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International News Archive
February 14 - February 20, 2002


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This page contains news for the period February 14 through February 20, 2002.



<<   February 2002  >>

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Wednesday, February 20, 2002

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Jordanian women test new divorce law

A story released today by the Agence France Presse reports that forty-one Jordanian women have filed for divorce since an amendment to the law approved by King Abdullah II in December which gave women the right to leave their husbands.

Like most Islamic countries, Jordan's civil code only allowed men to file for divorce but the amendment adopted in December gave women the same privilege as long as they abandon claims for financial compensation.

Judicial sources said that the cases of 41 divorce-seeking women were under scrutiny since January by family courts, which must see if each couple can be reconciled before handing a verdict.

If the reconciliation efforts, stipulated under the December amendment, fail the woman will be granted the right to divorce in line with the law.

Local news sources say that the women who filed for divorce all come from a "well-to-do background".


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Adultery case in Sokoto state addressed by Nigerian president


A story released today by AllAfrica.com reports that Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo reassured the international community Tuesday that the Islamic court in Sokoto state will spare a woman, Safiya Husaini from being stoned to death for adultery.

Speaking to a group of journalists in Rome yesterday, Obasanjo said he was concerned that "such a judgment could be given at all has certain implications both internally and externally," but he did not elaborate.

The sentence imposed on 35-year-old Safiya has caused an international outcry and brought pressure to bear on Obasanjo's government that it be lifted.

Safiya, who is unmarried and had a child last February, was found guilty of having sex outside marriage under the strict Islamic Sharia law that has been reintroduced in many northern Nigerian states since January 2000.

"What I want to say now is to reassure the international community, friends of Nigeria and the friends of Safiya that Safiya has appealed and I believe based on that appeal we should expect that justice will be done, justice that should gladden the heart of those who long that justice will be given to Safiya."

Obasanjo was addressing journalists on the sidelines of a UN agricultural development conference in Rome.

International outcry against the death sentence has risen in recent times as various local and international organizations have appealed to the Nigerian authorities to have the verdict changed.

Recently, the European parliament passed a resolution condemning the ruling and called on the Obasanjo administration to review it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

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European Union official concerned about treatment of women in the west

A story released today by the Islamic Republic News Agency reports that EU commissioner for employment and social affairs, Anna Diamantopoulou, has made shocking revelations about the mistreatment of women in Europe.

She referred to a study carried out by the University of Madrid on violence in the European Union which showed that one European woman in five experiences violence in the hands of her male partner at some point in her life.

In the UK, a woman dies every 3 days as a result of domestic violence. A Finnish study showed that over half of adult women have been victims of violence or physical or sexual threats.

The EU commissioner was speaking from "Breaking the Silence: Preventing Violence against Women in Europe," a subject discussed in the Ministerial Conference on Violence against Women organized by the EU Spanish presidency in the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela on Monday.

"We know that in Europe, over a quarter of all violent incidents reported involve a man hitting his wife or partner. Home, far from being a safe haven, is one of the most dangerous places of all," said Diamantopoulou.

"In Ireland, over half of women murdered are killed by their partners or husbands."

"In Austria, half of all divorces are filed on the grounds of violence against women."

"In the Netherlands, a fifth of all women have been subjected to physical violence by a partner or ex-partner."

The EU official called for legislative, social and educational measures to stop violence against women in the west.


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Chileans more open ton the idea of divorce

A story published today by the Chicago Tribune reports that Chile is the only Western democracy, besides the small island state of Malta, where divorce is illegal. The fight over divorce has been going on in Chile for almost a century. But the many attempts to do away with the ban have failed amid strong objections by the church and conservative politicians.

The battle over divorce is just one beachhead in an ongoing struggle in Chile over so-called family issues. Women's groups and other activists are calling for abortion laws to be liberalized and the "morning after pill" to be legalized as a contraceptive.

Critics say that for too long, the ban on divorce has kept couples in loveless marriages. Couples wanting to split must often invent a suitable reason to get an annulment, critics add, and are forced to lie.

Annulments are granted in Chile only when both parties agree to end the union. Even for consenting couples, an annulment can be a tricky and distasteful process.

Many Chileans seek to show a procedural error in the marriage process, such as saying a spouse did not live at the address listed at the time they were wed. People use friends or family to lie.

The legal subterfuge can be costly, but it usually works, whether a couple has been married one year or 20. But a national movement is gaining steam to finally pass a divorce law, proponents say.

"About 70 percent of the polls note that people say `yes' to divorce," said Oscar Godoy Arcaya, a political science professor at the Catholic University of Chile. "So it is not an issue of the public. It is an issue of the church. People feel that eventually the law will pass."

The lower house of Congress passed divorce legislation in 1997, but a Senate committee picked it up only recently. Chile's Justice Ministry announced a compromise plan last year to help with the law's passage. Under the proposal, divorce would be granted after four years of separation. Special mediators would be appointed to try to help couples reunite.

While 70 percent to 80 percent of Chileans describe themselves as Catholic, in opinion polls an increasing number of people express reservations about the church's stance on divorce.

Supporters of the proposed changes also argue that a divorce law would better protect children's rights and that child-support payments would be easier to enforce.

"The current structure particularly discriminates against poor women and those who may have been housewives and have little of their own income," said Nancy Guzman, a Santiago sociologist. "Many women are essentially stuck in sometimes abusive marriages."

Couples who split without an annulment are left in legal limbo. They can form new unions that produce "illegitimate" children, raising difficult questions when it comes to property settlement, alimony, child support and custody should the relationship end.

But the church has been unswerving in its opposition to divorce as an option that weakens the family. "It's divorce now, it will be abortion next and then probably marriages of homosexuals," Pablo Lizama, a Catholic military chaplain in Chile, said in opposition to the divorce law in a speech last year.

Monday, February 18, 2002

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Canadian shared parenting advocates wants child custody laws changed

A story published today by the National Post reports that Canada’s Minister of Justice, Martin Cauchon says he might abandon plans to overhaul Canada's child custody laws, a move a family rights group warns will mark the beginning of a long drawn out battle that could cost the federal government billions of dollars.

More than 1,000 people have been recruited in two weeks to launch a class-action lawsuit against the government in anticipation of the Liberals reneging on a promise to announce legislative changes to custody and access laws by May.

"It's something that I'm going to have to take a close look at because time is of the essence," Mr. Cauchon said in an interview. "I just want to keep sure I leave the door open in case I decide at the last minute not to proceed."

Mr. Cauchon inherited from his predecessor, Anne McLellan, a promise to announce legislative changes after five years of extensive studies, consultations, reports and public hearings.

He said he is leaning toward at least making some changes, but he stressed he might also do nothing at all.

Fathers' and grandparents' groups have lobbied for changes that would abandon the system of custody and access in favor of a new concept of shared parenting in which each parent would have a legal entitlement to custody after divorce.

"These divorce laws hurt mothers, fathers, brothers, grandparents .... The Divorce Act causes no end of emotional grief, heartache and pain," said Blaine Collins, president of the Saskatchewan branch of the National Shared Parenting Association.

Women's groups have pressed vigorously for the divorce laws to remain the same, arguing automatic shared parenting is not always realistic because it could be harmful to women and children when family violence is an issue. Those groups also feel it is more important to make services such as counseling more affordable than to make legislative changes.

Several provincial justice ministers said they do not consider significant changes to custody and access laws to be a top priority and they remain undecided about whether an overhaul is needed.

"I don't have a strong opinion that I wish to express at this point," said David Young, Ontario's Attorney-General, who is more concerned about enforcement of child support payments.

"I guess we're just interested at this point in looking at what Justice Canada decides to do and reviewing that," added Michael Baker, Nova Scotia's Minister of Justice.

At a meeting last week of provincial and federal justice ministers, enforcement of child support payments was the only area of family law that was discussed in light of the fact that two-thirds of Canadian parents are behind on their maintenance.

Friday, February 15, 2002

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Russia’s divorce rate on the rise

A story published today by the People’s Daily (China) reports that according to report by the Russian State Statistic Committee, Russian people are more and more reluctant to get married.

The report revealed that over the past five years, marriages have declined while divorce figures have slowly risen. The number of marriages registered last year was 200,000, down from the 1,100,000 in 1995, while the divorce rate has grown, with 700,000 marriages breaking up last year against the 665,000 in 1995.

Incidentally, people fall in love more often in Russia's Central Federal Districts and in the Urals, where eight marriages per 1,000 lovers have been registered.

In southern Russia, however, people are more reluctant to start families, where 6.6 marriages per 1,000 were officially registered.

The report also revealed that the divorce rate is highest in the Urals and the Far East, where six couples per 1,000 people divorced last year.

Thursday, February 14, 2002

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Ontario, Canada’s Human Rights commission opens dialogue with insurance industry

A story released today by Canada News Wire reports that the Ontario Human Rights Commission today released a report on consultations it conducted on human rights issues in insurance.

The consultation was to promote awareness, understanding and advancement of human rights in the area of insurance and to examine alternatives to current practices by obtaining input from experts and regulators in the insurance industry as well as from consumers.

Ontario's Human Rights Code permits sound and accepted insurance industry practices that make distinctions using the grounds of age, sex, marital status, same-sex partnership status, family status or disability in order to achieve the legitimate business objective of charging premiums commensurate with risk. At the same time, the Supreme Court of Canada in its decision in Zurich Insurance Co. v. Ontario (Human Rights Comm.) (1992), 16 C.H.R.R. D/255 (S.C.C.) stated that, "the insurance industry must strive to avoid setting premiums based on enumerated grounds".

The Code does not permit any distinctions, whatsoever, on the basis of other grounds such as race, creed or place of origin. Distinctions using age, sex, marital status, same-sex partnership status, family status or disability are only permitted where there are no other effective measures. For these reasons, insurance practices should be scrutinized and the industry must continue to look for alternative ways to assess risk and set premiums.

The Commission was encouraged by the positive contribution of participants during the consultation and looks forward to continuing this constructive dialogue between industry, consumer and regulatory representatives.


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