Sue Lloyd-Roberts, a BBC journalist, has written about a Saudi woman who told her, ‘Saudi Arabia is the biggest women’s prison in the world.’ When asked if she could be quoted the woman said, ‘You can quote me but you can’t name me.’ (The Age, 11 April 2011) In Saudi Arabia women cannot drive, are not allowed to work or travel without permission of a male guardian, husband or father. Women who have no such guardian are known as “non-women”. These are women whose husbands have left them without the formality of a divorce and they are without a legal identity.
The Australian (6 October 2010) reports Northern Land Council Chair Wali Wunungmurra has told a court violence against women is not really terrible in Aboriginal law. His character evidence was given in the trial of a nephew jailed for causing serious injury to a female relative during an aggravated assault in northeast Arnhem Land. The victim had been repeatedly stabbed with a glass bottle following an argument during a drinking session. Mr Wunungmurra told the court during questioning the assault was ‘not okay’ and customary law depends on the situation. Yolngu law differentiated between acts of violence involving alcohol and those that did not, he said. He also said he was deeply upset by the assault and did not condone it.
A ‘Gaggle of Gays’ and ‘Front Bums’
The New Zealand Labour Party once steered so successfully by Helen Clark is getting a bit of a bum steer these days. New Zealand MP Damien O’Connor has complained the Labour Party is dominated by ‘self-serving unionists and a gaggle of gays’. The medical word for people who are born with their organs back to front is situs inversus. In New Zealand it apparently refers to women in parliament. Labour MP John Tamihere in 2005 labelled the party’s female MPs a bunch of ‘front bums’.
Equal Rights for Queens
Will Kate Middleton’s children be successors to the throne despite their gender? Plans are being hatched to reform Britain’s male primogeniture succession laws which, if enacted, would mean Kate and William’s first born child would be eligible to succeed even if she is a girl. This would also apply to the position of Head of Australia. It would require legislation in Britain and in all the Commonwealth countries. Given how difficult it has been in Australia for the states and territories to enact uniform laws this could be something of a marathon task. However, in fantasy land, nothing is impossible.
Votes for Nippers!
In Hungary consideration is being given to granting extra votes for mothers with young children (The Age, 19 April 2011). Some 20 per cent of Hungary’s population are children and they are without representation says senior government official Jozsef Szajer. Don’t be fooled though, Hungary’s government is a right wing, populist, conservative government as witnessed by Szajer’s justification: ‘We know at first it seems an unusual idea, but in the ’50s it was unusual to give votes to black people. 100 years ago it was unusual to give votes to women.’ When the proposal was criticised for favouring Romas it was modified to ensure women would only be permitted an extra vote for one child. While there has been discussion in Germany and Japan about this form of voting, based on concerns that an ageing population squeezed out the rights of families with children, the idea, according to Professor Tom Ginsburg, dates back to the days when landowners, white males and church figures were deemed to have more of a stake in governance issues.
Surgeon Urgin’ Unsafe Sex Better than Chockies?
St Valentine’s Day has been no bed of roses for president-elect of the American College of Surgeons Dr Lazar Greenfield, 78. His Valentine’s Day editorial in Surgery News explored ‘the mood enhancing effects of semen on women during unprotected sex’ and suggested that, as semen was an antidepressant, it was a better present than chocolates (The Age, 19 April 2011). Despite his plea ‘that those who choose to judge me will read the article in the spirit in which it was intended’ he has had to resign to quell controversy over his remarks. Many, including women surgeons, were not amused and said the remarks reflected the macho culture of the College.
Katya Kockoff is a feminist lawyer.