Abortion Pill Vote.   [Australia] Australia 's Senate has voted to take control of a controversial abortion pill away from the government.  The current system means the RU486 pill is effectively banned in Australia.  Under proposed legislation, which now passes to the House of Representatives, the state medical regulatory body would decide when the pill can be used.  Proponents believe that body, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, will follow the lead of other regulatory bodies around the world and allow it.
After the Battle the Winning Women Drink a Toast, Decorously.  [Australia] With a clink of champagne flutes, the female politicians who campaigned to give Australian women access to the abortion pill toasted their victory yesterday.  But even in the historic moment, they were nervous about appearances - too much joy on the touchy topic of abortion could be misconstrued.  Yet despite attempts to keep the tone low-key, they were clearly elated - and they had cause to be.  In just three months, a small group of female backbenchers, some from minor parties, and a lone female minister overturned a decade-old law - against the wishes of the Prime Minister.  It was no mean feat.   "It's a good day for common sense," declared Workforce Participation Minister Sharman Stone, who unleashed the debate when she was unable to help a young constituent find a doctor to perform a termination in country Victoria.  Dr Stone, who was then parliamentary secretary for finance, took at look at the statistics on funding for terminations - and realised that in some parts of the country it was becoming impossible to secure one.
New Quest for Female MPs.  [Australia] Having barely caught their breath since Thursday's historic vote to reverse the ban on the abortion pill, the female senators who led that campaign are already contemplating their next quest.  Democrats senator Lyn Allison plans to hit the phones today to see if more common ground can be found for a redesign of the nation's child-care system.  Only last month, Liberal MP Jackie Kelly branded the system a shambles and urged major reform.  "I agree with Jackie Kelly on this," Senator Allison said. "The child-care system is a shemozzle — there are chronic shortages, a lot of perverse incentives and many children are simply missing out on good early childhood development."  Labor senator Claire Moore also nominated child care as an issue that could bring together women from different parties in "strong agreement".
List of Female-Friendly Firms Growing.  [Australia] A registered club where women can work split shifts to fit in with caring responsibilities is among organisations officially dubbed "female friendly".  Mt Pritchard and District Community Club in southwest Sydney, better known as Mounties, is among 113 organisations on this year's Employer of Choice for Women Citation List.  It is put together by the Federal Government's Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA).  The citation recognises female-friendly groups, bodies or firms that have outstanding initiatives to attract, retain and promote women.  Since it was introduced in 2001, the list has doubled in size and this year includes organisations from a variety of industries, including manufacturing, IT, finance, law, community services, education and hospitality.
Women's Dislike of Debate Over Feminism is Embarrassing.  [Australia] It's one of the great ironies of Australian feminism.  Despite 40 years of maturation, we still play the man and not the ball.  We can't help ourselves.  Well before we consider the content and ruminate on the argument a woman might pose, we sharpen our squint, asking, "But who is she?"  In the case of New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, the collective answer seems to be: she's a powerful, sexy little fox who's smart, witty, made it to the top and has got it all sewn up.  She's a bitch.  The Australian media response to Dowd's new book, Are Men Necessary?, has been a fascinating study in our own thinly disguised insecurities as women - and Antipodean women at that.  Our distaste for any debate that pokes and challenges our increasingly feeble feminist foundations and our inability to laugh at a witty line and appreciate a sassy joke is, well, embarrassing.
Interest Aroused in a Female Love Drug.  [Australia] Scientists are on a multi-billion- dollar quest to find a drug to arouse female sexual desire.  More than 20 drugs are being developed to meet the needs of women seeking to overcome the effects of long working hours and family pressures.  While drugs for male sexual dysfunction, such as Viagra, work by chemical stimulation of the sexual organs, the treatments being devised for women act on receptors in the brain.  Trials of Viagra on women by the manufacturer Pfizer found that it had little effect on a woman's libido.  Stimulating the parts of the brain responsible for female sexual excitement is a challenge for pharmaceutical firms.
Pregnancy Delays Bill on Succession.  [Japan] The Japanese government Wednesday backed away from its push for quick passage of a bill that would allow an empress to take the throne, following the announcement that a princess is pregnant - possibly with the Japanese royal family's first male heir in four decades.  Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan appealed in Parliament Tuesday for speedy passage, but a day later said it was no longer a priority and urged cautious debate on the idea, which has drawn fierce opposition from supporters of the male-only imperial law.  "It's desirable that the legislation be enacted when everyone can support it," Koizumi said at a parliamentary committee hearing. "Now public opinion is split, and I would like to deal with the issue carefully.
Support for Female Emperors Drops.  [Japan] Although 66 percent of voters would accept legal changes to allow female emperors, 60 percent also thought the government acted appropriately by delaying legislation for such a change, an Asahi Shimbun survey showed.  The telephone poll, in which 1,979 randomly selected voters from around the country gave valid answers over the weekend, also showed that 60 percent accepted the idea of children of female emperors ascending the Chrysanthemum throne.  Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi had initially planned to submit a bill to the current Diet session that ends in June to revise the Imperial House Law.  The revision would have allowed the first-born child, regardless of sex, to become emperor as well as ascension through the female lineage.  The current Imperial House Law only allows male emperors through the male lineage.  Debate about the issue emerged over concerns that no male babies have been born into the imperial family for about 40 years.  But Koizumi decided against submitting the bill after news broke earlier this month that Princess Kiko, the wife of the emperor's second son, is pregnant, with the baby due in autumn.
Big Sister Shakes Up Islam Rule.  [Malaysia ] Sometimes it seems that Zainah Anwar - articulate, a little brassy, a presence wherever she goes - singlehandedly keeps the flame for women's rights alive in Malaysia, a country that sells itself as the model of a progressive Muslim society.  With the acid touch that has made her an accomplished campaigner, Anwar calls the officials in the government religious departments "those Taliban-minded bureaucrats."  Then, skittering back from the precipice, she notes that nearly 50 percent of Malaysian women work, some in top jobs, including the governor of the Central Bank.  Anwar, Malaysian- and American-educated and one of her nation's best known figures, is the founder of Sisters in Islam - sassily known as SIS - a feminist group that lobbies for justice for women, always within the framework of Islam and the words of the Koran.  In doing so, she confronts the conundrum that is Malaysia, a relatively prosperous, politically stable nation of 24 million, yet where powerful Islamic Affairs Departments in the 13 states administer Shariah courts that control matters of marriage, divorce and death.  In her latest victory, Anwar forced the government to step back from new amendments to the family law that would have allowed easier polygamy and divorce for men.
Female Suicide Rises by 25% in a Year.  [New Zealand] Women are behaving more like men and a tragic consequence is sharply increasing rates of suicides by females, experts say.  The latest available national suicide figures made public yesterday, for 2003, show a 25 per cent increase in female suicides in one year.  In 2002, 113 females took their own life.  For the following year that figure had climbed to 141.  The grim set of figures was announced yesterday by Associate Health Minister Jim Anderton.  In total, 515 people died by suicide in 2003 – up from 465 in 2002.  Men's figures continued to be high, with 374 deaths – compared with 352 the previous year.  The figures have sparked calls for more up-to-date information on suicide.  Self-inflicted deaths remain New Zealand's main cause of fatal injuries, eclipsing even the road death toll of 461 in 2003.
20% of Female Hotel Workers are Smokers.  [Taiwan] The Taipei City Government released a survey yesterday showing that close to 20 percent of female hotel workers are smokers, as opposed to 9.52 percent of adult women overall.  Among the smokers, close to 59 percent were under 39 years old. More than 64 percent of them consume at least half a pack of cigarettes a day.  The participants, however, were divided on the idea of banning smoking in work places.  While 50.8 percent said that smoking should be banned in offices, 46.2 percent said smoking should be allowed in designated areas. The survey, jointly conducted by National Taiwan Normal University and Zhongshan District Health Center last year, focused on studies of smoking habits among 6,000 female employees working at over 20 large hotels in Taipei City's Zhongshan District.
`V-Day' Calls for Abuse of Women to be Stopped.  [Taiwan] Valentine's Day has come and gone, marked by a flurry of activity promoted by commercial interests such as florists, chocolate makers, motel owners, condom manufacturers, sponsors of lovers' kissing contests and so on.  Given the massive interest of Taiwan's media in the holiday, it was strange that "V-Day," a global movement to stop violence against women and girls that is also held on Feb. 14, got hardly a single mention.  V-Day was established in 1998 by US playwright and feminist activist Eve Ensler, as an extension of her play The Vagina Monologues, which is a collection of personal accounts based on interviews with more than 200 women of various ethnic groups, religious beliefs, age groups, sexual orientations and social classes.  The play is arranged in 18 segments on different themes, such as sexual frigidity, rape and birth.  The Vagina Monologues was originally produced and performed by Ensler in an award-winning run in 1996.   Last year, Taiwanese students from National Chi Nan University and participants from the Garden of Hope Foundation and other women's groups staged Taiwan's first productions of The Vagina Monologues at the university and at Taipei's Red Playhouse.  As Ensler performed The Vagina Monologues in small towns and large cities all around the world, she saw and heard first-hand abound shocking incidents that women had suffered, including stories of rape, incest, domestic battery and genital mutilation.  At the end of Ensler's New York performance on Feb. 14, 1998, she and a group of New York women declared Valentine's Day to also be V-Day, which stands for "Vagina, Violence committed against women by men, and Victory."  The group declared that the day should be commemorated until violence against women stops.