Same-Sex Marriage Official; More Female Soldiers Assaulted

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(WOMENSENEWS)–

Cheers

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A law allowing same-sex couples to legally marry in Washington, D.C., took effect March 3 after much controversy, Voice of America reported. Washington’s City Council approved a law legalizing same-sex marriage in December.

Opponents say D.C. residents should have been able to vote on the issue, but Chief Justice John Roberts of the U.S. Supreme Court rejected that argument, the article reported. He said the high court defers local issues to local courts in Washington, and the local courts have refused a request for a referendum from the opponents.

The District of Columbia now joins five states–Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont–with a law legalizing same-sex marriage.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • The U.S. Small Business Administration wants to expand the number of federal contracting opportunities for women-owned businesses, the organization reported on March 2. "The proposed rule is part of the Obama administration’s overall commitment to expanding opportunities for small businesses to compete for federal contracts, in particular those owned by women, minorities and veterans," said their Web site. The Small Business Administration is soliciting comments on this proposed rule on www.regulations.gov until May 3.
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  • Women hold about a quarter of lawmaker positions in the Iraqi parliament, reported the Associated Press on March 3. As compared to other countries, in Rwanda, women hold 56.3 percent of seats; Sweden, 46.4 percent; South Africa, 44.5 percent; Ecuador, 32.2 percent; the United Kingdom, 16.8 percent; Iran, 2.8 percent; Saudi Arabia, 0 percent; and Arab states 10.1 percent, according to data collected last year by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the article reported.
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  • Muslim religious leaders in Afghanistan are helping promote the use of condoms in a country with the world’s highest fertility rate and second highest maternal death rate, reported the Associated Press on March 2. "Islam, unlike Catholicism, does not fundamentally oppose birth control. Everything from vasectomies to abortions are supported in various parts of the Muslim world," said the article.
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  • The Washington, D.C.-based Center for American Progress’ The Enough Project campaign is organizing a march on March 8 to raise awareness about the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda and its impact on women and society, reported the campaign on March 3. The march is a part of International Women’s Day and will feature Congolese human rights lawyer Sylvie Muanga Mbanga and Women for Women International President Andree Simon, among others.
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  • The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and the Chicago Foundation for Women will commemorate immigrant women who have made contributions to their communities on March 8, reported the Chicago Foundation for Women on their Web site. Illinois State Sen. Iris Martinez and other Illinois state representatives have been invited to attend.
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  • As part of Women’s History Month, The Association of Junior Leagues International will be promoting civic leadership and recognizing a range of women. The organization is promoting the idea of "Do You Have to Be ‘Famous’ to Be a Part of Women’s History Month?," according to a March 3 press release. Each day throughout this month, the organization will be posting one fact about a member, some famous women and some not, which carry the ideals of founder Mary Harriman. The facts can be found on their twitter account, @JuniorLeague.
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  • Russian women’s rights activists rallied in St. Petersburg on March 4 to protest the dismissals of pregnant women and mothers with small children from their jobs, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported. The activists say the number of instances of pregnant women or those with children under three years of age being fired by their employers and denied social allowances has increased in recent years. The St. Petersburg-based organization Peterburgskaya Egida (St. Petersburg Aegis) is currently investigating 15 such cases. A member of the organization said that in the wake of the economic crisis many companies have laid off female workers and in some cases failed to pay them their severance and other social allowances to which they are entitled. Other women have not received maternity leave payments, the article reported.

 


 

Jeers

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Female soldiers are more likely to become homeless, sexually harassed and raped than their male counterparts in the U.S. military and on a military base, according to a March 8 Time.com report.

"The Pentagon’s latest figures show that nearly 3,000 women were sexually assaulted in fiscal year 2008, up 9 percent from the year before; among women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, the number rose 25 percent," the article reported.

"When you look at the entire universe of female veterans, close to a third say they were victims of rape or assault while they were serving–twice the rate in the civilian population," it added.

More News to Jeer This Week:

     

  • A think-tank organization and human rights group accused the government of Uzbekistan on March 3 of telling health workers to sterilize women through surgery, reported the Associated Press on March 3. "Uzbek health officials did not answer repeated telephone calls from The Associated Press to seek their comment about the allegation," reported the article. The human rights group Najot "said in a report in 2009 that doctors in hospitals often sterilize women after their second child without their consent," according to the article.
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  • A United Nations labor agency said in a report that inequalities in pay and employment remain for women despite the progress made in certain countries, reported the agency on their Web site. In the International Labor Organization report "Women in labour markets: Measuring progress and indentifying challenges," released March 5, the agency says that "gender biases remain deeply embedded in society and the labor market" even after the 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing. "We still find many more women than men taking up low-pay and precarious work, either because this is the only type of job made available to them or because they need to find something that allows them to balance work and family responsibilities. Men do not face these same constraints," said Sara Elder, the author of the report, on the organization’s Web site.
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  • The Oklahoma House overwhelmingly passed legislation on March 2 that would require women who are considering an abortion to first undergo an ultrasound, the Associated Press reported. The House voted 87-7 for the bill and sent it to the Senate for consideration. The bill requires an ultrasound exam to be performed at least one hour before having an abortion. It says a physician or technician must explain what the ultrasound is depicting and display images of the fetus so the pregnant woman can see them, as well as provide dimensions of the fetus, the article reported. The measure is one of several anti-abortion requirements that are part of legislation passed two years ago but struck down by an Oklahoma County judge. The judge said it violated a constitutional provision requiring laws to deal with only one subject, the article reported.
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Noted:

     

  • The close links between reproductive health, the empowerment of women, gender equality and their contribution to poverty reduction will be highlighted by the Commission on the Status of Women to be held in New York from 1 to 12 March, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, said March 1. The commission marks the 15th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, which called for international norms and standards of equality between men and women and a recognition that women’s rights are human rights. Governments and the U.N. at that meeting agreed to promote "gender mainstreaming" in policies and programs.
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  • The United Nations Development Fund for Women, UNIFEM, is organizing and co-sponsoring a series of events at this year’s Committee on the Status of Women in New York from March 1 to 9, according to UNIFEM’s Web site.
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  • A United Nations labor agency, the International Labor Organization or ILO, honored the Columbian singer Shakira for her work in promoting the advancement of women and children globally, reported the ILO March 3 on their Web site. She was recognized for her work with Barefoot foundation, overseen by Shakira, which provides over 6,000 children in Colombia with education, training and support, as well as for her involvement with the Latin America for Solidarity Foundation, which works to combat child poverty.
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  • The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas has said it is to ban male hairdressers from working in salons in the Gaza Strip where women get their hair styled, the BBC reported March 4. The announcement is part of a campaign by Hamas to introduce more Islamic customs to the Gaza Strip. In Islamic tradition women cannot show their hair to men not in their family. The Interior Ministry have said there will be legal consequences for anyone who disobeys the new salon rule, but they have not specified what they might be, the article reported.
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  • Female Iraqi refugees driven into Jordan by the aftermath of the U.S.-led Iraq war face a disproportionate brunt of the responsibility of caring for the family, InterPress Service online reported Feb. 28. "Many have had their husbands either killed, disappeared or seriously injured," Jehan Nourjan, founder of the Bushra Institute for Research on Women, said in the article. "The onus is now on the women to find a way to secure income."
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  • More than half of voters in five major European nations back a push by France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy to ban women from wearing the burka, according to an opinion poll for the Financial Times, FT.com reported March 1.
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