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Reproductive Rights

new internationalist
issue 170 - April 1987



Ferdinand Marcos. Where are they now?
There are now more than 40 former despots comfortably ensconced in exile around the world, and the country of asylum (those words were chosen with care) might actually be doing the dictators' former subjects a favour, discouraging them from going back.

The once despot of Haiti, Jean-Claude ('Baby Doc') Duvalier, rents a villa in Grasse, France. Former Philippines President, Ferdinand Marcos, waits by a telephone in Hawaii for a 'come back, all is forgiven' call from Manila. In addition, notes The Economist, 'Former President Nguyen Van Thiieu of South Vietnam is in Wimbledon, handy for tennis. His predecessor, Nguyen Cao Ky, runs a shop in Califomia. And one-time President of Uganda, Idi Amin is denied even telephonic illusions of power. He lives by virtue of Moslem charity in a remote Saudi Arabian villa and if he rings up to talk of his return the Saudis cut him off.'

From The Economist Nov. 8th, 1986


Pick a number
Who is a young person? When is a young person too old? Choose an age, it seems, and make a rule about it. From Australia's Youth Issues Forum comes the following clarification: at 8 a child in Australia reaches the age of criminal responsibility. At 14 a girl may be given judicial authority to marry. At 16 a gun license may be granted; a boy may be given judicial authority to marry. At 18 a person must vote; is liable to serve as juror and may no longer have expenses claimed against them by a parent for income-tax purposes. At 21 a young person is qualified to be a member of the House of Representatives.

From Youth Issues Forum, Nov. 1986.
Youth Affairs Council of Victoria, 14 - 16 Gertrude Street Fitzroy 3065, Victoria, Australia.


Printing money
Quiz. Consider the inflation figures in Latin America in 1985: Argentina, 672 per cent, Bolivia, 11,749; Brazil, 235; Chile, 31; Colombia, 24; Costa Rica, 14; Ecuador, 28; El Salvador, 27; Nicaragua, 251; Panama, 1; Peru, 164; Venezuela, 13. Guess which country uses the US dollar for its currency?


Question of degree
While political murders in Guatemala have dropped from an average of 48 to 22 a month, and 'disappearances' from 36 to 11 a month over the two years 1984 to 1986, this may not mean any improvement in the state of siege in the country. Far from human rights improving, it could be that the State-backed terrorism has done its job. Central American Report (Nov 21 1986) finds few neighbourhood groups, trade unions or campesinos being prepared to organize. Fear of speaking out, because of assassination, stalks the country and the Guatemalan Human Rights Commission, based in Mexico, reported to the United Nations General Assembly that of the 78 'disappearances' and 325 political killings reported in 1986, the Government had done nothing to investigate them.

From Central America Update Vol. VIII No. 3, Box 2207, Stauon P, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 2T2


Is it a girl?
Ways to determine the baby's sex while still inside mother's tummy have long been the stuff of folktales; but recently the homespun pickles and icecream methods have taken a technological turn. Predictably unpleasant statistics have come to light on what happens when sex selection technology has been made available in South Korea and India. There, having a boy is regarded as essential for family status and, to be fair, for future prosperity of the parents. The problem is that a girl will leave home to live and work in her future husband's family.

Many would-be parents have used amniocentesis to learn the sex of a foetus, and abort if it is a girl. The practice is so widespread that in South Korea the birthrate is now 117 males to every 100 females - compared to a world average of 106 to 100. It has led the Seoul government to announce a ban on prenatal tests.

From Mother Jones Vol. XI, No. IX


Mercury poisoning
Novel and trend-setting environmental legislation came into force last September in Switzerland. Batteries with mercury, cadmium and nickel -all highly toxic and non-biodegradable - can no longer be thrown out with the rest of the household garbage. Used batteries have to be returned to shops selling them for safe disposal. However, even in Switzerland it is unlikely the police will swoop on trash cans looking for offenders. It would have made more sense to include an obligatory deposit on batteries, like bottles, as an incentive for their return.

From Consumer Currents, No. 93 Jan. 1987


Strike a light
First the bad news: the number of cigarettes smoked in industrialized countries kept pace with the increase in the adult population over the decade 1971 to 1981. In Australia, Canada, Japan, Aotearoa(NZ) and the US, for instance, numbers smoked increased by 13.6 per cent against a population growth of 12.9 per cent.

Now for the worse news: cigarettes smoked in the Third World wildly outstripped the increase in population.

· Consumption for Africa jumped by 41.5 per cent against a population growth of 23.4 per cent. · Consumption for Latin America increased by 31.4 per cent against population growth of 24.5 per cent. · Consumption for Asia rose by 28.5 per cent against population growth of 21.8 percent.

From World Heath Statistics Annual, 1986 published by the World Health Organization


Mud flows
The Yangtze River could become China's second 'yellow river' due to silt deposits from soil erosion caused by deforestation. More than 10,000 tons of soil per square mile are washed away annually, and experts warn of flood threats. The Yangtze's silt discharge now nearly equals that of the Nile, Amazon and Mississippi rivers combined.

From China Daily, Beijing

[image, unknown]

Informal unions
Just over 19 per cent of all babies born in the UK last year were the offspring of unmarried parents. The total was more than double the number of ten years ago, and 14 per cent up on 1984. The increase is due to the rise in couples living together and choosing not to marry when their babies are born.

From Fertility of women residents in England 1985. OPCS, St Catherine's House, 10 Kingsway, London WC2


'What makes a nation great is not primarily its great men,
but the stature of its innumerable mediocre ones.'

Ortega Y Gasset

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New Internationalist issue 170 magazine cover This article is from the April 1987 issue of New Internationalist.
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