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ETHIOPIA: Gov't criticises attitude towards women's rights

Photo: IRIN
Azeb Mesfin, wife of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi
ADDIS ABABA, 25 June 2003 (PlusNews) - The Ethiopian government has blasted the "pathetic" attitude towards women's rights in the country which it says is fuelling the AIDS epidemic.

It warned that social and cultural factors such as polygamy and sexual violence were exacerbating the vulnerability of the nation's women.

In a statement, the information ministry described the threat posed by HIV/AIDS as "terrifying". In Ethiopia, HIV has infected some three million people. The majority – around 58 percent – are women. A million children have also been orphaned.

The government warned that limited job opportunities forced girls and women into prostitution and women were often excluded from the labour market.

"This is caused by poverty, lack of economic empowerment, harmful customs and traditional practices as well as a low level of democratic culture," the statement said.

"In addition, the pathetic level of implementation of human and democratic rights of women enshrined in our constitution contributes its share to the vulnerability of our women to the deadly virus.

"High illiteracy rates, heavy workloads and discrimination are also among major factors that have greatly affected the lives of women in our society," the statement said.

The broadside comes after the establishment of the National Coalition of Women Against HIV/AIDS who have united to combat the virus.

Among key figures in the coalition are Azeb Mesfin, the wife of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, and the minister of education, Genet Zewde.

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[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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