Peacekeepers Get a Nod; Sudan Rapes Unimpeded

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersFemale police officers from India deployed as United Nations peacekeepers in Liberia since January have been awarded Peacekeeping Medals for their work in emergency situations and crime prevention. Alan Doss, a special representative for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, told the women’s force, “Your presence is an encouragement for Liberian women to come forward and help rebuild their country by participating in the forces of law and order.”Also, at the United Nations headquarters in New York on Aug. 13, the secretary-general inducted 12 women into the U.N.’s first all-female class of recruits for the U.N.’s security force. The U.N. General Assembly has set a goal of building a security staff that is 50 percent female.More News to Cheer This Week:Between 77 and 90 percent of girls in Australian secondary schools have received the HPV vaccine Gardasil, the Melbourne Herald reported Aug. 17.

Cells, Passports ID Deadbeats; Imus, O.J. Are Back

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersA U.S. State Department program that denies passports to parents who owe child support payments has collected more than $22.5 million so far this year, the Associated Press reported Aug. 14.The government collected about $24 billion overall last year on behalf of 14 million custodial parents; of those parents, 83 percent are women. In 2003, mothers received $23.3 billion of the $33.7 billion in support that was overdue.”For us, it’s been amazing to see how people who owe back child support seem to be able to come up with good chunks of money when it involves needing their passport,” said Adolfo Capestany, spokesperson for Washington state’s collection program.The Virginia Department of Social Services has subpoenaed information from cell phone companies to locate parents who owe support, the Free Lance-Star of Fredericksburg reported Aug. 13. The department has collected $608 million in overdue payments, an increase of $21 million over the last year.

Breastfeeding Saves Lives; Woman Prosecuted After Rape

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersBreastfeeding babies within one hour of birth can prevent a significant number of neonatal deaths in developing countries, according to UNICEF, the United Nation’s Children’s Fund, which estimates that immediate breastfeeding can prevent 1.3 million infant deaths annually.Early breastfeeding provides critical nutrients, protects infants against deadly diseases and fosters growth and development. In Vietnam, breastfeeding within the first hour of birth would reduce neonatal deaths in that country by an estimated 22 percent, the Viet Nam News reported Aug. 7. A recent study shows only 12 percent of Vietnamese infants are breastfed exclusively in the first six months of life and only one-quarter are breastfed in the first hour after birth.Meanwhile, the London-based National Childbirth Trust, Save the Children and UNICEF are asking the British government to stop formula milk promotion in favor of allowing mothers to receive unbiased information about breastfeeding, free from commercial pressures. A Save the Children report released in May found that manufacturers promoting formula spends 10 times the amount the British government spends promoting breastfeeding.

Fair Pay Bill Proceeds; Congo Atrocities Continue

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersThe Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act cleared the U.S. House of Representatives on a 225-199 vote, the Associated Press reported July 31, and is now scheduled for a vote in the Senate. The bill seeks to remedy the May 29 Supreme Court decision that said workers cannot sue employers for wage discrimination that occurred in the past. The court’s 5-4 majority ruling found that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 only allows a case to proceed if a complaint is filed within 180 days of the discriminatory event; the Fair Pay Act amends that law. “The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act restores the ability of women and all workers who are protected by anti-discrimination and civil rights laws access to our judicial system to vindicate their rights when they have been harmed by discrimination,” said Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.The White House has threatened to veto the bill.More News to Cheer This Week:Flozelle Woodmore, who has been in prison for the murder of her abusive partner for 20 years, was informed by officials that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will no longer oppose her parole. He has vetoed her parole for the last three years, even though the parole board has recommended it.

Congress Responds to Violence; Index Disregards It

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersThe U.S. House of Representatives authorized $1 million in funding to combat sexual crimes against American Indian and Alaska Native women, in a 412-18 vote on a budget amendment, the Inter Press Service reported July 26. The funding will create a tribal sex offender and protection order registry to identify offenders. Another $1 million was earmarked for a baseline study on violence against Native women. The measure follows an April report by London-based Amnesty International on high rates of sexual crimes committed against Native women, with a large portion committed by non-Native men. An Indian woman is at least two and a half times more likely than other U.S. women to be raped.

Dems Court Women; U.S. Aid Misses Mark

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersFollowing 2008 Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson’s declaration that Hillary Clinton is not the only women’s candidate, others have pledged allegiance to the feminist cause. Richardson, the New Mexico governor, launched his Women for Richardson campaign, and said that he will improve family leave policies and support pay equity, the Associated Press reported July 17.”This is not an issue of women being a special interest. Women are the majority in this country,” Richardson said. “What I’m doing here is addressing the interests of the majority.”Meanwhile, Sen. Clinton, former Sen. John Edwards–represented by his wife, Elizabeth Edwards–and Sen. Barack Obama promoted their positions on reproductive health care at the Planned Parenthood conference held in Washington, D.C., on July 17. Clinton said that President Bush “has played politics with women’s health” and that she would devote her first day in office to reversing such policies as the “global gag rule,” which restricts foreign aid to groups that deal with abortion issues.

Men Can Mend Maternal Care; Bush Stifled Top MD

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersIn commemoration of World Population Day on July 11, the United Nations Population Fund has called on men around the world to become partners in maternal health care.”Experience shows that men’s involvement and participation can make all the difference. By discouraging early marriage, promoting girls’ education, fostering equitable relationships and supporting women’s reproductive health and rights, progress is made,” said Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, the Population Fund’s executive director. “It is time for all men as fathers, brothers, husbands, community and religious leaders, and government officials to become partners in maternal health.”About 525,600 women die annually from pregnancy and childbirth complications. Every minute, a woman loses her life. And for every woman who dies, 20 experience serious complications such as obstetric fistula, a debilitating childbirth injury that affects more than 2 million women around the world.The U.N. will work with governments and other partners to guarantee that every woman has access to three reproductive health services saving women’s lives: voluntary family planning, skilled attendance at birth and emergency obstetric care if complications arise during delivery.

Women Run To Be Prez; Women Half of AIDS Victims

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersThe presidency is attracting more of the world’s women.India’s Pratibha Patil is running for president in the world’s largest democracy. Appearing at a massive women’s rally in Chennai, she said that women, “the backbone of every home,” were significantly supporting the progress and development of the nation, the Times of India reported July 1. If elected as expected on July 19, Patil will be India’s first female president, a ceremonial yet still powerful post.South Korea’s Han Myung-sook, a lawmaker with the pro-government Uri Party and the first woman to serve as prime minister, announced her candidacy for the presidency, the International Herald Tribune reported June 18. Han promotes economic cooperation with North Korea as a way to help South Korean companies, sandwiched between advanced and developing nations, compete. Han is considered a minor candidate in Korea’s presidential field, with less than 10 percent in polls.In Argentina, President Nestor Kirchner evoked memories of Evita Peron by announcing that he would not run for another term and naming his wife, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, as his replacement in the October election, the Economist reported July 2.

Navy Tackles Harassment; Bush Battles Sex Ed

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersThe U.S. Naval Academy’s new installment of a four-year sexual harassment awareness program for the incoming class of 2011 signals a change in how the institution handles sexual harassment cases involving its students, CNN reported June 21.”That’s been shown to make a difference, so they are starting to experiment, so I’m optimistic on that level,” said Debby Tucker of the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence. Tucker added that she hopes the program, which includes peer training, will do more to make the seriousness of sexual harassment clear to students.Supporters of the program say the institution is seriously addressing recent harassment cases–which include a former medical officer taping students having sex and the conviction of two athletes in sex-related incidents in April–and historic incidents, such as the handcuffing of a female student to a urinal in 1990.The academy first admitted women 30 years ago; they are now 20 percent of the student body. Last year, Capt. Margaret Klein was appointed the first female commandant of the academy, which makes her second in command at the institution.Female students and recent graduates at the academy have noticed that, along with institutional changes, the overall atmosphere among students has been one of more respect, communication and sensitivity.More News to Cheer This Week:The U.S. House of Representatives successfully skirted the Bush administration’s “global gag rule,” which prevents contraceptives from being donated to international groups who offer abortions or referrals, the Washington Post reported June 22. Democrats tucked in an amendment to a 2008 appropriations bill allowing the donations. President Bush has threatened to veto the measure.Canadian obstetricians strongly condemned the use of gender testing kits for selective abortions, the CBC reported June 21.

Women’s Rights Fight AIDS; Cardinals Warn UK Pols

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersA report from Physicians for Human Rights suggests that improving women’s rights could be the key to addressing the AIDS epidemic in Southern Africa, Reuters reported May 25. The Massachusetts group, which investigates human rights abuses, studied 2,000 women in Botswana and Swaziland and identified inequality and gender discrimination as major problems in the region, where women are often forced into risky sex by men or by economic circumstance.”The impact of women’s lack of power cannot be underestimated,” said study co-author Karen Leiter.Women represent 75 percent of all HIV-infected Africans between the ages of 15 and 25; in Swaziland, 33 percent of adults are infected and in Botswana 24 percent of adults have the virus.In Washington, D.C., President Bush announced a five-year renewal of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief with a $30 billion funding package to fight the epidemic. The effort is targeted toward 15 developing countries and Bush’s proposal would double current funding levels for the initiative, which he launched in his 2003 State of the Union speech.The funding increase–with one-third earmarked for education programs that emphasize abstinence–would provide lifesaving treatments to 2.5 million people, according to a May 30 Washington Post article. The program’s original five-year, $15 billion-dollar commitment expires in September 2008. About 40 million people are known to be suffering from AIDS around the world; with more than half of those residing in Africa.More News to Cheer This Week:Hudie Joyce Walker left a California prison May 29 after 16 years in prison, the Los Angles Times reported May 30.