Human rights groups are outraged by the recent attempted suicides of five girls who wanted to avoid virginity tests in Turkey. The five girls, ages 12-16, chose to take rat poison and jump into a vat of water rather than face forced virginity tests. The girls survived and the tests were performed in the hospital.
Virginity tests, a centuries-old tradition in Turkey, are performed to measure a woman’s purity and loyalty to her family. Suicides are also commonplace, since the virginity test is often times inaccurate. Dilek Cindoglu, a sociologist who has studied the tests, said that “patriarchal control over women’s bodies has been reproduced through honor and shame codes.”
Recent controversy over the virginity tests arose when Isilay Saygin, state minister in charge of female and family affairs, supported government examinations of girls in state-run foster homes, stating the tests were needed to guide young women’s behavior. Human Rights Watch recently reported that the government was conducting virginity tests being run on hospital patients and prisoners.
1/27/1998 - First Ladies’ Library to Open in Ohio, Online
A new library and online bibliography dedicated to the first ladies of the United States will open this spring. The National First Ladies’ Library, located in the Canton, Ohio childhood home of Ida Saxton McKinley, will hold books, documents, audiotapes and journals.
The new library is “just kind of asking for equal time, trying to ensure there is equal focus and emphasis given and an equal history ... there’s a significant gap in our historical perspective because we do not chronicle the achievements , accomplishments and contributions of women,” said Frances Hughes Glendening, first lady of Maryland the library’s vice chairwoman.
The library is the brainchild of Mary Rodusky Regula, the wife of Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio). All six living first ladies are honorary chairwomen of the library.
In addition, the library will recognize contemporary “first women” of achievement in an annual First Women Awards Dinner. The virtual library will be available to the public in February.
1/27/1998 - Home Depot Settles in Sex Discrimination Suit
Home Depot, the nation’s largest home improvement store, has agreed to a $65 million settlement in a 1994 sex discrimination lawsuit. Plaintiffs’ lawyers report that at least 6,000 valid compensation claims were filed.
The company was accused of discrimination in hiring, pay and promotions. Women claimed they were held in menial jobs, denied training and were not hired for management positions.
Home Depot will pay $22.5 million to the women’s lawyers, and will spend $17 million to upgrade its employment programs and to settle three other discrimination suits still pending.
1/26/1998 - Conservatives Claim Mothers Should Stay Home
Critics of President Clinton’s $21.7 billion child-care initiative argue that giving aid to working mothers only encourages women to work, rather than stay home with their children.
Clinton’s initiative proposes to improve the quality of child care, encourage businesses to provide or help employees pay for it, helps parents pay for child care by increasing tax credits, expands after-school and Head Start programs and doubles the number of parents who receive child-care subsidies. Although the proposal has attracted praise from child-care advocates, conservatives are focusing on whether women should be working at all. Senator Dan Coats said, “Some fundamental questions need to be asked about the importance of the mother-child attachment particularly in the very early years.”
Conservatives are claiming that stay-at-home mothers need to be given the same recognition and aid as working mothers. Heidi Brennan, public policy director for Mothers at Home said, “Members of Congress on both sides are scared of the feminists. Child-care ideologues are very organized, and they control this issue.”
Not all Republicans are critical of the new child-care proposal. Rep. Marge Roukema stated, “Contrary to the opinion of many, most women are not working simply out of personal or professional ambition. Many are single mothers. But even with two workers, it is an economic necessity to work. They are not running away from their children.”
Families that earn under $14,000 per year pay one-quarter of their income for child care, and more than one third of the providers leave their jobs citing low wages. And while low-income mothers may want to spend more time with their children, new welfare laws are forcing them out of their homes and into the workforce.
1/26/1998 - NOW Vies for Randall’s Air Miles
The National Organization for Women (NOW) has asked 13 airlines to relinquish Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry’s frequent flyer miles. Terry owes NOW millions of dollars in fines from court orders brought against him for violence he and fellow Operation Rescue workers wrought against abortion clinics over the last ten years.
Earlier this month, Terry, agreed to a permanent injunction which prohibits him from committing violent acts against clinics, the staff and patients, and from belonging to any groups which commit these acts. The agreement represented a partial victory for women’s organizations in NOW v. Scheidler, which prosecuted Terry under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
1/26/1998 - L.A. County Settles, Pays $24 Mil. to Poor Women
Los Angeles County has agreed to pay $24 million to settle 49 claims that women and children on Medi-Cal died or were crippled during forced vaginal births. Doctors had been following a county policy to only perform vaginal deliveries for poorer women rather than Cesarean deliveries due to higher costs.
The county’s policy led to the deaths of two women and three infants. Forty-six now suffer from disabilities including paralysis and cerebral palsy due to the policy, which was terminated in 1995.
1/26/1998 - Harvard Law School Hires Lani Guinier
Lani Guinier became the first woman of color faculty member at Harvard Law School, which has been criticized for having only six minorities and nine women out of 67 tenured professors. Guinier commented that by joining Harvard she is, “building on the accomplishments of other women of color and people of all colors in legal education.”
Guinier was previously nominated by President Clinton to head the Justice Department’s civil rights division in 1993, but Clinton withdrew his nomination when conservatives attacked Guinier’s views on voting rights.
Vice President Al Gore voiced his support for safe and legal abortion and pledged increased financial support for domestic and international family planning organizations at a National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) Roe v. Wade 25th anniversary luncheon yesterday. Gore invited abortion rights advocates to "seek common ground" with anti-choice followers by working to make abortion rarer through better contraception and education.
Also marking the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize abortion in Roe v. Wade was the annual "March for Life" anti-choice rally. The crowd included families, older adults and church congregations and at least 1,500 parochial high school and grade school students who were bussed in for the event. The march ended at the Supreme Court, where police in riot gear eventually dispersed the crowd.
1/23/1998 - EEOC, Grocery Store Chain Settle Lawsuit
Nob Hill Foods, a San-Francisco based grocery chain, has agreed to pay a $1.3 settlement in a suit that alleged the chain denied women and minorities jobs and promotions. The EEOC has also recommended that 175 women and minorities be hired and 70-75 women be promoted in the next 3 years.
Nob Hill has a history of relegating women to low pay, low status positions, while managerial and executive level positions are dominated by men. Susan McDuffie, director of the EEOC's San Francisco district office, said that promotions were posted and supposedly available to all employees, yet investigators found evidence that men were "tapped on the shoulder and told, 'Hey, do you want this promotion? It's yours.'"
Investigators also found evidence of sexual harassment and discrimination against African-Americans, Asians, and the disabled. Nob Hill allegedly violated federal law by asking job applicants about physical and mental disabilities.
1/23/1998 - Hormones PMS Culprits
A study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health confirms that premenstrual syndrome is indeed caused by hormones. Doctor’s evaluated 10 women who suffer from PMS, experiencing depression, irritability, anxiety before menstruation, along with 10 others who do not experience these symptoms.
Subjects were given leuprolide, which blocks normal hormone production, as well as doses of estrogen, proestrogen and dummy pills. The women received the estrogen and proestrogen experienced PMS-like symptoms.
The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, did not investigate why only about 2.5 percent of women suffer from PMS. Dr. Peter J. Schmidt, director of the research, commented, "It suggests that women with PMS have a different sensitivity to the mood-destabilizing effects of hormones."
The Cuban Catholic church has funded a small group called Pro-Vida (Spanish for "pro-life") for the past two years. Pro-Vida also receives financial support from Virginia-based Human Life International, which provides videos, literature, and anti-abortion campaign training.
During his recent visit to Cuba, the Pope denounced abortion, deeming it "an abominable crime, a senseless impoverishment of the person and of society itself."
Abortion has been legal in Cuba since the 1940’s and is free and easily accessible to the public in state hospitals. Health Minister Carlos Dotres said, "We don’t conceive of abortion as a contraceptive method. But we give those who choose it a hospital, so we don’t have deaths under poor conditions."
Jurors awarded Sunday Daskalea $5.3 million in damages after finding that a D.C. jail correctional officer forced her to participate in a striptease in July 1995.
Daskalea claims that correctional officer Yvonne C. Walker, who has since been fired, was intoxicated when she arrived at work and sent three inmates to force Daskalea to the area where the striptease took place.
When another inmate reported the striptease to a deputy warden, corrections officers assumed that Daskalea made the report and punished her by placing her in solitary confinement where she was denied "basic necessities."
The District of Columbia plans to appeal the decision.
1/22/1998 - Clinton Supports Abortion Rights
On the eve of the 25th Anniversary of Roe Vs. Wade President Clinton declared his support of abortion rights. "I’m committed to keeping abortion safe, legal and accessible and to making it more rare." Clinton has supported funding for sex education and has backed a law protecting clinics from violence. "I will continue to do everything I can to make sure that every child in America is a wanted child, raised in a loving strong family," he said.
As the President’s remarks were made public members of Operation Rescue were taking a public tour of the White House. Each member of the militant anti-abortion group wore T-shirts bearing a picture of an aborted fetal head, with slogans reading, "America’s Holocaust" and "These are the children of Hillary’s village."
Although Roe V. Wade may not be in immediate danger, anti-abortion strategies to eliminate abortion in the US through restrictive laws are working. Gloria Feldt, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, commented on the increasing difficulty of gaining access to an abortion. "We could easily face a world in which the legal right to choose is very solid, but women have no access to exercise their choice if that’s what they wish to do," said Feldt.
1/22/1998 - Study Finds Working Couples Enjoy Benefits
A study released by the non-profit organization Catalyst found that wives and husbands who both worked believed that the arrangement had a positive affect on their careers and that they could adequately cope with work and home responsibilities. The study is based on surveys of close to one thousand dual-career earners who represent 45 percent of the workforce and 60 percent of all marriages in 1996.
"A significant portion of the U.S. labor force finds economic independence, security, and satisfaction in the family’s second income," stated Catalyst president Sheila Wellington. The study revealed that two-thirds of the families believed that having a two-career marriage gave them the freedom to leave their current job if they were not satisfied with conditions.
The respondents listed being able to turn down promotions with the possibility of accepting in the future, being able to move within the organization for development, staying in one position for a longer period of time, turning down relocation and accepting in the future as well as being able to specialize as important elements of a career. Men and women both agreed that freedom related to family circumstances in arrival and departure time, and telecommuting options were also necessary benefits of a position.
Although more men reported their own careers as principal, a significant percentage also claimed that they made accommodations for their wives in cases of home and childcare emergencies.
Catalyst, which works to promote advancement of women within business, will release the study, Two Careers, One Marriage: Making it Work in the Workplace, in mid-February.
Pro-choice activists rallied on the steps of the Supreme Court on Tuesday during a Speak Out held by the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights League (NARAL). Eight women and one man gathered to tell their stories of how abortion affected their lives to a crowd composed of pro-choice and anti-abortion supporters.
Speakers included Carol Wall, who gave similar testimony during the Senate subcommittee hearing, Kate Michelman, president of NARAL, who spoke of her own abortion as "one of the most moral decisions I ever made," and Rabbi Donald Webber, whose wife had an abortion 14 years ago when the fetus was found to be seriously ill. Webber claimed that abortion rights were also religious rights. "When one religious position can bully their way into America as they are bullying their way into us today, we are all in danger."
Anti-abortion militants were few in number, but made their presence felt, heckling the speakers with comments from a bull horn and shouts from the crowd. Rev. Philip Benham, Operation Rescue’s national president commented, "This court stands in contempt of the God almighty."
In a hearing held by chairman Senator John Ashcroft of the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, two women, Norma McCorvey (alias Jane "Roe") and Carol Wall, spoke of their experiences with abortion. Norma McCorvey declared, "I am dedicated to spending the rest of my life undoing the law that bears my name." McCorvey, who had worked in abortion clinics for years, changed her position in 1995, and is now the director of the Roe No More Ministry in Dallas.
McCorvey read testimony of her experience with abortion, admitting to having lied about her circumstances as a gang rape victim during the Roe trial in 1973. McCorvey concluded her statement declaring, "I am dedicated to spending the rest of my life undoing the law that bears my name. It is my sincere prayer that there be no 30th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade."
Carol Wall spoke of the abortion she obtained in Mexico in 1966. She recalled the $800 dollar procedure in an unmarked house and the death note she wrote to her husband and children before the surgery in case she did not return. Wall said her pro-choice views stem from teachings that she should "help others the way you would want to be helped."
Ashcroft led discussions with other panel members regarding fetal viability, the pain threshold of a fetus, and the legal definitions of a fetus and baby.
Feminist News Stories on Abortion
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against three women in sex discrimination cases. The Supreme Court let stand the rulings of earlier appellate court decisions which found that the women had not suffered from sex discrimination on the job.
The women, an ambitious meat cutter, a faculty member seeking tenure and a car sales consultant, all tried to prove that they were sexually discriminated against. Previous Supreme Court rulings have left the definition of sexual discrimination vague.
To prove discrimination on the basis of sex the victim must first present evidence of discrimination, the employer then offers an explanation or denies the alleged discrimination, the victim then must prove that the explanation is "pretext,” an attempt by the employer to disguise the discrimination.
Conservatives in Congress are attempting to stall the confirmation of David Satcher as surgeon general due to his support of abortion rights. Senator John D. Ashcroft (R-Mo.) is leading the fight to delay Satcher's nomination, with support from the conservative journal Human Events, the Christain Coalition and the Family Research Council.
Ashcroft stated, "Dr. Satcher joins with the president in support of 'partial birth' abortion, a position that places him squarely at odds with the professional and ethical judgement of the American Medical Association." However, the AMA and the American Academy of Family Physicians "enthusiastically" supports Satcher's nomination, claiming that he will "bring a wealth of experience from both the private and public sectors to the office."
In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Randy Tate, director of the Christain Coaltion, urged Lott to delay Satcher's confirmation. Lott should, "exercise leardership in the U.S. Senate and defend these innocent children by defeating this nomination," said Tate.
1/21/1998 - Woman Appointed to New United Nations Position
United Nations chief Kofi Annan appointed Louise Frechette as the new U.N. deputy secretary-general, the second-highest post in the U.N. Frechette, Canada's former deputy defense minister, had served as a U.N. ambassador from 1992 to 1994.
Frechette will aid Annan in managing UN operations and represent the secretary-general at conferences, among other duties. The newly created position is intended to help address inefficiency within the U.N. system.
Frechette, who also served as Canada's ambassador to Argentina and its deputy foreign minister for Latin America and the Caribbean, plans to help the U.N. "keep up with the times." "I think there's a great challenge for the United Nations in defining its role in the future," stated Frechette.
1/21/1998 - Abusive Husband Murders Wife
A man who was already on probation for domestic violence murdered his wife with a hatchet. Pui Kei Wong and Nga Seong Wong had "seemed to get along," said neighbors, despite Mr. Wong's guilty plea to battery after slapping his wife in the company of a police officer.
Wong became suspicious of his wife, whom he believed was having an affair, and attacked her with a hatchet on the front porch of their Hollywood, Florida home. Neighbors were too horrified to intercede. A member of the family stated, "we are asking ourselves why it happened. I could not prevent what happened."
Maryland legislators have proposed a law that would incarcerate criminals who have committed sexual violence crimes indefinitely. The proposed law pertains to those who have a record of violent sexual acts against women and children. Before release from the original sentence the criminal would undergo a civil proceeding by the Department of Correction, who would decided whether to commit the felon to a mental institution.
The proposed Maryland law stems from a Kansas law which was supported by the U.S. Supreme Court last year. Attorney General J. Joseph Jr. said, "I'd like Maryland citizens to have these same protections."
The Supreme Court decision was based on the rape and slaying of a 20-year-old women who was murdered by a man who had been released from prison eight years earlier after serving 10 years for rape.
1/20/1998 - British Consider Updating Abortion Laws
Great Britain’s health secretary Frank Dobson has issued support for abortion laws that would make it easier for women to gain access to an abortion in early pregnancy. Currently, Britain’s abortion laws require a woman to get two doctors to verify that a continued pregnancy would be more damaging to the woman’s health than an abortion.
Although Dobson was quoted as saying that the Labor Party has no plans to change the current law, Ann Furedi, director of the Birth Control Trust, stated changes in the law were past due. “Britain is one of the few developed countries that does not have a law allowing abortion on request in early pregnancy,” said Furedi.
1/20/1998 - Acquitted Man Kills First and Second Wife
A man who was previously acquitted for shooting his first wife 17 years ago was found dead after shooting his second wife and then himself. Robert Nolan claimed that he was driven insane when he saw his first wife having sex with another man and shot them both. Nolan was let off on a mistrial when the jury deadlocked, and was acquitted during the second trial and sentenced with outpatient therapy.
The second wife, Kimberly Nolan, had recently filed for divorce on the grounds of “extreme cruelty,” citing mental abuse and manipulation. Mrs. Nolan had been advised to enter a woman’s shelter, but declined, fearing disruption of her children’s lives.
Domestic Violence Information Center
Irma van Praag and Anna Kreuger became the first lesbian couple to use the Netherlands’ national “Registration of Partnership.” The registry became available on January 1 with a two-week waiting period after filing, and entitles gay and lesbian couples to all the advantages of a legal marriage, with the exception of joint adoption.
The extension of marriage laws is currently under review by the government and has already been approved by the Netherlands’ Parliament. New marriage laws are expected to be in place by May of 1998.
Feminist News Stories on Same-Sex Marriage
1/20/1998 - British Women to Serve in Combat
Army chiefs in England have decided to allow women to serve on the front lines in combat. The army and the Military of Defense are endorsing a “principle of sexual parity,” in response to national opinions which favor equality for the sexes in all roles. “We recognize the social trends of the country, and although our major concern is our combat effectiveness, we still have to represent the nation,” said a Military of Defense representative.
Opponents of the new law worry that the move is premature. They are concerned that the nation will not react favorably to women being killed in combat and that the army will not remain a strong force ready to defend in a time of need.
Currently, women serve in 42% of the British army’s 136 categories. This spring women will be admitted into 70% of the categories, while “gender-free” selection tests become the norm.