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International News Archive
June 28 - June 30, 2000


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This page contains news for the period June 28, 2000 through June 30, 2000.



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Thursday, June 29, 2000

Forced marriages could become illegal in Britain

A story published today by the BBC reports that parents who force their daughters to marry against their will could be charged with a criminal offence, a Home Office minister has said.

Speaking at the launch of a Home Office report into forced marriages, Mike O'Brien said a wide-ranging review of sexual offences would examine the issue of women abducted by parents intending to force them to marry.

At least 1,000 British Asian women are thought to face being made to marry someone chosen by their parents each year.

The report recommended that forced marriages be treated like domestic violence or child abuse and called for police to do more to stop them.

Although existing laws are strong enough to tackle the problem, police must do more to put them into practice, the report said.

Women with families from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India are most likely to be affected, but the practice is also found among those with African and Middle Eastern roots.

Law commission for amending divorce Act in India

A story published today in The Times of India reports that the nation's Law Commission believes it is time to reform the Indian Divorce Act to remove discrimination against Christian women in that nation.

Like married Muslim women who suffer from inequality as they can't walk away citing `talaq' to their husband, married Christian women are also said to be affected by what the Law Commission terms "the discriminatory and anachronistic'' provisions in the Indian Divorce Act (IDA).

The Commission has urged the government to amend the IDA so that a married Christian woman is not discriminated against in the matter of obtaining a divorce.

Enacted in 1869, the IDA governs the marriages of Christians living in India. The Law Commission feels that Section 10 of IDA provides for "clear and invidious discrimination'' against women because it entitles a Christian husband wanting a divorce to prove the charge of only adultery against his wife, but she needs to prove additional allegations besides adultery to seek dissolution of the marriage.

The Christian Marriage Bill, 1994, seeks to consolidate, amend and codify the law relating to marriage and matrimonial causes of the community. It would also repeal the 1869 and 1872 IDA. The grounds for seeking divorce, the government said, were more liberal and in tune with the changed socio-economic conditions prevailing in the community and the existing law under the Special Marriage Act, 1954.

The Commission headed by former Supreme Court judge B P Jeevan Reddy has regretted that the government has not amended the IDA though so many years have elapsed. "We do not think that there is any ground for delaying the matter any longer'', says the Commission

Snapshot of young adults in Britain

A story published today by the Telegraph reports that many young adults in Britain lose their virginity before they are 16, practice unsafe sex, marry later, cohabit prior to marriage, and are in worse health than their counterparts 20 years ago.

One in five people aged 13 to 24 suffer a long-term illness compared with bout a 10th in 1975, the study by National Statistics found. Asthma and a rise in the number of meningitis cases among students were partly responsible for the findings, which showed that both hospital admissions for asthma and deaths from the condition had increased significantly in the past 20 years.

The negative portrayal of young people was fuelled by statistics showing that in 1998 nearly a 10th of all men aged 18 were cautioned or found guilty of committing a crime in England and Wales. But despite the figures on health, drugs and crime, the report revealed that young people were better educated and qualified than ever.

Two thirds of boys and three quarters of girls over the age of 16 remained in full-time education. Girls continued to outperform boys in the sixth form, with the number of girls with two A-levels doubling since 1976 to 25 per cent compared with 21 per cent of boys - a decrease of six points.

It also revealed that young people were not settling down into family life so early, with many opting to marry and have children later in life.

The proportion of married women aged between 16 and 24 has dropped since 1971 from 40 per cent to seven per cent, while the number of married men has fallen from 22 per cent to three per cent. But the fall in marriages does not mean that the single way of life has become the norm. Cohabitation emerged as a popular choice for an increasing number of people in this age group, with 18 per cent of women between 1995 and 1998 living with their boyfriends compared with 12 per cent 10 years ago.

Government concerns about the high rate of teenage pregnancy in Britain are borne out by the report, which showed that a quarter of teenagers had lost their virginity before they turned 16.

Researchers concluded that the high rate of pregnancies among teenagers was linked with the high percentage of women not practicing safe sex. The report showed that only 29 per cent of girls aged between 16 and 17 used contraception compared with 72 per cent of women aged between 20 and 24.

Government to appeal court ruling for unmarried couples on welfare in Canada

A story published today in the Toronto Sun reports that the Ontario government plans to appeal a court decision that throws out its "spouse-in-the-house" welfare rule.

Community and Social Services Minister John Baird said more people will be eligible for welfare if the regulation is thrown out.

"If a (common-law) spouse had a job making $40,000 a year, it's our position that the other spouse shouldn't be eligible for welfare," Baird said.

The Ontario division court ruled yesterday in a 2-1 decision that the "spouse-in-the-house" rule is unconstitutional, upholding a ruling by the Social Assistance Review Board.

If the ruling stands, unmarried people on single welfare benefits will have several years before their common-law status is questioned.

The court agreed with the Social Assistance Review Board that the law can put a sole support parent in a position where she has to break off a relationship or become financially dependent on a man who has no legal obligation to support herself and her children.

"This was a disadvantage borne by such parents and not borne by other parents not on social assistance," the court said. "The regulation captures as part of a 'couple' individuals who have not formed relationships of such relative permanence as to be comparable to marriage whether formal or common law."

The court found the rule "deeply flawed" because it sees no difference between relationships where the man is required to provide support and ones where he is not.


Wednesday, June 28, 2000

90 percent of adults in the world marry at least once

A story published today the Scripps Howard News Service reports that nine out of 10 people worldwide still choose to marry at least once in their lives, according to a United Nations survey.

The high percentage of people who marry at some time in their lives demonstrates that marriage is very much alive despite widespread divorce in developed countries and the prevalence of what used to be called "living in sin'' in many regions of the world, U.N. officials said.

"Despite marriage being postponed, the overwhelming majority of people still do get married,'' said Vasantha Kandiah, chief of the fertility and family planning section of the United Nation's population division. "The duration may not be alive and well, but the state certainly is.''

Demographers found that men everywhere tie the knot later than women and both brides and grooms are leaving themselves more time to play the field before taking a trip to the altar.

In the developed world, the overall average of each nation's mean marriage age is 27.9 years for men and 25.2 years for women. Among developing countries, the overall average for nations is 24.9 years for men and 21.4 years for women.

In the United States, the age for first marriage is 28.7 years for men and 26 years for women, according to the survey, which is based on 1995 data. By age 49, 91.9 percent of U.S. men and 93.9 percent of women have married at least once.

But age of first marriage varies widely from country to country, even among those within the same region of the world, the report notes. In Asia, for example, the average age at first marriage for men ranges from 22 years in Nepal to 30 years in Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.

In more than half the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, first marriages occur much later on average - at least 30 years for men and 27 for women.. However, the report notes that the data don't reflect "the large proportions of consensual unions, which are common in many countries of the region.''

The U.N.'s Department of Economic and Social Affairs monitors marriage patterns because of their indication for the status of women, their health and their fertility.

Where young women marry older men, large age gaps between spouses can contribute to the "marginalization of females and low status of women,'' the report says.

African countries tend to have the biggest age gaps between men and women at first marriage and the youngest brides, demographers found. Of the 20 nations with the lowest mean age at marriage for women, 15 are African and the rest are Asian. Of the 20 nations with the widest gaps in age between men and women at first marriage, 16 are African.



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