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Marriage and rights issues

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This is AS IT IS.

Hello, I’m Caty Weaver. On today’s show we discuss marriage and rights issues in several countries. We start with Christopher Cruise in Washington, where the United States Supreme Court is considering laws that restrict same-sex marriage rights.

Earlier this month, Rob Portman became the first Republican Senator to support for same-sex marriage.

“The joy and stability of marriage that I have had for 26 years – I want all three of my kids to have it, including our son, who is gay.”

Senator Portman’s announcement did nothing to change the opinions of fellow-Republican senators like Orrin Hatch.

“Where we differ is I do not believe we should change the traditional definition of marriage.”

The cases before the Supreme Court include a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act. The 1996 law prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex unions. DOMA, as it is known, received support from both major political parties back then.

But some who voted for DOMA have had a change of heart, including Democratic Senator Tom Harkin.

“It is not the only vote I regret, but it is one of them. It was not a good vote. I have changed my whole view on that completely”.

Public opinion studies show a growing majority of Americans support same-sex marriage. Ten years only about one in three Americans did.

But public opinion has changed. Democrats, including President Obama, have won elections while announcing their support for same-sex marriage. Democratic Senator Richard, who voted for DOMA in 1996, approves of the turn of events.

“Younger generations think that positions supporting marriage equality are more consistent with their values and vision of America.”

But some Republicans are urging their party to rethink the issue. Larry Sabato is a political scientist at the University of Virginia.

“Within the Republican Party, a majority still opposes same-sex marriage. It is a real dilemma for Republicans. It is a loser for them and they know it.”

If the Supreme Court decides the laws are unconstitutional, the ruling could lead to same-sex marriage rights across the country.

I’m Christopher Cruise.

You are listening to AS IT IS.

Now June Simms has a report about a marriage bill currently under discussion in Uganda.

The Marriage and Divorce Bill bans a number of traditional actions. It also requires a fair division of money and property in a divorce. The bill gives property rights to partners who live together and makes marital rape a crime.

Women’s rights groups say these measures will reduce violence at home, and give women more power over their lives. But in Uganda, where the Christian church is powerful, and cultural traditions are strong, the bill makes some people very angry.

Parliament is deeply divided on the issue. Some lawmakers have walked out of meetings in protest. The church has voiced its opposition to divorce and unmarried couples living together.

One term of the bill would make it illegal to demand a return of the so-called “bride price” when couples divorce. This is a payment a man’s family makes to the family of the woman he is to marry. Betty Kasiko of the Uganda Women’s Network says many women get trapped in marriage when their families cannot return the payment.

“Once they move away, their families are pushing them back, telling them ‘you have to stay in that marriage because you know we cannot refund that bride price that was given.’”

Another term of the bill concerns unmarried couples. It says men and women who have lived together ten years or more must divide money and property evenly if the relationship ends.

Many Ugandans see this term as making legal a situation they think should be avoided. This Kampala man says such a law would dishonor tradition. Then you can have the sharing when you are divorcing.”

But Betty Kasiko of Uganda Women’s Network says that view does not represent reality. She says sixty percent of Ugandan couples live together outside of marriage and when there is a separation, the

Peter Atekyereza is a sociologist at Makarere University in Kampala. He says it is difficult to make laws about issues of tradition and culture.

“Any law should be building on the cultural value systems, not the value systems building on the law.

I’m June Simms.

Finally, we hear go to Northern Nigeria, where activists say girls are increasingly being married too young. Here is Kelly Jean Kelly.

Yalwa is a 13-year-old pregnant girl living in poverty in Abuja. Her husband is in his thirties. He sells goods from a wheelbarrow in the market place. Their home has no water system and electric power is undependable.

But Yalwa is not talking about those problems. She says what she wants is to go to school. Before she was married she dreamed of being a doctor or a midwife. At her parent’s house, she and her brothers and sisters sometimes ate only once a day. She thought if she got married her husband would help her go to school. But that is not what happened.

Activists in northern Nigeria say stories like Yalwa’s are increasingly common. Saratu Musa Makawa heads the National Association of Nigeria Female Students. She says when little girls get married, it is not just educational possibilities that they lose.

“Apart from the psychological and sociological effects it also has a medical side effect.”

The United Nations reports that more than 140 million girls worldwide are expected to become child brides by 2020. The UN says these girls are far more likely to die in childbirth or to give birth to a dead baby than are adult mothers.

But Ms. Makawa says it is not just marriage that robs Nigerian girls of their education, health and childhood.

At the Kaduna Central Market in northern Nigeria men shout as they make deals and sell their goods. Among the sellers are many girls. They sell everything from vegetables to shoes. Some of the girls are as young as six.

Ms. Makawa says the girls are in constant danger of rape and other sexual threats, increasing the risk of unwanted pregnancies

Aisha Yusuf is with the aid organization Support Health and Education for Development. She says the solution begins with persuading parents to pay more attention to their daughters’ educations.

I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.

And that’s AS IT IS for today. I’m Caty Weaver.


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