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12/16/1996 - Women Lobby for Political Seat in Pakistan

Pakistanian women and human rights activists have asked political parties to field at least thirty percent women for the upcoming February 3rd general election. Two hundred organizations and over 500 individuals have asked the 23 parties to allow women run for office. This includes financial backing and collaboration on a constitutional amendment restoring reserved seats for women.

The 1973 Constitution envisioned such reserved seats for women but they have never truly come to pass. After the fourth election in 1993, only four women held seats in the 217 member National Assembly.

12/16/1996 - Planned Parenthood Opposes New York State Assembly Ban on D&X Abortions

Planned Parenthood Federation of America has come out in strong opposition to a proposed attempt in the New York State Assembly to ban D&X abortions. The legislation does not make an exceptions to save the woman's life and is therefore most likely unconstitutional. It also would send doctors to jail for providing the women with the procedure.

Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood, commented, "We need to remember that, despite medical breakthroughs, there are still tragic instances when a fetus develops without a brain or internal organs. That was the case with Vikki Stella, a diabetic mother of two who was able to end her doomed pregnancy with this safe procedure and then go on to have Nicholas, a healthy baby boy. I do not understand how politicians in Albany could think they know more about Vikki Stella's health than her family and her doctor. These are difficult, personal decisions that belong to families and not the government."

12/13/1996 - Congressional Female Custodians Claim Sex Discrimination

Female custodians working in the U.S. Capitol building filed a sex discrimination suit on Thursday, December 12. The 18 women allege that they are paid less than male workers who do much of the same work. The custodian position, comprised mostly of women, receives $9.99 per hour; the laborer position, comprised mostly of men, is paid $10.77 an hour. The custodians claim that the distinction between the two categories concerns name, gender and pay, not job content. Jewel Lewis, a nine-year custodian commented, "We're doing way more than the men and getting underpaid." Tony Corbo, who represents the women, said the custodians must now take out up to 50 pounds of trash while cleaning, though this job is supposedly reserved for the laborers.

12/13/1996 - Clinton Asks Janet Reno to Continue as Attorney General

Squelching weeks of speculation, President Clinton Wednesday asked Janet Reno, the first woman to serve as this nation's top law enforcement official, to remain as Attorney General during his second term. Appearing together Thursday, December 12th at a meeting on anti-drug efforts, neither Clinton nor Reno would discuss her future with the administration. Reno had stated last month that she would like to remain the Attorney General.

12/13/1996 - Former Fannie Mae Employee Awarded Millions in Sexual Harassment Case

A jury has awarded Elizabeth Martini, a former employee of the Federal National Mortgage Association (known as Fannie Mae) $6.9 million in compensatory and punitive damages for suffering sexual and verbal harassment at her job. Martini claims that her supervisor, Forrest Kobayashi, verbally assaulted her because of her sex and subsequently fired her by reorganizing the office she worked in. Martini, the director in the treasurer's office, was the only person to lose her job as a result of the reorganization.

12/13/1996 - Army Drill Sergeant Receives Dishonorable Discharge for Sexual Assault

Fort Leonard Wood Staff Sergeant Anthony S. Fore, 36, has received an 18-month prison sentence and a dishonorable discharge for abusing six female recruits. Fore fondled one recruit, touched the breasts of five others while checking them for bras, and put his hands around the necks of two others who had incorrectly answered his questions. Though Fore faced a maximum of thirteen years for his conduct, prosecutors asked for a two and half year maximum sentence because of a plea arrangement. Four other instructors at the Missouri base have been charged while 16 others remain under investigation. Last month, Sgt. Loren Taylor pleaded guilty to having five improper relationships with female recruits. On December 11, Army officials reported that the number of sexual harassment claims at Aberdeen Ordnance Center in Maryland had doubled from 25 to 50 in a matter of weeks.

12/13/1996 - New South African Constitution Guarantees Equal Rights for Homosexuals

The South African Constitution specifically protects homosexuals from both government and individual discrimination. No other nation's constitution contains such extensive or explicit protection for gays and lesbians. As a result of the protections, a new labor relations act specifically protects gays and lesbians from workplace bias, and the military has barred discrimination against them in recruitment, training, and promotions.

The new Constitution, approved on December 4th by South Africa's highest court and signed into law on December 10th by President Nelson Mandela, prohibits any discrimination, including that based on race, age, gender, sexual orientation, physical disability, language or religion.

12/13/1996 - New South African Constitution Guarantees Equal Rights for Homosexuals

The South African Constitution specifically protects homosexuals from both government and individual discrimination. No other nation's constitution contains such extensive or explicit protection for gays and lesbians. As a result of the protections, a new labor relations act specifically protects gays and lesbians from workplace bias, and the military has barred discrimination against them in recruitment, training, and promotions.

The new Constitution, approved on December 4th by South Africa's highest court and signed into law on December 10th by President Nelson Mandela, prohibits any discrimination, including that based on race, age, gender, sexual orientation, physical disability, language or religion.

12/12/1996 - Clinton Continues to Delay Decision on Prop. 209

White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry commented on Wednesday (12-11) that President Clinton has still not decided whether or not the federal government will intervene in the court case concerning the constitutionality of the anti-affirmative measure Prop. 209. Late Tuesday, the President granted Attorney General Janet Reno and Solicitor General Walter Dellinger another month to study legal issues surrounding the controversial measure. Indicating for the first time that the President might not involve the federal government in the case, McCurry said, "There was a presumption, given the president's strong views [against] CCRI that we would enter this case at some point. That has been the presumption but it has to be based on very sound legal reasoning."

Opponents to the measure argue that the deceptive measure denies women and people of color equal protections and opportunities. They point to a 1982 Supreme Court decision in which Justices overturned a Washington state ballot proposition limiting busing for school integration. The Court ruled that the measure was discriminatory in intent and operation. Prop. 209 is currently under a temporary restraining order barring governor Wilson from implementing it until a hearing scheduled for Monday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. Had the President wanted to join the groups opposing the measure at that time, he would have had to make a decision by Wednesday, December 11th. The President still has the option of entering the legal battle at a later date.

12/12/1996 - Reports of Sexual Harassment Double at Army Ordnance Center

Army officials reported on December 11th that the number of complaints of sexual harassment at the Aberdeen Proving Ground's Ordnance Center has doubled from 25 to 50 in just a few weeks. Women have reported rape, sexual assault, and harassment at the base over a span of two years. Currently, over twenty-five drill sergeants and instructors are under investigation for sexual assault.

A Congressional delegation arrived at the base on Wednesday to oversee the Army's investigation. The delegation is interviewing trainees at the base in trying to determine whether the incidents are the result of some people or are a result of structural problems throughout the Army. Last month the Army set up a special telephone number for people to report sexual assault and harassment. Of the 6,107 complaints received, the Army is looking into 849.

12/12/1996 - Women Gain in Boardrooms

According to a 1996 census of the nation's largest 500 companies, women hold more than ten percent of the directors' seats, the largest number to date. Conducted by a woman's non-profit research group, Catalyst, the census also indicates that those numbers are leveling off. The numbers of women directors increased, but at a slower rate than in previous years. From 1994 to 1995, the number of directors jumped seven percent, from 1995 to 1996 it increased only at a rate of three percent. As of March 1996, women occupied 626 of the 6,123 Fortune 500 company board seats. Catalyst's president Sheila Wellington commented, "Progress slowed in 1996. Nonetheless, if one realizes that only 69 percent of Fortune 500 companies had a woman director in 1993...and that now 83 percent have a woman, that demonstrates quite good progress."

12/12/1996 - Reprisals for Sexual Harassment Complaints in the LAPD

Appearing before the council's Personnel Committee during a sexual harassment hearing, Penny Harrington of the Feminist Majority Foundation's National Center for Women in Policing testified that women in the Los Angeles Police Department who complain of sexual harassment face reprisals from their co-workers. Harrington said some women who do report sexual harassment see once-positive job evaluations turn negative, some have close family and friends subjected to investigations, and some are forced out of jobs. The inability of women to receive protection once coming forward with a complaint, has seriously hindered the ability to identify harassment. Kathy Spillar, national coordinator for the Feminist Majority Foundation, said that another major consequence of this retaliation is the unwillingness of qualified women to join the LAPD.

12/12/1996 - LA County Approves New Procedures for Date Rape Drug Probes

All people treated for rape in Los Angeles County will now also be given urine tests to determine if the "Date Rape Drug" was used in the assault. The new procedure of collecting urine samples follows widespread use of drugs such as Rohypnol and gamma hydroxybutyrate which generally causes victims to become dizzy and black out. The tasteless and odorless drug is often slipped into victim's drinks. Often, rape victim's who unknowingly consumed the drug cannot recall the assault. If other substances are found in the urine, the victims will not be prosecuted for other drug use. The LAPD and Sheriff's department are also training staff to deal with evidence gathering in drug related rape cases

12/11/1996 - Clinton Urges Congress to Pass U.N. Treaty Guaranteeing Women's Rights

At a Human Rights Day White House Ceremony on December 10th, President urged the Senate to end its fifteen year delay in signing the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The Treaty has been ratified by over 130 nations and was signed by President Carter in 1980.

Clinton urged for Congressional action at the Ceremony which was attended by Hillary Rodham Clinton and women's rights advocates from across the world. Several women honorees were in attendance, including Kenyan International Human Rights Lawyer Wanjiru Muigai; founder of a support group for abused Hispanic women Lillian Perdomo; a lawyer whose organization has helped over 72 Thai refugees held against their will in a California sweatshop Julie Su; and a Sudanese physician who founded and is the Presidnet of RAINBO, a US based organization working to eradicate female genital mutilation worldwide, Dr. Nahid Toubia. Christine Onyango of the Feminist Majority Foundation and member of its delegation to the Fourth U.N. Conference on Women in Beijing, was also in attendance.

Clinton also announced his intentions to redirect approximately $4 billion dollars to help human rights efforts. The President will allocate some funds specifically to groups helping Rwandan refugee women and working to end child prostitution and labor in Asia. At the U.N. Women's Conference, the First Lady criticized customs which violated women's human rights, including the custom of burning wives to death in India if their dowries are too small; female genital mutilation in some African and Islamic cultures; and the use of rape as a war tactic in Bosnia and Rwanda.

12/11/1996 - 6 Million Children Live in Poverty; President Plans Heating Aid Cuts for Poor

While a National Center for Children in Poverty released a new study showing that 6.1 million American children under the age of six live in poverty, the Clinton administration announced plans to cut federal heating aid to the poor by 25%. The administration plans to eliminate in five years federal aid program to the poor for home heating bills. Currently, the program receives $1 billion in federal aid, Clinton's budget office has announced it will cut that to $750 million for the 1998 budget in the process of phasing out the program by the year 2002.

The study on children indicates that the poverty level among young children increased by 18% from 1972 to 1994. It also shows that an additional 4.8 million children lived near the poverty line. Fewer than one-third of poor children's families rely solely on welfare.

12/11/1996 - VMI Commission Sets Rules for Integrating Students

A 106 member-panel of the Virginia Military Institute, charged with paving the way for the traditionally all-male school to admit women, has backtracked on earlier school statements that no standards for cadets will change. The Commission has announced that the school may modify the traditional buzz cuts for cadets, eliminating military slang words considered offensive to women, and implementing a strict policy against sexual harassment. Construction will also begin on separate bathing and toilet facilities for women, outdoor lighting and safety telephones to increase security and modified academic and athletic buildings.

Four women have already been admitted through an early admittance program. Thirteen other female applicants are also expected to gain admittance. Assistant Director of Admissions Terri Reddings commented that the class standing and grade point averages of female candidates are, "every bit as good as the men's and maybe a little better."

12/11/1996 - Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Sex-Offender Law

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on December 10th in a case involving the confinement of dangerous sex offenders. The case involves state laws designed to keep dangerous, but not mentally ill, sex offenders in mental institutions after they have served their prison sentences. The case is on appeal from the Kansas State Supreme Court which struck down the 1994 Sexually Violent Predator Act and involves repeat child offender Leroy Hendricks. Hendricks, a 62 year-old self described pedophile has been repeatedly imprisoned for sexually assaulting children.

After the expiration of Hendricks's recent ten-year sentence, the state sent him to a high-security mental hospital. A jury had found that he met two of the Predator Act's requirements for continued imprisonment: he was likely to repeat his offenses and his behavior was due to a "mental abnormality or personality disorder." Henrick's lawyers charge that the state law violates one's right to due process and the right against double jeopardy. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the law was a civil, not criminal procedure and therefore did not violate Henrick's double jeopardy rights, but it also found that it fell short of due process standards. At least five other states have similar laws and several more are considering them in next year's legislative session.

12/11/1996 - Three Sailors Charged with Gang Rape

Three sailors at the U.S. Naval Submarine Base are accused of gang raping a sixteen-year-old female on November 29. The rape allegedly occurred at a Navy run lodge. The men are being held on $100,000 bonds each. Two of the men, Lionel Benjamin, 19, and Raymond Johnson, 17, were charged Monday with first-degree sexual assault and a third, Luis Jones, 20, was charged with third-degree sexual assault.

12/10/1996 - Afghan Women Punished for Disobeying Strict Dress Codes

The fundamentalist Islamic Taleban militia has disclosed that it punished 225 women who did not follow its strict clothing rules. After announcing the punishments, the Taleban-controlled Sharia Radio warned again that, "all women should wear the burqa and veil and respect sharia or face punishment." The broadcast also warned that women must not wear long chador robes which fail to cover their faces. Women are required to wear the burqa, which covers them from head to toe and conceals the face.

Fifteen men have also been punished for failing to grow beards. Though the Taleban radio did not disclose the nature of the punishments, people have been beaten in public for alleged clothing violations

12/10/1996 - Archaeologist and Paleoanthropogist Mary Leakey Dies at 83

Mary Leakey, whose discoveries of prehistoric bones and artifacts in East Africa have led to a better understanding of the origin of the human species, died December 9 in Nairobi, Kenya. Leakey's discoveries proved that human evolution began on earth up to 3.6 million years ago and have added credence to Charles Darwin's theory that the earliest human ancestors can be traced to Africa. Previous to her work, the earliest traces of humankind dated back to only 0.6 million years. Gilbert M. Grosvenor, the chairperson of the National Geographic Society commented that Leakey's work, "played a pivotal role in rewriting the history of early humans."

On husband Louis Leakey's frequent trips to the U.S. to lecture, he gave the impression that he made the discoveries his wife had made. Mary Leakey wrote in her autobiography that she lost her professional respect for her husband after he retracted a statement that a skull fragment came from a direct human ancestor.

12/10/1996 - Proposed Netherlands Law Would Recognize Same-Sex Marriages

A proposed law in the Netherlands would give same-sex marriages the nearly identical legal status heterosexual marriages. Lesbian and gay couples would not, however, be allowed to adopt children. The proposal has broad backing in parliament and is expected to become law in early 1998. Though lesbian and gay rights advocates hail the law as a significant step, they are continuing to lobby for adoption rights.

In the United States, a Honolulu judge has ordered the state of Hawaii to issue same-sex couple marriage licenses. The ruling is now on hold while authorities appeal it. In September, President Clinton signed a federal law allowing states to refuse to recognize homosexual marriage licenses issued in other states and stating clearly that the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriages.

12/10/1996 - Feinstein Seeks to Amend Welfare Legislation

Stating that welfare reform will devastate California residents, Senator Dianne Feinstein wants to amend the newly-passed legislation. Though mindful that the 105th Congress is not likely to overhaul the welfare reform, which destroys the 60-year-old federal guarantee of cash assistance to the poor, Feinstein is determined to make changes which will accommodate California's large and diverse population.

After talking with welfare directors in counties throughout California, Feinstein's staff has found that some of the legislation's edicts are impossible to attain. In order for welfare recipients to find work within two years, the state would have to provide 160,000 new jobs, three times the number it currently provides per year. The edict that 90 percent of two parent welfare families find work by 2002 may be impossible under any circumstances.

Feinstien's goals include continued federal funding for elderly and disabled noncitizens in the country before this year's enactment of the bill. She would also like to double, from six to twelve weeks, the time allowed for recipients to search for a job. The Senator faces tough opposition from a Republican Congress and Pete Wilson, the Republican California Governor bent on destroying welfare programs in the state.

12/10/1996 - Columbia University Student Allegedly Sexually Tortured Three Women

A Columbia University student charged with assault, sexual abuse and unlawful imprisonment last week has also allegedly attacked at least two other women. The women told authorities recently that Oliver Jovanovic, 30, attacked them in a manner similar to the way he is charged with attacking a 20-year-old Barnard Student. Prosecutors claims that Jovanovic brought the student to his apartment after dinner, tied her to a chair, undressed her and assaulted her with sex toys for almost a day. He repeatedly threaten to mutilate and kill her, Jeffrey Dahmer style. The two had met in an America Online Chat room. Jovanovic had an appointment to meet with another woman he met in cyberspace next week.

12/9/1996 - Clinton Considers Intervention in Court Battle Over Proposition 209

President Clinton and Attorney General Reno are considering whether the federal government should involve itself in the legal battle over the constitutionality of the Proposition 209, the amendment passed in California last month that seeks to outlaw affirmative action and gut sex discrimination law in the state. The Justice Department has created a list of possible ways the White House could intervene which might include the White House becoming an active participant in the lawsuit waged by civil rights groups to block implementation of the initiative or to file an amicus brief to show support of the lawsuit. The civil rights groups, along with some senior administration lawyers believe Prop 209 may violate the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution because it would make it difficult for women and people of color but not members of other disadvantaged groups to seek redress for discrimination.

12/9/1996 - First Four Women Accepted to VMI

Following a U.S. Supreme Court order mandating that the all-male state-supported Virginia Military Institute accept women, VMI has accepted four of the fifteen women who applied to its 1997 entering class. The VMI governing board reluctantly agreed in September to admit women rather than go private