This issue of the WRI Women's Working Group Newsletter contains a report on sex tourism in Cuba, on a violent attack against a lesbian peace activist in Yugoslavia, and on violence against women in Russia. It also contains news of how women are working to stop violence, especially the violence of the undeclared war against women.
African women's groups are increasing throughout the continent. In Zaire, the women's group Femmes Somba Mo Manya began a public awareness campaign earlier this year about female genital mutilation. The group has organized educational events in rural areas, in order to support women who refuse to undergo the mutilation. Such women are usually ostracized by their communities.
In May, four lesbians from Serbia's only lesbian and gay organization, Arkadija, were beaten up in Belgrade. Lepa Mladjenovic is a member of the group and was one of the women attacked. Lepa is a well-known feminist peace activist and has received international recognition for her work on behalf of lesbian and gay human rights. She took part in the million-strong international gay and lesbian pride march in New York in June 1994, carrying the sign "Serbia--Stop the War".
Cuba is currently facing grave problems because of the continuing U.S. blockade and the collapse of Soviet economic support. The country is desperate for foreign exchange, and is looking to the tourist industry as a means to secure it. Cuban tourism has rapidly expanded with 1.7 million visitors in 1993. Though successfully generating foreign exchange, the vast majority of Cubans are suffering enormous hardship.
Women, formerly banned from Argentine's military, are now being accepted as volunteers. The move came last year after mandatory conscription for men was abolished. Conscription ended because of public outrage over the death of a conscript after being beaten by his superiors. Over 5,000 women have applied to join the military, only ten percent of whom have been accepted into the Army, for communications, administrative and medical work. Three hundred women are now serving their first one-year term. Competition for the few jobs open to women is fierce.
Last December a 14-member Japanese police team visited Thailand on a study tour on how to fight prostitution. Police officer Hiroyuki Kita said that there are 50,000 Thai prostitutes in Japan, about 10 percent of whom are under 18 years of age. Japanese organized crime (the yakuza) are behind the traffick in women. Kita said the number of prostitutes in Japan is falling in the wake of a concerted government campaign.
The victim in roughly half of all Russian murders is a woman. The typical setting is the home, and the killer is usually the woman's husband or partner. Figures released by government agencies during June put the number of women who died in Russia last year as a result of domestic violence at some 15,000. In this war within Russia's apartment blocks, waged against half the
country's population, the death toll each year is many times the number of Russian soldiers that have been killed in Chechnya.
Adèle Kirsten, whom some readers will remember meeting at the WRI women's gatherings in Ireland and Thailand, has been appointed the National Co-ordinator of Gunfree South Africa. Gunfree South Africa is committed to reducing violence throughout the country by reducing the number of weapons, especially light firearms, now available.