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3/10/1998 - Demeaning Joke Reflects Women’s Struggle in Virginia House

Virginia State Del. Ward L. Armstrong (D) apologized during a House session for remarks made on the House floor and at a party about Del. Jeannemarie Devolites. Armstrong compared Devolites to Monica Lewinsky, and joked about her “coming over to his place.”

Devolites commented, “It whittles away at what all women have achieved down here,” but accepted the apology as “very sincere.” Devolites said, “He’s a good guy .... He did it inadvertently.”

Currently, 22 women serve in the Virginia House of 140 total members. Only 56 women have served in the House since 1924, 23 of whom have been elected in the past decade.

Virginia state Sen. Janet D. Howell (D) said that it is difficult for many women to run because of a common misconception that women cannot raise the money necessary for their campaigns. Howell stated that a woman running in 1991 “was viewed as a disadvantage because [she] couldn’t raise money,” but that “both parties are beginning to realize women make good candidates.”

3/10/1998 - British Minister Urges Girls to Consider Science Careers

British Minister for Women Joan Ruddock urged 600 young women to consider careers in science and technology. Rudock spoke at a conference organized by Gresham College in the City and the Girls School Association.

Ruddock said, “We want girls, not just to have jobs but to have real careers in science, engineering and technology. We want to see that women are equal and that means in public life and on public bodies.”

Currently, only 21% of girls in Britain are taking high-level physics classes and only 16% are enrolled for computing courses. Ruddock said, “These skill shortages can probably only be filled if you girls get in there and get the education required. The statistics are very troubling indeed because we are a technological society and we need to compete in the world.”

3/9/1998 - International Women’s Day Focus on Afghanistan, Algeria

Women around the globe marked International Women’s Day by calling attention to human rights abuses against women in Afghanistan and Algeria.

European Union Humanitarian Affairs Commissioner Emma Bonino led a campaign which urged all countries to deny recognition of the Taliban militia because of its horrendous treatment of women.

British Secretary of State for international development Clare Short joined Bonino by urging the international communities to “take a stand” against Afghanistan. “Discrimination against women is human rights abuse on a global scale and a major hindrance to the elimination of poverty,” said Short.

Women’s human rights are being systematically denied and abused by the Taliban militia group in Afghanistan, which has seized control of two-thirds of Afghanistan since 1994. Their goal is to construct a “100-percent Islamic government.”

The Taliban has prohibited women from working outside the home or attending school, from walking outside their homes without a husband, brother or father and requires that all women wear a burqa, a debilitating garment that covers the body from head-to-toe.

Intelligence sources in Pakistan have admitted to sending agents of the nations’ main spy agency into border areas of Pakistan and prompting Afghan refugees to create the Taliban, a militia group which would then join in Afghan’s civil war. The Pakistan spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, then assigned military advisers to the Taliban’s militia with United States officials’ knowledge.

“State Department officials distanced the United States from the Taliban after its fighters seized Kabul, hanged Afghanistan’s former communist ruler, Najibullah, and imposed restrictions on women,” reported the Washington Post.

Iran’s highest female official, Masoumeh Ebtekar, vice president for environmental affairs, spoke at a women’s assembly in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan, a town outside Taliban rule. Ebtekar said, “your unbearable present status is eyed with deep concern by the Moslems all over the world .... Your sisters in the Islamic republic are taking measures to establish Islamic human rights of women in the world which will contribute to the improvement of the status of women and provide progress in all the areas for the Moslem communities around the world.”

Iran has said that it will not recognize the Taliban militia group as a legitimate government and has condemned the group as “medieval” in its practice of fundamental Islam.

Approximately 500 women attended a rally in the capital of Algeria, demanding that the Algerian government amend a new law that gives men power over women by awarding the home to the husband if the couple divorces and requiring that the wife obey the husbands’ parents.

Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan

Feminist News Stories on Afghanistan

3/9/1998 - Potted Plant Used in Alabama Clinic Bombing

Officials investigating the bombing of the New Women All Women Health Care Clinic in Birmingham, Alabama reported that a potted plant, tipped-over on its side, was used to attract clinic workers to the bomb. When the plant was moved upright the bomb was set to explode. The explosion killed off-duty police officer Robert Sanderson and seriously injured clinic nurse Emily Lyons.

The FBI has issued a $100,000 reward for the arrest of Eric Robert Rudolph, a Murphy, N.C. man who has been linked to previous bombings in Atlanta.

call 1-888-ATF-BOMB with information regarding the bombing.

Pictures of Eric Robert Rudolph

Feminist News Stories on Clinic Violence

3/9/1998 - U.S. Senate Retains Affirmative Action Transportation Contracts

The U.S. Senate voted 58 to 37 against a proposal that would have eliminated the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program from a bill authorizing transportation projects for the next six years. The DBE requires that at least 10 percent of highway construction contracts be awarded to companies owned by women and minorities. Since the inception of the program in the 1970’s contracts awarded to women and minorities have increased from 2 to 15 percent, according to Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.).

The proposal to drop the program was sponsored by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who stated that the program was “unfair, unconstitutional, and just plain un-American.”

Supporters of the program claim that it is constitutional and essential to eliminating discrimination in the construction industry. Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) said McConnell’s proposal was a “clear demonstration” of why the Republican party has difficulty attracting women and minorities.

Feminist News Stories on Affirmative Action

3/9/1998 - Berklee Music Professor Files Sex Discrimination Suit

Berklee College of Music trumpet professor Susan Fleet filed a sex discrimination suit against the school with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. Fleet is charging the school with repeatedly passing her up for promotion to associate professor because of her sex.

Fleet began teaching at Berklee in 1988 as an assistant professor. In 1994 she began requesting promotion to associate professor. A male graduate of Berklee was hired to the position instead. In 1996, another male Berklee graduate was hired to a position higher in rank and salary than Fleet.

Berklee lawyer Paul Lyons stated that Fleet was passed over because she was trained and played in a classical style whereas the school is known for its contemporary repertory.

Twenty-two percent of the students at Berklee are female, compared with a near 50 percent ratio at other prestigious music schools. The faculty is 19 percent female, 7 percent of whom are full-time, and only 17 percent of the senior faculty are women.

3/9/1998 - Duke U. Announces Anti-Sweatshop Code of Conduct

Duke University officials announced the university’s adoption of a code of conduct guaranteeing that sports clothing and any products bearing Duke’s name would not be made in sweatshops. The code will require companies with licenses to produce the gear to allow monitoring of factories and publication of the results. The code also includes health and safety codes, pro-union codes, and protections against child labor.

The code of conduct will be enforced by Duke University, its domestic licensing agent, Collegiate Licensing Co., its international agent, Crossland Enterprises and the student group Students Against Sweatshops.

Jim Wilkerson, director of trademark licensing and stores operations, said, “Duke University is opposed to licensed Duke products being manufactured in sweatshop conditions, by forced labor, or under unsafe or abusive conditions.”

Feminists Stop Sweatshops

3/9/1998 - UC Berkeley Law School Celebrates Women

University of California’s Berkeley law school, also known as Boalt Hall, held a reunion of 200 of its female graduates to celebrate its history of promoting women and law. Herma Hill Kay, Boalt’s current dean, listed several of the law schools “firsts,” including: the first woman professor at a major American law school, Nachtrieb Armstrong, 1919; the first woman to edit a law journal at an American University, Esher Phillips, 1917; and the first legal organization devoted to rights of lesbians, founded by Donna Hitchens in 1978.

Boalt Hall was one of the first law schools to admit women in 1894.

3/9/1998 - Taiwanese Women Fear for Safety

In recognition of International Women’s Day, the Modern Women’s Foundation released a survey reflecting the growing fear by Taiwanese women for their own public safety. The Foundation surveyed 1,097 women and found that 78.2 percent of the women were afraid for their safety when taking a taxi, and 60.7 percent of the women did not feel safe on public buses.

Taiwanese police have yet to solve the rape, murder, and disappearance of a female politician in 1996 who was last seen entering a taxi.

3/6/1998 - Maryland Proposes Quick Divorces for Domestic Violence Victims

Maryland state officials are proposing a bill that would allow victims of domestic violence to bypass a law requiring couples to wait a year before they can file for divorce. Present legislation already allows a spouse that can prove adultery to obtain a quick divorce. The bill would include proof of “cruelty of treatment” and “excessively vicious conduct” as justification for a speedy divorce process.

Testifying during a hearing for the bill, a Easton, MD nurse stated, “My husband repeatedly kicked me with his foot, punched me with his closed fist, slapped me with an open hand .... This man took 23 years of my life and has gotten over 1 1/2 years because of the process involved in getting a divorce.”

Supporters include Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D) and Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. (D). According to Townsend, a victim of domestic violence is three times more likely to be beaten during a separation than after the divorce.

The legislation is part of five recommendations made by the Family Violence Council, created by Townsend and Curran to investigate domestic violence issues in Maryland.

Critics of the bill worry that allowing for speedy divorce could turn Maryland into a “divorce mill,” and that victims may falsely charge their spouse to end the marriage. Sen. Larry E. Haines (R) commented, “Let’s say if it’s a woman who wants out of the marriage. She could beat her head against a wall. It would be difficult to prove.”

State officials in New Jersey have proposed a law that would make it more difficult for all couples to get a divorce. The Parents Education Act would charge a couple $25 and require the couple to take a course on divorce issues, separation and custody of the children.

Domestic Violence Information Center

3/6/1998 - No Protection for Abuse Victims in Russia

Victims of domestic violence and abuse receive little protection from law officials or the justice system in Russia, according to a study released by Human Rights Watch. The report, “Too Little, Too Late,” exposes the problems Russian women are facing during the transition from communism to a free-market economy.

The report states, “From the moment that victims of violence first seek out the legal system until the close of their cases these women consistently confront hostility, reluctance, and bias against their cases.”

Dorothy Thomas, director of the Women’s Rights Project at Human Rights Watch said, “Instead of fighting the problem, the Russian government suggests by word and deed that it accepts that women can be assaulted in the street or in their homes with no recourse for the victims and few consequences for the attackers.”

Humans Rights Watch published a similar report in 1995. “Neither Jobs Nor Justice” documented widespread unemployment and discrimination in the workplace and economic sector.

In 1996 Russian President Boris Yeltsin pledged to investigate rising statistics of violence against women and to collaborate with women’s aid centers; however, the report claims that little progress has been made.

Domestic Violence Information Center

3/6/1998 - Warning for Seoul Subway Assaulters

The Seoul Metropolitan Subway Corp. began broadcasting messages to passengers waiting for a train, warning against committing “unpleasant acts repulsive to other riders.” The warning is directed towards men who routinely grope and/or assault women while on the subway.

Results of a recent survey indicate that 75 percent of 1,000 women had been groped on the subway and approximately 98 percent desired anti-groping warnings.

A law criminalizing groping on subways was passed in 1994, but most women do not report the incidents out of shame and few convictions have been made.

Researchers blame South Korea’s tradition of Confucianism, male domination and women’s low social status for the continued assaults.

Jang Pil-Hwa, a women’s study professor at Ewha Women’s University, said, “Sexual harassment is about power and control .... Where there is discrimination against women, there is sexual harassment. Despite the nation’s fast advances in economy and democracy, women’s social status is still very low here.”

3/6/1998 - Lower Penalties for State Child Support Violations

A law passed by the House would reduce penalties to states who have not computerized their child support systems. The legislation, co-sponsored by Rep. Clay Shaw (R-FL), would decrease the penalty to 4 percent of their child support funding this year, 8 percent next year, 16 percent in 2000 and 20 percent each following year.

Currently, states without a working computer system for child support tracking will lose all federal child support funding. Without a child support program, states could lose their block grants for welfare funding.

States without working computer systems include: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and South Carolina, as well as the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands.

3/6/1998 - African Media Center Aids Female Journalists

The International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) officially opened the African Women’s Media Center (AWMC). The IWMF was created to aid women journalists in Africa by providing training and networking possibilities.

An IWMF spokesperson said, “African women face enormous challenges in being accepted as serious professionals in a field traditionally dominated by men.” The Center will “work with existing women’s media organization to provide women journalists the support necessary to compete equally with their male colleagues.”

For more information, contact: Erin Uritus, Program Coordinator at the AWMC, B.P. 21186, Dakar-Ponty, Dakar, Senegal,.,

3/5/1998 - Collins First Female Space Shuttle Commander

Eileen Collins will become the first woman to command a space shuttle mission in U.S. history. White House spokesman Mike McCurry said the announcement is, “good news for all of those who are supportive of our efforts in space and who believe it should be a gender-neutral zone.”

Collins, a 41-year-old Air Force lieutenant colonel, was the second Air Force female test pilot and the first woman to be chosen by NASA as a shuttle pilot.

Susan Still is the only other woman to ever fly the space shuttle. Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, is the only other woman to pilot a spaceship, when she flew solo in 1963 for three days.

3/5/1998 - Women Wait Longer for Organ Transplants

According to a report published in the journal Medical Care, women, Hispanics and Asians wait longer than white men for organ transplants. The study was conducted by Ann Klassen and associates at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore.

Researchers reviewed 7,422 patient records from the United Network for Organ Sharing/Organ Procurement Transplant Network liver waiting lists. Results of the study indicated that women had to wait an average of 110 days for a transplant, 19 days longer than men. Asian-Americans waited an average of 138 days and Hispanic-Americans waited 107, while blacks and whites waited approximately the same number of days on average.

Klassen commented, “Although it is difficult from these data to tell why some groups wait longer than others, these patterns show a trend of possible disadvantage among several minority groups, and this is a cause for concern.”

Of the 55,000 people on national organ waiting lists, approximately 11 die each day waiting for an organ.

3/5/1998 - Web Sites Spotlight Women’s History Month

In celebration of Women’s History Month the Feminist Majority Foundation’s award-winning web site is featuring a special section on Women’s History Month. The Women’s History feature includes: a daily fact about a special event or person in women’s history, a women’s history quiz, research information, event listings, a list of notable 20th century women, women’s history links and more.

The National Women’s Hall of Fame launched its new website earlier this week. The site,, features the 136 women inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and information on the women who are scheduled for induction this July.

The site includes “The Women of The Hall,” which presents biographical information on inducted women, The Learning Center, which contains interactive games and learning tools, a space for nominating an American woman into the Hall, a calendar of events and more.

3/5/1998 - Woman Jailed, Husband Shot Over Multi-Ethnic Marriage

Kanwar Ahson was shot and critically injured while entering a courthouse in Karachi, Pakistan. Ahson was to answer charges that he and his wife, Riffat Afridi, had sex outside of marriage. Afridi’s father, brother and intended fiancee were arrested for the shooting.

Afridi, a member of the Pathan ethic group, was sentenced to death by a panel of Pathan elders for dishonoring her family by marrying Ahson, a member of the Mohajir ethnic group.

Afridi turned herself in to police officials last week. Women’s rights groups said that as many as 500 women are in jail throughout Pakistan for having sex outside of marriage.

3/5/1998 - Florida House Overturns Abortion Ban Veto

The Florida House of Representatives voted to override a veto on a ban of late term abortions. Governor Lawton Chiles had vetoed the ban, stating that although he himself was pro-life, the bill did not protect women’s rights. Chiles believes that abortion decisions should be left up to women and their doctors.

Legislatures in 19 states have passed laws banning late-term abortions. Five of the bans have been overturned.

Feminist News Stories on Abortion

3/5/1998 - Mother, Partner Denied Visiting Rights with Son

Circuit Judge Buford M. Parsons Jr. ruled that Sharon Bottoms will not be allowed to visit her son while her partner, April Wade, is present. The Judge offered no explanation for his ruling.

Parsons affirmed a 1993 decision by a juvenile court to transfer custody of the child, Tyler Dustou, from Sharon to her mother on the grounds that Sharon was an unfit mother because she had oral sex, a felony in Virginia, with her partner. Although a state appeals court reversed the decision in 1994, a Virginia Supreme Court reaffirmed the ruling, claiming that living in a gay household could subject Tyler to “social condemnation.”

3/5/1998 - Court Rules Same-Sex Harassment Illegal

The Supreme Court ruled by common consent that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects against sexual harassment in the workplace, includes harassment by members of the same sex. The court ruled in favor of Joseph Oncale in Oncale vs. Sundowner Offshore Services. Oncale had charged the company with ignoring complaints that he was sexually harassed and assaulted by male co-workers while on the job.

Steven Shapiro, national legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, said, “It clearly states that no one should have to suffer sexual harassment when going to work in the morning ... and it shouldn’t matter if you are a man or a woman, gay or straight.”

Elizabeth Birth, executive director of the Human Rights Campaign, commented, “Civil rights will no longer unfairly exclude same-sex sexual harassment, and this fact will benefit all American workers.”

3/5/1998 - CT. Legislators Propose Contraception Insurance Coverage

Members of Connecticut’s state legislature are proposing a bill that would require all insurance companies to cover the cost of prescription birth control. Currently, half of all insurance companies in the United States deny payment for contraception. The proposal would require major plans to pay for birth control pills, intrauterine devices, diaphragms, Norplant and Depo Provera.

State Sen. Adela Eads, the Republican minority leader in the Senate, said “It is time to treat the medical needs of women and men equally.”

Supporters of the bill said that the measure would save money in the long-term, since many poor women cannot afford to buy birth control. The American Journal of Public Health reported that the annual cost for birth control under insurance companies would be $422, one-tenth the cost for prenatal care and delivery.

3/4/1998 - Prison Bureau Reforms After Rape Law Suit

The Bureau of Prisons has agreed to increase its sexual harassment training and provide psychiatric and medical services to inmates who have been assaulted. Prison authorities will also institute a confidential system that will allow inmates to report attacks within the next six months and will stop housing women in the men’s Secure Housing Unit.

The agreement is part of a settlement from a lawsuit filed in August 1996 by three female inmates who charged that they were raped, attacked and sold by guards to male inmates for sex. The women, Robin Lucas, Valerie Mercadel and Raquel Douthit, sued prison authorities in Dublin, California, claiming that the officials knew about the sex-ring and did nothing, even after the women contacted them with their stories.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Geri Lynn Green said, “These women were being sold like sex slaves .... The guards took money from inmates in return for access to the women.”

The women will be paid a total of $500,000 in damages. The prison officials charged with committing the crimes quit or lost their jobs, but did not receive additional punishment.

3/4/1998 - Pro-Choice Groups Argue Against Parental Consent Law

Abortion rights activists argued against a Virginia law requiring parental consent before a minor can obtain an abortion, before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday. Simon Heller of the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, argued that the law is unconstitutional because it denies mature girls the right to decide what is best for them and does not guarantee a speedy judicial decision or confidentiality of court records.

Heller argued, “If men had to travel to another state to buy condoms or to have surgery, people would be outraged .... This really is an attempt by the Virginia General Assembly to interfere with young women’s ability to get abortions.”

Chief Judge of the 4th Circuit Court, J. Harvie Wilkinson III, a noted conservative, disagreed with Heller. Wilkinson commented on the law, “The statute seemed to me to present a very mild and moderate form of regulation.”

A ruling by the appeals court is expected as early as next week.

Feminist News Stories on Abortion

3/4/1998 - Activists Urge U.N. to Address Violence Against Women

Women’s rights activists met at the U.N. headquarters in New York to address the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women. The group issued a signed statement, declaring “Heads of state must go on record to all the world about how they will take leadership in making violence against women in daily life unacceptable.”

Activists testified that governments do not enforce laws that prohibit violence against women, and that judges often dismiss the cases and blame the victim. Sheila Dauer of Amnesty International said that in some countries police have looked on while women were being attacked, and sometimes assaulted the women themselves.

Members of the panel discussed crimes against women during the wars in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, and the current violations of women’s human rights by the Taliban militia group in Afghanistan.

Participants included members from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Federation of Women Lawyers, Rutgers University’s Center for Women’s Global Leadership and a group that is lobbying for an International Criminal Court.