TV & Radio
Neo-nationalism Endangers Gender Equality
TOKYO , Nov 11 (IPS) - When her husband committed suicide five years ago, Mariko, 56, was left alone to fend for herself in a society that not only offered few opportunities to start life again but also blamed the desperate widow for the tragedy.
''My happy life ended when my husband died. Now I have to scrimp and save. I feel alone and lost,'' said Mariko, who asked IPS that her last name not be used.
Her husband's suicide was linked to overwork and the company offered Mariko, then a homemaker, a small compensation package that, she says, ran out two years ago.
To make ends meet, Mariko, whose only son studies abroad, managed to find work in a small neighbouring bread shop. She is on anti-depressant medication to cope with her difficult situation.
Yukiko Nishihara, head of Suicide Prevention Network, says Mariko represents the stark situation of a growing number of women in Japan these days who are deprived of their husbands by death or divorce.
"Despite gender equality laws in Japan, the reality is that women are paid little and offered little security at the work place with companies tending to hiring them as part-time workers without regular salaries. Gender equality now focuses on gaining better work conditions for women and men," says Nishihara.
She points out that with the number of annual suicide cases topping 32,000 for the past seven consecutive years (more than 10 percent among middle-aged men) due to economic difficulties, women are increasingly compelled to find work to survive.
Said Reiko Shoji, head of Working Women’s Network: ‘’Women lose out quickly in a work environment that expects them to put in long hours and compete with men as well as take on family responsibilities. We need to develop a system where offices are more tuned to the needs of women."
Japan maybe the world's second richest economy but ranks a dismal 43rd in the gender empowerment index of the United Nations that registers gains by women in the economic and political field.
Of the 80 countries compared under the U.N. index, Japan was downgraded five notches from 38th place last year.
Discriminatory conditions for women, including lower pay –pay checks for women part-timers are almost 60 percent lower than their male counterparts--and slow progress in corporate life are seen as working against the empowerment of women in Japan.
Aware of the international spotlight on the domestic situation, the government recently appointed as minister for population issues and gender equality, diplomat and academic Kuniko Inoguchi, who is already well-known for the lobbying she does for women’s rights issues.
Inoguchi has pledged equal pay and better working conditions for women, calling as positive signs her own victory in the September elections and the recent increase in the number of female Diet members---46 this year compared to 38 two years ago but still dismal in the 480-seat Lower House.
"The government is trying to achieve the goal of increasing the percentage of women in leadership posts (in all sectors) to 30 percent by 2020," she said in an interview to ‘Japan Times’ published on Nov. 5.
According to government figures for 2004, only 10.1 percent of all managerial posts in Japan were held by women and Inoguchi has said she would like to see an improvement in those figures with active support form the private sector.
Corporations have announced plans to employ more women but that is mostly to make up for the declining birth rate that threatens to reduce the current 64.3 million Japanese work force.
Women activists say the trends are no guarantee unless the government can promise laws that support equal pay and job satisfaction for women.
"The appointment of Inoguchi with all due respect, appears toothless unless she can take companies to task which is a bitter test ," says Midori Ito, head of the Women Union based in Tokyo.
The Union fields more than 500 calls per month from women who have been fired on the grounds of not being able to cope with long working hours or for demanding gender equal salaries.
On average, Ito explains, women are paid around 10 US dollars per hour for part-time work which is insufficient to support living expenses in Japan.
‘’With the majority of women--almost 80 percent of married women--hired as part-timers, the possibility of more women ending up living in poverty is becoming real these days," she pointed out.
Michiko Yamaguchi, spokeswoman for Ishikawa Fusae Memorial Association, one of Japan's oldest womens rights organisations, says there is growing concern that conservative lobbies in Japan have begun to oppose the gender equality movement.
Ominous comments have been made by chief cabinet secretary, Shinzo Abe, 51, tipped to be the next prime minister. Abe is on record saying that while he does not support discrimination, he felt that gender equality works against traditional Japanese values that expect women to get married and bear children.
Like Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Abe is an ardent devotee of the controversial war-related, Yasukuni shrine and in fact the grandson of a man convicted for war crimes.
Abe is also known for defending Japan’s war-time record reducing thousands of women in Asia to sexual slavery for the imperial army in the "comfort women," scandal which continues to rankle with neighbouring countries like Korea, Taiwan and China. .
Abe has also been a vociferous critic of sex education for young school children calling the move inimical to Japanese tradition. Yamaguchi refutes such claims and links Abe’s attitude to the rise of neo-nationalism in Japan that works against gender equality.
"The struggle is heating up. Japan’s progress in bringing empowerment to women is now sliding back and we are very concerned," she said. (END/2005)
社説：配偶者暴力 被害者の自立に支えを (中日/東京 2005/11/11)
性感染症が男性間で流行～同性愛者の無防備な行為が原因 - USフロントライン
Gay Sex Called Key to Rise in Syphilis
By Thomas H. Maugh II
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
November 9, 2005
Men engaged in risky homosexual activity are fueling a sharp increase in the incidence of syphilis and a smaller but worrisome rise in gonorrhea resistant to common antibiotics, federal researchers said Tuesday.
The increases are seen at a time when sexually transmitted disease rates among historically important risk groups, especially women and minorities, have been declining, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The diseases "are a significant and ongoing threat to millions of Americans," said Dr. Ronald O. Valdiserri, acting director of CDC's National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention. They cost the healthcare system $13 billion per year, he said.
Health authorities made major inroads into slowing syphilis transmission during the 1990s, bringing the annual number of new cases during 2000 to the lowest level since recordkeeping began in 1941.
Between 2000 and 2004, however, the rate rose by 29% to a total of 7,980 cases, with most of the increase occurring among men.
Men engaging in homosexual activities accounted for 64% of syphilis infections in 2004, compared with about 5% in 1999, said Dr. John M. Douglas Jr., director of the CDC's division of sexually transmitted disease prevention.
Although the number of cases is small, experts say the data are worrisome because increases in sexually transmitted diseases are thought to be precursors of increases in the transmission of the AIDS virus, which is much more difficult to combat.
"We have very good and sound information showing increases in high-risk behaviors among men having sex with men since 1999," fueling the increase in syphilis, Valdiserri said.
Risky behavior has increased because of growing crystal methamphetamine use, he said — first on the West Coast and now on the East.
"That's exacerbating the transmission of syphilis," he said.
As in previous years, San Francisco had the highest incidence of syphilis, with a rate of 45.9 cases per 100,000 people. Atlanta was second with 34.6 cases, and Baltimore third with 33.2. Los Angeles ranked 24th, with five cases per 100,000.
Gonorrhea rates, in contrast, have fallen to 113.5 cases per 100,000 people in 2004 — about 330,000 cases — the lowest rate since 1941. Nonetheless, surveillance by the CDC in selected cities has shown that resistance to fluoroquinolone antibiotics — the common first-line treatment for gonorrhea — increased from 4.1% in 2003 to 6.8% in 2004.
Also, the rate of antibiotic resistance among men engaging in homosexual activity was 23.8% — eight times the rate in heterosexuals.
Last year, the CDC recommended that fluoroquinolones no longer be used to treat the disease in men having sex with men because of the rise in resistance. They also are not recommended for use in California and Hawaii, where resistance has been widespread for years.
The reported incidence of a third sexually transmitted disease, chlamydia, also rose 5.9% last year to 319.6 cases per 100,000 people — a total of 929,462 cases.
But Valdiserri and Douglas attributed much of that growth to new and more aggressive screening programs rather than to increased transmission.
Nonetheless, the report says that the majority of cases are still not detected or reported to the agency because of the absence of symptoms, and that the actual number of infections is as high as 2.8 million cases per year.
"Healthcare providers urgently need to step up screening for chlamydia, particularly among young, sexually active women, who are at greatest risk of infertility if the disease is not diagnosed and treated," Douglas said.
The two other most common sexually transmitted diseases in the United States, herpes and human papilloma virus, are not reported to federal authorities, although reliable estimates of their prevalence are available from other sources.
Taking those diseases into account, Valdiserri said, the total number of sexually transmitted diseases in the United States each year is about 19 million, almost half of them among people ages 15 to 24.
Pastor Defends Homophobic Views At Sweden's Supreme Court
by Mattias Karen, Associated Press
Posted: November 9, 2005 1:00 pm ET
(Stockholm) A Pentecostal pastor charged with hate speech for denouncing homosexuality as a "cancerous tumor" defended his views in Sweden's highest court Wednesday, saying gay sex was an abnormality on a par with pedophilia.
Ake Green, 64, delivered a fiery anti-gay sermon two years ago that triggered a legal battle testing the limits of Sweden's freedom of speech.
Green told the Supreme Court that his sermon was meant to warn gays that their lifestyle will result in an "eternal divorce" from God.
"If two men sleep with each other, or if two women do so, it is abnormal, just like pedophilia," Green said in his testimony.
Audio broadcasts from the much-awaited hearing were carried live on nationwide TV, which is unusual in Sweden. The hearing was expected to last one day, but a ruling could take several weeks.
Green became the first clergyman convicted under Sweden's hate crimes legislation, which was modified in 2003 to include attacks against homosexuals. An appeals court overturned the ruling earlier this year, but Sweden's chief prosecutor appealed the acquittal at the Supreme Court.
The case has attracted widespread international attention, with some religious groups saying a conviction would be a threat to freedom of religion and speech. Others say an acquittal would open the door to fiercer attacks against Jews, Muslims and gays by right-wing extremists.
In 2003, Green told his congregation on the small island of Oland that homosexuality was "a deep cancerous tumor on all of society," and warned that Sweden risked a natural disaster because of leniency toward gays. He also said gays were more likely than others to rape children and animals.
Green on Wednesday testified that the "tumor" reference was directed toward the gay lifestyle, not the individuals who practice it.
Prosecutor Stefan Johansson urged the court to send Green to jail for his sermon. He challenged Green's views that gay lifestyle was the root of HIV/AIDS and could bring natural disasters to a country.
"Don't you think that is deeply offensive to homosexuals?" Johansson asked.
A defiant Green answered he understood that gays could be insulted by his sermon, but insisted the purpose was to encourage homosexuals to change their "ungodly" behavior.
"I want to warn young people about the consequences," he said. "When you tell the truth to a person, it can hurt."
Protesters and supporters of Green gathered outside the courthouse.
"We want to defend freedom of religion," said Lewi Freijd, a 16-year-old high school student holding a large orange banner with the same message. "If he is convicted, then you will not be allowed to preach what is in the Bible."
Robert Karlsson Svard, holding a sign reading "I am not a cancerous tumor," told newspaper Dagens Nyheter he hoped Green would be sent to jail.
"I don't want to be cured or surgically removed," he was quoted as saying
Unrepentant Swedish pastor calls gay life "abnormal"
Wed Nov 9, 2005 11:33 PM IST
By Stephen Brown
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - A Swedish evangelical pastor who called homosexuality "a cancerous tumour" to blame for AIDS stood by his sermon on Wednesday in the Supreme Court and challenged prosecutors to send him to prison.
Ake Green has become a cause celebre for Christian groups in Sweden and abroad who defend his right to freedom of speech and faith. Prosecutors appealed to Sweden's highest court after a lower court upheld his right to preach his views even if many Swedes found them offensive, and overturned a one-month jail term for inciting hatred on grounds of sexual orientation.
Gay activists, one of whom stood outside the court with a banner saying "I'm no cancer", want him jailed and the prosecutor is pushing for a sentence of six months or more.
The case is provoking debate in a highly secular country that prides itself on pioneering sexual equality.
"I don't take back what I said," Green told reporters before the appeal, which was attended by a small group of supporters including members of the Christian biker gang "Holy Riders".
"I wanted to spark a debate and I've done that. My message is that men should live by the laws of creation which means the normal family set-up with a woman, a man and children. I think homosexuality and that lifestyle is abnormal and I want to be free to say that," said the 63-year-old evangelical pastor.
In the hearing, which could last for weeks, and was aired live on national television without images, Green defended the 2003 sermon at his church on the island of Oland, though he said he had called "the homosexual lifestyle" a cancer rather than homosexual people themselves.
The white-haired, bespectacled preacher told prosecutor Stefan Johansson his reading of the Bible and "other sources like the National Encyclopedia" confirmed his view "that a promiscuous lifestyle heightens the risk of AIDS".
The head of gay rights group RFSL, Soren Andersson, told Reuters that if Green went free, "Sweden should re-think its laws against hatred". He said "free churches" like Green's target gays "because we threaten their beliefs".
Green told reporters that if convicted, he would rather be jailed than do community service: "I still think we should be able to voice our convictions without ending up in jail and if that happens I will be showing how ridiculous things have got."
Some papers argue that prison would just make him a martyr -- a status he already has for an anti-homosexual Kansas church which runs the internet campaign "God Hates Sweden".
The case comes amid worldwide debate about gay clergy and gay marriages. Sweden's Lutheran church, to which 80 percent of Swedes nominally belong but few attend, faces a revolt by more than 700 of its 5,000 priests over a decision to bless gay couples.
Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 November 2005, 17:44 GMT
Swedish court hears 'hate' case - BBC
A Swedish clergyman accused of inciting hatred against homosexuals has defended his comments in Sweden's Supreme Court.
In a sermon two years ago, Pentecostal pastor Ake Green told his congregation that homosexuality was a "deep cancer tumour" on society.
Speaking in court, Mr Green said the comment referred to a homosexual lifestyle, rather than individuals.
A conviction against him earlier this year was overturned, but Sweden's chief prosecutor appealed against this.
If found guilty by the Supreme Court, Mr Green could serve up to two years in jail. Mr Green was the first priest convicted under Sweden's new hate crimes law, which was amended two years ago to include homosexuals.
His conviction in 2004 was overturned when a court ruled that his comments were protected by free speech laws.
Audio from the hearing was broadcast live on Swedish television.
In it, Mr Green said that his reading of the Bible and "other sources like the National Encyclopaedia" confirmed his view that "a promiscuous lifestyle heightens the risk of Aids".
Speaking to reporters before proceedings began, Mr Green said he did not regret what he had said.
"I wanted to spark a debate and I've done that. My message is that men should live by the laws of creation, which means the normal family set-up with a woman, a man and children," he said.
"I think homosexuality and that lifestyle is abnormal and I want to be free to say that."
He said that if convicted, he would rather be jailed than do community service.
"I still think we should be able to voice our convictions without ending up in jail and if that happens I will be showing how ridiculous things have got," he said.
In the sermon, Mr Green told a congregation on the small south-eastern island of Oland that homosexuals were "a deep cancer tumour on all of society" and that gays were more likely than other people to rape children and animals.