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Officials at Mitsubishi Motor Corporation announced Tuesday (5-14) that they have hired former Labor Secretary Lynn Martin to investigate claims of sexual harassment at the company's Normal, Ill. plant. The former Republican Congresswoman will investigate the claims filed by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission in what could be the largest sexual harassment case in U.S. history.
5/13/1996 - Muslim Women Discuss Equal Rights
Two hundred people from 20 nations attended "Beijing and Beyond," a weekend conference called to discuss rights denied to Muslim women and to urge Muslim communities to pursue the goals for the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women held last September in Beijing, China. The Sisterhood is Global Institute sponsored the conference and issued a background dispelling the notion that male domination of Muslim societies is mandated by the Koran. Asma Khader, president of the Jordanian Women's Union said, "We show that violence against women is against the law, and try to show that our religion does not give this right to men." Commenting that problems confronting Muslim women are shared by non-Muslim women, Yasmeen Murshed of the Bengali Center for Analysis and Choice said, "What confronts us are issues of basic human rights."
5/13/1996 - NOW Protests Mitsubishi
National Organization for Women chapters across the country picketed Mitsubishi auto dealerships this weekend to protest the company's handling of charges of pervasive sexual harassment at its Normal, Ill. plant. Carrying signs that read, "Solutions, not retaliation" and "Mitsubishi, women are watching," the protesters expressed their outrage over Mitsubishi's denial of the claims made by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on the behalf of over 300 women as well as the company's threats to its employees that they could lose their jobs as a result of the allegations and decreased sales.
Mitsubishi has until mid-June to respond to the EEOC lawsuit, but has indicated it is searching for a new law firm to represent the company. After a Friday meeting with EEOC lawyers following a month-long absence of official contact, Chicago EEOC director John Rowe said, "Our essential understanding is that the next contact will be a court filing by Mitsubishi."
As a board member of the "No on CCRI" Campaign and the executive director of the Lawyers Committee on Human Rights in San Francisco, Eva Paterson met with President Clinton last week to discuss his opposition to an anti-affirmative action measure on the November ballot in California. Clinton said he believed the "California Civil Rights Initiative" -- which would eliminate affirmative action and gut sex discrimination law in the state -- can be defeated. Paterson said Clinton said of the measure, "I am against it. What more do I need to say?"
Presumed Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole has endorsed CCRI and is sponsoring federal legislation with similar language that also would end affirmative action and undermine sex discrimination law.
Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto has indicated he may not honor his predecessor's promise to apologize to the 100,000 or more women forced into brothels run by the Imperial Army in World War II. After refusing to assist the women who were kidnapped and forced to have sex with 20 or more soldiers a day, the Japanese government started a private fund last July to make payments to the women. However, the "Asian Women's Fund" has only raised $3.5 million in private donations, far short of the $10-20 million that was expected. Many of the women victims of the wartime atrocities have denounced the fund entirely and called for the government to compensate the women directly. Mutsuko Miki, the most prominent backer of the private fund, recently resigned from the panel after her meeting with Hashimoto earlier this month. Miki said Hashimoto indicated to her that he would not apologize to the women
During his Saturday radio address (5-11), President Clinton asked Congress to pass legislation that would require insurance companies to pay for 48-hour hospital stays for women and their newborn babies. Currently, many insurance companies refuse to pay for stays beyond 24 hours, and some recommend releasing women only eight hours after delivery. Mothers who giving birth by Cesarean section would stay in the hospital for 96 hours under Clinton's proposal instead of the average of 72 hours.
Clinton cited Senate testimony of cases in which babies died after being discharged 24 hours after delivery. Doctors say early discharges result in increased numbers of parents and infants returning to the hospital because of medical complications that initially went undetected during their short stays. Clinton encouraged other insurance companies to follow the lead of insurers such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans of Pennsylvania which offer 48-hour minimum coverage.
The Canadian House of Commons overwhelmingly passed legislation Thursday (5-9) to ban discrimination against gays and lesbians. In an amendment to the 19-year-old Human Rights Act, isexual orientationi will be added to a list of characteristics that may not be used to discriminate in the hiring or promoting of workers in federal civil service or regulated businesses, sectors which collectively account for 10 percent of the Canadian work force. The bill may also affect housing and employment benefits in the future. Senate approval is expected
5/10/1996 - Women Denied Parity in Pensions
According to research released Thursday (5-9), women are half as likely to receive employer-provided pensions, and men typically collect more than twice the amount of benefits that women receive. At a National Press Club luncheon for the Women's Research and Education Institute, Labor Secretary Robert Reich called the situation the "glass ceiling of retirement security" and said the nation need to end "this de facto penalty on working mothers." Reich said that nearly two out of three working women do not have pension plans. Women make up nearly half of the work force and number 24 million. More than half of retired men but less than one third of women receive pension benefits other than social security. Women are also only half as likely to be union members which would allow them to receive collectively bargained pension benefits.
According to the Institute's report, women continue to bear most of the responsibility of caring for children, and the number of single, working mothers living in poverty is at an all-time high. Reich said, "Allowing the retirement security of women to diminish because they have taken responsibility for bearing and rearing their children is wrong for women, wrong for families and wrong for America."
A pilot program in Montgomery County, Maryland plans to supply women at risk of being abused by male partners cellular phones to call 911. The county sheriff's office began distributing twenty-five phones donated by Bell Atlantic NYNEX Mobile Thursday (5-9) to women who deputies considered to be in imminent danger. The women, victims of prior abuse and stalking, must be protected by a court order and be in reasonable fear of violence to qualify for the program. The phones will place only outgoing calls to 911. Officials in Montgomery and Frederick Counties are also considering a "panic alarm" necklace to protect women in their homes.
A New York male police officer accused of sexually assaulting and trying to rape a female officer appeared in court Thursday (5-9) on procedural hearings. Prosecutors say that Desmond Robinson tried to force a female officer to have sex in his car after a date. Two passers-by called 911 upon witnessing the struggle, but the woman told the officers the situation was under control, and they failed to take action against the suspect. After they left, Robinson allegedly forced the woman to engage in oral sex. An investigation is underway as to whether the officers responding to the call violated departmental policy in not arresting the Robinson; policy requires police to arrest a domestic violence suspect even if the complainant has second thoughts about pressing charges.
If Virginia honors student Jennie Smith wants to participate in her high school graduation, she may have to wear a dress if school officials refuse her request to wear dress pants. A recent memo to graduating seniors included the graduation dress requirement of "NO SLACKS!" for young women. Smith's mother, Karen wrote a letter to a senior class sponsor asking that her daughter be allowed to wear pants. Broad Run High School principal E. Wayne Griffith had a meeting with Jennie and her twin sister, and later told their mother he would make no exception on the dress code for Jennie. Other schools in the Loudoun, Va. district would not prohibit a young woman from participating in graduation if she wore pants. Terrence Hill, director of secondary education for Loudoun schools says he plans to look into the situation at Broad Run.
5/9/1996 - Congress Attacks Same-Sex Marriage
Republicans introduced bills to the House and Senate Wednesday (5-8) to define marriage as "only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife." The measure would allow states to refuse to recognize the legality of same-sex marriages performed in other states, but it would not ban gay marriage in any state. One intention of the law is to prevent marriages performed in Hawaii -- the state whose courts are expected to legalize same-sex marriage -- from automatically being recognized in other states. The measure would also affect federal benefit programs. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said conservatives were using the measure as a "wedge issue" in an election year.
5/9/1996 - NOW Announces Campaign Against Mitsubishi
On Tuesday, May 7, National Organization for Women president Patricia Ireland and Rev. Jesse Jackson announced a national campaign against Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing Corporation. NOW plans to picket dealerships, and Jackson urged a boycott of Mitsubishi autos. Condemning Mitsubishi for allowing persistent sexual harassment at its Normal, Ill. plant, Ireland called the company's response to a suit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission "abhorrent." She cited the company's unwillingness to admit that over 300 women have been harassed at the plant and criticized Mitsubishi's tactics of threatening workers with job loss and paying them to attend a protest to denounce the allegations. Since the April 22 protest, Mitsubishi has indicated a desire to settle the lawsuit.
5/9/1996 - California Moves to Ban Abortion Procedure
The Appropriations Committee of the California State Assembly approved a bill Wednesday (5-8) to ban a rare form of abortion used to save the life, health or future fertility of a woman. President Clinton vetoed a similar federal measure last month. The California bill would fine doctors up to $10,000 for performing the procedure unless the physician had determined no other procedure would save the life of the woman. Clinton had asked Congress to allow the procedure to also protect the health of a woman, but Congress refused to comply. Planned Parenthood, the Commission on the Status of Women, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists all oppose the bill.
A May 6 Los Angeles Times story exposed several cases of underqualified students being admitted to the University of California system because of the clout or donor history of their parents or friends. While UC officials maintain a quid pro quo system does not exist, several cases suggest there is a more subtle preference system in place for the children of VIPs. UC Regent Ward Connerly, one of the VIPs who helped a student get admitted, has recently called for a report on all UC scholarship programs for women and members of certain racial or ethnic groups. Connerly, who last July led the Board of Regents in its decision to dismantle affirmative action, is the co-chair of the self-titled "California Civil Rights Initiative," a measure on the November ballot in California which would eliminate affirmative action and gut sex discrimination law.
Responding to Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R-Utah) demand that a federal judge retire before her son can be appointed to the same judicial circuit, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) complained to Hatch last week that his new policy on nepotism was unfair because many men have been allowed to serve with close male relatives. "To devise a new policy whose first application would be to a woman would be a serious mistake." Hatch has also been accused by liberal advocacy groups of using family relationship to unseat one of the most progressive judges in the county.
Judge Betty B. Fletcher of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed last week to take senior status, a semi-retired position that would assign her to fewer cases, in order to comply with the demand from Hatch, chair of the Judiciary Committee. Fletcher is one of 29 women in the nation serving on an appeals court and is one of four women among the 25 Ninth Circuit court judges. Feinstein said Fletcher is a "shining example to women lawyers. The mother of four, she went to law school when women were not welcome in the profession."
Alaskan Gov. Tony Knowles Monday (5-6) refused to veto a bill outlawing same-sex marriage in the state, adding Alaska to the list of states banning gay and lesbian marriages. Like lawmakers in Utah and South Dakota where same-sex marriages are also banned, Alaska lawmakers fear having to provide spousal benefits for residents who might go to Hawaii to get married if such unions are legalized there.
In Congress, Reps. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), Steve Largent (R-Okla.) and F. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) planned a Wednesday (5-8) news conference to introduce a piece of legislation that would define marriage in federal law as a "legal union between one man and one woman." The a draft of the bill, titled the "Defense of Marriage Act" was circulated in Congress on Tuesday. The bill would also allow states to reject the legality of same-sex marriages performed in another state. The Human Rights Campaign condemned both actions as election-year political ploys.
On Tuesday (5-7), a federal judge dismissed a sex discrimination lawsuit brought by a woman charging that the two male Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University students who raped her received preferential disciplinary treatment in order to benefit the school’s all-male football team. The judge said that the complaint, even if true, does not mean the university violated Title IX since athletic status, not sex, determined how the men were disciplined. University officials canceled the suspension of Antonio Morrison just before the start of football season in 1995.
Broznkala also said the university did not follow through on appropriate judicial processes because of favoritism to Morrison, giving him access to a tape of the first disciplinary hearing before the second while denying Broznkala the tape. Broznkala is considering an appeal.
5/8/1996 - New Findings in Breast Cancer Research
According to statistics released Tuesday (5-7) by the National Cancer Institute, U.S. breast cancer death rates dropped again in 1993 to 25.9 percent from 27.5 percent in 1989. In the prevention of breast cancer, early findings from a British study indicate that women with an increased risk of breast cancer might benefit from the anti-estrogen drug tamoxifen or the vitamin A derivative 4-HPR. The National Cancer Institute is also reconsidering its position on mammograms for women under the age of 50, and plans to convene a panel to review an unpublished Swedish study that finds a 24 decrease in the breast cancer death rate among women who started getting mammograms in the their 40s. In 1993, the NCI had said there was not enough evidence to justify women getting regular screenings before age 50, reversing an earlier position that women over 40 should have the procedure done every two years.
California Rep. Vic Fazio has introduced legislation to permit the sale of a 33-cent stamp, from which the extra penny would be earmarked to go toward breast cancer research, stating the measure could raise close to $200 million a year. In June, the postal service will issue a regular 32-cent stamp commemorating breast cancer awareness.
The House passed a bill Tuesday night (5-6) that would require states to inform the public when dangerous sex offenders are released from prison and move to their neighborhoods. The federal version of New Jersey’s "Megan’s Law" would let states decide how much danger the offenders pose and how much public warning is appropriate. The bill is named for seven-year-old Megan Kanka who was raped and killed in 1994, allegedly by a convicted sex offender who lived across the street from her in Hamilton Township, NJ. Another measure, which passed 414-4, would enable federal prosecutors to ask for life sentences without parole for repeat sexual assault offenders. The House also passed a bill expanding federal anti-stalking provisions to include strangers crossing state lines to injure or harass another person.
In the California kidnapping and murder trial of Richard Allen Davis, Davis came close to admitting he raped 12-year-old Polly Klaas after abducting her from a slumber party. When presented with the possibility that evidence of semen had been found -- a lead that turned out to be false -- Davis replied, "Then, hey, then I’m guilty of it. That’s all there is to it." Davis has maintained that he was intoxicated and does not remember the abduction nor sexual assault, but that he killed Polly in order to avoid being found out and sent back to prison.
5/8/1996 - War Crimes Trial Begins in The Hague
The first war crimes trial since Nuremberg began Tuesday in The Hague, Netherlands. The prosecution accused Bosnia Serb bar owner Dusan Tadic of murdering more than 30 Muslims and Croats, torturing more than a dozen women, participating in gang rapes, and torturing and assaulting other Muslims and Croats. In addition to crimes against humanity, Tadic had also been charged with rape. However, prosecutors had to drop the charge because the victim was too afraid to testify. Some victims of other crimes allegedly committed by Tadic are also fearful of the defendant and will be allowed to testify outside the courtroom via a video link.
5/7/1996 - Fraternity Sexual Assault Levels High
In the last few years, fraternities, which have a national membership of 400,000 male students on 800 U.S. college campuses, have had to use one third of their budgets to pay liability costs for claims involving rape, robbery, and serious injury. An informal campus survey conducted by a graduate student at the University of Georgia, Athens, found that nearly 11 percent of fraternity men admitted to forcing sexual activity after a partner said "no," and nearly 20 percent had engaged in sex with someone they felt was reluctant. District Attorney offices and rape crisis centers across the U.S. report similar findings.
Colleges and universities, which are legally required to report crimes that take place off campus as well as on campus, have been harshly criticized by police and state criminologists for underreporting sexual assault cases and failing to discipline fraternities.
U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb blocked a new Wisconsin state law Monday (5-6) that would require women seeking abortions to consult with a doctor and wait 24 hours before undergoing the procedure. The law also details the specific information doctors would be required to provide. Issuing a restraining order, Crabb said the law would have a "chilling effect" on doctors who could face fines up to $10,000 for violating the law, stating that the law would substantially decrease the availability of abortion services.
The lawsuit, filed by Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin and three physicians who perform abortions, claims the law violates the First Amendment by requiring doctors to distribute written anti-abortion materials. The plaintiffs also say the law will discourage doctors from performing abortions and unduly burden a woman’s right to privacy. The waiting period law was signed last week by Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson.
5/7/1996 - Battered Women Criticize California Governor
This week, advocates working against domestic violence in California are meeting to urge Republican Gov. Pete Wilson to act on the clemency positions of several battered women currently in jail for killing their abusers. In 1992, the California Coalition for Battered Women in Prison helped 34 women draft petitions to Wilson asking for clemency. Since then, Wilson has denied seven of the petitions, commuted one, and reduced another sentence from 15 years to life to 12 years to life. The remaining 21 petitions remain untouched after four years.
Each of the women requesting clemency had killed her batterer and exhausted legal avenues. The average sentence was 15 years to life in prison. Sue Osthoff of the National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women says most governors make more timely decisions and that the wait in California is "grossly unfair to the women whose lives are in the balance." Elizabeth Leonard, author of the 1996 report, "Battered Women and Violent Self-Defense," says that data shows increasing harshness in the sentencing of battered women. In 1979, their mean prison sentence was 4.1 years, and in 1983, it had risen to 10.2 years.
5/7/1996 - Mitsubishi May Talk With EEOC
Mitsubishi Motor, the company charged with pervasive sexual harassment at its Normal, Ill. plant, has approached the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission to discuss the agency’s lawsuit. In the first official contact made with the EEOC by a Mitsubishi representative, a lawyer for Mitsubishi and a former head of the EEOC attempted to discuss the case with EEOC Chairman Gilbert F. Cassellas last week. Cassellas referred both men to the Chicago office of the EEOC. Neither Mitsubishi nor the EEOC would comment on any developments, other than to acknowledge that "contacts may have been made."
EEOC Vice Chairman Paul M. Igasaki said the EEOC is proceeding with the lawsuit, which will likely not go to trial for at least two years. Normal, Ill. plant chairman and chief executive Tsuneo Ohinouye said the company rejected an EEOC settlement proposal last summer, but that the company was interested in settling the dispute to "regain" Mitsubishi’s reputation and its employees. The EEOC is required by federal law to attempt to settle a dispute before it goes to court.