Women in the News: Weekly Highlights: December 1, 2009

by Julie Norwell

10th anniversary of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women; Massacre in the Philippines; South Korean sex law scrapped…Here are highlights of recent women-related news our readers should note:

The United Nations commemorated the 10th anniversary of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women last week in an effort to publicize that violations against women remains one of the most widespread – albeit, least recognized – scourges on humanity. The International Day is commemorated every year on November 25. According to the UN Development Fund for Women, violence against women and girls is a problem of pandemic proportions. Up to 70% of women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence from men in their lifetime — the majority from husbands, intimate partners or someone they know. Among women aged 15–44, acts of violence cause more death and disability than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined. Women and girls constitute 80% of the estimated 800,000 people trafficked annually, with the majority (79%) trafficked for sexual exploitation. Americans have by no means escaped the problem. In the United States, one-third of women murdered each year are killed by intimate partners, and 83% of girls aged 12–16 experienced some form of sexual harassment in public schools. Outside the emotional toll, direct health costs and indirect productivity losses from domestic violence costs approximately $1.16 billion in Canada and US$5.8 billion in the United States. For more information go to: http://www.unifem.org/campaigns/25nov/.

It is indicative how far we have to go that in the days surrounding the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women there were two particularly horrific news reports related to violence against women. They are two of WomenOf.com’s four remaining reports.

A group of women representing an electoral challenger to the governor of the southern Philippine province of Maguindanao were targeted by the candidate’s opponents, sexually mutilated and massacred there last week. About a dozen of the victims were family members of Esmael Mangudadatu, the local politician who planned to run against the incumbent, a member of the entrenched Ampatuan Clan, in this Muslim province. After receiving threats that he would be kidnapped if he tried to file candidacy papers himself, Mangudadatu sent his wife and two sisters along with various other relatives, two female family lawyers and about 30 journalists to file the papers for him. He never imagined anyone would harm Muslim women. Women are supposed to garner special respect in Muslim culture. Although investigators are still trying to piece together what happened, it seems that not only were the women killed, their genitals were shot at close range before they were buried in shallow graves. It is unclear if the women were also raped. In addition to the women in the Mangudadatu’s party, any passersby were also killed in an effort to eliminate witnesses. In total, 57 people were murdered. Andal Ampatuan Jr., son of the current governor, mayor of a provincial town, and principal suspect in the killings, has turned himself in but maintains his innocence.

100 cases of rape against women have been recorded from the grisly September 28 crackdown on protesters by government soldiers in a stadium in Conakry, Guinea according to the Guinean Organisation of Human Rights. The group is working with U.N. investigators who arrived last week in Guinea to investigate the grisly crimes committed that day against unarmed civilians who had gathered to demonstrate peacefully against the government. Reportedly, some women were violated with gunbarrels and bayonets. Others were carried off from a medical clinic to locations where they were drugged and repeatedly raped. In addition to the rapes, 160 people were killed. Although many of the victimized women have agreed to interviews, many are still fearful of retribution if they cooperate, which could compromise the U.N. investigation. For more information go to http://www.reuters.com/article/africaCrisis/idUSGEE5AP15M.

Medic Kate Nesbitt became the first woman in Britain’s Royal Navy ever to receive the Military Cross last week thanks to a display of great bravery in saving her comrade’s life under Taliban fire. When the 21-year old saw that a fellow soldier had been severely wounded in the neck, she rushed to his side through a volley of bullets and rockets to stem the flow of blood and stayed with him until he could be carried out of harm’s way by fellow Commando Brigade Royal Marines. For her courage Nesbitt received her award from Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace. Nesbitt is only the second woman in the entire British armed services to receive the Military Cross. For more information go to http://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/view/110350/Medic-Kate-Nesbitt-first-Royal-Navy-woman-to-get-Military-Cross-/.

South Korea’s Constitutional Court scrapped an antiquated law that punished men for engaging in pre-marital sex with young women if it was not accompanied by a wedding proposal. The law stems from 1953 and sought to punish South Korean men for luring women into their beds with a false promise of marriage. Those convicted faced a two-year prison sentence and a fine. The court overturned the legislation saying that it treated women like “children' and that the law infringed on women’s dignity and their right to equality and determination of sexual activity. Current social views on sex has changed so much since the law was enacted that few men were actually tried under it. Korean Womenlink, a major women's rights group in Seoul, said it welcomed the court's verdict."It had not been a law that protected women's human rights but a law that protected women's chastity," Korean Womenlink said in a statement. For more information go to http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2009/11/27/2009112700741.html.



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