In Iran, Masssoumeh Ebtekar, 36, was appointed vice-president in charge of protecting the environment, and director of the Iranian organization for the Protection of the Environment. She is the first woman to be named to such a senior position in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Ebtekar has had experience in journalism, medicine, and teaching, and has been a member of Iranian delegations to international organizations. She will be working under President Mohammad Khatami, whose election was carried by the votes of women, young people, and intellectuals.
A federal district court jury in Georgia awarded Vickie D. Galliher one of the largest amounts of money ever involved in federal government sexual harassment case. Last week, the former employee of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick, Ga. won $72,000 in back pay and $600,000 in damages. Galliher, who possesses a master's degree in sports medicine, accused the Center of rejecting her for a promotion from health trainer to instructor, instead giving the job to a lesser-qualified man. After she filed a complaint in 1994 with equal employment opportunity officials in Washington, the training center subjected her to poor evaluations, obscene telephone calls and eavesdropping. The ostracism led Galliher to quit her job after two and a half years. Although a spokesman for the Center said last week that the Center would appeal the verdict, it may owe more compensation after a judge rules on the issues of lost pay and legal fees.
The pre-trial hearing of Sgt. Major of the Army Gene McKinney continued as a commissioned officer testified that McKinney made sexual advances against her wishes while they served in Germany. The officer claims that McKinney made repeated sexual advances, and at one point in 1994 grabbed her arm and tried to kiss her. The officer is one of six women bringing sexual harassment charges against McKinney. Due to the officer's testimony, McKinney has been charged with solicitation to commit adultery and one count of assault on a commissioned officer in the execution of her duties. Gene McKinney is currently Sergeant Major of the Army, which means that he is the highest ranking non-commissioned officer and chief advocate for the enlisted troops. The objective of the pre-trial, which began in June, is to determine whether or not the charges merit a court-martial.
8/12/1997 - Women's Health Care Concerns Taking Center Stage
Aging baby boomers and their economic and political clout have recently brought women's health care concerns to the attention of the medical community. Experts attribute this shift in part to feminist activists who urged the medical community to make up for its years of neglecting women's health. As a result, funding for women's health initiatives has risen 30 percent over the past three years, and the budget of the U.S. Public Health Service's Office on Women's Health has gone from $1 million in 1991 to $12 million this year.
However, problems do remain. Some women complain that there is too much contradictory and confusing information being published. Also, increased spending has not always translated into health improvements; last year, AIDS deaths dropped 22 percentamong men but only 7 percent among women, and breast cancer continues to kill one in eight women.
8/12/1997 - First Breast Implant Lawsuit Coming to Close
The nation's first breast implant class-action suit is scheduled to close on Thursday, August 14. Women who received Dow Chemical Company's silicone breast implants are seeking damages for illnesses they say were caused by the implants. The trial began on March 27 of this year.
8/11/1997 - First Dean of Women Appointed at Citadel
On August 9, the Citadel appointed Professor Suzanne Ozmeat as its first dean of women. Ozmeat has been an English professor at the previously all-male military school since 1982, receiving tenure in 1986. She has been awarded the Faculty Merit Award twice. As dean of women, her responsibilities will include supervising the development of female cadets as members of the academic community. Citadel President John Grinalds speaks highly of Ozmeat: "She is a noted Victorian scholar, an able teacher...and she is also a very strong administrator."
A panel consisting of six men and one woman cleared Sgt. 1st Class Alfred Ray Palma on Aug. 8 of charges that he had sex with a trainee. A 20-year-old woman had accused the former Fort Jackson drill sergeant of consensual sodomy, adultery, and inappropriate association with a trainee. Army officials are now considering whether to charge the woman who made the accusations.
8/11/1997 - Sri Lanka's Army Recruits Women Soldiers
In its 14th year of civil war, Sri Lanka is having trouble finding recruits for its military. The shortage has led recruiters to look more favorably upon young women as potential soldiers. Military officials claim that women make up half the fighters in any Tamil rebel army, but fewer females contribute to Sri Lanka's fighting forces. Of the country's 2050 military officers, only 50 are women. Army officials believe, however, that the number of women showing interest in entering the military is increasing. At the Kotewala Defense Academy at Ratmalana 17 women graduated in this year's class of 107 cadets.
Diya Singh from Jaripur, India, has defied tradition by marrying a man outside the Hindu warrior caste to which she belongs. Last week, Singh married a family aide, disobeying the custom that requires marriage within the caste. For allowing the marriage to take place, Singh's father, Bhawani Singh, was excommunicated from his caste. The Hindu warrior class, which prides itself on following ancient tradition, is a caste that consists of descendants of kings and generals and proudly adheres to tradition.
A tight game led to Brazil’s win over the United States 101-95 in the gold medal game of the America zone qualifier for the women's basketball World Championships. U.S. Coach Nell Fortner attributed his team's loss to Brazilian forward Maria Paula de Silva, who scored 38 points in the game: "We simply could not stop Maria Paula, the key player on the Brazilian team. Our defense was weak and we failed to apply pressure in a consistent way."
Fifty female custodians have sued Congress and the Capitol architect for pay discrimination. The highest the women make is $10.08 an hour, while the men get $11.10. After formal mediation was unsuccessful, the women filed a class-action suit with the help of their union: the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. The employees have charged Congress and the Capitol architect with violating equal pay laws, and the women seek back pay and punitive damages.
The Center for Disease Control announced on Thursday, August 7 that the rate of hysterectomies performed in the United States remained constant between 1988 and 1993. Experts had expected an increase in the rate since the number of women over 40 grew during those years. The lower-than-expected rate may be due to an increased number of alternatives to the surgery, and to more women getting second opinions on health care matters. Health care professionals say that the procedure is often performed unnecessarily.
According to Drs. Jane Goodall, Jennifer Williams and Anne Pusey, who have been studying chimpanzee behavior since 1960, recent findings have determined that female chimpanzees are much less dependent on male chimpanzees as a source of power than previously believed. Female chimpanzees usually control their reproductive success. Female chimpanzees, although they have frequent sex with male chimpanzees in their own colony, will leave the colony during the most fertile days of their cycle to mate with chimpanzees they consider to be superior to the local chimpanzees.
In addition, female chimpanzees have an internal hierarchy within their ranks. Those female chimpanzees who are of higher rank generally have children who live longer and are healthier than the children of those of lower rank. It is uncertain as to how the females of higher status achieved this rank, however evidence suggests it is not due to blatant acts of aggression, but due to more subtle strategies. These findings contradict earlier assumptions of male dominance in chimpanzees.
Current and former female employees of the Marin Municipal Water District in San Francisco won $635,000 from their employer in a sexual harassment case. After the two women who filed the suit get a portion of the money, the rest will go to about 75 other women. The women charged their managers with discriminating and harassing behavior, particularly after the women complained about certain incidents. In one instance, men showed the females a copy of Penthouse magazine. On many other occasions, men subjected them to sexually demeaning profanities and demoted or denied the women better jobs when they complained.
8/8/1997 - Surfers Ride Wave of Gender Equality
For the first time in surfing history, a female pro surfer was allowed to compete with the men. Three-time world champion Lisa Anderson competed this week at the U.S. Open of Surfing, held in California, in both the men's and women's divisions. Although Anderson failed to qualify for the men's final, she believes that competing against the men will allow her to improve her skills and will pave the way for other female surfers.
8/8/1997 - Packwood Returns
The disgraced former Oregon Senator Bob Packwood has returned to work in Washington as a lobbyist on tax reform, the tobacco industry, and the balanced budget amendment. Packwood resigned his seat in the Senate less than two years ago amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
"In American politics today, you can achieve rehabilitation very quickly," said Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia.
Although the number of women police officers in major cities has increased, smaller towns lag far behind. Women officers comprise about 15% of the nation's largest departments, up from three percent 20 years ago. Advocacy groups and lawsuits have pressured the larger cities to make this change but have not challenged small cities. Thus, suburban police chiefs have little incentive to let go of tradition and urge women to apply for openings. These chiefs, however, argue that the low number of women officers is not their fault. They argue that most women do not apply for police work, so most of the jobs go to men.
A few smaller departments have made efforts to encourage female applicants. In New Haven, Conn., recruiters advertise job openings in women's groups' newsletters and hand out fliers in day care centers. This tactic worked well for Officer Jennifer Raymond, who applied for her job after seeing a flier which said New Haven wanted female officers.
According to Penny Harrington, the director of the Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Center for Women and Policing in Los Angeles, recruiting female officers not only helps women, but the communities which the departments serve. "Citizens' complaints go down because women tend to be better communicators," she said. "They try to solve problems rather than make an arrest and go away."
8/7/1997 - Abortion Fraud Charge Dropped
Lincoln County prosecutors dropped Medicaid fraud charges against a Nebraska woman who had a state-funded abortion last fall because the charges were "no longer appropriate." Nebraska Medicaid pays for abortions in cases of rape or incest, but requires that victims report the incident to police. The woman told authorities that she had been raped in a park by a stranger when she was actually raped in a hotel room by a man she had met two days before. She did not tell police officers this because she feared they would not believe she had been raped.
"Our system still finds it difficult for women to be taken seriously especially when the rapist is well known to the victim" said Judith Cross, Nebraska's chair of the state Commission on the Status of Women.
Lactation consultants report that women are still reluctant to continue breast-feeding their infants after they return to work. Although technology such as portable breast milk machines has made expressing milk easier than ever, many women are too embarrassed to bring up the subject with their employers, and many employers are reluctant to make adequat breastfeeding facilities available. Employers are urged to make it easy for mothers to express milk while at work, since it could reduce health care costs and time taken off by parents of sick children, since breast-fed babies are often healthier than their bottle-fed counterparts.
8/6/1997 - California Parental Consent Law Struck Down
The California Supreme Court struck down the state’s parental consent law on Tuesday, August 5. Lawyers argued that the law, which required minors to obtain permission to get an abortion from either a parent or a judge, violated minors’ privacy rights. The court upheld the law last year but, with the departure of two judges supporting the law, agreed to reexamine the case this year. Members of the medical community, assisted by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, had sued to have the law overturned. More than 20 other states have similar laws on the books, and a dozen more require parental notification. Federal courts have tended to uphold the constitutionality of such laws. In California, the 1987 law has not been enforced for the most part while tied up in court.
The California Supreme Court voted 4-3 against the parental consent law, citing a teenager’s right to privacy. “I would not go so far as to say that this will set a legal trend, but other states many look to the analysis that the California Supreme Court did here,” said Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. Antiabortion activists claim they will try to put the parental consent law in voters’ hands in 2000 as an amendment to the California state constitution.
8/6/1997 - Congress Restricts Abortions
The 105th Congress passed several restrictions on abortion this year. On June 5, the House adopted an amendment to the State Department Authorization bill which bans funding for overseas organizations that use their own money to promote or perform abortions. The U.S. is already prohibited from making direct contributions to overseas abortions. Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), who sponsored the amendment, plans to propose a similar one to the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. Both Houses voted to keep a ban on abortions in overseas military hospitals in place, even if the women want to pay for the procedures themselves. On July 22, the Senate adopted an amendment that, for the third year, would prevent federal employee health plans from paying for abortions except in the cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the woman. Congress this year reauthorized the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortions except in the cases mentioned above. This amendment would also apply to the children’s health initiatives in both Budget Reconciliation bills. The Senate passed a bill May 20 that would outlaw D&X procedures, but the House has not yet voted on it.
A Richmond federal appeals court ruled on August 5 that seven white male police officers could sue their supervisor for making derogatory comments about women and blacks and for creating a hostile work environment. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision overruled an earlier court decision throwing out the lawsuit because the men were not the targets of the insults. The officers have accused their supervisor of making disparaging remarks to and about female and black members of the police force for a two-month interval in 1993. They sued in 1995 after their complaint to a precinct captain resulted in no action against the supervisor.
Female employees’ allegations of "inappropriate office behavior" led to Rear Admiral Robert S. Cole's removal from the command post at Norfolk-based Atlantic Fleet shore facilities. Women working in Cole's office alleged that Cole kissed them on the cheek or held them, creating an uncomfortable office environment. There are also allegations that Cole had an "excessively familiar relationship" with a female subordinate, according to the Virginian-Pilot newspaper.
Admiral J. Paul Reason, commander-in-chief of the Atlantic fleet, cited the reasons for Cole's dismissal as "a loss in confidence in his judgment and ability to command."
Girls in Fairfax County are protesting that the county provides more and better facilities for its baseball teams than for its softball teams. Softball coaches complained at a County Board of Supervisors meeting that the recreation department provides 109 baseball fields but only 10 softball fields. Boys comprise the majority of the county’s 31,000 youth baseball players, but there are about 15,000 girl softball players. Supervisors voted 8-0 to remedy the inequality by constructing two new softball fields and creating a committee to investigate the problem.
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. .