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International News Archive
January 07 - Janurary 13, 2002


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This page contains news for the period January 07 through January 13, 2002.



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Sunday, January 13, 2002

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South Korea’s singles population, a new target for business opportunities

A story released today by Reuters reports that as more and more young South Koreans marry later than their parents did, a growing pool of single adults is creating new business opportunities.

From estate agents to advertisers to electronics makers, South Korean businesses are finding out what their Western and Japanese counterparts discovered decades earlier: singles have cash to spend.

Industry sources estimate that South Korea’s singles housing market was worth six trillion won (US$4.68bil) this year, a major economic windfall from a trend in which younger Koreans have shunned customary early, often arranged, marriages.

The National Statistics Office recorded 2.2 million singles households last year, up a third from 1.6 million households in 1995. The number of singles in their 30s has grown by nearly half to 1.1 million from 763,000 in 1995.

Another 4.7 million single adults, or over 10% of the population of 46 million, live with their parents.

The statistics underline the trend towards a higher share of national income earned by single people.

Industries have sprung up to serve the lifestyles of a mushrooming population of well-educated singles.

In housing, young Koreans are shunning a traditional deposit system that requires renters to tie up 18 to 30 million won to rent an apartment or house.

They are turning to Korean "singles houses," large residences with 30 to 40 furnished rooms with monthly rents ranging from 300,000 (US$234) to 350,000 won including heat and power.

Lee Ji-pyung, researcher at LG Economic Research Institute, said the financial clout of singles is growing. Their buying power is expected to boost sales of a whole range of products and services, including overseas tour packages.


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Ireland’s divorce law has not flooded court system

A story published today by the Chicago Tribune reports that when Ireland legalized divorce in 1997, proponents expected the divorce courts to be flooded. After all, there were 90,000 separated people on the island. Five years later there is a stream of couples taking legal action to end their marriages, but the divorce courts are by no means overloaded.

Gerry Curran, spokesman for the government's Central Statistics Office, said part of the reason might be because Ireland's separation laws were as comprehensive as many divorce laws in other countries.

Another reason divorce hasn't been embraced is that it's still difficult to obtain. A couple must have lived apart (but not necessarily in separate residences) for four of the last five years. But Michele Dillon, an associate professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire, said the stigma of divorce is still much weightier than separation in the predominantly Catholic country, especially outside the major cities.

"There isn't a divorce culture over there like there is here," said Dillon, author of "Debating Divorce: Moral Conflict in Ireland." "If you were to talk to people, they would say that's it's fine if you need to separate, but divorce is not seen as a positive thing."

Kieron Wood, an Irish barrister who has written extensively on the topic, said the open-ended nature of an Irish divorce may keep the rate down, because it currently allows a spouse to repeatedly come back to court to seek more money.

But Wood said Irish couples who don't want to wait four years to split now have a way to get around the country's Divorce Act. Under a European Union ruling that took effect last March, if one spouse has been living in another EU nation for a year, the couple can seek a divorce in that country, and Ireland has to recognize it.


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Being born out-of-wedlock in Jordan carries a heavy burden

A story published today by the Jordan Times reports that according to Asthma Khader, a Jordanian lawyer and human rights activist, Jordanian society is not as virtuous as it claims to be when it comes to the problem of illegitimate children.

"Statistically, the number of illegitimate children is higher than the number of women who get killed in honor crimes because not all women (who conceive out-of-wedlock) get killed. Sometimes the families resort to other measures like marrying them off."

Unlike the problem of honor crimes, the stories of dozens, if not hundreds, of illegitimate children remain untold in a society that refuses to acknowledge the existence of this problem, let alone the size of it.

However, Faida Barqawi, head of the Women and Children's Affairs Department at the MoSD, claimed that illegitimate children in government homes are few in number.

"The percentage of illegitimate children (from the overall number of children brought to the ministry for help) does not exceed five percent, which means that our society is still okay," Barqawi said without elaborating.

At the Hussein Institute for Orphans, there is a special section for newborn children. When The Jordan Times visited the orphanage, there were 52 babies, some of whom were one-day old. The institute's director, Naela Hassouneh, said all of them were illegitimate.

Some children are also found abandoned, mostly in dumpsters or in front of mosques. A child whose parents are unknown is identified in Arabic as "laqeet." If his/her parents are unknown, he/she given false family names.

The MoSD also acknowledged that there is a rule in the kingdom against returning the child to a single mother, but could not point to where it is stipulated in the law.

According to Buthaina Freihat, lawyer and member of Mizan legal group: "This procedure violates Islamic Sharia and the law. There is no law that says the child should be taken away. According to Sharia, the mother should take custody of the child regardless of whether it was legitimate or not."

On government records, the identity of the mother remains unchanged. But the illegitimate child is registered under a false name at the Civil Status Department, and is issued a birth certificate accordingly.

Hassouneh said it seldom happens that women come to the institute to claim their children.

"Out of the 52 cases we have, I'd say in only one case the mother may come back for her child."

Ironically, children who are found in dumpsters or at mosque entrances might stand a better chance in life than those whose mothers are identifiable. The MoSD administers a guardianship program where families take in children and become their guardians.

Islam does not recognize adoption but allows for guardianship, where a family can take in an orphan, but he or she is not entitled to the adoptive family's name, nor inheritance. Even in this case, the child keeps the false last name designated to him/her.

Hassouneh said guardianship only applies to orphans, not to illegitimate children whose mothers are known to be alive.

"Those children are not accepted by society. If a man is illegitimate it is difficult for him to think of getting married because people normally ask about the families. We need to make society aware of this issue. I think that mentally- or physically-challenged children are more accepted in society than illegitimate children," Hassouneh said.

Khader is a member of a legal team that has been set up to draft a new law on children's rights. One of the issues under debate is the possibility of obliging a couple to marry if conception takes place out-of-wedlock in order to protect the child's family rights.

The committee has also discussed the possibility of legalizing abortion within the first three months of pregnancy, if it took place outside of marriage. But the majority voted against including any such article in the new law.

Saturday, January 12, 2002

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Living alone becoming the norm in UK

A story released today by Ananova.com reports that according to a study conducted by Abbey National, the number of British people living on their own is outnumbering the number of parents living with children.

The study found that just 6.5 million people in the UK live in a traditional nuclear family of parents and children. More than that live alone, with many choosing to be single.

Janet Connor, of Abbey National study, said: "Our findings point to an interesting paradox: as singleton and child-free family units fast become the norm, there are fewer families in the traditional sense of the word."

Friday, January 11, 2002

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Jordanian court denies to rule in favor of single mom

A story published today by Jordan Times reports that a foreign worker who gave birth to a baby boy out-of-wedlock said that the baby's father was a man who had raped her.

Although the accused man admitted that he had an extramarital affair with the foreign woman, he denied the rape charges and refused to bear any responsibility towards the child.

The woman took her case to court, hoping to get an order to oblige the accused to take a DNA test to prove that he is the father and name the baby after him. But when the Jordanian judge, Ahmad Ali Jaradat, heard that the boy was conceived outside of marriage, he dismissed the case without even summoning the defense.

Outside the courtroom, the judge told the plaintiff’s lawyer, Buthaina Freihat, that even if the accused admitted that he was the real father, the child would not take his name because Islamic Sharia does not recognize the father's relationship to the child if conception took place out-of-wedlock.

"We knew this was a losing case, but we decided to go ahead and take it to court because we wanted to know the opinion of the judiciary," said Freihat, who works with Mizan, a legal consultancy group.

Mustafa Mufti, a judge who presides over the Sharia Court in Rusaifeh, believes that Islamic Sharia obliges the father to give the child his name, even if he was born out-of- wedlock, and to take responsibility for having brought a human being to life.

"According to Sharia, apart from cases of incestuous adultery or rape, if a child is born outside wedlock, and a man confesses, or it is proven that he is the father, then we should recognize the relationship," Mufti said.

But even if the plaintiff took her case to Judge Mufti and managed to oblige the defendant to take the DNA test, the court still would have failed to force the defendant to give the child his name, simply because the Jordanian law still does not yet recognize scientific evidence as means of proving the biological relationship.

According to Sharia rules, the biological relationship can be proven through the marriage contract, if there is one, or 'bainah' -- which means evidence in Arabic.

"So far, the word 'bainah' in the law only means the presence of witnesses to the act of conception, but it does not include any scientific evidence such as the DNA testing," said Mufti.

Mufti is a member of a legal team that has been set up to draft a new law on children's rights. He said the committee will recommend amending the law in order to recognize all scientific evidence.

Another member of the team, lawyer Asma Khader, said the committee is proposing to include an article to oblige the couple to get married if conception takes place outside of marriage.

"At present, the law does not oblige both parents to marry if the father's identity is known. This is why I suggested that they should be obliged to do so, even if they divorce later, because the child's relation is automatically linked with the marriage (if it takes place before birth)," said Khader, who is also the director of Mizan.


Thursday, January 10, 2002

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Taiwanese women’s groups call for change in adultery law

A story published today by the Taipei Times reports that five Taiwanese women's organizations yesterday called for abolition of the crime of adultery. These women’s groups argued that in order to prevent the misconception that this would further restrict women's rights, the Civil Code should first be amended to protect women's property rights.

The Awakening Foundation, Warm Life Association for Women, Taipei Awakening Association, Taiwan Women's Link, and Taipei Association for the Promotion of Women's Rights, made the call at a joint press conference yesterday.

Since adultery is grounds for divorce, the groups said, removing the offense from the Criminal Code may generate concern that when a husband's extra-marital liaisons result in divorce, the wife might lose not only her husband and, under the current regulations, her assets, but also her right to "justice" as represented by criminal penalties.

Current regulations give husband greater rights than wives over property which belongs to both, according to the Awakening Foundation's Tien Ting-fang.

Wu Yueh-chen of the Warm Life Association for Women, said the importance of the property rights issue is paramount.

"Current regulations give husbands the right to manage property belonging to their wives. Husbands preparing to divorce on grounds of adultery usually transfer their own assets to others, often resulting in the wife receiving insufficient funds," Wu said.

"The first step to protect wives is therefore to amend the current law to guarantee husbands and wives equal rights to manage each other's property and to prevent husbands from transferring the property to other people," she said.

Wednesday, January 9, 2002

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Australian study shows first-time dads experience stress and depression

A story released today by Reuters reports that according to an Australian study documenting a form of male prenatal depression, first-time dads-to-be are prone to put on weight and reach for the bottle during their partner's pregnancy rather than after the baby is born.

A three-year study by the Adelaide, Australia-based Flinders Medical Center found on average men put on 3.5 pounds, and one in seven started to drink a dangerous amount of alcohol before the baby's birth to counteract stress and less sex.

"This was surprising, because it was expected that the fathers would be more likely to feel anxious after the baby was born than before," said Flinders researcher Carolyn Corkindale.

The study of 312 men in Sydney and Adelaide, ages 18 to 40, found 5.2 percent of men were depressed and anxious before the birth, declining to 3.7 percent when their baby was a year old.

This mirrored the depression scores for women, with 14.8 percent depressed after 23 weeks of pregnancy dropping to 8.9 percent when the baby was 12 months old.


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Italy experiencing increase in out-of-wedlock births

A story released today by Xinhua News Agency reports that according to a reports from the Emilia-Romagna union of chambers of commerce, the number of children born to unmarried Italian parents has been rising in the past decade.

In the year 2000, the study found, a total of 54,770 births were recorded compared to 48,118 in 1999 and 35, 246 in 1990.

The report also noted that in 1990 there was one out-of-wedlock child born for every 15 born in a married relationship. In 2000 this ratio rose to one in every nine.

While out-of-wedlock births were up throughout Italy, they were more frequent in the north, said the report.

The percentage of such births was lower in the south, with only 3.8 percent in Molise and 2.8 percent in Basilicata. Researchers believe that the sense of the traditional family structures appears stronger in that region.


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Korean clubs offer an alternative meeting place for singles

A story published today by the Wall Street Journal reports that in South Korea, a unique club scene has become a phenomenon for singles in that county. Known as "booking clubs", they are immensely popular among young people looking for amorous adventure. Men and women pay hundreds of dollars to spend an evening at a booking spot, where it’s part of a waiter’s job to play matchmaker.

The clubs afford Koreans an acceptable way to violate mating taboos. Korean society discourages young people from interacting with the opposite sex. Many Korean teenagers are trapped in a regimented same-sex school system until they go to college. For university students and marriageable young professionals, introducing oneself to a stranger in a bar or at a party is considered unseemly. And arranged marriages are still common. As a result, many Koreans are uncomfortable looking for dates on their own.

Most clubs are in the ritzy districts of southern Seoul and cater to young professionals and the children of the well-to-do. The sexes arrive in separate groups, and sit at sex-segregated tables in a dimly lighted room. When a man spots a woman he’d like to meet, he will summon a waiter and place his "order." The waiter then physically delivers the target woman to his table.

The clubs still maintain a bit of old Korean conservatism. They don’t allow girls to select the guys. That would be going too far in this male-dominated country. Some sociologists still denounce them as a product of Korea’s rapid industrialization and its disorientating encounter with the West.

"Mixing of strict Confucian values and Western culture is yielding a strain of materialism and messiness that is tainting young people in Korea." said Yu Gi Na, a professor of media at Dongkuk University in Seoul.

Tuesday, January 8, 2002

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Ugandan university students reject plan to award virgins

A story released today by New Vision reports that Ugandan women who enter into marriage, while still virgins, in the Ugandan kingdom of Baganda stand to profit under a plan by the Bagandan minister of health.

The minister, Robert Ssebunya, was booed by Makerere University students when he outlined his program to revive the traditional Baganda culture which he felt threatened. The students argued the plan was old fashioned, sexist and should be dropped.

"In the past virginity was an important component and girls used to get married at the right age while they were still virgins. This was cherished in Baganda," said Ssebunya. Ssebunya stressed the importance of girls staying in school and delaying marriage.

He said Baganda would support individuals and organizations that promote education and health, particularly those which focus on youths.


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Korean businesses focusing on unmarried consumers

A story published today by the Korean Herald reports that with the growing numbers of unmarried consumers in South Korea, the "single-jok" (single-tribe), has local businesses leaping into a new niche market.

With the growing recognition of single people as major consumers, local electronics, construction and food companies are scurrying to turn out products that are specifically marketed to appeal to their needs and tastes.

Those opting to leave the confines of the traditional extended family households are no longer being viewed as Confucian heretics but as an influential group capable of leading the nation's social and economic trends.

Local electronics firms such as Samsung and LG are releasing small-sized home appliances tailored to the needs of single people.

LG Electronics' "Newgen" refrigerator is a good example of a product that has found success among singles.

The company has also posted a two-fold increase in sales of its smaller "Neti" television.

"Small-sized home appliances with simple functions are becoming more popular with singles," a Samsung Electronics manager said.

The market scale of furniture for unmarried people has also been increasing based on functional furniture, including products such as "sofabeds."

Internet sites targeted at singles have also surged sharply.

The food industry is also recognizing the potential of this market with many firms rushing to increase products such as pre-prepared meals and non-family style products.

Meanwhile, the "Cookbook for Singles" was released by unmarried singer Lee Hyun-woo last summer became a top seller.

Industry sources attributed the sharp growth in the single industry to the hike in the number of unmarried people and their growing financial strength.

South Korea’s National Statistic Office said that single households accounted for 2.22 million of the 14.391 households nationwide as of the end of last year.

The figure was up 35.4 percent compared with the corresponding figure of 1.64 million in 1995.

Of the thirty-something population, those still single totaled 1 to 1.11 million as of last year, a figure that equates to 13.4 percent of the population in their thirties, and a rise of 4.4 percent from 1995.

Industry sources said that despite a lack of accurate statistics on income, it was generally accepted that single people are able to live alone with their growing spending power and financial independence.

"The possibilities for growth in the single industry are infinite and the increasing number of singles is likely to change the nation's social, cultural and economic landscape," a research fellow at LG Economic Research Institute said.

Monday, January 7, 2002

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Second Nigerian woman stands the risk of being sentenced to death by stoning

A story released today by the Daily Trust reports that another unmarried woman in Nigeria is facing charges of adultery. Hafsatu Abubakar, is standing trial in Sokoto for giving birth to a baby girl out of wedlock.

The trial is taking place as the fate of yet another convicted adulteress, Safiya Tungar-Tudu is being decided by the Sharia appellate court in Sokoto.

Tungar-Tudu was initially sentenced to death by stoning by the Gwadabawa lower Sharia court, for giving birth to a baby girl without a husband.

The suspect, Hafsatu, may still follow suit as she stands the risk of being sentenced to death by stoning, as her case and Safiya's are seemingly similar.

Hafsatu, was alleged to have delivered the baby girl in the Gwiwa area of Sokoto without having a husband contrary to section 129 of the state's Sharia code.

According to the police prosecutor, Hafsatu was brought before the court after giving birth to the baby girl out of wedlock.

The suspect pleaded guilty before the court at its sitting last week. She told the court that it was Umaru Shehu, who allegedly impregnated her, an allegation, he denied instantly.

The judge, Alhaji Bello Sahabi Tambuwal, adjourned the case to Wednesday to give the prosecution enough time to find out whether she was once married or not.


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