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International News Archive
August 14 - August 20, 2001


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This page contains news for the period August 14 through August 20, 2001.



<<   August 2001  >>

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Sunday, August 19, 2001

Brazilian lawmakers pass equal rights for women

A story published today by the New York Times reports that after 26 years of debate, amendments, delays and parliamentary maneuvering, the Brazilian Congress has finally approved a legal code that for the first time in the country's history makes women equal to men in the eyes of Brazilian law.

Among the oddities the new measure eliminates is a much-criticized provision that allows a husband to obtain an annulment if he learns that his wife was not a virgin at the time of their marriage.

The new code also abolishes a restriction that prevents anyone determined to have engaged in adultery, which is a criminal offense here, from remarrying.

The most significant change in Brazilian society is the abolition of the traditional concept of "paternal power," which gives Brazilian fathers unrestricted legal rights to make all decisions on behalf of their families. Under the new legislation, they will have to divide that authority with their wives, and single mothers will be regarded as heads of households.

"These are important advances, and we have reason to celebrate," said Jacqueline Pitanguy, a sociologist and prominent women's rights advocate here. "But we also have to ask: What took so long?"

The new legislation replaces a 1916 statute that formally enshrined the hierarchical, patriarchal view of family and sexual relations that prevailed here and elsewhere in Latin America at the time. Brazil's current Constitution, ratified in 1988, guarantees sexual equality for women, but many judges have continued to make rulings based on the outdated civil code because Congress was unable, ever since one was first introduced in 1975, to pass a revised statute.

"The old code reflected an agrarian, 19th-century society," said Ricardo Fi˙˙za, a legislator from a conservative rural state who was the chief sponsor of the measure. "This one now reflects modern society and values."

As part of the effort to eliminate bias on the basis of sex, which includes substituting human being or person for the word man, the code also promises some new protections for men.

The legislation, which has more than 2,000 articles, is not expected to go into effect fully until 2003, because laws to carry out the provisions still must be written or revised. "A hundred years would not be enough to discuss so many themes," said Mr. Fi˙˙za.

"This new civil code is a blow to machismo and a victory for women, but you don't bury machismo so easily, with just some changes in the law. Machismo is a way of looking at the world that is deeply embedded in the hearts of both men and women, and that is much more difficult to change." said Ms. Pitanguy.

Friday, August 17, 2001

British children of divorced parents more likely to harm themselves

A story published today by the Evening Standard reports that according to Britain's Office for National Statistics' report on the mental health of children, one in 50 children in Britain has attempted suicide or tried to mutilate themselves.

The report revealed that children of divorced parents are twice as likely to harm themselves or attempt suicide as those from two-parent families. Young teenage girls are also most at risk from emotional problems that lead them to harm themselves.

Children from larger families and those with step brothers or sisters were also reported to be more likely to injure themselves.

The report which was conducted from more than 10,000 children aged five to 15 has found that 3.1 percent of children of divorced parents had tried to harm themselves, compared with 1.8 percent of those brought up in a home with their mother and father.

Among girls aged 13 to 15, 3.1 percent had tried to harm or kill themselves - the highest rate for all age groups and sexes, adding to other reports which show increasing rates of mental problems among young women, such as anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders.

Despite the high rates of self-harm among young girls, young men are still the most likely to kill themselves, partly because they employ more violent methods such as hanging or shooting themselves. Girls aged five to seven have the lowest rate of self-harm.

Nearly one in 10 (9.5 percent) youngsters aged 11 to 15 who had suffered five or more 'stressful life events' -such as the divorce of their parents or serious illness - had harmed themselves, the report found. This compared with only 1.2 percent of their peers who had experienced a carefree childhood. Children who were punished were also twice as likely to resort to self-harm as those who were not.

Tuesday, August 14, 2001

Singapore Muslim council rejects phone text messages divorces

A story published today by the Birmingham Post reports that Muslim authorities in Singapore have turned their backs on a precedent set in Dubai by barring men from using mobile phone text messages to divorce their wives.

The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS), the Syariah (Islamic) Court and Registry of Muslim Marriages issued a joint statement saying divorce through short message service (SMS) was unacceptable: 'There are elements of doubt in a divorce that is conducted through SMS in that one cannot be sure of the sender's identity.'

'Only a judge can confirm a divorce after deciding that there is merit in the complaint filed by the couple at the Syariah Court.'

Under Islamic law, a man can divorce his wife by declaring 'I divorce you' three times.


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