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International News Archive
March 07 - March 13, 2002


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



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Wednesday, March 13, 2002


Czech fathers pushing for expanded visitation rights


A story published today by the Prague Post reports that with one of the highest divorce rates in Europe, the Czech Republic is home to thousands of fathers who say they have little or no access to their children. The courts, they say, side with mothers in custody disputes in 96 percent of cases. When mothers refuse to allow visitation time, they say, the police and social workers are of no help.

But Czech fathers are beginning to organize a response, albeit a modest one. Miroslav Kapr, a divorced dad heads an organization called the Association for the Protection of Parents' and Children's Rights, bidding for legislation to give fathers and grandparents greater access to their children.

"There's a syndrome of rejected fathers in this country," says Kapr, "a prejudice that children belong to their mothers. So then the mother gets the child, and she gets to decide whether the child can see the father at all."

While the law guarantees fathers minimum visitation rights of two days every two weeks, Kapr and other fathers say that is the maximum a judge ever awards. They say the system does nothing to guarantee those rights if the mother refuses.

"There's one fixed course. It's like a factory," says Karel Miffek, a divorced father of two. "The child always goes to the mother, and mothers tend to view the child as their property. For the courts, it's convenient just to stick to the status quo and side with the mothers, when they should be defending the rights of the child."

So Miffek helped established the Association for Protecting Parents' and Children's Rights four years ago. Along with Kapr, he helps fathers who want to fight for custody and more visitation time.

Under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Czechoslovakia signed in 1989, the government is obliged to "respect the right of the child who is separated from one or both parents to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis, except if it is contrary to the child's best interests."

Last month, Miffek and others picketed the Justice Ministry and the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry to demand reform. But with only 15 protesters, the demonstration drew little attention, and government officials seem bored.

"If that gathering of eight gentlemen is what you mean, well, I can assure you we are not taking any action really," says Vladimir Voracek, press spokesman for the Justice Ministry. "They submitted a petition, and they will get an answer."

Jurisdiction is also a source of controversy. Officials at the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry said that the governmental Association for the Equality of Men and Women should address the issue. The group's chairwoman, Hana Voseckova, acknowledged that fathers often don't have enough access to children but said her group is helpless.

"There is a problem in this area with law enforcement, and we as an association can't really do much about it," she says. "Unfortunately, stereotypes prevail. It will take 10 to 20 years to change this. But at the moment, it is not something that is on our agenda."

Miffek says that a weekend every two weeks, the state's minimum for visitation, is hardly enough for a father to play a real child-raising role. "It's in the interests of children to have both parents active in their life," he says. "We want to be there for them, not just borrow them for a weekend." He says the distance from his own daughters has permanently damaged his relationship with them.

"They've grown aloof," he says. "You know, they have their friends, and I don't even have a chance to meet them. After years of distance, we've grown apart."

Kapr hopes that someday, when his own daughter is grown, that distance can be bridged. "We'll never get back those lost years of childhood. It's the most important time in anyone's life," he says. "But I still hope the damage can be repaired later on. I hope so."




Israeli Jewish women can go to jail if they refuse bill of divorce

A story published today by the Jerusalem Post reports that the Israelís Justice Ministry announced yesterday that according to a ruling by Chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau, a woman who refuses to accept a bill of divorce from her husband, and continues to do so after attempts to mollify her fail, can be sent to jail.

Lau, who is also the president of the Supreme Rabbinical Court, recently ruled that coercive steps can be taken against women who refuse to accept a bill of divorce, just as they can be taken against husbands who refuse to give one.

In a letter to rabbis throughout the country, Lau said: "[Torah] likens the woman to a man, and just as restrictions, including incarceration, can be taken against one who refuses to give [his wife] a get (bill of divorce), restrictions, including incarceration, can be taken against a women who has been ordered by the beit din to accept a get and refuses to do so."

Lau ruled on a case in which the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court determined that a couple should get divorced, and gave permission to the man to marry another woman after his wife refused to accept a get from him. The Tel Aviv district office of the Justice Ministry had given legal advice to a 53-year-old woman with five children who refused to accept a get from her husband, even though they had been living apart for many years.

Last night, Lau reacted to reports that his ruling was a precedent setting decision. He said permission to jail a woman who refuses to accept a get is not something new. Such a law has been in effect for several years, but has not been put into practice, a statement released by his office said.


Monday, March 11, 2002



Britainís Foreign Office addresses forced marriages

A story released today by BBC News reports that a new video has been launched by Britainís Foreign Office which is aimed at raising awareness among pupils of forced marriages.

The film, Tying The Knot, has been made amid fears of some young people being subjected to physical violence to force them into marriage.

The video is designed as a multi-cultural teaching aid for students aged between 12 and 18.

It was commissioned by the Foreign Office's (FO) community liaison unit in response to a report into forced marriages 18 months ago.

Where consent comes because of emotional blackmail, massive physical pressure, beatings, abductions - that is a forced marriage

In a year-and-a-half, the FO dealt with 240 cases of forced marriage, and was able to repatriate more than 60 young people who were taken abroad to be married against their will.

Gita Saghal, who made the film, said it did not condemn arranged marriages but those which were a result of "pressure, emotional blackmail, the massive physical pressure of beatings and abduction".

"We're trying to talk about marriage as a choice and the right to make that choice - whether to marry at all, to marry within an arrange marriage but with your consent, or to choose your own spouse," said Saghal.

She said abductions for forced marriages had for too long been treated by authorities as a "family problem" and left to the community to deal with.

Now there was somewhere to turn for support, she added.

Foreign Office minister Baroness Amos said the video was one of several initiatives design to "tackle the issue" in the UK.

"This film is a useful way to help young people explore some of the complex issues about marriage, and the way we enter into it," she said.


Friday, March 8, 2002


Marriage plans far from minds of Scotlandís young adults


A story published today by the Scotsman reports that according to Scottish Household Survey, Scotlandís young people are less and less interested in marriage or religion.

Detailed data, drawn from a close examination of the make-up of 8,000 households in Scotland, has revealed key living trends which could aid politicians as they make plans for our future. The study also revealed that two thirds of all adults live with a spouse or a partner.

However, the apparent move away from marriage may not be all that it appears. A spokeswoman for the counseling service, Scottish Marriage Care, said not all research saw the rise of cohabitation as a bad thing.

She said: "Some studies have damned living together as ultimately unsuccessful, but these have been based on examples of couples from the 1960s and 1970s, who were perhaps more avant garde in their decision to live together."

"Today, it is a much more normal thing for young people to do."

The statistics show that the trend is relatively new. Across all age groups, 55 percent of couples who are together are married, as opposed to 8 percent who are living together.

The household survey, commissioned by the executive in order to provide up-to-date information on day-to-day life in modern Scotland, also found young Scots are generally better educated than their parents or grandparents and are overwhelmingly more likely to be living in rented housing than in a home of their own.

The snapshot of modern Scotland also found that young adults are more likely to have no religious affiliation - 33 percent of the 16 to 24 age group describe themselves as being in that category, compared with just 12 percent of those people aged over 65.

Among those with no current religious affiliation, younger adults are also more likely not to have been brought up in any religion. The Scottish Household Survey is a continuous survey which first reported in February 1999 and is being carried out on behalf of the Scottish executive by NFO System Three and MORI Scotland.


Thursday, March 7, 2002

Taiwan enacts new gender law

A story published today by the Taipei Times reports that a new Taiwanese law which explicitly outlaws certain practices, such as hiring only unmarried employees or firing female employees who marry or become pregnant will take effect tomorrow coinciding with the observance of National Womenís Day.

The chairwoman of the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) , Chen Chu said yesterday that the council expects the Gender Equality Labor Law to reduce much of the work-related stress affecting women at work.

"We are pushing for many more specific provisions," said Chen Chu. "As for the provisions taking effect March 8, we expect women to have many of their work-related stresses reduced."

CLA also noted that women will benefit specifically from the law's provisions mandating employers take action against sexual harassment, allowing up to two years paid maternity leave and requiring equal pay for equal work.

It imposes fines of up to NT$100,000 on companies which violate the principle of equal pay for equal work.

The law requires companies to enact measures against sexual harassment in the workplace and fines will be levied against those which fail to do so.

Also beginning on Friday, women will be entitled to one day's leave per month for discomfort associated with their menstrual cycle, to be taken as sick leave.

The CLA recently established a Commission for Gender Equality in the Workplace and is preparing related secondary legislation, which, among other things, would introduce government-subsidized day-care for the children of working mothers.



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