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8/5/1997 - Chilean Feminists Work to Change Divorce Law

A bill legalizing divorce may soon be debated in the Chile legislature. Chilean feminists have long argued that the century-old ban on divorce prevents battered women from leaving violent spouses. The nation, under the influence of the Roman Catholic Church and extreme conservatism of the former military government, has outlawed divorce since the 1880's. Physician Jimean Letelier, who left her husband after enduring their violent marriage for 16 years, said, "I can't divorce him. The law doesn't allow it. No matter what I try to do, I will always belong to him....It makes me sick." While Chile permits legal separation, the process is time-consuming and expensive. Even if couples obtain legal separations, they cannot marry again. In addition to hurting abused women, the law has actually increased the number of Chilean couples who live together out of wedlock and raised the birth rate of illegitimate children to almost 40%, the highest in Latin America. Chilean society stigmatizes these children and gives them a lower social status by prohibiting them from becoming military officers or holding high police positions.

Political analysts believe that a divorce law would pass in the lower house of Congress, but the Senate, which includes eight "designated" legislators appointed by the military, presents more of an obstacle. These senators, however, are likely to lose their offices in the December election, so the bill will probably pass by early next year. .


8/5/1997 - Planned Parenthood Booth Reinstated After Lilith Fair Singers Protest

Lilith Fair Musicians Joan Osbourne and Sarah McLachlan were successful in their efforts to convince officials at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion to revoke their policy barring those advocating "controversial issues" from setting up booths at the venue. After Osbourne and McLachlan threatened a future boycott of the pavilion unless officials permitted Planned Parenthood set up an information booth, the booth was reinstated. Planned Parenthood has had a booth at every other Lilith Fair concert.


8/5/1997 - Lieutenant Defends "Private Life" at Hearing

Lieutenant Crista Davis defended her right to a "private life" yesterday at a public hearing on the charges resulting from her affair with a married Air Force Academy instructor. She denied wrongdoing and asked that the military not judge her on the basis of her personal correspondence with the instructor. Davis, who is black, has accused the Air Force of prosecuting her because she has filed sex and race discrimination complaints against several officers. The Air Force denies this accusation.


8/5/1997 - Lutheran World Federation Denounces Discrimination Against Women

At the Ninth Assembly meeting from July 8 to 16 in Africa, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) denounced discrimination against women in nations and churches. General Secretary Rev. Dr. Ishmael Noko pointed out that domestic violence and sexual harassment prove women still face disadvantages in society. In his own church, he said women's representation was still inadequate despite the LWF's focus on affirmative action for women. Rev. Noko suggested that the LWF Assembly, the highest decision-making body in the federation, come to an agreement on ways to increase the number of women in church leadership and at the local level.


8/4/1997 - Japanese Court Rules in Favor of Working Woman in Divorce Case

A Japanese court decided on July 31 in favor of a woman who divorced her husband after he demanded she make him breakfast, iron his clothes and clean the house even though she works full time. The husband filed a lawsuit demanding $38,000 from his wife because he claimed she did not abide by their marriage agreement. The Tokyo District Court rejected the husband's suit but asked the wife to return her wedding rings, which she had already done, and a cash gift of $8,000. Women's groups applauded the case, which they see as a symbol of the increasing resistance among Japanese women to obeying their traditional husbands.


8/4/1997 - Janet Travell, First Woman White House Physician, Dies At 95

On August 1, 1997, Janet Travell passed away at the age of 95. Dr. Travell was the first woman to hold the White House post of physician, caring for President John F. Kennedy and his family. Her appointment caused controversy among Washington elites since she was the first non-military personnel to hold the position since the 1920's.

Dr. Travell graduated from Wellesley College and Cornell University's medical school. She specialized in pain treatment, which helped her to develop innovative techniques to treat John F. Kennedy's back pain. President Kennedy described Dr. Travell as a "medical genius," and others described her as a woman with "a patrician dignity and a fey sense of humor." In addition to serving on President Kennedy's staff, Dr. Travell was a professor at George Washington University, and was the author of "Office Hours Day and Night," and "Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual."

Dr. Travell died in Northampton, Massachusetts of congestive heart failure. Her survivors include two daughters, Virginia B. Wilson of Northampton and Janet Powell Pinci of Milan; six grandchildren; and five great grandchildren.


8/4/1997 - Web Site Harasses High School Girls

A web site which rated the looks of girls about to enter a high school in the northern California community of Palo Alto "crossed the line of appropriateness, good taste and even sexual harassment as defined by the California Education Code," according to Irv Rollins, the district's assistant superintendent. A woman alerted the school about the site, and the school notified Geocities, the site's Internet provider. Geocities removed the page because it violated "hate speech" guidelines. Palo Alto school officials do not know who authored the site, and they are not investigating it because the site creators did not break any laws. If students designed the page on school time and on school premises, the school would expel them for sexual harassment.


8/4/1997 - Pentagon Reviews Policy on Gay Men and Lesbians in the Military

Despite the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, military discharges for gay men and lesbians reached their highest point of 850 in 1996. Since May, the Pentagon has been reviewing the policy, which permits gay men and lesbians to serve in the armed forces as long as they do not reveal their sexual orientation or engage in sexual activity. The policy also prohibits the military from questioning service members about their orientation; however, gay men and lesbians have charged military commanders with asking people about their orientation and instigating "witch hunts" against gay men and lesbians. Defense Department spokeswoman Monica Aloisio explained the Pentagon's review focuses on the enforcement of the policy, not the policy itself.


8/4/1997 - WNBA Continues to Soar

Halfway through its inaugural season, the success of the Women's National Basketball Association continues to exceed even the most optimistic of expectations. Attendance across the league has averaged close to 9,000 fans--twice what most experts predicted. The Phoenix Mercury and the New York Liberty draw an average of 13,300 and 11,400, respectively. A majority of these fans are women, young girls, and families.

"We worked hard to appeal to the youth, family, and female market," said Valerie Ackerman, president of the league, "and it's our objective to maintain those demographics to the extent we can."

Although the WNBA's success can be attributed in part to its strong corporate backing -- NBC, ESPN, and Lifetime each broadcast games, and Coca-Cola, Nike, and American Express are sponsors -- fans say the atmosphere of the games is completely different from that of the NBA. Players sign autographs after every game and male break dancers have replaced the cheerleaders.

Most importantly, female fans have said that they appreciate the opportunities the new league offers them and their daughters. "I grew up at a time when it was easier to be a hand surgeon than a professional basketball players," said Dr. Susan Scott, the New York Liberty's team doctor. "This has never been a valid goal until now. And when children see what's possible, they reach for it."


8/4/1997 - New Jersey Governor Takes Heat for Abortion Stance

Ever since she vetoed her state's ban on D&X abortions, New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman has been plagued by a small but vocal group of protesters. Whitman, a moderate Republican, vetoed the ban because it did not include provisions to protect the woman's life. Although pollsters predict that her conservative views on other issues will help her defeat Democrat state Senator Jim McGreevey this fall, Gov. Whitman does admit that her abortion stance could pose a problem with grassroots Republicans.


7/31/1997 - Groups Protest Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan

Women's rights and human rights activists, led by the Feminist Majority, protested the Taliban's policies of gender apartheid in Afghanistan in noontime pickets on Wednesday, July 30 at the Pakistani and Afghan embassies. Approximately 80 people protested, representing groups such as the Feminist Majority, NOW, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and the Institute for Women's Policy Research.

"The strong turnout showed that women's and human rights organizations are taking a stand on this important issue. We will not stand silently by as our sisters in Afghanistan become victims of inhumane gender apartheid," stated Negar Katirai, a Feminist Majority intern who helped coordinate the demonstration.

The Taliban conquered Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, in September 1996 and immediately declared an end to women's human rights there. Women are no longer allowed to work or attend school, and have been beaten for not wearing Islamic dress, a full-length. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are the only nations to have given the Taliban official recognition.


7/31/1997 - Army Delays Release of Sexual Harassment Reports

The Army has delayed the release of two reports on sexual harassment which it had previously scheduled to make public on July 31. Secretary of the Army Togo West claims he wants to keep reports confidential until the service forms an "action plan" to present to Congress. A military and civilian panel conducted one study and the Army's inspector general directed the other after investigators discovered male drill sergeants at Maryland's Aberdeen Proving Ground training camp sexually assaulted female recruits. Officials say the findings criticize the Army for mishandling the integration of women, especially in training. Areas the Army has dealt with inadequately include proper screening of prospective drill sergeants and teaching trainees how to halt unwanted advances. Another study, this one chaired by former senator Nancy Kassebaum Baker, will be released in December. This investigation may lead Congress to vote on legislation ordering the Army to return to segregated training.


7/31/1997 - Woman Excluded from Mir Mission Because of Height

Hours after a news conference publicizing Wendy Lawrence as the next astronaut to stay on the Mir space station, NASA announced on July 31 that it dropped her from the mission. Despite her year of training, Lawson cannot go through with the mission because of her height. At 5-foot-3, she does not meet Russia's space agency's height standards even though she was cleared to return last summer when the requirements were modified. Too small to fit into the Russian spacesuits used for spacewalks, she cannot conduct emergency repairs, made necessary by Mir's collision last month. NASA officials claim that the former candidate's sex had nothing to do with the decision to replace her, but John Pike, a space expert at the Federation of American Scientists, disagrees. He believes not wanting to put a woman in an increasingly dangerous environment contributed to the space agency's action.


7/31/1997 - D&X Abortions to Continue in Alaska

Alaska Superior Court Judge John Reese issued a temporary injunction blocking a ban on D&X abortions late Wednesday, July 30. The ban was scheduled to go into effect the following day, but a group of abortion rights supporters sued last week to overturn it, arguing that the statute violated women's privacy rights. A law requiring that girls under 17 obtain parental permission before getting an abortion remained scheduled to go into effect Thursday, July 31.


7/31/1997 - Chinese Women Become Heads of Household

Millions of women have changed rural life in China by becoming the ones in charge on their family's farms. According to a U.N. report, women produce 50 to 60% of China's total agricultural output, while only 13% performed the work in the 1930's. Factors contributing to the "feminization of agriculture" include stronger property rights for women and men's migration to cities on search of higher-paying jobs. The growing importance of women in agriculture has allowed Chinese women more independence and control over their lives.


7/31/1997 - Fish Oil May Lower Risk of Breast Cancer

UCLA researchers determined that American women who incorporate fish oil capsules in their diet may reduce their risk of breast cancer. The study was based on the evidence that Asian women, who have one-third less breast cancer than American women, have a large amount of omega-3 in their breast tissues. Researchers hypothesize omega-3, which is found chiefly in fish, may protect breast tissue from cancer. American women taking fish oil capsules for just three months showed a significant increase of omega-3 in their breast tissue. The study will be published by the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Center in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.


7/30/1997 - Feminist Majority Protests the Taliban's Violation of Afghan's Women's Rights

Women's organizations, international groups, and human rights groups condemned the atrocities committed against Afghan women by the Taliban at noon-time pickets, sponsored by the Feminist Majority, in front of the Pakistan and Afghanistan embassies on Thursday, July 30. The demonstration was led by Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority, Zieba Shorish-Shamley, chair of the Women's Alliance for Peace and Human Rights in Afghanistan, and Sima Wali from Refugee Women in Development.

"We cannot stand silently by as Afghan women become victims of inhuman gender apartheid," said Smeal. "A 16 year-old girl was stoned to death last month because she was traveling with a man who was not a family member. If this was happening to any other class of people around the world, there would be tremendous outcry. We must make sure these same standards are applied when it is women and girls who are brutally treated."

On September 27, 1996, the Taliban, a fundamentalist Islamic militia group, overthrew the government of Afghanistan in the country’s capital Kabul and unilaterally declared an end to women's basic human rights. Women can now no longer work outside of the home. Girls are prohibited from attending school. In addition, women are required to completely cover their bodies with a burqa including a mesh covering over the eyes. Women have been beaten for appearing in public without being fully veiled. The Taliban is reported to have received extensive financial support from Saudi Arabia and military aid from Pakistan. Pakistan was the first nation to officially recognize the Taliban as the ruling power in Afghanistan, and was soon followed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.


7/30/1997 - Two Women Seek Irish Presidency

Two women candidates seek a nomination to run for the October 30th election to succeed Irish President Mary Robinson. Robinson, a feminist lawyer highly popular in Ireland, is stepping down to take over as the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights. The two female contenders, Avril Doyle and Mary Banotti, are seeking a nomination from the centrist Fine Gael party. Doyle is a former minister and is currently seeking a seat in Ireland's upper house. Banotti is a member of the European Parliament for Dublin. Robinson's Party, Labour, will likely not choose a candidate until September. Fianna Fail, Ireland's largest group, has not yet chosen a candidate either.


7/30/1997 - Orange Juice May Help Fight Breast Cancer

Researchers have found that biologically-engineered mice that drank only orange juice prior to being injected with human breast cancer cells, had 50 percent fewer tumor and a 50 percent decrease in the spread of cancer to other parts of the body than mice who drank only water. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Western Ontario and which will be released at the International Congress of Nutrition in Montreal, also found that rabbits who drank orange juice had 43 percent less LDL cholesterol. The studies lay the groundwork for trials to test if humans respond as well to the orange juice.


7/30/1997 - Feminist Majority Protests the Taliban's Violation of Afghan Women's Rights

Washington DC -- Women's, international, and human rights groups condemned the atrocities committed against Afghan women by the Taliban at noon-time pickets, sponsored by the Feminist Majority, in front of the Pakistan and Afghanistan embassies on Wednesday, July 30. The demonstration was led by Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority, Zieba Shorish-Shamley, chair of the Women's Alliance for Peace and Human Rights in Afghanistan, and Sima Wali from Refugee Women in Development.
"We cannot stand silently by as Afghan women become victims of inhumane gender apartheid," said Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal. "A 16-year-old girl was stoned to death last month because she was traveling with a man who was not a family member. If this was happening to any other class of people around the world, there would be tremendous outcry. We must make sure these same standards are applied when it is women and girls who are brutally treated."

"The American government and the United Nations must refuse to recognize the Taliban as a legitimate government in Afghanistan. How can women be safe anywhere if some governments can carry out gender apartheid with impunity? Do not think such fundamentalist terror can only happen in a far off country!" continued Smeal.

On September 27, 1996, the Taliban, a fundamentalist Islamic militia group, overthrew the government of Afghanistan and unilaterally declared an end to women's basic human rights. Women can now no longer work outside of the home. Girls are prohibited from attending school. In addition, women are required to completely cover their bodies with a burqa including a mesh covering over the eyes. Women have been beaten for appearing in public without being fully veiled.

The Taliban is reported to have received extensive financial support from Saudi Arabia and military aid from Pakistan. Pakistan was the first nation to officially recognize the Taliban as the ruling power in Afghanistan, and was soon followed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

International oil and gas companies are vying for a contract with the Taliban to build a gas pipeline from energy-rich Turkmenistan, through Taliban-controlled western Afghanistan, to Pakistan.


7/29/1997 - W.N.B.A. Off to Soaring Start

The most optimistic expectations for the first season of the Women's National Basketball Association projected an average audience attendance of approximately 4,500 people per game. Two months into the season, attendance at the games has averaged 8,766 per game. The televised games have at times attracted more viewers than Major League Soccer and P.G.A. Golf. Fans across the United States have been treated to and have clamored for more structured and team-oriented basketball play from the women. The players have also made themselves more accessible to fans, often signing autographs before and after games. And, souvenirs have been selling out at many games. The most popular t-shirt reads, "Invented by Man, Perfected by Woman." Leather and rubber basketballs with the W.N.B.A. logo have also been very popular items. During a recent game in Charlotte, North Carolina between the Charlotte Sting and the New York Liberty teams, a woman, who had driven 65 miles with her daughter to attend the game, commented, "This is phenomenal. My daughter thinks I'm the best mama in the world."


7/29/1997 - Employee Sues Revenue Authority for Sexual Harassment

Former human resources director of the Montgomery County Revenue Authority Geralyn Buell has filed a federal sexual harassment lawsuit against the authority's board members and its executive director, Anthony M. Shore. Buell asserts that during her first six weeks on the job, Shore subjected her to repeated suggestive comments about her appearance and private life. After she complained to the board's chair Joseph M. Mott, Shore retaliated by moving her desk to the hallway and refusing to talk or work with her. Other board members initially ignored the situation, then suggested the firing Buell. The board's report on its decision to fire her did not even address her job performance. Mott resigned the board in protest over Buell's dismissal. In the lawsuit, Buell asks for damages, back pay, and an order that the authority reinstate her.


7/29/1997 - VMI Prepares to Admit Women

Students who enter the Virginia Military Institute this fall will see major changes in the school. The campus has new lighting and emergency phones, and the barracks house improved latrines and showers. Cadets rooms now have window shades, giving some privacy to all students who previously had none. These changes result from attempts to prepare for the school's biggest change of all: women cadets. Since the 1996 Supreme Court decision declaring VMI's all-male policy unconstitutional, the state of Virginia has spent $5.1 million to get the school ready for women. In addition to making renovations, the school created new staff positions for women and held workshops on sexual harassment and hazing. The entire student body and staff attended the workshops. All the changes, however, do not mean a decline in standards. Alexis Abrams, who will attend the school this fall, said, "We want the VMI experience. We don't want some watered-down version of it."


7/28/1997 - Hoster Testifies at McKinney Hearing

Retired Sgt. Maj. Brenda Hoster, the first woman to bring charges of sexual misconduct against the Army's Top Enlisted Soldier, Sgt. Maj. of the Army, Gene McKinney, testified at his pre-trial hearing on Friday, July 25th, and Saturday, July 26th. Hoster testified that during a trip to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, McKinney, came into her hotel room, hit her with a pillow and told her she needed a good "butt whipping." Hoster also testified that during a business trip to Hawaii, McKinney again came into her hotel room, but this time he grabbed and kissed her. He allegedly told Hoster that he needed her; Hoster replied by telling him that he needed his wife, who was just rooms down the hall. McKinney then allegedly looked down and commented, "Look what you have done to me." Hoster testified that McKinney was referring to "his erection."

Hoster reported the incidents, but was told to talk things over with McKinney. She did not report McKinney's behavior again until she heard that he was to serve on a panel investigating the sexual harassment scandals at the Ordinance Schools at Aberdeen. Hoster sent McKinney a letter suggesting that he quit the panel or retire. He did neither, and subsequently, Hoster brought forth the allegations. Four other women have come forward with similar allegations against McKinney.

The defense attorneys for McKinney, on cross-examination, tried to question Hoster about her previous sex life. After objections from plaintiffs’ attorneys and a two-hour, closed-door conference with the judge, the defense dropped that line of questioning.


7/28/1997 - Study Finds Women Receive Less Aggressive Care for Heart Disease

A study led by Dr. Lisa M. Shwartz of the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in White River Junction, VT has found that doctors are less likely to prescribe potentially life-saving diagnostic procedures for women than men. The study of over 650 heart attack victims found that women appear to fare worse after heart attacks then men because of the lack of adequate treatment. Though the study could not isolate gender bias as the cause, it could find no other reason why women were 32 percent less likely than men to be given follow-up diagnostic tests and procedures. Doctors were also far less likely to prescribe women an aspirin-a-day for angina (a crushing chest pain), although women were more likely to report the problem. Aspirin can reduce the risk of heart attack among people with angina by almost one-third. The study will be published in the July 28th issue of The Archives of Internal Medicine.