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World unites on women's day

The world marked International Women's Day by denouncements of abuses against women and vibrant calls for gender equality.

india Updated: Mar 09, 2004 15:48 IST

International Women's Day was marked across the world Monday by denouncements of abuses against women and vibrant calls for gender equality.

Shirin Ebadi, Iran's 2003 Nobel peace prize laureate and Iranian human rights campaigner, set the tone, saying in Geneva that she was in "mourning for women's rights" on this day.

In Tehran several hundred Iranian female activists staged a rally to mark International Women's Day, despite warnings from authorities that the gathering was illegal.

"Today, because of the situation of women, the discrimination they face, I am wearing black not only for women in my country but also around the world," Ebadi told an audience at the International Labor Organisation (ILO).

There were grim reminders of the hurdles facing women around the world.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan told a gathering attended by Queen Noor of Jordan that girls and young women now account for nearly two-thirds of people worldwide under 24 who are living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

"All over the world, women are increasingly bearing the brunt of the epidemic," Annan said. "If these rates of infection continue, women will soon become the majority of the global total of people infected."

Latin American leaders called for an end to violence against women.

Hundreds of people marched in Guatemalan cities to decry the killing of more than 1,000 women since 2001, while Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced that hospitals will have to report domestic violence cases to the police.

In Peru, President Alejandro Toledo urged women "to never cease shouting and fighting for your rights."

International Women Day was celebrated in countries with Muslim majorities.

In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai urged women to register for elections in June and to embrace education denied to them under the ousted Taliban regime.

In Dubai, the secretary general of the Council of Women World Leaders said Arab women in the Gulf states needed to unite for empowerment and free themselves of the mindset that they are not entitled to their rights.

"Women have to act together, they are not united enough. There's a lot to be gained from a collective voice," Laura Liswood told AFP on the sidelines of the 6th WOIBEX Business Women Conference.

Oman's Sultan Qaboos issued a royal decree naming Rawya bint Saud al-Bussaidi as the new higher education minister, the country's first woman minister with portfolio.

Some countries urged women to have more babies.

Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, whose country has the second-lowest birthrate in the European Union after Spain, said legislation must ensure that work and motherhood are compatible to spur the country's development.

Stalinist North Korea called for women to have more children and take a leading role in reviving the country's moribund economy.

Scandinavian countries have been considered leaders in gender equality.

Norway announced it was on its way toward reaching its goal of becoming the first country with women in at least 40 percent of public sector management positions.

But in Sweden more than half of the country's 158 female parliamentarians claim they have been discriminated against simply because of their gender, acccording to Swedish media.

Some governments reviewed their laws to protect women, while others called for gender equality.

In the Philippines, President Gloria Arroyo signed a new law increasing penalties for men who abuse their wives and children, while similar legislation was reportedly on the cards in Indonesia.

Indian Kashmir's government agreed to take a fresh look at a controversial law that would strip women of their permanent residency if they married men from outside the Himalayan state.

In Russia, President Vladimir Putin called for full equality of the sexes as he handed out state awards to some 15 women.

Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian raised the prospect of appointing the island's first woman prime minister if he wins his re-election battle on March 20, local media reports said.

Meanwhile in Portugal, about 100 pro-abortion campaigners took to the streets in Lisbon to protest the staunchly Roman Catholic nation's tough restrictions against the procedure.

The demonstration came less than a week after the center-right government voted down bills allowing abortions up to the 12th or 24th weeks of pregnancy.

Seven women were put on trial for allegedly having abortions in December.

"I am launching an appeal to maintain solidarity with women who abort or who could still be judged," said Helena Pinto, head of a leading Portuguese pro-abortion association.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat meanwhile used the event to call on women to oppose Israeli occupation.

The Palestinian woman "who gives birth at an Israeli checkpoint or dies there with her baby urges all women in the world to do everything they can to put an end to Israel's despicable occupation," Arafat said in a radio address.

First Published: Mar 09, 2004 15:34 IST