Saddam Better for WomenIPS
Women were far better off under former Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein, a women’s group has found after an extensive survey in Iraq. ”Under the previous dictator regime, the basic rights for women were enshrined in the constitution,” Houzan Mahmoud from the Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq told IPS in an interview. The group is a sister organization of MADRE, an international women’s rights group. Under Saddam, she said, ”women could go out to work, university and get married or divorced in civil courts. But at the moment women have lost almost all their rights and are being pushed back into the corner of their house.”

Journalist Released Unharmed in IraqAP
erican reporter Jill Carroll was set free Thursday, nearly three months after she was kidnapped in a bloody ambush that killed her translator. She said she had been treated well. Carroll, 28, was dropped off near offices of the Iraqi Islamic Party. She walked inside, and people there called American officials, Iraqi police said. In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman said the U.S. military was not involved in Carroll’s release.

Reproductive Rights

Abortion proposal debated at hearingAP
A public hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday took place on a bill that would ban abortions in Alabama except for those performed when the life of the mother is in danger. The bill, by Sen. Hank Erwin, R-Montevallo, would ban abortions even in cases where the mother was raped or when incest was involved. Erwin’s bill is patterned after legislation which recently passed in South Dakota banning almost all abortions. “The most important issue we can deal with in the Legislature is protecting the unborn,” Erwin said. But opponents said the legislation would hurt women.

Blue Cross won’t challenge mandated contraceptive coverageAP
The office of the state auditor says a new mandate requiring insurance companies to include contraceptives in prescription drug plans is effective immediately. Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath issued the opinion yesterday. He says failing to include coverage for contraceptives in prescription drug plans constitutes sex discrimination. Earlier today, Blue Cross Blue Shield said it’s still working through the opinion, but does not plan to challenge it.

Many unaware of Plan B’s availability on campusThe Daily Free Press
Despite efforts by the Feminist Majority Foundation, an organization that promotes reproductive rights, is fighting to increase education about the availability of the “morning after pill” across the nation’s college campuses, many students are still unaware that BU’s own health services carries it on campus.

Zimbabwe runs out of birth control
Zimbabwe, grappling with chronic foreign currency shortages with have hit imports of fuel and electricity, has now run out of contraceptive pills used by the majority of women. “Birth control pills are in short supply with most pharmacies in and out of Harare having run out of stock,” the state-owned Herald newspaper said on Wednesday. “I am not even sure when the next supplies will be coming because my suppliers are saying they are experiencing some difficulties in procuring oral contraceptives,” one pharmacist told the paper. Most Zimbabwean women, grappling with an economic crisis shown in soaring consumer prices and static salaries, rely on short-term oral pills which cost about Z$20,000 ($0.20) a month. Longer-term contraception requires up to Z$4m.

Catholic bishop in AIDS-affected Papua New Guinea defies Vatican over condom useMainichi Daily News
A Catholic bishop working to combat an AIDS epidemic ravaging the impoverished Pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea has openly questioned the Vatican’s ban on condom usage. Bishop Gilles Cote, a French-Canadian who heads the Daru-Kiunga diocese in the country’s Western Province, said he was in favor of governments providing condoms to communities where extramarital sex and multiple sex partners are commonplace. The Catholic Church, however, has repeatedly rebuffed calls for it to endorse the use of condoms in the fight against AIDS and endorses abstinence as the best way to combat the spread of the disease.

Italian poll stirs up abortion rowBBC
For the first time in 25 years abortion has become an election issue in Italy as politicians put religious and moral issues at the centre of their campaigns.

In the Workplace

Women make slow progress filling US company boardsReuters
It will take 70 years for there to be as many women as men on the boards of directors of the 500 largest U.S. companies at the pace women are getting such positions, a study released on Wednesday revealed. Last year, women held 14.7 percent of the 5,629 seats on the boards of the top 500 companies as ranked by Fortune magazine, the study found. That number rose from 13.6 percent in 2003 and 9.6 percent in 1995, according to the study by Catalyst, a research and advisory group that works to expand workplace opportunities for women. The rate of progress over the past decade has been, on average, one-half of 1 percentage point each year, the study by the nonprofit group said.


Urgent Action Needed to Break Male Dominance in Thai Govt.News Blaze
Thai women face major prejudice in politics and stark under-representation in the upper tiers of the Government, according to a United Nations-backed report launched today that sets out a raft of concrete recommendations for speeding progress in reducing gender disparities, including the use of quotas. Holding one ministerial post out of 36, with one governor out of 76, and only 10 per cent of parliamentary seats, women are strikingly under-represented in positions of power, according to the report, Women’s Right to a Political Voice in Thailand, issued by the UN Development Programme.  

Drought, Poverty Forcing Young Women Into Risky Commercial SexIRIN
The ongoing drought that has left hundreds of thousands in eastern Kenya facing severe food shortages has driven many rural people into these towns in search of work and food. Children are sent from deep within the interior to the roadside to sell honey and homemade crafts. In an even more disturbing trend, parents have resorted to sending their young daughters into the towns to trade their bodies for money to feed their families.

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