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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.

7/28/1997 - Operation Rescue Founder Runs for Congress

Randall Terry, the founder of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, has entered the Congressional race in New York's 26th district. The district, which includes the cities of Ithaca, Binghamton, and Kingston, is currently held by Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D). Terry is running under an ultra-right conservative platform. During his speech announcing his candidacy, he denounced lesbian and gay rights and abortion rights, and advocated terminating all social services funded by the federal government.

7/25/1997 - Former Supreme Court Justice William Brennan Dies

William Brennan, the former Supreme Court Justice who ardently fought for civil rights and individual freedoms, died July 24 in an Arlington, Virginia nursing home. In his 34-year career on the high court, he helped the Constitution achieve its purpose of protecting the dignity of all individuals, no matter what their rank or standing. In addition to upholding freedom of speech, Brennan led the Court in denouncing sex discrimination, protecting abortion rights and promoting affirmative action. In 1972, Brennan argued that treating the sexes differently was only permissable when a compelling government interest was at stake. The same year, his opinion striking down a Massachusetts law banning the sale of contraceptives paved the way for Roe vs. Wade. He wrote, "If the right to privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwanted governmental intrusions into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as whether to bear or beget a child." In his 1979 United Steelworkers of America v. Weber opinion, Brennan explained that federal anti-discrimination law does not prohibit employers from adopting affirmative action programs. On his last day as a Supreme Court Justice in 1990, Brennan spoke for the 5-4 majority upholding federal affirmative action in government contracting.

7/25/1997 - Congress Passes Breast Cancer Stamp Bill

Both chambers of the United States Congress have approved a bill to create a special breast cancer stamp. The House of Representatives and Senate reached a compromise on the bill's language and have sent it to the White House for President Bill Clinton's signature. The bill provides for a 40 cent stamp (eight cents higher than the normal postage rate) whose proceeds will go to fund breast cancer research. Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA), the bill's chief Senate sponsor, commented on the passage and President Clinton's expected signature, "I (cannot) believe that the president of the United States would not sign this (bill) knowing that the women of America made him president." President Clinton is expected to sign the bill. Rep. Vic Fazio (D-CA) was the bill's chief House sponsor but turned the sponsorship over to Rep. Susan Molinari (R-NY) in order to make its passage through the GOP controlled House easier. Of the bill Fazio commented, "[it] provides an opportunity for people who want to make a difference to voluntarily participate in fighting a problem." The House and Senate had to agree on Molinari's language which included a review of the stamp, no other stamp of its kind has ever been issued, after two years. The Senate also agreed to the House version which gave the postal service more leeway in determining administrative costs.

Breast cancer is the leading killer of women age 35 to 52. One in every eight American women is diagnosed with the disease.

7/25/1997 - Kelly Sentenced to 16 Years

A rapist who fled to Europe for eight years to avoid trial was sentenced July 24 to sixteen years in prison. Alex Kelly was an eighteen-year old high school wrestler when two women charged him with rape. One of the victims, Adrienne Bak Ortolano, urged the judge to give her attacker the maximum sentence of 20-years for raping her when she was sixteen. Kelly was denied bail while he appeals his conviction and waits for his second trial.

7/25/1997 - Hillary Rodham Clinton Supports Small-Scale Foreign Loans

United States First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton urged Congress to fund a foreign aid program which provides small scale loans(generally less than $1000) for women and the poor who want to start small businesses. At a speech before the program's supporters, Clinton said that the program is "one of the strongest tools we can employ to assist people using their own effort." She also pointed out that many people do not have the means to obtain loans from commercial banks, but they do have "sweat equity…a lot of dreams and are willing to work hard." The program is part of the Agency for International Development's Microenterprise Development Project. The program, which calls for $240 million over two years, was recently included in a House of Representatives foreign aid bill. Women will comprise at least half of the approximately four million annual clients.

7/25/1997 - Kelly Sentenced to 16 Years

A rapist who fled to Europe for eight years to avoid trial was sentenced July 24 to sixteen years in prison. Alex Kelly was an eighteen-year old high school wrestler when two women charged him with rape. One of the victims, Adrienne Bak Ortolano, urged the judge to give her attacker the maximum sentence of 20-years for raping her when she was sixteen. Kelly was denied bail while he appeals his conviction and waits for his second trial.

7/24/1997 - Seven Officers Convicted of Domestic Violence Relinquish Their Guns

The domestic violence provision of the Gun Control Act forced seven Los Angeles Police Department officers who had been convicted of domestic abuse to give up their guns, Chief Bayan Lewis said July 23. The provision, which the federal government passed last year, prohibits anyone with a domestic abuse conviction from carrying a firearm. Lewis made his comments during a news conference where he also announced that he had signed a "special order" which explains to department employees how the law affects them.

7/24/1997 - Wage Gap Between Women and Men Decreases Yet Remains Significant

On July 24, the Canadian Council on Social Development (CCSD) released "Are Women Catching Up in the Earnings Race?," a report showing that the wage gap between the sexes has decreased, but women's salaries still lag far behind men's. In 1995, women earned 65 cents for every man's dollar, up 11 cents from 1981. For full-time full-year workers, the gap narrowed from 64 to 73 cents for every dollar men earned. Data also showed that female baby-boomers have made wage gains, but earnings of women in other age groups have stayed the same.

7/24/1997 - Sri Lanka Plans to Allow Abortion in Limited Cases

The On July 23, Sri Lanka announced plans to give women limited access to abortion. The island will make exceptions to its current law against abortion in cases of rape, incest, and fetal deformity. According to National Committee on Women Chair Wimala de Silva, the government is also likely to approve three months' maternity leave for single women. At present, only married women can take maternity leave. To deal with these issues and others affecting women, Sri Lanka has created a Women's Affairs ministry.

7/23/1997 - 5,000 Women Killed Yearly in India for Lack of Adequate Dowry

A report conducted by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has found that 5,000 women in India are killed each year for not bringing enough dowry to their marriages. While the use of dowries - money and goods women bring to a marriage - is illegal in India, custom still pervades in much of the country. Often women who do not bring enough to a marriage are killed in kitchen fires, which are passed off as accidents. The continued existence of the custom also leads poor families to kill young daughters because they cannot afford the large gifts necessary to get them married.

7/23/1997 - 5,000 Women Killed Yearly in India for Lack of Adequate Dowry

A report conducted by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has found that 5,000 women in India are killed each year for not bringing enough dowry to their marriages. While the use of dowries - money and goods women bring to a marriage - is illegal in India, custom still pervades in much of the country. Often women who do not bring enough to a marriage are killed in kitchen fires, which are passed off as accidents. The continued existence of the custom also leads poor families to kill young daughters because they cannot afford the large gifts necessary to get them married.

7/23/1997 - Senate Votes to Ban Federal Employees' Health Insurance Coverage of Abortion

By a 54 - 46 roll call vote, the Senate has continued the ban to exempt abortion from federal employees' health insurance coverage. Six Democrats and 48 Republicans voted to keep the ban; 38 Democrats and 7 Republicans voted to kill the ban.

7/23/1997 - Tuscaloosa, AL Abortion Clinic Target of 13th Clinic Arson/Bombing of 1997

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 domestic violence. Alarmed by the resurgent wave of abortion clinic arsons and bombings, Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal called for the government to classify the Tuscaloosa arson as "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."

7/23/1997 - Congress Approves Breast Cancer Research Stamp

The United States House of Representatives has voted 422 - 3 to approve a new breast cancer postal stamp. The U.S. Senate approved the stamp last week. Proceeds from the stamp, which will cost 33 cents, will be used to fund research for combating the disease.

7/23/1997 - Woman Attempts to Become First Female to Circumvent Globe in Helicopter

Pilot Jennifer Murray, 56, is two-thirds finished with her journey to circumvent the glove in a helicopter. If she completes the journey, she will become the first woman to have ever accomplished that goal. Murray hopes to make the trip in less than 100 days and plans to donate the $800,000 raised to the Save the Children organization. Murray began flying only two and a half years ago; she is accompanied on the trip by Quentin Smith, 36, who won a gold medal at the 1994 World Helicopter Championship. Smith said of Murray, "Impossible to Jennifer just means quite hard." Murray began her journey in London and is flying an R-44 Robinson helicopter.

7/22/1997 - Taleban Imposes New Restrictions on Women in Afghanistan

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."

7/22/1997 - UNICEF Report Finds Women Live in High Risk of Violence

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.