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International News Archive
May 14 - May 20, 2000


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This page contains news for the period May 14, 2000 through May 20, 2000.



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May 20, 2000

Toronto asks court to rule on same-sex marriage licenses

A story published today in the Toronto Star reports that the City of Toronto is asking the courts to rule on whether it can issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The city initially rejected the marriage license application of Michael Leshner and Michael Stark, but decided to put the matter on hold pending a court ruling.

Clarification is needed in light of a landmark Supreme Court of Canada case that gave same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual common-law couples, said Paul Jones, the city's legislative services director. 

"Given the court's interpretation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it's no longer clear to us that we should be denying the issuance of a marriage license,'' Jones said yesterday.

It is likely that the federal government, and possibly the provincial government, will appear in court and make arguments. 

Ottawa's view is that marriage is defined as the lawful union of one man and one woman, said Wendy Sailman, a spokesperson for the federal department of justice.

The Supreme Court case, known as M.v.H., said laws that treat unmarried opposite-sex relationships differently from unmarried same-sex relationships were unconstitutional.

The ruling, in May, 1999, forced Ontario to amend 67 laws to extend rights to same-sex couples because those rights had been given to unmarried heterosexual couples, known in Canada as common law partners.

However, there remain certain property and inheritance rights that are available only to married couples.

May 18, 2000

Japanese cities to certify singleness of matchmaking service clients

An story published today by The Yomiuri Shimbun reports that a new system has been introduced in municipalities in Japan to officially certify the single status of people seeking to use matchmaking services, International Trade and Industry Ministry (MITI) officials said Wednesday. 

The ministry notified about 3,000 such services nationwide of the move on May 11, and provided them with sample documents to be used when submitting applications for registering single men and single women with municipal governments, the officials said.

 Matchmaking services currently ask prospective clients to provide official certificates verifying that they are unmarried.  The services say they require such official certificates to prevent bigamous marriages.

The new system is seen as an unprecedented solution to this bureaucratic dilemma.

Under the new system, applicants file documents prepared by matchmaking companies with municipal governments, who then issue them with the certificates. The mayor officially guarantees the single status of the applicant, assuring that any marriage involving the latter is lawful.

Applicants are required to enter details such as their address and the name of the head of their family on documents to be submitted to the municipal government. Such details, however, are not included on the certificates issued by the municipal governments, the officials said.

Similar certificates have been in use in several municipalities, including Osaka and Kyoto, but many other local governments use official copies of family registers instead of certificates, leading to concerns that unnecessary personal information is being revealed, the officials said.

MITI decided to set up the new system after the Justice Ministry said last month that issuing such certificates would not unduly hinder administrative procedures.

Municipal governments will only issue certificates to people applying through matchmaking services. Certificates will not be issued to anyone other than the applicant, and they will only be issued for the purpose of being submitted to a matchmaking service, officials said. 

May 17, 2000

Canadian women engaging in unsafe sex

A story published today by Canadian Press reports that women of all ages - not just teenagers practice unsafe sex and don't consistently protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies.

The story is based on The 1998 Canadian Contraception Study, published today in the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality.  It is the largest and most comprehensive look at the contraceptive use and sexual activities of Canadian women.

The study, which surveyed nearly 1,600 women between ages 15 and 44, turns the tables on some myths about reckless sex: It appears people of all ages are guilty.

Of all the women studied, 28 per cent used oral contraceptives and 21 per cent used condoms, by far the two  most popular contraceptive choices. But sterilization accounted for almost 24 per cent of the sample - 10 per cent of women had had their tubes tied, and another nearly 14 per cent were with partners who had had vasectomies.

A full six per cent of the sample said they used no contraception at all, and another six per cent only protected themselves using the method of early withdrawal. The other 13 per cent said they were not sexually active.

Overall, 28 per cent of those studied reported they have had an unwanted pregnancy.

Today's research also shows there's a high level of risk-taking when it comes to sexually transmitted diseases. In fact, 12 per cent of respondents in the sample said they had been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease - with chlamydia and human papilloma virus the most common among them.

The numbers on condom use may reveal why: Less than 20 per cent of the women who reported being sexually active in the six months prior to the survey always used condoms.

And among the unmarried women in the sample, the proportion of those who always used a condom was highest among the 15- to 17-year-olds (40 per cent) while it was lowest among the unmarried 40- to 44-year-olds (15 per cent).

"There's a lot of disturbing information that women over 35 are still involved in high-risk sexual behavior," said Richard Boroditsky, a Winnipeg gynecologist and author of the study.

"I have a patient in my practice that I have known for years who came in HIV-positive. She had her tubes tied, she's in her mid-40s and nobody discussed safe sex with her."

Andre Lalonde, executive vice-president of the Society of Gynecologists and Obstetricians, said today's study highlights a need for better education about contraception among women of all ages. And, he said, doctors need more education on sexuality issues.

Declining numbers of never-married older women in Britain

A story published today by the London Times reports that so-called "spinsters" are a dwindling band, according to population figures released by the Government yesterday.

The number of never-married women entering old age has slumped to a record low. Only 6 per cent of women over 65 have never been married, compared with more than 10 per cent in 1980.

A profile of the elderly by the Office of National Statistics showed that 44 per cent of women in this age group were married compared with 38 per cent 20 years ago.

The remaining 18 per cent were women who are widowed, divorced or separated, said the report on lifestyles of the over-65s living in private households, that is, not in old people's homes.

More than half lived with a spouse or partner, a third retained their independence and lived alone and the rest lived with their families or other people.

The figures, taken from population surveys up to March 1999, are part of the much wider Household Survey by the Government over that period, which questioned more than 3,000 over-65s.

The story says that the original meaning of "spinster" was a woman whose occupation was spinning. In law it came to mean any  woman who was unmarried, so any young maiden whose banns were called might be referred to as "spinster of this parish".


May 16, 2000

Unmarried households on the rise in Cuba

A story released today by EFE via COMTEX reports that although most Cuban adults want to live in couples, they do not necessarily want to marry, according to a study by the University of Havana's Center for Demographic Studies (CEDEM).

An article published in the weekly Juventud Rebelde said that a nationwide poll conducted in 1995 revealed that 39.9 percent of Cubans were married and another 24.1 percent were living in a conjugal relationship without benefit of marriage.

In Havana, the poll conducted by CEDEM sociologist Jose Luis Abreu showed 59.6 percent of respondents had lived at least six years with a person of the opposite sex, but only 48.2 percent were married.

Abreu said he was surprised by the increase in the number of unmarried couples living together.

But, he underscored, between 1981, the year of the most recent census, and 1995, the proportion of people living together with or without benefit of marriage increased, to 64 percent of the total population.

In Havana, unmarried cohabitation increased 14 percent, while marriages increased only 5 percent.

Younger people, especially between the ages of 15 and 19, are more likely to opt for cohabitation.  Teenagers consider cohabitation "more than going together, less than marriage," and offer as the principal reasons for not tying the knot the lack of money with which to pay for a wedding and not having a place of their own to live.

Housing shortages have dissuaded many couples from marrying. Those that do marry often have no choice but to live with relatives, an arrangement that contributes to separation, Abreu said.

Level of education correlates with marital status, as 60.6 percent of professionals in the Havana study were married, including many who had lived together while they were students.

In addition, the study found that in 1996 a full 35 percent of households were headed by single women, an increase over the census figures.

Single members of Parliament get new perk in India

A story published today in the South China Morning Post reports that live-in companions of Indian members of parliament are now entitled to travel with the legislators at government expense.

Formerly, MPs were entitled to travel only with their wives or husbands. but under the new rules, MPs are now free to take the partner of their choice when flying executive class or when traveling by train in first class on official business.

The story says the rules were amended last week following representations to the Speaker by several unmarried MPs and ministers.

More than 30 MPs are single by choice or are widowed. Topping the list are: Bachelor Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee; Opposition leader Sonia Gandhi, widow of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi; and Defense Minister George Fernandes, who divorced his wife a few years ago.

According to the new rule, "an MP without a spouse may be accompanied by any person in place of the spouse".

Speaker G. M. C. Balayogi said the amendment, which has been criticized in some quarters, was necessary to remove an anomaly that discriminated against single MPs.




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