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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.


5/7/1996 - Judge Blocks Wisconsin Abortion Waiting Period

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.


5/7/1996 - More Women Online in San Francisco

According to a telephone survey conducted by San Francisco State University for ValueStar of Alameda, almost one half of the Bay area residents using online service are women. Women make up 47 percent of online users in the Bay area compared to 30-35 percent nationally. ValueStar explained that more women working at home in the region meant more women are using e-mail and are networking online. Thirty-nine percent of those surveyed said e-mail was the most popular pastime, while 28 percent favored the World Wide Web, and seven percent preferred newsgroups.

Jim Star, managing director of ValueStar, said this challenge to the assumption that men dominate cyberspace will result in increased cyberspace offerings targeted toward women.


5/6/1996 - Pro-Choice Republicans Urge Change in Party Platform

Members of the Republican Party are engaged in a debate over the plank in the GOP platform calling for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion. Rep. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and seven other pro-choice Republicans met last week to discuss strategies for challenging the plank three months in advance of the party’s national convention in San Diego. The moderates, who maintain that most party members support abortion rights, are encouraging open debate on the subject after stifled discussion at past conventions. Snowe and Rep. James Greenwood (R-Penn.) intend to work with the Republican Coalition for Choice to confront the issue. Several Republican governors, including Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey, have warned against leaving the anti-abortion plank intact.

Snowe plans to meet with newly-elected convention chair, Henry Hyde, a strong opponent to abortion rights, and with other party leaders to alter the plank and acknowledge that many Republicans are pro-choice. At the very least, Snowe hopes a more diverse debate will lead up to the August convention than in years past.


5/6/1996 - Physician Shot at Women’s Health Clinic

Friday evening (5-3), a phsycian who performs abortions at the Family Planning Institute in Las Vegas, Nevada was shot. Dr. Paul Debello remains in serious condition. Investigations are underway to ascertain whether the shooting is related to anti-abortion violence.


5/6/1996 - Clinton Imposes New Restrictions on Teen Mothers

In his Saturday (5-4) radio address, President Clinton announced four executive orders aimed at teen mothers on welfare. Plans include requiring teen mothers on welfare to live at home with adults and stay in or return to school. Clinton would also give states the authorization to reduce welfare benefits for mothers who do not complete high school and to give bonuses to mothers who do. Benefits would also be reduced if mothers do not live at home, attend parenting classes or establish paternity of their children to get child support.

Women’s rights and welfare rights groups have been concerned about measures requiring teen mothers to live at home, arguing that the young women, some of whom are victims of incest, could be subjected to further abuse when forced to stay at home.


5/6/1996 - American Men Accused of Harassing Hungarian Women

A number of Hungarian women working in the kitchens that serve U.S. peace troops in Bosnia have complained of sexual harassment and exploitation by American men. Most of the perpetrators are civilians employed by a subsidiary of Brown and Root, the Houston-based company which employs 200 Hungarians as kitchen staff, construction workers and drivers. The women complained of being groped and being offered money for sex and cohabitation with American men. Some complained that American companies have significantly cut wages without warning and that the contractors act independently without anyone supervising the wage cuts or unrenewed contracts. Neither Brown and Root nor the U.S. military has commented on the claims.


5/6/1996 - Chinese Newspaper Attacks Sexism in Advertising

The Monday issue of the Shanghai paper, Liberation Daily, criticized Chinese advertising. Among other complaints of materialism and worship of foreign things, the paper said ads use sex too much to sell products, employing provocative words and images while exploiting women’s bodies. The paper also said ads promote male chauvinism, quoting one cosmetics ad promising to give a man a new wife everyday.”


5/6/1996 - Estrogen Patch Eases Postpartum Depression

Close to 10 percent of all new mothers experience a form of clinical depression that can last for several months after giving birth. A new study published by the British medical journal The Lancet finds that wearing an estrogen patch can lead to faster and more extensive recovery of postpartum depression. Authority on the subject Dr. Michael W. O’Hara of the University of Iowa in Iowa City said the treatment might be "an alternative for women who don’t respond to antidepressants." Normal estrogen levels range from 80 to 200 picograms per liter of blood; levels during pregnancy reach 5,000 picograms and plummet to 80 to 100 immediately after childbirth


5/6/1996 - House Committee Makes Conservative Votes

On Wednesday (5-1), the House National Security Committee voted to support a ban on abortions at overseas military hospitals. The Committee also voted for a ban on gays and lesbians in the military and the involuntary discharge of service members with AIDS.


5/3/1996 - Shelter Opens for Battered Women in Shanghai

A battered women’s shelter called the Nangang Family Violence Protection Center has opened in Shanghai, China. Funded by a private entrepreneur, the shelter offers 20 beds and an untrained staff. Hundreds of women have called the shelter since early this year, and dozens have stayed over. Although no statistics are kept on wife abuse complaints in China, there are indications that the problem is increasingly common. According to China Women’s News, family violence causes one-quarter of the million-plus annual divorces in China. The constitution bans the mistreatment of women; one city, Changsha, recently passed a regulation instructing police to thoroughly and sympathetically respond to complaints of wife battering


5/3/1996 - Immigration Board Hears Togo Woman’s Asylum Plea

On May 2, all 12 members of the Board of Immigration Appeals heard the case of Fauziya Kasinga, the 19-year-old woman from Togo seeking asylum in the U.S. to escape Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in her native country. In the 90-minute hearing, immigration service general counsel David A. Martin -- who suggested he did not believe Kasinga’s case in its entirety -- argued that the Board should establish a precedent that only girls and women who would be forced to undergo FGM be granted asylum. The narrow grounds Martin advocated would exclude women who had already undergone FGM, as well as women who would be ostracized from their community if they refused the procedure. Performed with unsterilized knives or even broken glass, the practice entails cutting off all or part of female genitalia and can cause severe health complications and even death. Kasinga’a lawyer, Karen Musalo, urged the panel not to use Kasinga’s case to issue broad guidelines for all women seeking asylum on similar grounds, saying they have a chance to make their own cases. The written decision of the board, expected this summer, will apply to all 179 immigration judges in the U.S. who hear asylum cases.


5/3/1996 - Sexual Harassment Claims Increases Dramatically

Rates of sexual harassment in traditionally male blue-collar industries are nearly twice that of service-sector industries. A USA Today analysis of 15,691 claims filed in 1995 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found large numbers of complaints were filed by women in the fields of mining, construction, transportation, and manufacturing. Overall claims filed with the EEOC have more than doubled in the five years since Anita Hill exposed sexual harassment by Clarence Thomas. However, a 1995 report, Sexual Harassment in the Federal Workplace, found that only half of all such incidents are reported, and only 6 percent of victims file an official complaint. Fears of retaliation and job loss keep many women in all sectors from reporting incidents. Situations like those exposed in the current EEOC suit against Mitsubishi are not unique.


5/3/1996 - France to Allow Women to Fly in Combat

Next month, women will be able to compete for 3 of France’s 63 air force academy places. The U.S. and a handful of other countries currently allow women to fly combat missions. Twenty French women already pilot transport planes and an AWACS surveillance jet.


5/2/1996 - Congresswomen Criticize Mitsubishi

After meeting with Mitsubishi officials and concluding they are in denial about the seriousness of sexual harassment claims brought against the company, Representative Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.) is coordinating a congressional response to the case. Six congresswomen joined Schroeder Wednesday (5-1) in calling for the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission to seek a court order to prevent Mitsubishi from retaliating against workers involved in the EEOC’s sexual harassment suit against the company. Claiming that Mitsubishi has challenged the authority of the EEOC and manipulated employees, the congresswomen charge that the company: made threats of job losses if allegations caused sales to drop; planned and encouraged workers to attend a protest outside the Chicago office of the EEOC; encouraged workers to make free phone calls to reporters, the EEOC and government officials to deny the charges; and asked the court for medical records of the women involved.


5/2/1996 - Senate Votes to Criminalize Female Genital Mutilation

The Senate approved an immigration bill amendment to make it a crime to perform female genital mutilation -- on girls under the age of 18, carrying penalties of up to five years in prison and fines. The amendment, introduced by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev) and passed by a voice vote, was added to a bill sponsored by Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo) designed to crackdown on illegal immigration. Sen. Reid was forced to withdraw language that would have offered political asylum to women fleeing their home countries to escape the practice.

On May 2, the Board of Immigration Appeals heard the case of Fauziya Kasinga, the 19-year-old woman from Togo seeking asylum in the U.S. to escape FGM in her native country. Performed with unsterilized knives or even broken glass, the practice entails cutting off all or part of female genitalia and can cause severe health complications and even death. Immigration service general counsel David A. Martin plans to argue that the Board should establish a precedent that only girls and women who would be forced to undergo the procedure be granted asylum. Refugee advocates say this policy would exclude women who had the procedure as children or who would be ostracized from their community if they refused, forcing them into a life of economic hardship and possibly prostitution.


5/2/1996 - Texas Appeals to Supreme Court to Uphold Affirmative Action

The state of Texas has asked the Supreme Court to allow race as a consideration in affirmative action programs designed to diversify the student body of the University of Texas. The petition, Texas v. Hopwood was authored by Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe and seeks a reversal of a federal appeals court ruling that called for a change UT admissions policies. The case will likely affect institutions of higher learning throughout the country.


5/2/1996 - Kenya Program Offers Help to Battered Women

A Kenyan organization called the Women’s Rights Awareness Program (Wrap) has released a survey which reveals high awareness of widespread violence against women but little willingness to take action against the problem. More than 70 percent of the women and men surveyed said they knew wife beating occurred in their neighborhood, yet nearly 60 percent said that women were responsible for the beatings, and 51 percent said the male perpetrators should not be punished. Only 3 percent of those surveyed said women should seek help through law enforcement. One woman who recently left her husband of 30 years to take shelter in Wrap’s home for battered women said that she expected her husband would have bribed authorities if she had reported the crime, and then he would have beat her again.

Women, typically less educated than men in most African societies, are looked upon unfavorably if they get divorced. Since August 1994, some 60 women have taken shelter at Wrap’s home which provides medical help and legal and psychiatric counseling. The International Federation of Women Lawyers has launched an campaign to educate the public about violence against women and to sensitize lawmakers, police, and others.


5/2/1996 - Japanese Women Challenge Sexual Harassment

On Wednesday (5-1), Washington Post printed a feature article on the pervasive nature of sexual harassment in Japanese companies. In Japan, the women men deal with on a regular basis are either office ladies” who are to do whatever their male bosses ask of them, or workers at hostess bars who are expected to treat the male customers graciously regardless of the men’s conduct. Women in both positions can expect to hear men comment on their beauty or breast size.

Japanese law does not provide victims of sexual harassment with much hope of receiving damages, and companies face little threat of being forced to change by costly litigation as in the U.S. In fact, only 20 sexual harassment suits against companies have been filed in Japan, and one of the largest cases only awarded $16,000 in damages to the victim. Most cases settle out of court for less than $10,000 after the company apologizes to the woman. Rarely do women get the transfers they request, and perpetrators are almost never fired


5/1/1996 - Anti-Affirmative Action Hearings Held in Congress

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Tuesday (4-30) on the proposed California initiative that will end affirmative action and gut sex discrimination if passed by California voters in November. Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) publicly denounced for the first time the self-titled California Civil Rights Initiative”calling its language extraordinarily misleading.” Feinstein cited Clause C of the measure, which would gut sex discrimination law in the state and said the clause is considered an invitation to new discrimination.” Senator Carol Mosely-Braun also spoke out against the measure and made note of recent findings that preferences are given to children and friends of VIPs in the University of California system. Attending the hearing to support the initiative were UC regent and CCRI co-chair Ward Connerly and California Gov. Pete Wilson.

Another hearing was held Tuesday by the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee on pending federal anti-affirmative action legislation introduced by Senator Dole (R-KS) and Representative Canady (R-Fla). Testifying against the measure were District of Columbia Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and Marcia Greenberger of the National Women’s Law Center. The Justice Department has indicated it would urge President Clinton to veto the measure if it passes Congress


5/1/1996 - Abortion Waiting Period Signed into Law in Wisconsin

A law signed Tuesday (4-30) by Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson will require women seeking an abortion to consult with a doctor twice at least 24 hours before obtaining an abortion. Victims of rape who have filed a police report are not subject to the law, nor are victims of incest who have filed a police report in cases where one of the parties involved is a minor. Women who are incest victims of adult males are forced to adhere to the waiting period. Doctors violating the law could be subjected to fines up to $10,000.

Arguing that the law is unconstitutional, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin planned to seek an injunction Wednesday to prevent the law from taking effect. According to PPW president Severa Austin, the Wisconsin law goes further than similar laws in about a dozen states because it requires two visits rather than one. It also requires doctors to follow specific procedures in their discussions with patients including giving her booklets with pictures of fetuses and providing oral and written information about alternatives to the procedure and its risks.


5/1/1996 - Georgia Plans to Dismantle Black Majority Districts

A plan to reduce the number of state legislative districts in Georgia with black majorities has been approved by a federal court. The Justice Department and voting rights groups advocates have opposed the plan which is an interim plan that only applies to the 1996 election. The plan reduces the power of black constituents to elect black candidates. Redistricting plans have jeopardized the future black candidates such as Rep. Cynthia McKinney in Georgia and Corrine Brown in Florida.