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International News Archive
December 21 - December 28, 2001


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This page contains news for the period December  21 through December 28, 2001.



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Friday, December 28, 2001

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Japanese women putting of marriage and children

A story released today by Reuters News reports that for a growing number of Japanese women, worries over how to manage competing demands of a career and a family in a still largely male-dominated world are pushing them to postpone marriage and put off bearing children once they do tie the knot.

The result is a falling birth rate that, along with a rapidly aging society, has Japan's politicians panicking over a future filled with pensioners and too few workers to support them.

The concern prompted the government to bring experts and cabinet ministers together in a Council for Gender Equality to advise the prime minister on policies affecting women and work.

One of its first recommendations: more and better daycare.

"The government sees this situation which is keeping women from having children and is worried about the shrinking taxpayer base," said Mitsuko Yamaguchi, a member of the Council and executive director of the Fusae Ichikawa Memorial Association, one of Japan's oldest feminist groups.

"They are talking about gender equality, but what they are really thinking about is the shrinking labor force," Yamaguchi said. "Boosting the birth rate is a huge political issue."

At first glance, women appear to be faring better in a job market plagued by record unemployment as companies slash payrolls to cut costs and cope with the latest recession.

"The door to employment is open, but it is difficult for women to climb the corporate ladder," Yamaguchi said.

Perhaps even more telling, many women say they don't even want to try. Some 80% of working women surveyed express no desire to become managers, said Chieko Kanatani of the Women's Initiative for Advancement in Japan.

"The reasons given are that the managerial positions are not attractive, that they are worried about trying to work and care for their families, and that they are not receiving training to become managers anyway," Kanatani said.

"If women try to work the same as men, their only option is not to marry and not to have children, because if they do have families, they do all the unpaid work at home," Kanatani added, noting women also bear the burden of care for elderly parents.

Some 54% of Japanese women in their late 20s have never been married. The same is true for a fifth of those in their thirties. Women's average age at marriage has risen to 27.9 in 1999 from 25.6 in 1970.

"Women have gone on a marriage strike," said Mariko Bando, director of the government's Gender Equality Bureau.

"But we don't know if it will have an impact," she added. "Many single men are also happy staying home with their mothers."


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Australian single parents losing on new tax system

A story published today by the Advertiser reports that according to the Australian Council of Social Service, thousands of separated parents who have the primary care of their children are losing around $1000 a year under Australia’s new tax system.

The new Family Tax Benefit system which replaced a range of payments aimed at helping parents raise their children could be doing the opposite.

The ACOSS study said it was concerned of the splitting of Family Tax Benefit between parents which did not fairly recognize the cost to parents of raising children.

It said the family payments system discriminated against children of separated parents.

"Already there are reports of a rapid increase in severe financial distress in single-parent households arising from FTB splitting," the study said.

Under the new tax rules, effective since July 2000, it is now easier for the contact parent who does not live permanently with the children to claim a portion of the benefit.

They now need only prove that they have primary care of the children for a minimum of 10 percent of the time rather than the previous minimum of 30 percent of the time.

Research by ACOSS board member Elspeth McInnes and policy officer Marise Sacco, found that a contact parent able to prove they care for the children for 22 percent of the year, for example every second weekend or for half of the school holidays, could claim $1000.

This would mean $1000 less the primary-care parent is able to claim.

"ACOSS recognizes the financial difficulties faced by low-income contact parents in maintaining

contact with their children and supports the need for assistance," the study's authors said.

"However, it should not occur at a direct cost to residence parents."

ACOSS said a proportionate splitting of FTB did not fairly recognize the costs associated with raising children. Care of children on the weekend by the other parent did not reduce the costs of housing, clothing, education and health.

Thursday, December 27, 2001

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China’s High Court clarifies marriage laws

A story published today by the People’s Daily reports that China's Supreme People's Court Wednesday made some legal interpretations to the country’s marriage law.

A clear line has been drawn between how to use the provision that "any person already married is prohibited to cohabit with others" and how to deal with activities concerning bigamy and extramarital affairs, said Cao Jianmin, vice president of the court.

The High court also gave legal interpretations to family violence mentioned in the marriage law, Cao said.

Couples who are not officially married but require a divorce shall apply for marriage registration, otherwise their relationship shall be treated as one of cohabitation and dealt with accordingly. Cao said that the legal interpretations are made to protect the legitimate rights and benefits of married citizens, especially those of the common people and those of the innocent party in marriage relationships.

It has been rampant in some developed provinces in recent years that people cohabitate with a person other than his spouse, regarding this woman as the "second wife." The new marriage law reaffirms that husband and wife should be faithful to, and respect, each other, as well as safeguarding the marriage and family relations featuring equality, harmony and civilization. Clause 2 of Article 3 of the county’s marriage law further clarifies the ban on bigamy and cohabitation with a person other than one's spouse. Committing bigamy will thus lead to criminal punishment, with a maximum of two-year imprisonment, according to the Criminal Code. The revised law also regulates that when one party is involved in bigamy and cohabitation with someone other than the legal spouse, divorce should be granted after mediation if either side files such an application, accompanied by compensation to the betrayed spouse.

The revised marriage law also stipulates that the marriage can be nullified in the following cases: bigamy; spouse with a blood relationship banned by law; spouse with disease inappropriate to the marriage; and spouse below the lawful age of marriage. Forced marriages can also be revoked once the aggrieved files a notice of repeal to the people's court or the marriage registration bureau.

The revised law also stipulates that domestic violence and maltreatment of family members are banned. The victim has the right to ask for mediation, and administrative and criminal liability claims will be pressed in accordance with different levels of domestic violence. Women and children will now get more legal support to protect their rights within the family unit.

Monday, December 24, 2001

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Single Irish dads seek to change law

A story published today by the Irish Times reports that the Unmarried Fathers of Ireland, a pressure group lobbying for the rights of single fathers will observe a minute of silence in O’Connell Street in Dublin and Patrick Street in Cork to protest the difficulties single dads face in gaining access to their children.

Mr. Ray Kelly, the group's press officer, said the demonstration was to highlight the difficulties men had in having access to and guardianship or custody of their children and the consequences, including suicide in some cases.

The organization has been running for the past six years, seeking changes in the courts system for family law cases and formalized recognition of fathers as single or lone parents.

"Grandparents, uncles and aunts are also affected by this," said Mr. Kelly, who pointed out that there were 68,000 single mothers in the State "so there must be 68,000 single fathers". In 1992 there were 47 unmarried father's who had sole custody of their children. This year the number had risen to 417.

He said the demonstrators would be standing "in front of the Irish Times Internet camera to show the world that we exist and to try and support each other over Christmas when many fathers will not see their children. We are asking for sympathy."

They are seeking changes in the system of hearings for family law cases. "Judges must be properly trained for the job. Some are coming in from dealing with criminal cases and have absolutely no training in family law cases, and some of the decisions are absolutely outrageous."

Saturday, December 22, 2001

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Singapore singles dial a date

A story released today by Reuters reports that in true Singapore style, the government's matchmaking agency has embraced a dating scheme for busy singles that fits right in with the city state's addiction to the mobile phone.

Premier Club, which runs events for the Social Development Unit (SDU), will next year offer members the chance to send short message service (SMS) notes to three mystery dates before meeting them the next evening at an organized gathering.

``The women will be at least two years younger than the men and preferably in different professions,'' said Premier Club manager Sam Soon Mee.

``We wanted to make it fun and contemporary, and also relevant to the lifestyle needs of SDU members.''

The SDU, which works tirelessly to promote state-approved romance in the island nation of four million people, has used a number of unusual methods in the past to break the ice and ultimately get Singaporeans to have more children.

Beyond choreographed outings for shy singles, the official body introduced ``speed dating'' in April where members get just seven minutes to see whether love is in the air.


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