrants

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersGreenpeace, the Netherlands-based environmental group, has surveyed 50 years of scientific studies indicating that tens of thousands of poorly-regulated chemicals used in household products may contribute to reproductive disorders in Europe, the Associated Press reported May 3. Timing its report to the European Union’s debate over a new law that will regulate the chemical industry, Greenpeace warned that the European Parliament had watered down the proposed law in discussions. A decision on the law will be made by the end of 2007.”Right now the burden is on the governments to do the research. This law would help shift the burden to industry,” said Helen Perivier, who heads the Greenpeace campaign against toxic materials. Perivier also said that of the 70,000 to 100,000 human-made chemicals in use in Europe today, only 150 have been evaluated for health risks.Chemicals believed to damage female hormones and alter their production are found in food wrappings, plastic goods and perfumes.

Cardinal Shifts on Condoms; Delay for Anti-HIV Gel

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersGoing against Roman Catholic Church doctrine and the pope’s official stance prohibiting birth control, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, one of the church’s most prominent leaders, has condoned a limited use of condoms for people in relationships with a partner who is suffering from AIDS, Reuters reported April 21.”Certainly the use of condoms in particular situations can constitute a lesser evil,” the retired archbishop of Milan and the church’s leading moderate told the Italian newspaper L’Espresso.While Pope Benedict XVI made no official comment after the cardinal’s call to ease the condom ban, the Vatican announced three days later that it will soon publish a statement on using condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS. The pope has also commissioned a study on the topic.The cardinal’s comments have come at a time when U.S. Agency for International Development researchers have concluded after 20 years studying HIV-AIDS in Africa that male circumcision and fidelity to one partner are more effective at curbing the spread of the disease than promoting abstinence and condom use, the Chicago Tribune reported April 25. There are almost 1.1 billion Catholics in the world.More News to Cheer AboutThis week a number of high-profile and activist Latino men–including Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion Jr.–gathered in New York to condemn domestic violence. At the event sponsored by the New-York based National Latino Alliance for the Elimination of Domestic Violence, Carrion and others drove home the point that domestic violence is not just a women’s issue.The largest number of alleged sex offenders ever captured in a single law enforcement operation–1,102–were arrested during the week of April 17 in a 27-state sweep led by the U.S. Marshals Service, Bloomberg News reported April 27. The event was timed to highlight National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

Sexual Freedom Protected; Iran Cracks Down

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersA federal judge in Kansas ruled that the state’s attorney general incorrectly enforced a 1982 state child abuse law to require health-care providers to report most sexual activity of minors under age 16–including consensual sex–as child abuse. Under the attorney general’s opinion, which argued that all sexual activity among minors was “inherently injurious,” physicians who failed to report their sexual activity could have faced misdemeanor charges carrying up to six months in jail and a fine of $1,000, the Kansas City Star reported April 19.The Center for Reproductive Rights, an advocacy group based in New York that brought the lawsuit, hailed the ruling as an important victory for privacy rights and as the first ruling to protect the health care privacy rights of young people. Privacy is the legal basis for abortion rights in the United States.The Kansas attorney general’s policy “is part of a larger trend by the anti-choice movement to limit adolescents’ privacy in and access to reproductive health care,” the center said in a press release.”Any threat to that privacy will drive teens away from health-care services, endangering their well-being instead of protecting it,” said Bonnie Scott Jones, lead attorney in the case. “States cannot be allowed to simply pull up a chair in every doctor’s office in the state and listen in on teenagers seeking health services.”More News to Cheer This Week:Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, a pro-choice Democrat, vetoed three bills on April 17 which would have restricted women’s medical choices, the Arizona Daily Star reported. The first bill would have prohibited state and local governments from using public funds to cover abortion in insurance programs, which are mostly paid for by private individuals.