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3/14/1997 - Peru Moves to Strike Law Allowing Rape Offenders to Marry Victims

The Peruvian Legislature moved on March 12th to pass a law which would strike down a a penal code section allowing men who rape women to escape punishment by marrying their victims. The law also allowed men involved in a gang rape to go free if one of the men married the woman. ``It was an important victory not only for women, but for all of Peruvian society,'' Gina Yang of the Manuela Ramos women's rights group told TV Frecuencia Latina after the committee vote. Congresswoman Beatriz Merino, who introduced the repeal measure, was quoted as saying in the government's Andina news agency that, "`A norm that for decades has offended the dignity of all women has been eliminated."

3/14/1997 - Superior Court Rules New Jersey Not Mandated to Provide Benefits to Domestic Partners

A three-member state appeals panel sitting in New Jersey unanimously has ruled that Rutgers University does not have to provide health benefits to domestic partners. The panel concluded that the state is only mandated to provide benefits to spouses of state employees under a law established in 1961. The law, however, does not cover live-in partners who are not married. The decision could ultimately affect all of the state’s 600,000 employees and comes at a time when the state legislature is considering two bills which would outlaw same-sex marriages. New Jersey Governor Christie Todd Whitman is opposed to same-sex marriages, but a spokeswoman said that the governor would not necessarily fight a law which would extend benefits to domestic partners. The state supreme court is not required to review the case because the opinion was unanimous, but parties on both sides of the issue say they expect the state’s highest court will grant review.

3/14/1997 - Operation Rescue Demonstrates in California High Schools

Operation Rescue anti-abortion activists have been picketing four high schools in California. Groups of three to twelve people have been picketing outside schools in the San Juan Unified School District. The protesters were part of a national campaign aimed at young people. But, so far, the tactic is backfiring. Shelley Benvenuti, a 16-year-old junior at Rio Americano commented, "I thought it was totally twisted. I was really upset about it. We are in high school and we know about abortion, and we come to our own conclusions about it. We don’t need people getting in our faces about it. It’s a disgrace." Pam Rubistky, who took her fourteen-year-old son out of school because of the protesters, commented, "I believe in freedom of speech, but I feel this is threatening to my child. If they want to teach my son something, they should go through the school board or the principal. This is totally inappropriate." Another student at Rio Americano, Sarah Campbell 17, commented, "I read the little book they passed out and it’s not factual. Plus, it uses religion in the wrong way. I’m against abortion myself, but I’m totally against this approach."

3/14/1997 - Department of Education Spells Out Sexual Harassment Guidelines

The Department of Education has released guidelines to all schools and colleges on what constitutes sexual harassment. The department called on school officials to use "judgment and common sense" when fighting harassment. The guidelines say that, "In order to give rise to a complaint, sexual harassment must be sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive that it adversely affects a student’s education or creates a hostile or abusive educational environment." The guidelines give some examples of what does and does not constitute harassment. For example, a basketball coach hugging a player after a good game does not constitute harassment, but persistent and inappropriate hugging does. Students who tell homosexual students they are not welcome at a lunch table does not constitute harassment, but male students who target lesbian students for sexual advances are harassing the students.

3/14/1997 - Rape Drug Outlawed in Florida

A law banning the use of Rohypnol, the so-called "rape drug", has passed both Houses of the Florida Legislature. The drug is slipped into the drinks of unsuspecting sex-crime victims who become unable to resist an attack and often black out. Governor Lawton Chiles is expected to sign the bill because the drug, a sedative 10 times stronger than Valium, has no therapeutic use.

3/13/1997 - Study Finds Rape Victims Not Believed

The Florida Governor's Task Force on Domestic and Sexual Violence conducted a study which found that women in Florida are not often believed by hospital staff treating them for rape. The study found that the rape victims have only a fifty percent chance of being believed, even though national statistics show that the false report rate for rape is less than two percent. The study also found that hospitals often don't follow through on the proper procedure for collecting evidence and that hospitals charge up to a thousand dollars for investigations that truly cost only a few hundred. Robin Hassler, the executive staff coordinator of the study commented, "The fact that rape victims are not believed is common. There is a high prevalence of non-reporting because once they get involved in the system it can be such a horrible experience."

3/13/1997 - Herald-Leader Names First African-American Female Editorial Page Editor

The Lexington Herald-Leader has appointed Vanessa Gallman to serve as the paper's editorial page editor. Gallman most recently served as a reporter in Knight-Ridder's Washington Bureau where she covered welfare reform and national politics. She has also worked for The Washington Post and The Charlotte Observer. Gallman, who will become the paper's first African-American editorial page editor, commented, "I'm proud to be the first, and I guess the responsibility that carries with it is to be good at the job and open to all kinds of people and different ideas."

3/12/1997 - Annual Mammograms for Women Over 40 May Be Advised

The board of the American Cancer Society will vote during its March 17-22 meeting on whether or not to recommend that women over 40 have annual mammograms. Though scientists are in agreement that annual mammograms for women over the age of 50 significantly cut the number of deaths from breast cancer, the ACS’s current recommendations for women 40-49 are to have mammograms every year or two. A panel of 50 experts convening last weekend in Chicago has advised that more lives could be saved if women in their 40s had annual mammograms, and a spokeswoman for the society said it will likely approve the recommendation. In January, a panel commissioned by the National Cancer Institute failed to reach a recommendation and declared that women in the 40s should decide for themselves whether or not to have annual mammograms. Marilyn Leitch of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, a panel member of the Chicago group, said, “The current average two-year interval between screens may be too long for this age group and their faster-growing cancers.”

3/12/1997 - Non-Invasive Alternative to Hysterectomy Presented

For women with uterine fibroids, non-cancerous growths that cause pain and bleeding, there has not been an alternative treatment to the surgical removal of the uterus, a hysterectomy. At a medical conference in Washington, DC on March 11, doctors presented an alternative procedure called embolization that involves making a quarter-inch incision and using a catheter to cut off blood flow to the fibroid. For eight of ten patients on whom the procedure was performed symptoms improved significantly, and fibroids shrank to a third of their size. Another patient had a decrease of bleeding, and another eventually needed to get a hysterectomy. Mifepristone (formerly known as RU 486) is also being tested as a non-surgical method of treating uterine fibroids. See Feminist Majority Foundation Factsheets for more information

3/12/1997 - Bank of America to Offer Health Benefits to Domestic Partners

Beginning in January 1998, San Francisco-based Bank of America will extend health benefits to same-sex or opposite-sex domestic partners or to one under-65 dependent adult relative of its employees. Enrollment for the medical, dental and vision coverage will begin this fall. Partners are required to have been in “committed relationship that has existed for at least six months, and must be responsible for each other’s welfare on a continuing basis.”

The third-largest U.S. bank, Bank of America spokesman Dennis Wyss said he believed that Bank of America was the only major U.S. bank to offer extended health benefits. Wyss said that one factor in Bank of America’s decision was the San Francisco governing board of supervisors passage of a local law requiring companies doing business with the city to provide equal benefits for married employees and employees with domestic partners. However, Wyss maintained the company had considered extending benefits before the San Francisco ordinance was introduced.

3/12/1997 - Developing World Childbirth Mortality Rates High

According to estimates released at the first world childbirth mortality congress opening on March 10, more than a million women and 8-10 million babies die in childbirth around the world every year. Poor childbirth conditions also result in another five million infants being handicapped for life. Congress president Dr. Daniel Weinstein of Israel said that hemorrhaging was the leading cause of death, accounting for 25% or 140,000 of the 585,000 childbirth deaths occurring in the 78 countries studied. One hundred thousand cases resulted from blood poisoning or septicemia, 75,000 from clandestine abortions and hypertension, 40,000 with obstruction of labor. The remaining 20 % of deaths resulted from indirect causes including anemia, diabetes, malaria and heart disease. Noted among the risk factors were access to emergency medical car, insufficient time between births, and age over 35. Weinstein also noted that girls receive less food than boys in some cultures where food is scare.

The disparities between childbirth mortality rates in different countries are great. The risk of death at childbirth of a Somalian woman is one in seven while the risk for a Spanish woman is one in 9,200. The risk in the U.S. is one in 3,500 compared to one in 7,700 in Canada. The World Health Organization and the United Nations’ Children’s Fund released the figures, compiled in 78 countries that comprise about one-third of the world’s population.

3/11/1997 - Congressional Hearings Held on D&X; New York State Senate Votes to Ban the Procedure

The full Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution held a hearing on the D&X abortion procedure on March 11. Participating in the panel were Kate Michaelman, NARAL President; Gloria Feldt, Planned Parenthood President; Vicki Sapporta, National Abortion Federation Executive Director; National Coalition of Abortion Providers President Renee Chelian; Dave Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee; and Helen Avare of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in addition to an anti-choice doctor, two women who had the procedure and one who did not. The Senate and House have reintroduced bills that would ban this form of abortion except in cases where no other procedure would save the life of the woman. President Clinton vetoed the ban in April of 1996 because it made no exception for the health of the woman. On March 12, the House full Judiciary Committee is expected to mark up HR 929, referred to as the “partial birth abortion” ban bill.

Opponents of choice are taking up the debate on the state level as well. Republican-controlled New York State Senate voted 40-19 on March 10 to pass legislation banning the D&X late term abortion procedure. Doctors who performed the surgery would face up to four years in prison unless the life of the woman was threatened. Health Committee Chairman Assemblyman Richard Gottfried said he expected the measure to be defeated in the Assembly where most members of the Health Committee oppose the ban. Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver said he would leave the fate of the bill in the hands of the Health Committee and that it won’t be considered unless exceptions are made for the life and health of the woman. Proponents of the measure have said they will push for a vote by the entire house to force the measure to the Assembly floor. Opponents of the ban maintain that its wording is vague enough that it could potentially ban other types of abortions including a procedure used during the second trimester to save a woman’s health. Gov. George Pataki has said he would sign the measure.

3/11/1997 - Preventative Anti-HIV Gel in Testing Phase

Procept, Inc., a pharmaceutical company in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has announced the development of a antiviral drug that has the potential to provide women with a more effective means of protection against HIV and other STDs than current available methods. PRO 2000 is a topical microbicide that forms a chemical barrier against the entry of HIV and other viruses into a woman’s cells. An odorless, tasteless gel containing PRO 2000 would allow women to prevent disease transmission even in situations where negotiation is difficult or dangerous. Clinical trials of the microbicidal gel on healthy female volunteers are underway in both Belgium and England.

The World Health Organization estimates that nearly half of AIDS cases are among women. One of the major problems in the prevention of further infection is the lack of effective, female-controlled protection methods. Though male condoms are effective in blocking the transmission of STDs, they are under the control of men, and women cannot protect themselves without first negotiating with a male partner. The recently introduced female condom is expensive and cannot be used without the partner’s knowledge. There is no method currently available that is completely under the control of the woman.

3/11/1997 - Citadel Punishes Nine, Expels One for Hazing, Harassment

Officials at South Carolina’s military school the Citadel announced Monday, March 10 that one male cadet had been dismissed and nine others punished for participating in the hazing and harassment of female cadets Kim Messer and Jeanie Mentavlos who left the school in December because of the treatment. The school held private hearings on the actions of 11 male cadets on March 1 but did not release the results for over a week. Interim Citadel President Clifton Poole stated, “The college made mistakes and individuals broke rules. We have gotten the facts, we have heard the evidence and we have punished those cadets who violated regulations.”

Though three of the 11 cadets could have faced expulsion, only one cadet, accused of telling another cadet to set fire to Mentavlos’ sweatshirt, was dismissed. Another cadet received the maximum school penalty short of dismissal: restriction to campus for the rest of the semester and 120 tours of marching for one hour with a rifle in the barracks courtyard, along with reduction of rank. Eight others were handed lesser punishments such as demerits, confinement to barracks, marching tours and reduction of rank. One cadet was cleared. In December, three other male cadets accused of hazing resigned and a fourth was punished.

Messer and Mentavlos alleged that the male cadets set their clothes on fire, forced them to drink tea until they were sick, forced them to drink alcohol and stand in a closet while being shoved and kicked, and put cleanser on their heads. The FBI and the State Law Enforcement Division are also investigating the allegations of harassment and hazing, but no criminal charges have been filed.

3/11/1997 - Justice Department Sues States for Abuse of Female Prison Inmates

Alleging that female inmates in state prisons have been sexually assaulted and subjected to unlawful invasions of privacy, the Justice Department sued Arizona and Michigan on March 10. The lawsuits, which seek a court order requiring the states to protect female inmates from rape, sexual assault and other improper sexual conduct, come after investigations of complaints of alleged sexual misconduct made in Michigan in 1994 and Arizona in 1995. The court order would also ensure that state-run prison inmates and staff not engage in sexual relations, and the department would also try to ensure appropriate privacy for female inmates when using showers or toilet facilities.

3/10/1997 - California Abortion Clinic Firebombed

Early on Friday, March 7, a firebomb of flammable liquid was thrown through the window of the North Hollywood, California Family Planning an Associates Medical Group clinic. No injuries were incurred, but damage to the facility was estimated at $1,000. The fire started by the bomb extinguished itself before firefighters arrived. No arrests had been made the following day.

3/10/1997 - California Abortion Clinic Firebombed

Early on Friday, March 7, a firebomb of flammable liquid was thrown through the window of the North Hollywood, California Family Planning an Associates Medical Group clinic. No injuries were incurred, but damage to the facility was estimated at $1,000. The fire started by the bomb extinguished itself before firefighters arrived. No arrests had been made the following day.

3/10/1997 - War Crimes Trial Begins

A war crimes trial, conducted by the United Nations’ tribunal in Yugoslavia, opened on March 10 in the Hague, becoming the first collective war crimes trial since World War II atrocities were examined by Nuremberg and Tokyo courts. In the trial against three Muslims and a Croat, prosecutor Eric Ostberg said that Serb prisoners were tortured, raped, and killed at a Bosnian concentration camp. Seventy-six survivors had been called to testify by the prosecution; some say they were victims of torture and rape at Celebici, a central Bosnian camp which the Red Cross reported as a place of harassment and torture in August 1992. The camp was established by mostly Muslim authorities at the beginning of the Bosnian war. At least 14 Serbs were allegedly murdered in the camp while others were tortured as prisoners. The four men are on trial for various atrocities including murder, torture and failure to prevent the alleged atrocities. The tribunal has indicted 74 war crimes suspects, most of whom are Serbs.

3/10/1997 - Afghan University Stays Closed to Women

In Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul University reopened on March 9 after being closed by the Islamic militia Taliban’s takeover of the city in September. Women are still forbidden to attend, due to the Taliban’s ban on women working or getting an education. Before the Taliban takeover, women had comprised 60% of the University’s teachers and had made up half of the student population. The exclusion of women will significantly limit the standards of the school which had once been known among Islamic countries for its high educational standards. Upon its reopening, the University also lacked desks and books.

The newly-formed Women's Alliance for Peace & Human Rights in Afghanistan (WAPHA) staged a protest outside the State Departement on Friday afternoon, March 7 and held a conference at the George Washington University on Saturday, March 8 to call attention to abuses of women's human rights in the country and to urge the United States and the United Nations to refuse recognition of and aid to the Taliban.

3/10/1997 - Clinton Firm on Protecting Health of Women in Late-Term Abortion Debate

In the face of renewed opposition to the rare D&X abortion procedure, President Clinton is standing by his decision last spring to veto legislation that would have banned the procedure with no exception to save a woman’s health. At a moving ceremony in which women who’d had the procedure told how it save their lives and future fertility, Clinton vetoed the ban last April because it only allowed the procedure if no other procedure would save the woman’s life, but it made no exception for a woman’s health. A new bill, also lacking a health exemption, was introduced in the House last week. At a press conference on March 8, Clinton said of the new bill, it “might not work to reduce the overall number of abortions at all, but in the end what it could do is every year to take a few hundred women and wreck their lives and wreck the possibility that they could have further children.”

On Sunday, March 10 U.S. Roman Catholic Cardinals urged President Clinton in an open letter to sign the ban, claiming that a health exemption is too broad. Planned Parenthood of New York City Alexander Sanger said that not allowing a woman to have a surgical procedure when her health is threatened would be to deny the woman her constitutional rights.

3/7/1997 - International Women's Day Celebrations Planned

"International Women’s Day is an occasion to review how far women have come in their struggle for equality, peace, and development. It is also an opportunity to unite, network, and mobilize for meaningful change.”
- United Nations Department of Public Information

The first International Women’s Day was March 8, 1911, but the day became one of activism years earlier. On March 8, 1857, in New York City, hundreds of women garment and textile workers in New York City protested against inhumane working conditions, the 12-hour workday, and low wages. Police attacked and dispersed the women. Two years later, these women formed their first union. On March 8, 1908, 15,000 women marched in New York City, demanding shorter hours, better pay, voting rights and an end to child labor. They adopted the slogan "Bread and Roses.” In May of that year, the Socialist Party of America designated National Women’s Day as the last Sunday in February. On February 23, 1917, March 8 in the Georgian calendar, Russian women protested poor living conditions and food shortages called for a strike for bread and peace.
In 1981, Rep. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) cosponsored a Joint Congressional Resolution proclaiming the week of March 8 National Women’s History Week. In 1986, the National Women’s History Project (founded in 1979 by Molly MacGregor) helped expand the celebration to the entire month of March. In 1987 and subsequent years, the National Women’s History Month Resolutions have been approved with broad-based, bipartisan support in both the Senate and House, and signed by the President.

To celebrate International Women's Day and Women's History Month, see our list of March Calendar Events in our special section for Women's History Month.

Also visit the National Women's History Project list of events in the U.S. and around the world.

[Source: National Women’s History Project]


Florida Supreme Court Upholds Death Penalty for Paul Hill

The Florida Supreme Court upheld anti-abortion extremist Paul Hill's murder conviction and death sentence on March 6. Hill was convicted and faces the electric chair for murdering Dr. John Britton and his driver James Barret with a shotgun on June 29, 1994, outside of the Ladies Center in Pensacola, Florida. The court denied claims by Hill's lawyers that Hill should not have been allowed to defend himself at his trial. The court also said the trial judge had acted appropriately in preventing Hill from saying the murders were justified because he was keeping fetuses from harm.

3/7/1997 - Citadel Hazing Hearing Results to be Announced

The results of the Citadel's disciplinary hearings for 11 male cadets accused of hazing will be announced on Monday, March 10, the South Carolina military college said. Three male cadets allegedly used violence and abusive treatment against Jeanie Mentavlos and Kim Messer and failed to report hazing. Eight other male cadets faces less severe charges. Two of the first four women admitted to the formerly all-male college, Messer and Mentavlos left the school in December because of the hazing and harassment.

3/7/1997 - Complications from Breast Implants Often Require Additional Surgery

A study by the Mayo Clinic has found that nearly one in four women who get breast implants may suffer from complications that require additional surgery. Women who got implants after breast cancer surgery were most at risk for complications with 34% requiring additional surgery within five years. Thirty percent of preventative mastectomy patients required additional surgery within five years, while 12% of women getting implants for cosmetic reasons had complications necessitating surgery within five years. The contraction of scar tissue around silicone implants was the most common problem following implant surgery, requiring additional surgery in 131 of the 178 women in the study who had second surgeries. Scar tissue hardens the breast and distorts its shape. Implant rupture or leakage, bruising, bleeding, infection, pain, and dead nipple tissue were some of the other complications. The study followed 749 women who had breast implant surgery between 1964 and 1991. Half of the complications occurred within the first year of the implant surgery.

A New York woman is suing her former jailer for $3 million for allegedly ignoring her complaints that her right breast implant was defective during her 1992 imprisonment in the Schenectady County jail. According to court records, the implant was removed in 1994 when Maryanne Sadelmyer was in state prison. Sadelmyer is suing for damages for indignities and pain in a trial scheduled for May 13 with a U.S. Magistrate in Albany.

3/6/1997 - Oscar Winner Marleen Gorris to Direct Major Studio Picture

Dutch filmmaker Marleen Gorris, who won the foreign language Oscar in 1996 for directing Antonia's Line, has will direct her first major studio picture. 20th Century Fox has contracted with her to direct Come West With Me, a movie based on the play Abundance by Beth Henley. The nineteenth-century drama deals with the story of two women who journey west as mail-order brides. Gorris has most recently completed her English-language directing debut with the bigscreen version of Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway.

3/6/1997 - Mitsubishi Allegedly Interfering in Sex Discrimination Case

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has accused Mitsubishi Motors Manufacturing with interfering with the government's sex discrimination lawsuit against the company. In a brief filed with the U.S. District Court in Peoria, Ill., the government's lawyers allege that the company improperly asked women workers whether they planned to join the class-action lawsuit, whether they took notes of the harassment, copies of any notes and further misinformed the women that they could be eligible for damage awards even if they did not participate in the suit. The EEOC is seeking approximately $300,000 in damages for each of the 700 persons involved in the class action suit, thus making this case one of the biggest government sex discrimination suits ever brought. The company is accused of allowing its workers to habitually grope, touch and harass women employees while managers stood by and did nothing.