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The Taleban, an Islamic fundamentalist regime in Afghanistan, has imposed even greater restrictions on women. Currently, women in Afghanistan are forced to cover themselves from head-to-foot, may not go anywhere outside without a relative male accompanying them and cannot attend school. Windows in a house's room which contains women must be colored black so no one can look inside.
Now the Taleban has also issued an order that women must avoid making noise with their feet when walking. In two memos written last week by the religious police, formerly known as the Department for Promoting Virtue and Preventing Vice, and sent to all local and international agencies, the Taleban also formalized rules that women can work only in the medical sector (they cannot take any senior positions). In the medical sector, women cannot enter wards where non-relative males are hospitalized. Native women also cannot ride in cars with foreign women, and that aid to women (who are increasingly destitute because of the ban on working) must be channeled through male relatives. Aid agencies trying to help women must also, "gain permission from the Department for Promoting Virtue and Preventing Vice to employ or assist women."
According to a United Nations report released July 22nd women throughout the world face an unacceptably high risk of violence. Carol Bellamy, the Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), commented, "In today's world, to be born female is to be born high risk. Every girl grows up under the threat of violence…This chronic condition of violence amounts to the most pervasive human rights violation in the world today."
According to the report, approximately 60 million more women would be alive today were it not for gender-directed violence. The report also found that 25 to 50% of all women have suffered physical abuse from a partner. Some types of gender violence listed in the report include genital mutilation common in 28 countries, mainly Africa; "son preference" resulting in killing new-born girls or aborting female fetuses, mainly in Asia; dowry killings in India when a new bride’s dowry is deemed insufficient; domestic violence, in the United States where only 1 of every 100 incidents is reported; and acid hurling, mainly in Bangladesh. The report found that, of the world's 193 countries, only 44 have domestic violence legislation, 27 have sexual harassment legislation and 17 regard marital rape as a crime. Even in those countries where laws do exist, they are not necessarily enforced.
7/22/1997 - 17 Arrested for Trafficking Women to Cambodia
Police have arrested 17 people for trafficking women from Vietnam to Cambodia as prostitutes. The network of prepetrators, arrested on July 18th, recruited women from Ho Chi Minh City since 1996 and sold them into prostitution. Already, more than 100 people in Vietnam have been arrested for trafficking women, with the maximum sentence no longer than ten years. Local agencies and women's groups suspect that several thousand Vietnamese women have been sold into prostitution, mainly to China, Cambodia and Macau.
7/22/1997 - Lilith Fair Proves Music and Business Success
The Lilith Fair, a female music festival on tour in the United States this summer, is the brainchild of musician Sarah McLachlan. The Fair features over 60 female performers, who appear on a rotation and include some of today's top music stars. The festival includes McLachlan, Jewel, Shawn Colvin, the Indigo Girls, Tracy Chapman, Sheryl Crow, Dar Williams and Cassandra Wilson. With a variety of styles and genres, along with secondary stages for up-and-coming performers and booths which allow participants to get involved in a range of political issues, the festival has drawn rave musical reviews. It has also drawn sold-out audience after sold-audience. This summer, it is the only show which has consistently sold-old out at each venue.
Highest Rate of Anti-abortion Violence Since 1984
The July 22nd arson of the West Alabama Women's Center clinic in Tuscaloosa, AL marks the 13th abortion clinic arson or bombing of 1997 -- the highest rate of anti-abortion violence since 1984. The Tuscaloosa clinic sustained massive damage, estimated at $100,000, due to the early morning fire. The clinic has been plagued in the past by threats of clinic violence.
Alarmed by the resurgent wave of abortion clinic arsons and bombings, Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal called for the Tuscaloosa arson to be immediately classified as an incident of "domestic terrorism," and for more federal law enforcement investigative resources to prevent further losses like in Tuscaloosa, and earlier this year in Atlanta, Georgia, Oregon, North Carolina, Northern Virginia, Oklahoma, California, and Montana. "These incidents of violence must not be examined in isolation, but as part of a larger pattern of terror and violence against women's health clinics," continued Smeal. "More investigative resources are needed to determine whether the double bombings in Atlanta claimed by the "Army of God", and the string of arsons across the country since, are connected."
Federal law enforcement officials have issued an alert to clinics throughout the region to increase security measures in the wake of the Tuscaloosa fire. Clinics are urged to take all precautions to safeguard against further arson attacks.
"Every month, women's health clinics are lost or temporarily closed because of anti-abortion violence," continued Smeal. "These clinics -- like the clinic in Tuscaloosa -- often provide not only abortion, but also provide birth control, cancer screening, and general gynecological healthcare services to women. The loss of these clinics harms the availability of reproductive health care for the women who depend on them."
A survey released earlier this year by the Feminist Majority Foundation, reveals that 27.6% of clinics faced severe anti-abortion violence in 1996, including death threats, stalking, bombings, arsons, blockades, invasions and chemical attacks. When gunfire, home picketing, and vandalism are included, the number of clinics and offices experiencing some form of violence, harassment or intimidation rises to 44.9%.
7/21/1997 - Kansas Celebrates Earhart's 100th Birthday
Amelia Earhart's Birthday Centenniel celebration begins in Kansas on July 24. The four-day celebration is expected to bring 50,000 visitors to the state, according to the Kansas City Star. Scheduled guests include Texas businesswoman Linda Finch, who recently re-enacted the aviator's last flight. In 1929, Earhart and pilot Fay Gillis Wells co-founded the International 99s, an association for women pilots which today has 6,500 members. Eight years later, Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean while attempting to circle the globe in a twin-engine Lockheed Electra.
Democratic women in the House of Representatives delayed action on the FY 1998 agriculture appropriations bill on July 17 to protest the Republican leadership's decisions on amendments to the Foreign Operations spending bill. The women were able to halt consideration on the appropriations bill by using a series of procedural votes, so most Republicans relented and voted to suspend work on the bill. The Foreign Operations bill should go to the House floor this week. The Democratic women vehemently oppose an amendment the Republican leaders have allowed to be offered that would "reinstate the gag rule on international family planning and...defund the U.N. Fund for Population Activities."
Illinois governor Jim Edgar used his amendatory veto powers last week to give unmarried biological fathers legal status to bring criminal complaints against doctors who perform D&X abortions. Edgar, who usually favors abortion rights likely invoked his veto powers to satisfy conservatives in light of the upcoming 1998 elections. Women's rights activists, however, have pointed out that doctors in Illinois rarely perform D&X procedures. Thus, Edgar's veto allowed the moderate governor to give conservatives a symbolic victory without making a significant change in his state.
On July 19, the Episcopal Church rejected a proposal which would have recognized same-sex marriages. The day before the vote, the head of the church had reminded clergy and laity of his request twelve years ago asking the church to make everyone welcome. While voters did not heed his request, the proposal failed by such a narrow margin that proponents of same-sex marriages remain encouraged. Later this week, the church will vote on ordaining gay men and lesbians.
The publicly-funded University of Connecticut Medical Center has made plans to join with Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, a Catholic hospital, to provide a center for out-patient surgery. The center will not provide abortions or sterilization for women, however. Connecticut's Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has joined an increasing number of people in arguing that the limit on to treatment for women, in order to abide by the tenants of the Roman Catholic Church, is unacceptable. Several hospital trustees also questioned the ban. One trustee, Richard Treibick commented, "How can we as a secular institution be involved in something that basically violates gender equity? How can we enter in an agreement with a religious entity and be bound by their rules? So what are we doing here?"
University officials claim that if they built the center without the Catholic Church, they would lose a significant share of customers and thus any small profit margin they hoped to accumulate. The board has tabled a vote on whether or not to approve the merger. The Health Department must also decide whether a medical need for the new center exists. Anne Stanback, executive director of the Connecticut Women's Education and Legal Fund, commented on the merger, "What this means in simple terms is that women's access to a full range of legal reproductive health services has been sacrificed for the sake of a business deal."
According to a 1995 study conducted by the group Catholics for a Free Choice, Catholic Churches have been involved in over 57 mergers or affiliations since 1990. In at least ten of those instances, the mergers resulted in the elimination of reproductive health services, like abortion, tubal ligation and birth-control counseling.
7/18/1997 - McKinney Now Charged with Assault
A fifth woman has brought charges against the Army's top enlisted man, Sergeant Major of the Army Gene McKinney. This woman is the first, however, to charge that McKinney physically assaulted someone in performance of her duties. McKinney is currently being charged with sexual misconduct and solicitation of adultery. A hearing to determine whether or not the Army holds McKinney over for a court-martial will now be expanded to include these new charges.
In related news, Brenda Hoster, the first woman to bring the charges against McKinney, will testify at the hearing. Her lawyer announced that prosecutors agreed to object if defense attorneys questioned Hoster about her sexual history during cross-examination. Hoster had earlier refused to testify because defense attorneys questioned other women who brought allegations against McKinney about their sexual histories and prosecutors did not object. The presiding officer over the hearing, Col. Robert Jarvis, has said he will enforce a military rule that prohibits defense attorneys from questioning women about their sexual histories in these types of matters, if the prosecution objects.
A former Miller Brewing executive who sued the company for firing him has been awarded $26.6 million by a jury in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 1993 Patricia Best complained to Miller Brewing Company officials after co-worker Jerold Mackenzie told her about a Seinfeld episode. In the episode, the main character could not remember the name of the woman he dated, and knew only that it rhymed with a word for a female body part. Subsequent to Best making her complaint, Mackenzie was fired from his job and sued later sued the company and Best. Mackenzie claims the company used the sexual harassment excuse to fire him; the company claims that the comment was one in a long line of problems they have had with Mackenzie. In 1989, the company had also reprimanded Mackenzie for sexual harassment. The award includes a $24.5 million verdict against Miller, $1.5 million against Best and $601,500 against Miller executive Robert Smith.
Air traffic controllers Jan Gonzales and Linda Owens have filed a class-action internal complaint with their employer, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for sexual harassment. Because six months has passed since they filed the complaint, their lawyers can now file a lawsuit in federal court. The lawyers said about 25 female controllers have submitted statements which accuse their male coworkers of using crude and hostile language about women, making anonymous threats, stalking, and committing other harassing acts spanning the last two decades. San Francisco lawyer Brad Yamauchi said he will initiate the class action on behalf of the females alleging that the hazing and belittling of women was aimed at getting them to quit or preventing them from being promoted to better-paying assignments at bigger airports.
7/18/1997 - Harvard Allows Same-Sex Marriages
On July 16, Rev. Peter Gomes, a gay pastor of the Harvard University Memorial Church, announced that the nondenominational church has decided to allow same-sex marriages. Immediate controversy over this decision arose as conservative clergy members denounced the move while lesbians and gay men praised it. Same-sex marriages, frequently called commitments or blessings, have no legal standing.
7/17/1997 - Hoster to Give Sworn Statement In McKinney Trial
Colonel Robert Jarvis, the presiding officer in the pretrial hearing on allegations of sexual misconduct by the Army's top enlisted man, Sergeant Major of the Army Gene McKinney, has ruled that Retired Sergeant Major Brenda Hoster must give a sworn statement in the hearing against McKinney. Hoster accused McKinney of sexual harassment, but has refused to testify at a hearing to determine whether or not he will stand trial because other women who have testified against McKinney have been unfairly questioned about their past sexual lives by defense attorneys, she has said. Defense attorneys will be able to cross examine Hoster with regards to her statement, and lawyers for the defense said they have not ruled out probing into her past sex life. The Army is still considering whether or not to call Hoster back into active service, thereby forcing her to testify at the hearing itself.
7/17/1997 - NAACP and Government Officials Urge Opposition Against Congressional Bill Eliminating Affirmative Action
On July 16, leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and government agencies encouraged a large audience of African Americans to take political action against a congressional bill which wants to eliminate federal affirmative action programs. After pointing out that pervasive discrimination still exist, NAACP and government officials urged individuals to write their congressional representatives to voice opposition to the McConnell-Canady bill, named for the republicans who sponsored it. Gregory Stewart, general counsel at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said the number of cases filed that allege discrimination have increased dramatically during the past few years. Although the NAACP and government agencies focused on race on Wednesday, the bill hurts women as well as people of color.
Boasting thirty-three Georgia O'Keeffe pieces in its permanent collection, the Georgia O'Keeffe museum opened has recently opened in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Anne Marion, of the Burnett Foundation, made the museum a reality by having the foundation buy the property for the land. Marion herself also hired and oversaw an architect to mold the ten galleries of the museum, created two advisory boards, staffed the museum, and acquired the thirty-three O'Keeffe pieces. Marion did this all within two years, and the museum opened with the largest O'Keeffe collection in the world and a total display of 117 art pieces. O'Keeffe first came to New Mexico in 1929 and returned there almost yearly. After her husband, Alfred Stieglitz, died in 1946, she moved there permanently. In New Mexico, O'Keeffe created her most celebrated works. O'Keeffe died in 1986 at the age of 98, leaving behind more than 2,200 pieces of art.
Brandeis University has announced its intentions to establish a center for the study of Jewish women and has stated that singer/director Barbara Streisand will serve as the center's honorary chairwoman. Hadassah, a 385,000-member Jewish women's group, plans to fund the International Research Institute on Jewish Women with a $1.5 million grant. The group has also agreed to find another $6 million in funding in order to create a permanent endowment for the center. The institute will not offer classes to students but will concentrate on research.
A study conducted by the University of Toronto, and published in the July 17th edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, has found that a treatment of aspirin and the hormone prednisone does not effectively reduce women's chances of miscarriage. The study further found that the combination drug therapy could actually increase the chances of premature birth. The group based its results on a group of 385 women each of whom had previously had two miscarriages and who tested positively for sensitive immune systems.
A Fayette, Kentucky Circuit Court jury has awarded Mary Lous Moses $125,000 in damages for the sexual harassment she endured while working for Applied Technologies Inc. manager Sam Brookshire. Moses claimed that while working at the Lexington, Kentucky branch, Brookshire repeatedly sexually harassed her by following her around constantly, repeatedly professing his love for her and touching her.
Though Moses reported his actions to supervisors numerous times, the company did not take any action against Brookshire until Moses finally reported the harassment to the company's headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio. After six years of harassment, Brookshire was transferred to the company's Louisville office and told to stay away from Moses. The company argued that it responded quickly to Moses' complaints, but the jury did not agree. The jury found that Brookshire's actions created a hostile work environment and found the company liable for not putting an end to the harassment sooner. Company officials said during the trial that Moses, who still works for the company, might be fired after an upcoming merger takes place. Moses' lawyers have filed an injunction against the company, barring it from firing her.
According to a study published July 14, women under the age of 45 are twice as likely to have heart attacks if they have a certain combination of blood-borne factors, including too little folate and too much of the protein homocysteine. Researchers studied 79 women who survived heart attacks and compared them to 386 healthy women. Women with the highest blood levels of folate, a nutrient found in orange juice, bananas, beans and broccoli, had approximately a 50% reduction in heart attack risk compared to women with lower levels of the nutrient. Women in the top 10% for homocysteine levels had 2.3 times the risk of heart attack compared with those in the bottom 50%.
In related news, African-American women between the ages of 25 and 54 are more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease than white women of the same age group; the data reverse for women between the ages of 65 to 74. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) obtained this information by studying follow-up data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The survey involved 11,406 individuals between the ages of 25 and 74 who had not suffered coronary heart disease when the study began. The follow-up time was about 19 years. CDC researchers are encouraging doctors to work with African-American women under the age of 65 to reduce factors which contribute to heart problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and cigarette smoking.
7/16/1997 - Sears Diversity Fair Increases Representation of Women and Minorities in Senior Management
Minority- and women-owned executive recruitment firms around the country made presentations to Sears, Roebuck and Company on July 15 for Sears' second vendor diversity fair. More than twenty-five firms met with Sears human resource directors to explore opportunities to increase the representation of minorities and women in Sears senior management. The first diversity fair in 1996 resulted in millions of dollars in immediate contracts and allowed women- and minority-owned vendors to meet Sears buyers and learn how they could more effectively serve large retailers. When discussing the company's goals this year, Sears chair and chief executive officer Arthur C. Martinez said, "To meet the needs of the multi-cultural communities we serve, Sears must expand the breadth of diversity on its management team. Our strategy is to build a workforce that reflects the unique characteristics of our customers."
7/16/1997 - Female Participation in Athletics Increases
According to Thomas B. Doyle, Vice President of Information and Research at the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA), female participation in athletic activities has been increasing and changing dramatically in the last five years. He based his remarks on "Sports Participation in 1996", a two-page report from a NSGA survey of 35,000 US households. In team sports such as soccer and basketball, female participation has increased by more than 55% since 1991, a rate which exceeds the growth for those two sports in the past five years. In the most strenuous fitness activities, including exercising with equipment, running/jogging and working out at clubs, the rate of growth in female participation also surpasses the overall growth. Doyle said women's outdoor activities are moving towards "more adventuresome categories" such as backpacking, canoeing and kayaking/rafting. Growth for the last activity was most significant; female participation in kayaking/rafting has increased 116%.
Janeth Ravner Rosenblaum, the former president of the Washington, D.C. chapter of the League of Women Voters, died on July 15th of lung ailments. Rosenblaum also served on the national board of the League and as acting president of its Overseas Education Fund. Rosenblaum also volunteered for the American Red Cross and the D.C. Board of Elections.
The first world conference on breast cancer has featured an important debate over whether or not women with a breast cancer related gene should have mastectomies. Some argue that because eighty percent of women who carry the gene will have breast cancer, they should have mastectomies. Others argue that mastectomies are an extreme step which force women to mutilate themselves even though undergoing the procedure is not necessarily a proven prevention measure. Often, removing a tumor is enough to prevent the disease from spreading. Bella Abzug, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and leader of the Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) in New York, has been battling breast cancer for four years. She argued at the conference, held in Kingston, Canada, that many women were unnecessarily undergoing the procedure. She further commented, "There is a lot of fortune-telling and bookmaking going on."
The conference has brought together representatives from over thirty countries to battle the disease, which claims one million lives per year. When the conference ends on July 17th, participants are expected to adopt a worldwide action strategy for battling the disease.