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International News Archive
November 14 -  November 20, 2000


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



<<   November 2000  >>

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Saturday, November 18, 2000

Proposed federal reproductive technology ban on singles and lesbians draws fire from several state agencies in Australia

A story published today in the Sydney Morning Herald reports that anti-discrimination agencies from five States have accused the Federal Government of Australia of uncritically accepting the Catholic Church's position on single women's access to reproductive technologies.

In an unprecedented move, the agencies issued a joint statement this week to outline their concerns about a proposed amendment to the Federal Sex Discrimination Act.

The amendment would allow State and Territory governments to bar single women and lesbians from having access to reproductive technologies, including IVF, artificial insemination, and genetic screening of donor semen.

The agencies are the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board, Victorian Equal Opportunity Commission, Queensland Anti-Discrimination Board, Western Australian Equal Opportunity Commission and the South Australian Equal Opportunity Commission.

"All Australian women deserve the full protection of the law and are entitled to all medical facilities without discrimination," the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, Ms Karen Walters, said in the statement.

This week the agencies, as well as the ACT Human Rights Office, also expressed their opposition to the proposed amendment in separate submissions to the Senate Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee, which is holding hearings on the issue.

The story says that the Federal Government has argued the amendment would protect the rights of the child and ensure every child has the opportunity to be brought up by a mother and a father.

But the chief executive of the Victorian Equal Opportunity Commission, Dr Diane Sisley, said in the joint statement: "Parenting is more a social, than a biological role, and the proposed amendment does not take this into account."

The agency heads accuse the Government of having uncritically accepted the arguments of Catholic Church representatives that the rights of the child take precedence over Australia's legal obligations to eliminate discrimination.

The proposed amendment would "in no way advance the rights of the child" but would be contrary to Australia's obligations under several international treaties, the statement said.

Walters said the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child did not specify the parents must be a mother and a father.  "The convention does not use these words or specify the gender or number of such parents so it would appear disingenuous [for the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General] to rely on that

The statement emphasized that more than a million children live with single parents, others live with same sex couples, and that Australian families are diverse.

Friday, November 17, 2000

Unmarried women help drive new home market in Toronto

It wasn't common for unmarried women in Canada to be buying houses 15 years ago. But today, single female buyers are among the fastest-growing groups in the new home buying market in places such as Toronto. Smart builders are capitalizing on what marketing expert Nestor Repetski sees as the "Prince Charming" factor.

"Typically, not only is a woman not waiting for Prince Charming, she's realizing he ain't that charming," says Repetski with a chuckle.

Gone are the days when women waited for a man to show up with a ring and the deed to a home and threshold to carry her over.

Repetski, who does the marketing for several downtown Toronto condo builders, from loft conversions to apartment-style buildings, says that 20 to 25 years ago, single women buyers made up just 3-4% of the marketplace.

"It was uncommon for a single woman to buy (a home)," he says.

Today, when he looks at who is buying downtown properties, he sees tremendous growth. The trend started in 1995, Repetski says. This year, 20-25% of new homes are being purchased by single women. And more than one-third of the condos in the Massey Square building at King and Shaw streets were purchased by single females, he adds.

"That's huge growth," he says.

"Among my friends, I'd say half of the single women own homes -- mostly townhomes and condos. But most of the single women buying homes today aren't boomers, they're young."

Although he has no firm figures, Repetski estimates more than half of the buyers at his clients' properties are aged 25 to 35.

Eric Wegler, president of the Greater Toronto Home Builders' Association, agrees that female buying power is helping keep the new home market strong.

"Women are the fastest-growing segment," says Wegler, adding that single men and women are starting to buy homes in record numbers.

"Single males and females are looking for lifestyle and condominiums, townhomes and urban settings," says Wegler, adding the market for single buyers downtown is "huge."

As for the growing female market, Wegler traces its genesis to several sources, including empty-nesters and never-marrieds.

When they do walk down the aisle, women are marrying later, many are divorcing and others are outliving their spouses.

The buying surge is also due to economics.

"Women are growing in terms of the work force and income and that should mirror itself in all aspects of
consumption," Wegler points out.

"Women have higher incomes today than ever before historically and they are far more independent," adds Repetski. "They perceive real estate as a sound investment and they buy."

Repetski says women's financing habits are different from men, too. Women, he says, almost always buy less than they can afford, while men buy to the limit, wanting the maximum square footage they can buy.

Single women are often the ones buying 500-575 sq. ft. units, secure in the knowledge they can make them cosy and livable spaces.

Repetski says builders have to be good listeners and respond to what buyers want.   "We go to the marketplace with humility because we believe the marketplace is way smarter than we are."


Thursday, November 16, 2000

Many young singles live in poverty in Australia

A story published today in The Age and in the Social Policy Reporter says that a new study shows that many working Australians are living in poverty, including many young single adults.

The study by the Smith Family and researchers Ann Harding and Agnieszka Szukalska at the National Centre for Economic and Social Modelling, shows the position of young, single people who no longer live with their parents is "particularly perilous". Almost a third live in poverty.

Although the Smith Family report found poverty had eased slightly since the early 1980s, the federal Opposition yesterday pointed to more detailed figures suggesting that it had increased since the Howard Government took office in 1996.

The Smith Family report confirms the growth in the numbers of working poor. "One in every five poor Australians now live in a family where wages and salaries are the main income source ... In Australia today, having a job no longer guarantees that you or your family will not be in poverty," it said.

The Smith Family's national manager of research and advocacy, Rob Simons, said the report presented a convincing case for the Federal Government to offer "in-work benefits" to top up the pay packets of low-paid workers.

The Smith Family report estimated that 13.3 per cent of Australians were living in poverty last year, compared with 14.6 per cent in 1982. It says this has a lot to do with a substantial fall in poverty among dependent children, thanks to increases in government benefits to poor families with children, and the payment of compulsory child support by separated parents.

But the authors uncovered a worrying trend of impoverishment among single people aged under 21 whose youth allowance payments fell well below the poverty line.

Still, single parents were "most at risk" of falling into poverty, which Dr. Simons said demonstrated the need to provide adequate training and education if the government wanted to coax them off social security and into the workforce.

Wednesday, November 15, 2000

Single women under attack in parts of Nigeria

Three stories out of Nigeria this week report that unmarried adult women are under attack in parts of the nation which are coming under the control of a strict Islamic code known as Sharia which takes effect on November 26.

Kano is one of the predominantly-Moslem States in the north to have adopted the Sharia, against protests from the mainly-Christian south, in the multi-ethnic nation of more than 110 million people.

Nigeria is supposed to be governed by a secular Constitution.

The stories, published by the Post Express, report that single women who are tenants living in houses owned by Moslems in most parts of the state have been given quit notices by their landlords.

Investigations by the newspaper revealed that the areas where the single female tenants have been ordered to vacate their residences include Ahmadia line, Rimi Kebe, Tarauni and Naibawa.

The most surprising aspect of the whole issue is that even operators of hair dressing salons in these areas have also been given the marching orders by their landlords.

Miss Esther Brown, a banker who spoke to The Post Express over the `issue said it was unfortunate that in the north every single woman is considered a prostitute.

Some students of Bayero University, Kano, who said they have been ordered to vacate their residence at Jam block complained that the impending Sharia in Kano was directed against women.

The newspaper also reported that single women in Minna, the Niger State capital, earlier given a week's ultimatum by the state's Sharia Implementation Board to get married or quit the state, have invaded military and police barracks for refuge as the board commences a house-to-house search for them.

The Post Express gathered in Minna that following the development, some of the women have now resorted to squatting with unmarried soldiers and policemen in barracks where the board's operations are restricted.

Also in Bida, some of the women now stay with unmarried soldiers in the barracks while others throng beer parlours for men that need them. Those without alternative arrangement have begun to flee the state en masse.

Though the state Governor, Alhaji Abdulkadir Kure, had earlier said single women would not be embarrassed in the course of the board's assignment, the police, on the instructions of the board, have embarked on the mass arrest of unmarried women.

A female corper recently arrested by the board told The Post Express that "I was staying in front of our lodge when they came, saying that don't I know that there is sharia here. Why should I move with a man in the night."

The corper who has since been released further stated that "I really went through hell before they released me."

Contacted, the Board Chairman, Alhaji Awal Bida, said "we exempt spinsters who are employed, students and corpers."

Tuesday, November 14, 2000

Sultan's sex police look out for trysts by unmarried couples

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that sex police in Brunei arrive at the front desks of hotels at night, armed with religious zeal and Polaroid cameras,   to check the registers, and guess which guests might be engaged in an illicit tryst.

Then they go to the room and burst through the door.

The Pacific Rim leaders, government ministers and thousands of delegates and journalists at this week's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit are visiting a country with perhaps the toughest moral code in the 21-nation group.

In Brunei, a tiny, oil-rich sultanate of 320,000 people, sexual liaisons involving unmarried Muslims are illegal. The sale of alcohol is banned. And foreign visitors carrying in the permitted 12 cans of beer and two bottles of harder stuff must, if they wish to drink at a restaurant, disguise it as tea.

Early in planning this year's APEC summit the host authorities made known that there would be no lifting of the regulations to accommodate looser lifestyles of visitors.

The sharia police have the authority to break into houses and hotels in their search for Muslims in illicit ``close proximity'' -- defined as a man and woman who aren't married but are caught alone in the same room.

In September, when APEC finance ministers gathered here to prepare the agenda for this week's summit, no one told the sharia police to lie low. One night, they raided several hotels and caught at least 14 people in violation of the law.

In one hotel, bands of five to seven of the police -- mostly bearded men in skullcaps accompanied by women in head scarves -- were seen listening at the keyholes. They rousted Muslims from other countries as well as Brunei.

Couples caught in the act can expect photographs, usually taken of them sprawled on a bed with a few clothes hastily put on, to appear in the local press.

First offenders are customarily fined $60 to $300. Subsequent violations could land one in jail for a week or month.


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