This page contains news for
the period Monday, October 25, 1999 through Sunday, October 31, 1999.
<< October 1999 >>
Sunday, October 31, 1999
census to count same-sex couples
A story published today in the Ottawa Citizen
reports that in the next Canadian census, to be held in 2001, respondents will be given
the opportunity to identify themselves as part of a same-sex couple.
Pierre Turcotte, Statistics Canada's chief of housing, family and
social statistics, said, "there's been nothing on sexual orientation" so far in
census collection. The demand for the information is there, Mr. Turcotte said. "We
had a lot of people telling us they wanted information on this."
The federal justice and finance departments, the provinces, academic
researchers and insurance companies are among those who are interested in tracking this
aspect of Canadian demographics.
Mariana Valverde, a University of Toronto professor of criminology
with expertise on gay rights, says there is still concern that some people will be
hesitant to report such information. Currently, she says, when companies offer benefits to
same-sex partners, many employees are still reluctant to make claims.
But Ms. Valverde says she believes people will probably have a
higher level of trust in the confidentiality of Statistics Canada because "it's a
Statistics Canada is in the process of adding, removing and
modifying questions for the census, which it takes every five years.
The exact wording of the new questions has not been announced, but
several potential questions have been tested.
"We still have to go through the whole approval process,"
said Dale Sewell, a spokesman for Statistics Canada. "But it did test well."
In the last census, in 1996, respondents were given the option to
provide such information. But this had to be done by using a box labeled
"other," within the question asking "Relationship to Person 1." The
form did not list "same-sex partner," or any similar term among the examples of
"other" that were offered.
Many in the gay community were offended by the lack of explicit
mention of same-sex couples.
The bigger problem, however, was the lack of publicity. Few people
knew they had the option to use the "other" box in this way. During the period
of data collection, if people phoned in to the help line, they were told that they had the
option, but no written instruction was offered.
Despite an awareness campaign by a frustrated gay community, too few
people responded to produce statistically valid data on same-sex couples.
For the 2001 census, three options have been tested for collecting
same-sex data. The first would use the same "other" box as in 1996, but with
"same-sex partner" as one of the examples. The second would be to make
"same-sex partner" one of the listed choices in this question. In this case, a
person could simply put a check mark beside "same-sex partner" rather than
having to write it in as "other."
The third choice is to instruct respondents to report themselves as
common-law couples. In this case, the definition of common-law is given as "two
people who live together as a couple but who are not legally married to each other.
Same-sex partners should report as common-law partners." If this third, common-law
option is not used, then the census will retain the old definition of common-law,
"two people who live together as husband and wife, but who are not legally married to
This past week, in compliance with a Supreme Court ruling, the
Ontario government reluctantly passed legislation that gives same-sex couples the same
rights and responsibilities as other common-law couples in the province.
Yet, rather than redefining common-law to include homosexual
couples, Ontario created a separate, but legally equivalent, category for same-sex.
Friday, October 29, 1999
living predicted to increase in Australia
An article published today in the Sydney
Morning Herald reports that many more unmarried Australians will live alone in the coming
One-person households are predicted to show the greatest percentage
increase of all household types over the next 25 years. With the population aging, and
divorce increasing, the odds are more people will experience a period of solitude. For
women it is likely to happen in old age, for men in their 30s and 40s.
Women outlive their husbands on average by about 10 years, but men
are likely to experience loneliness post-divorce when children commonly live with their
mothers. Women and men who have specialised in togetherness may need some training in
solitude. It doesn't come naturally to most people.
For women, reaching this predicament in their 70s and 80s, there
will be plenty of role models among their girlfriends, the never-married, the
long-divorced, and the single parents trained in self-sufficiency.
Not very long ago, solitude was suspect. Spinsters were pitied and
lived with mother. Widows moved in with their daughters. Widowers were shipped off to
nursing homes through an inability to cook.
Now young people choose to live alone if they can afford to do so.
The divorced sign up in droves, some to escape the loneliness of marriage. Old people stay
home alone and "age in place", thanks to the Home and Community Care program.
In other cultures, solitude is an oddity. Though it is breaking
down, the extended family under one roof still rules in many parts of Asia, and custom and
poverty ensure togetherness.
Even in Western societies, solitude doesn't necessarily mean
isolation. Men alone in their 40s can have close contact with their children; and women
can access a network of carers. Still the lessons of successful solitude can be hard to
learn. And this, with the changing demographics, may explain why depression is on the
For men and women alone at the end of their lives,
it is friendships that will count. When one's mate is buried, and one's children are busy,
and another decade of life is ahead, friends will be needed more than ever. Not only can
they be there to share meals, and a weekend outing, but friends may be the only ones who
can turn off the life support and read the eulogy.
court rules that same-sex couples have 'family' rights
An article published today in the London
Telegraph reports that a judicial panel of the House of Lords has ruled that same-sex
couples in a long-standing relationship have the same tenancy succession rights as
heterosexuals. The 3-2 ruling was issued in the case of Fitzpatrick v Sterling Housing
The test case was a victory for Martin Fitzpatrick, 49, a former
Royal Navy serviceman, who claimed he had the right to stay in the west London flat he had
shared with John Thompson for 18 years. The judges were told that the men had a faithful
For the last eight years of his life, Mr. Thompson, who was the
protected statutory tenant of the flat in Hammersmith, was cared for by Mr. Fitzpatrick
after he suffered irreversible brain damage and was left a tetraplegic after falling down
stairs. After Thompson's death in 1994, Fitzpatrick applied to take over the tenancy but
the landlords refused and served him with notice to quit.
Fitzpatrick claimed that under the 1977 Rent Act, he had succeeded
to the tenancy as a "spouse" because he had been living with Mr. Thompson as
"his or her wife or husband" or alternatively that he was a member of Thompson's
family. Allowing the appeal, Lord Slynn of Hadley said he considered it "in
accordance with contemporary notions of social justice".
here for the complete text of the decision in the Fitzpatrick case.
Thursday, October 28, 1999
province rushes same-sex legislation through
An article published today in the Ottawa Sun
reports that the parliament in Ontario, Canada rushed through a set of reforms yesterday
which results in same-sex couples having the same rights and responsibilities of
cohabiting unmarried heterosexual couples.
The reform package complies with a Supreme Court of Canada decision
that said laws that treat opposite-sex relationships differently from gay and lesbian
relationships are unconstitutional.
The Tories, who introduced the bill changing 67 provincial statutes
only two days ago, rushed the legislation through second and third readings in a single
evening. They appeared to pass the legislation grudgingly.
The statutes impose new responsibilities on gay or lesbian partners
if the relationship ends, introduces adoption procedures for gay couples and affords
rights to same-sex partners wishing to access sick or dying partners in hospital.
Monday, October 25, 1999
Govt. in Ontario, Canada introduces domestic
A story published today by Planet Out reports that Ontario's
Conservative government has just introduced a measure to amend 67 provincial laws to give
same-gender couples recognition equal to that of unmarried heterosexual couples, in order
to comply with the Canadian Supreme Court's landmark decision in May in "M v. H"
(a case involving a lesbian couple's separation).
While the simplest method of reform would have been to delete
"of the opposite-sex" from statutes extending benefits and obligations to
unmarried heterosexual couples, known as "common law spouses," that method was
not used. The conservative government did not want to tamper with the definition of
"spouse" and so they created a separate category in the law which will be called
Neither "same-sex partners" nor common-law
"spouses" have standing equal to legally married partners, although they receive
many of the benefits of opposite-sex couples who have participated in a marriage ceremony.
Provincial Attorney General Jim Flaherty said, "This
legislation is clearly not part of our agenda. The only reason we are introducing this
Bill is because of the Supreme Court of Canada decision. We would not introduce the
legislation otherwise. Our proposed legislation complies with the decision while
preserving the traditional values of the family by protecting the definition of 'spouse'
in Ontario law."
But compliance with the Supreme Court ruling means that there
can be no differential treatment between the two categories, making the new terminology a
distinction without a difference.
In "M v. H," one member of a long-term lesbian
relationship was left destitute on its dissolution and discovered that she had no standing
with the courts to seek support payments from her ex-partner. The couple had actually
reached a settlement before the Supreme Court heard arguments, but by then it had become a
significant test of Ontario's laws. The high court found it illegal discrimination for the
province's Family Law Act to grant rights to unmarried heterosexual couples which it
denied to same-gender couples, and ordered the province within six months to change all of
its laws which featured that inequality.
However, the Supreme Court was careful not to lay the same
burden on marriage laws.
Since the ruling came from the nation's highest court, the
precedent may also be applied to the other provinces and to the federal government. About
60 national laws will also be amended to achieve equal treatment for cohabiting couples
regardless of gender.
The Law Commission of Canada, which advises the federal
government, co-sponsored a conference last week to discuss the possibility of extending
similar rights and responsibilities to other kinds of economically interdependent couples,
including those of blood relatives who live together. After examining a number of
approaches, such as domestic partnership registries, the Commission will issue a report
of unwed pregnancy may lie at root of high death rate for Bangladeshi girls
A story published today by Reuters Health
reports that social taboos regarding pregnancy outside marriage may imperil the lives of
young, pregnant unmarried Bangladeshi women, according to a new study.
"In teenage girls aged between 15 and 19, death rates from
accidental and other violent causes were nearly three times higher among pregnant than
nonpregnant girls," said study co-author Dr. Carine Ronsmans of the London School of
Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, in the UK.
Ronsmans and colleague Dr. Myriam Khlat compared the death rates
between 1976 and 1993 of pregnant or recently pregnant (within 3 months of delivery)
Bangladeshi women with those of nonpregnant women.
They found that pregnant women faced a 45% greater risk of fatal
injury compared with nonpregnant women, with death risks nearly tripling among pregnant
versus nonpregnant teenage girls.
Fatal injuries included violent accidents -- such as snake bites,
burns, or drowning -- as well as deaths by suicide or homicide.
The study, published in the October 23rd issue of The Lancet, did
not address the reasons for this increase in risk. But "other researchers have
suggested that violence in pregnancy may be particularly important in unmarried
girls," Ronsmans explained, since "illegitimate pregnancy is socially
unacceptable in a society such as Bangladesh."
and delayed marriage are more common for women in Japan
An article published today in Business Week
reports that more housewives are choosing to divorce their workaholic husbands, especially
as they are about to retire. And many young career women are choosing to delay marriage
until they are in their thirties.
An example was given of Kikuko Ohtake, 52, who described her
recently ended marriage as ''typical.'' For one thing, whenever she sought her former
husband's opinion on their children's education, he would say he could not be bothered,
because he was busy reading the newspaper or watching television.
''We were a typical couple where communication was absent,'' says
Ohtake. Not too long ago, Ohtake would probably have suffered in silence. But now divorce
is an option that's become more acceptable in Japan, and Ohtake took it: She and her
husband split up after 25 years of marriage.
The article explains that Japanese salarymen are struggling in their
workplace, dogged by restructuring and salary cuts. But they face a domestic crisis as
well, as women rethink their relationships with their hidebound husbands.
Leading this trend are couples married for 20 years or longer. In
1998, about 40,000 cases of divorce for this long-married group were reported, double the
number in 1990.
Common these days are teinen rikon, or retirement-age divorces,
where the woman divorces her husband when he quits his company, usually at 60 and often
with a handsome bonus. Fumiko Kanazumi, a Tokyo attorney, says that increasingly women are
winning nearly 50% of the family assets when getting a divorce. And judges are favoring
divorce filings from women who claim their husbands never did anything to make the
At the other end of the age spectrum, a quiet revolution is taking
place among younger women. Until quite recently, unmarried women in their late 20s were
dismissed as ''unsold Christmas cake,'' whose market value plummets after the holidays.
But now many more hold off getting married until well into their 30s. Their reason?
Salarymen are no longer the prize they once were, now that lifetime employment is a thing
of the past. Besides, many more women are capable of earning a living.
Sunday, October 24, 1999
teens rebel against strict society in Iran
An article published today in the San Jose
Mercury News reports that many young people in Iran are rebelling against strict rules
forbidding unmarried males and females from kissing, slow dancing, or even holding hands.
Increasingly, even young Iranians who care little about politics are
rebelling against a society whose architect, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, once
proclaimed, "There is no fun in Islam.''
Instead, many Iranian youth are determined to have fun anyway. Their
increasing defiance represents a potent challenge to one of the world's strictest Islamic
More young people in Iran are risking jail, fines and official
beatings for things American youth take for granted, such as wearing makeup, slow dancing
at a party and holding hands on a date.
Riots last summer, which began with college students, showed that
many of Iran's intellectual elite are fed up with hard-liners who stifle dissent and
resist democratic reform. And increasing numbers of ordinary Iranian youth are risking the
wrath of the basiji, the notorious morals police.
Romance between unmarried men and women is illegal in Iran. A couple
can not get a hotel room without producing a marriage license. But young people find ways
to date, even though it is punishable by whipping or worse.
It's also common for Iranian girls and boys to dance together at
parties in private homes, even though the feared basiji have been known to burst in and
arrest everyone on the scene, beating them even before their sentencing.
Friday, October 22, 1999
Law to become law in Nigerian state of Zamfara
A Zenit News story published in EWTN News
today reports that the Islamic Law or "Sharia," will become part of the penal
code of the Nigerian state of Zamfara. The decision was taken a month ago by the Assembly
of this northern region of the Federation, where the majority are Muslims, as opposed to
the south of Nigeria, where the majority are Christians.
The story says that Alhaji Ahmad Sani, the governor of Zamfara, has
requested people to familiarize themselves with the Islamic Code, which will not apply to
Christians -- the governor said, and which establishes the segregation of unmarried men
and unmarried women -- unless blood related, and severe corporal punishment for adultery,
prostitution and theft. Those convicted of theft risk having their hands amputated.
The announcement was met with a wave of protests among Christians,
and the voice of Archbishop John Olufemi Onaiyekan of Abuja, who called on Nigerian
President Olusegun Obasanjo to declare adoption of the "Sharia"
Wednesday, October 20, 1999
Vatican says that
recognition of unmarried couples undermines families
A story published today by ETWN Catholic World
News reports that "A tidal wave against the institution of the family" was how
the official Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano characterized the recognition of
unmarried couples the previous day by a referendum taken by the Italian region of Latium,
which includes Rome. The referendum included unmarried couples in an economic bill to
assist families in difficulty.
Father Gino Concetti, a moral theologian and editorial writer of the
Vatican daily newspaper, said such an initiative aims to encourage the Italian Parliament
" to imitate the French example which, with PACS, has accorded a legal recognition to
extramarital unions," in a time when bills on the subject are pending in the
parliament. PACS is an acronym for a French plan to give some of the same legal
recognitions and benefits to heterosexual extramarital unions and same-sex couples.
Opponents say it undermines the family and is a first step to legalizing same-sex
It is a question of "a pincer move," said L'Osservatore
Romano, which recalled the votes taken in this same direction in the countries of northern
Europe and in Catalonia.
The newspaper said that although the political community has the
duty to provide assistance to those who may be in poverty, it can not give the same social
security benefits to "two profoundly different realities," that is, the family,
which has a fundamental legal basis and which includes social responsibilities, and
"a form of temporary union" without this legal basis. It would be discrimination
and an injustice to the institution of the family and an incentive to prefer extramarital
unions over marriage, the newspaper said.
It is necessary indeed to find appropriate solutions for those who
live in extramarital unions in precarious economic situations, said Father Concetti, but
they must "absolutely avoid, without any ambiguity, using social and economic
assistance as an excuse for the legal recognition of extramarital unions." He
suggested, for example, giving aid to each person of the unmarried couple, without
agreeing to their status as a couple as such.
Amended laws to recognize
same-sex couples in Ontario, Canada
An article published today in London (Ontario) Free
Press reports that Ontario's Conservative government will introduce and pass legislation
in the coming session of the house to give legal protections to same-sex couples.
The legislation will amend dozens of existing laws that fail to
recognize same-sex couples, Attorney General James Flaherty confirmed yesterday. "Our
intention is to go ahead and introduce a bill so we can comply by Nov. 20," Flaherty
The bill will bring Ontario into line with a Supreme Court of Canada
decision that extends spousal recognition to gay and lesbian couples. Ontario already
grants legal protections to unmarried heterosexual couples. Earlier this year, the court
ruled that it was unconstitutional to protect opposite-sex unmarried partners but not
same-sex couples. It ordered the provincial government to introduce remedial legislation
by November 20.
"There are at least 60 provincial statutes potentially
affected," Flaherty said. "The important thing is that we try to be
comprehensive in our approach. We will have to introduce the bill and have an opportunity
for the members of the legislature to vote by Nov. 20."
Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty said his caucus will support the new
bill. The entire Tory caucus voted against a similar bill introduced by the NDP in 1994.
Monday, October 18, 1999
consider super-inclusive domestic partner laws
A story published today in the Ottawa Citizen reports
that the federal government is considering proposals to extend legal protections to all
"relationships of dependency" and not just sexual relationships.
Many federal and provincial laws already give most of the same
benefits of marriage to unmarried heterosexual couples who are living together in a
conjugal relationship. Earlier this year, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that the gender
restriction in these laws must be removed so that all unmarried couples, including
same-sex partners, in a conjugal relationship are protected. In response to the ruling,
the federal government and the province of Ontario are preparing new statutes without the
These changes would give protections to any two adults who live
together in a relationship of sexual intimacy but would not protect adults with dependent
or familial relationships that are nonsexual in nature.
The issue of extending protections to all relationships of
dependency, sexual or not, is being studied by the Law Commission of Canada. The
commission is co-sponsoring a conference at Queen's University In Kingston where about 100
participants will examine this proposal.
A recent national survey by Angus Reid, a public opinion firm, found
that 71 percent of Canadians either strongly or somewhat agree that benefits should not be
limited to sexual relationships but should apply to any relationship of dependency in
which people live together.
here for the full story.