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10/22/1997 - Army Panel Cites Persistent Gender Problems

A new report by the chairwoman of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services states that sexual harassment, gender discrimination and sexual assaults still plague Army bases.

In August 1997, author Judith Youngman visited the Army's largest training base in Fort Jackson, S.C., where she interviewed 157 women and men. They told her that sexual relationships between male drill instructors and female recruits still occur, that women's abilities are degraded by some male drill instructors, and that female trainers believe they are excluded from opportunities for promotions. Interviewees believed "harassing and discriminating behaviors [were] not addressed in many companies," and said the Army should "get rid of the bad apples." Both men and women said that sexist attitudes were learned during training, especially by male training officers. Many drill sergeants were accused of being "openly prejudicial and discriminatory."

The advisory committee will release a separate study today on military bases in Asia. The report, based on a more comprehensive study by committee members, states that the practice of male commanders denying women leadership positions and assigning them desk duty is "widespread." At some bases, women were "openly demeaned and their roles in the military ridiculed."

Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) said the report confirms the Army's own reports on sexual harassment. "The question is when is the Army going to act to swiftly and aggressively reverse this trend?" Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Sara E. Lister said "The Army is concerned that there are people who feel this way, but we are working on solving the problems raised."

10/22/1997 - U. Penn Women's Athletics Short-Changed

In a report to the federal government, the University of Pennsylvania revealed that men's athletic programs receive more than twice the funds of women's athletics.

Although this is a violation of Title IX, which states that men's and women's athletic programs must receive virtually equal funding, the university said they were making progress. Title IX requires athletic departments to show that they are making consistent efforts each year to follow the law.

A 1995 law requires universities to publicize information about their athletic programs and file reports with the government and the NCAA. The report said total operating expenses for men's athletic teams was $925,717 in 1996-97, while women's teams received only $433,989 -- 32% of the money spent on athletics overall. Three-quarters of the total recruiting budget last year was used for men's athletics. The school is 51.5% male, but women make up 37% of the university's varsity athletes, even though they have almost as many varsity teams and full-time coaches as men. Men's part-time coaches outnumbered women's, a figure mostly explained by the presence of 16 assistant coaches for the football team.

Next semester, the university will survey female students to determine their "needs and interests" and what changes they want made to Penn's athletic programs.

10/22/1997 - Women Journalists Recognized

The International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) honored three women with Courage in Journalism awards last night. The speakers and presenters included noted women journalists such as Katherine Graham, Judy Woodruff, Cynthia Tucker and Cokie Roberts.

The $2,000 awards went to women who have put their lives at risk for news -- Bina Bektiati, a freelance journalist in Indonesia, Corrine Dufka, Reuters chief photographer in East Africas, and Maribel Gutierrez Moreno, founder of a weekly Mexican newspaper.

"I feel fortunate to have been able to take pictures that have made people stop and feel for others, not very different from you or me, who are trying to live their lives and maintain a sense of hope with the devastating context of war," said Dufka. Besides Africa, she has also covered the former Yugoslavia and human rights abuses in El Salvador.

Gutierrez, who has been subjected to government intimidation because of her work on opposition peasant groups, said "This is part of the political violence we live under in our state."

Bektiati, who is the first winner from Indonesia to actually attend the ceremony despite fears of persecution, said "I live in a country that has more than 100 newspapers and magazines, and where the press jargon 'free and responsible' really means 'hardly free.'" She helped organize the country's first independent journalist's union, and fights governmental control of the media.

IWMF also honored the late Nancy Woodhull, one of the founding editors of USA Today. IWMF co-chairwoman Maureen Bunyan said "Nancy was a tireless advocate of quality and equality in journalism. She dedicated herself to helping women and men of all backgrounds realize a career in the media."

10/22/1997 - Lesbian Coach Sues School for Illegal Firing

Wendy Weaver, a coach and teacher at Spanish Fork High School in Salt Lake City, Utah, is suing Nebo School District for firing her because she is a lesbian.

Weaver was fired as coach last summer after she divorced her husband and moved in with another woman. The principal told her that she would also lose her job teaching physical education and psychology if she so much as mentioned her "homosexual orientation or lifestyle." Although she does not want to become a gay rights activist, Weaver says this gag order infringes on her First Amendment rights.

Weaver led the girls' volleyball team to 4 state championships in her 18 years there. Helen Hjorth, a former student and current varsity volleyball player at Brigham Young University, said Weaver was "the best thing that ever happened to Spanish Fork athletics. There was no reason to fire her except for her personal lifestyle."

10/22/1997 - India Skeptical of Plan to Help Girls

The government in India has planned an aid package for over two million girls in the country's poorest families. They say they will give families who make less than $314 a year $14 when a girl is born, and $14-$28 a year for their schooling.

The media suggested that selfish government employees will keep the money from illiterate women, and that more reforms are needed to ensure gender equality. The Indian Express said the financial aid would be helpful only if it was part of a package of "social welfare measures, local education and proper health care." The Express also said that girls, "even if they survive nine months in their mother's wombs, make a shaky entrance into the world, sometimes only to be nudged into oblivion by being denied proper food and medicine."

A recent U.N. report said that around 4,000 women are murdered each year in India because their dowries are not large enough, and that females are often killed at birth. It further stated that women suffer from discriminatory laws and social customs. For example, marital rape is not a crime and the preference for sons in a family is widespread and deep-rooted in Indian culture.

10/22/1997 - HHS Gives $1 Million For Girls' Programs

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala announced last week that $1 million would be awarded to four community-based projects and one national campaign to help young girls. "With these grants, communities can work together to help young girls stay healthy, stay active, and make the most of their lives," she said.

The community programs work to prevent teen pregnancy, substance abuse, and to build self-esteem among girls age 9-14. Girl Power!, a national public health campaign, also educates girls about eating disorders and helps them increase their confidence in athletics, school and other activities.

Studies show that girls are more likely to have problems than boys during adolescence, expressed in higher rates of depression, eating disorders, poor performance in school and sports, and risky behaviors such as drug abuse and unsafe sex.

10/21/1997 - Catholic Hospitals Restrict Women's Health Services

In an alarming trend that is increasing each year, secular hospitals are merging with Catholic hospitals and cutting off all reproductive health services.

The mergers, which are often done to keep financially-struggling hospitals open, are becoming more and more common. For example, in New York City, a Catholic health maintenance organization purchased a statewide Medicaid-only HMO. Despite the fact that their clientele is mostly young women in poverty, the combined organization will no longer provide AIDS prevention counseling, birth control, abortions or sterilizations, nor even provide referrals for these services.

"It's health care being ruled by something other than what's best for the patient," said Dr. Dean Bloch, an ob/gyn at Northern Dutchess Hospital in upstate New York. Northern Dutchess and Kingston Medical Center are merged with a Roman Catholic hospital, which dictated that they stop offering services such as contraceptive counseling, abortions and sterilizations.

In communities where mergers are being discussed, public outcry over the suspension of reproductive services that the Catholic hospital will require can sometimes prevent the mergers. A community activist against a merger in Dutchess County said "We're not against an affiliation. We know hospitals are facing tough times. But there are many models where the nonsectarian hospital doesn't have to follow the dictates of the church. We want them to find a way to do both. We don't want services to be lost."

Even some church leaders do not agree with Catholic hospitals forcing secular hospitals to follow Catholic doctrine. "There are many members of the clergy, even some who are opposed to abortion, who are very concerned that the ethical and religious directives of one church are being imposed on people of other religions," said Rev. Tom Davis of the United Church of Christ. "These mergers are of grave concern because even hospitals that do not agree to become Catholic hospitals agree in these deals to abide by Catholic rules."

JoAnn Smith, executive director of Family Planning Advocates of New York State, said "This is not a classic pro-life, pro-choice abortion debate. We're talking about everyday reproductive care, like contraception. We're talking about adequate HIV and AIDS counseling. We're talking about the morning-after pill for rape victims. Deals like these undermine the basic availability of quality, convenient health care for women."

10/21/1997 - Supreme Court Upholds Ban on Louisiana Parental Consent Laws

Yesterday, the Supreme Court refused to reinstate a Louisiana law that requires minors to get parental consent for abortions, agreeing that it caused "undue interference" with young women's abortion rights.

Although the Supreme Court has upheld parental-consent laws in other states, the Louisiana law was unique because it did not explicitly state that judges had to give permission for girls to have abortions if they did not tell their parents. The law, before it was barred by a federal trial judge, only said that judges "may" authorize abortions. In every other state, the law says a judge "shall" grant permission for abortions.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals prevented the law from being enforced in 1995, and said the Louisiana law "states that juvenile court judges have the discretion to deny an abortion to a minor even though the minor demonstrates that she is mature ... or that the abortion would be in her best interest." They also said that anonymity laws were violated if the judge contacted the parents of girls who want abortions.

10/21/1997 - Journalist Nancy Dickerson Dies

Noted radio and television correspondent and independent producer Nancy Dickerson died at age 70 on Saturday.

She broke through barriers in the 1950s to be among the first women to cover politics and world affairs. She rejected a job as "women's editor" at the old Washington Daily News because "writing shopping and food columns...seemed outlandish to try and change the world." In 1954, CBS News hired her to produce political radio shows. In 1960, she was made CBS' first female correspondent. She traveled around the world with presidents and covered major events such as the 1963 March on Washington. She was also a past vice president of the Washington Press Club.

After 7 years at NBC, in 1971 Dickerson became a syndicated independent broadcaster and producer. She was the first woman to have a daily news program on network television, and produced documentaries on topics such as Watergate, the status of women in the Arab countries and the women's movement in the U.S.

10/21/1997 - Vigil Draws Attention to Domestic Violence

On Saturday, October 18, over 1000 women and men from all over the country and the world participated in the National March To End The Silence in Washington DC. Organized by the National Silent Witness Initiative, women and men from all fifty states and seven countries marched on Washington in memory of all the women and children who have died at the hands of their husbands,fathers and partners.

Carrying the red silhouettes bearing the names and stories of their daughters, mothers, sisters and friends, the marchers paid a silent, moving tribute to the murdered victims of domestic abuse. Dealing with the reality of their personal loss and experiences, the participants walked in a quiet state of reflection, but as the procession reached the Capitol Building, the voices of hope and determination emerged as the demonstrators demanded that attention be given to the epidemic of domestic violence and the many lives it continues to endanger.

The voices only got louder as survivors, speakers and musicians offered support and solutions to this awesome dilemma. Senator Paul Wellstone (D-Minn) applauded the efforts of the Silent Witness Initiative, which originated in his home state of Minnesota, to heighten the awareness of domestic abuse. "This is too powerful. This is too real. This is too important," he said, advertising the importance of this issue to the policymaking community.

As the rally concluded, the 1500 silhouettes representing the average number of women and children killed by domestic violence each year, were lead to the Reflecting Pool and lined up to tell their stories to the tourists and passerbys. Prayers and personal stories closed out the vigil as women and men from all walks of life asked for an end to the crisis of domestic abuse.

10/21/1997 - Women Leaders Decreasing Worldwide

Last month, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright hosted a party for foreign ministers with only one requirement -- they must be women.

At the party of eight women, with two women unable to attend, the foreign ministers discussed the political progress of women. Worldwide, there are only four female heads of government, 10 U.N. ambassadors and 17 speakers of parliament. The number of women in parliament has declined from a high of 15% in 1988 to less than 12% today. This is an unexpected result of more countries turning from socialism and communism to democracy. As socialist ideals of gender equality and women's social programs have been erased in many countries, women have found it difficult to get the funding necessary to run for government office, and "traditional patriarchal systems resurfaced," according to the Los Angeles Times. The biggest setbacks for women have been in Eastern Europe and former Soviet states, where women's representation has declined from highs of 25-35% to about 5%.

Some areas are improving, however. When India ruled in 1993 that at least one-third of all local council seats must go to women, over a million rural women entered government offices in the first election. Six other countries have instituted gender quotas, and dozens of political parties worldwide now require that 50% of their candidates be women.

The U.S. is ranked 39th out of 173 countries with national legislatures in terms of women's political representation. Only nine senators are women, and 11.7% of House seats are made up of women. Women make up only 21.5% of state legislatures and only three governors are women.

10/21/1997 - Young Boys Charged in Sexual Assault

Four Bronx boys, all 8 and 9 years old, have been charged with sodomy for forcing a 9-year-old girl to perform oral sex on the Public School 44 playground.

Bronx detectives are looking for a fifth boy and possibly a second victim. Police say that three boys held the girl down while the other forced her to perform oral sex on him during a school lunch break. When she broke away and told a teacher, she was simply told to brush her teeth, said the girl's older sister. The school's principal stated in a letter to parents that "No inappropriate behavior took place at any time."

10/21/1997 - Hillary Clinton Condemns Domestic Violence

Saying that domestic violence "is not just an assault against a citizen, but that it does undermine democracy itself," Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke on the topic at a conference of mostly women on Monday.

"Domestic violence can never again be dismissed, as it so often has in th epast, as part of a country's traditional norms or as a private cultural set of assumptions about family life," she said.

Ms. Clinton recently returned from a tour of Latin America, where she spoke on the necessity of acheiving equal political representation for women and ending domestic violence. The Inter-American Development Bank estimates that between 25-50% of women in Latin America and the Caribbean have reported domestic violence.

She praised President Clinton, whose mother suffered from domestic abuse, for making domestic violence a foreign policy issue and vowing to protect American women.

10/20/1997 - International Feminist 'Oscars' Awarded

At the world's biggest book fair in Germany last week, 23 feminist writers were awarded the first "Women's Book Oscars."

An international panel chose non-fiction books that have "changed the world over the past 25 years." Feminist classics such as Germaine Greer's "The Female Eunuch," Kate Millet's "Sexual Politics" and Gloria Steinem's "Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions" were among the winners.

For its first year, the panel of women from seven countries decided to honor a wide range of authors. In the future, the panel will pick one winner a year.

10/20/1997 - Russia's Women Suffer Setbacks

Russia's interior ministry recently reported that the numbers of reported rapes are dropping, yet rape crisis centers say that the number of calls they receive has been consistent. Rape counselors estimate that fewer than 5% of rape victims report the crime to the police, with even fewer rapes actually being registered by the police.

The Russian government also does not keep specific records on domestic violence, although they estimate 25% of households suffer from it. There are only two tiny shelters for battered women in all of Russia, one in St. Petersburg and one in Siberia. There are no laws regarding domestic violence or sexual harassment.

Political representation of women declined drastically, from a high of 33% when Russia was a part of the Soviet Union to 7.5% in both parliament houses today. As for women's employment, Anastasia Posadskaya, former director of the Moscow Center for Gender Studies, estimates that women now only earn 43% of men's salaries. Women make up over 70% of the unemployed, and are banned by law from over 460 kinds of jobs, many of which happen to be high-paying.

Russian women are also bought and sold into the female slavery market, where they are foced to become prostitutes. European Union Commissioner for Justice and Immigration Anita Gradun estimates that Eastern European women make up two-thirds of the 500,000 women sold into sexual slavery each year.

10/20/1997 - Abortion Doctor Murderer Says He Was Framed by Anti-Abortion Extremists

Michael Griffin, who is on death row for the 1993 murder of Dr. David Gunn, an abortion doctor in Pensacola, Fla., now claims he was framed in a conspiracy involving other anti-abortion activists, the police, and his own lawyer.

Griffin contends there was another assailant with a gun, although witnesses testified that Griffin acted alone, and the murder weapon was linked to him. He claims that police went back and planted a bullet at the crime scene after witnesses claimed they heard more shots than Griffin fired. The case number immediately before Griffin's is missing from police records, which Griffin claims is proof that the police are covering up the arrest of another assailant.

Others say Griffin, who is seeking a new trial, is grasping at straws. He "talks like he's not playing with a full deck," said anti-abortion leader John Burt. Griffin's mother said he had been "used and abused" by fundamentalist ministers and the Pentecostal church. She said that the church was responsible for whipping her formerly calm son into a murderous frenzy, with practices like "barking like dogs, shrieking and vomiting." His ex-wife said Griffin was "brainwashed by John Burt. Mike was disturbed and Burt played on that."

10/20/1997 - Female VMI Cadets Recruit For Next Class

The Virginia Military Institute's first class of women will actively recruit more females for next year's class, talking to them personally and becoming a part of a marketing campaign to attract more women to the formerly all-male school, say admissions officers.

Assistant Director of Admissions Terri Wheaton Reddings said "We've got to keep the momentum going. We get on the road and young women ask us, 'Tell us how the girls are doing.' They'll be able to talk to them and find out firsthand what it's like."

The school has received over 3,500 admission inquiries from females for the 1998-99 school year, almost 10 times last year's number. So far this school year, about 10% of both women and men have voluntarily dropped out, leaving 26 women in the freshman class.

At last Friday's first open house at VMI, eight females of the 100 prospective cadets were women. Lindsey Moran, who attended the open house, said "I've heard the women are really hanging in there. Even if I am having trouble, they'll be there to help me through it."

10/20/1997 - Lesbian Relationship Not Adultery, Lawyer Argues

In a bizarre semantic twist, divorce attorney Rosalie Davies is using Pennsylvania's law on adultery to argue why her lesbian client should get alimony from her ex-husband.

At issue is whether or not lesbian sex, occurring outside of heterosexual marriage, is considered adultery. If it is adulterous, lesbians can be denied alimony under the state's no-fault divorce laws. Because dictionaries usually define adultery as sexual intercourse, and sexual intercourse is always defined as penetration by a penis, Davies argues adultery is a legal impossibility between lesbians. Pennsylvania's state law does not require penetration under its definition of adultery, but it does not define the term either. In Davies' court brief, she argues that "Cunnilingus does not involve penetration, and surely manual penetration is not intended or all Pennsylvania gynecologists would function in a setting of multiple and ongoing adulterous liasions!"

Davies admits that, if the case is heard by Pennsylvania's Supreme Court, which the opposing lawyer predicts it will, lesbian sex might end up being defined as "less than" heterosexual sex. Still, she contends that since gays and lesbians cannot be legally married, they should not be subject to the same marriage and divorce laws as heterosexuals.

Davies' client has three children, and lives with a woman who also has three children of her own. She accepted a reduced child-support payment in the divorce agreement with the understanding that it would be supplemented by alimony. She says that she is now under considerable financial strain because of her ex-husband's refusal to pay alimony.

10/20/1997 - Churches Can Discriminate Against Single Mothers, KY Human Rights Panel Says

The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights ruled last week that a church day care center did not violate the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act when it fired a woman for being pregnant and unmarried.

Cynthia Bundy had worked at the Fairdale Christian Church Day Care for 18 months when she was fired. The church said she would have to marry the father of her baby in order to keep her job. Church lawyers claim Bundy signed a "moral agreement" to exhibit "Christian values" while at work, and that Bundy violated the rule that all employees act as "positive role models" for the kids. The Human Rights Commission said that the church's policy against extramarital sex was not discriminatory.

The Department of Health and Human Services reports that 30% of all births in the U.S. are to unmarried women.

10/17/1997 - Hillary Clinton Gives Feminist Speech in Argentina

Hillary Rodham Clinton was greeted with applause and cheers by Argentine women for her speech on reproductive health and domestic violence. "Hillary is a radical feminist, and we welcome that here," said lawyer Liliana Tojo.

"Access to quality health care -- especially family planning and reproductive health services -- is crucial to advancing the progress of women," said Clinton. She called domestic violence "one of the most serious and underreported human rights violations in the Americas," and criticized "consumer culture" that "does its best, in my country and yours, to objectify women and make girls believe that only their appearances -- not their hearts, minds or souls -- are important."

In Argentina, rates of anorexia and bulimia are three times higher than in the U.S. Despite a politically powerful church that condemns family planning and a government that prefers no sex education, Argentina is considered liberal compared to other South American countries. Divorce is illegal in Chile, and, until recently, a rapist could escape prosecution by marrying his victim in Peru. Abortion is illegal in Argentina except in cases of rape or to save the life of the woman. By law, at least 33% of the Argentine Congress must be women.

Women's rights supporters at the Colon Theater where Ms. Clinton spoke showered the theater with leaflets supporting abortion rights. Clinton did not directly speak on abortion, but said that better family planning information lowered maternal death rates and the number of abortions.

10/17/1997 - Pilot Wins Sexual Harassment Suit

A jury awarded $875,000 to Tammy S. Blakey, the first woman at Continental Airlines to attain the rank of captain of an Airbus A300 passenger plane, for sexual harassment yesterday.

Blakey filed the suit in 1993, alleging that male pilots left pornographic pictures in cockpits, some with her name written on them. One picture left for her portrayed a naked woman being penetrated with a bloody sword. Despite Blakey's repeated complaints and company instructions asking that the behavior stop, the pictures persisted. Hiding pornography all over the cockpit is apparently a tradition at Continental pilots, where only 12 of 5000 pilots are women.

The jury awarded Blakey $495,000 for lost pay and $380,000 for emotional distress, pain and suffering. Continental plans to appeal.

10/17/1997 - Judge Criticizes Clinton on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

Retiring Judge William A. Norris urged President Clinton to "admit his mistake of judgement" regarding the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays. "Renounce it because it is wrong, it is evil -- as you surely know in your heart," he said at a ceremony where he received a "Liberty Award" from the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. In a 1988 case, Norris said the military's policy violated the Constitution's equal protection clause.

"I can think of no other instances in which the government passed a law whose very purpose is to force people to live a lie, to pretend that their true selves don't really exist." Norris accused Clinton of hypocrisy, given that he recently commemorated the 40th anniversary of desegregation in Little Rock public schools, yet upholds a policy of bigotry against gays and lesbians.

10/17/1997 - Pregnant Troopers Unfairly Treated

In response to complaints brought to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by female police officers, Massachusetts Gov. Paul Cellucci ordered State Secretary of Public Safety Kathleen O'Toole to rewrite the rules regarding pregnant troopers on Wednesday.

Four veteran investigators told the EEOC that they were not allowed to work overtime, and that they were only allowed to use the phone and drive their own car to do investigations when they were pregnant. They were restricted because they couldn't meet state police requirements that they be able to run up 10 flights of stairs, mow the stationhouse lawn, or pull a cow off a roadway. The state police physician, not the woman's personal doctor, can recommend any pregnant policewoman be put on "modified duty." When Lisa Butner refused, she was put on "no duty" status.

California has similar restrictions and physical requirements for pregnant officers, but the decision is made by the women and their doctors. "We never run into an issue with this because most of these gals are smart enough to get off the road when it comes time. They know their body better than anybody," said California Highway Patrol spokesperson Kelly Young. In Washington state, pregnant troopers can choose to do desk duty or stay on patrol as long as they feel able to.

O'Toole was allowed to choose her work 10 years ago when she was pregnant and working as a Boston police detective. "I felt like a valued employee. I didn't have to shelve my career for nine months, and I was able to work until the day before I had the baby." Gov. Cellucci ordered a rewriting of the strict rules because they put "roadblocks in the way of working women."

10/17/1997 - Lesbian Affection in Buses OK

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) has ruled that Pioneer Valley Transit Authority and Hampshire County Transit must pay Joane Rome over $30,000 for being ordered off a bus in 1994 for kissing her lesbian lover.

Driver Stephen Follett pulled the bus over and ordered Joane Rome out because she and her girlfriend's display of affection was inappropriate. "There are little kids in here. You can't do that in front of families," he said. Rome said that a heterosexual couple on the bus was being affectionate as well, but Follett claimed not to have seen them. After criticizing her, he allowed Rome to continue her bus ride. She said she felt "excruciatingly embarassed and upset" that she had been "ordered off the bus in front of all the other passengers." After she got off the bus, Rome went directly to MCAD to file her complaint.

10/17/1997 - Breast Cancer Video Deemed Too Risque

A cable station in Contra Costa County in California has pulled a 7-minute film showing women how to do breast exams because it shows naked breasts.

Breast cancer awareness activists complained when the cable director refused to air it again after only one viewing and said it wasn't appropriate for families to watch. County Supervisor Donna Gerber is considering forcing the station to run the video, and said "It's not possible to teach women to do self-examination unless we show the part of the body we're talking about ... we're dealing with an epidemic in which people are dying."