FGM Bill Closes Loophole; Wal-Mart Ignored Bias

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Cheers

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U.S. Congressman Joseph Crowley of New York is sponsoring a bill to outlaw transporting girls overseas to undergo female genital mutilation, reported YourNabe.com June 3. Federal lawmakers outlawed female cutting in the United States in 1996, but some immigrant families are sending their daughters to their homelands to have the ritual performed, reported the article. Crowley, a long-time advocate for women’s rights, says this bill will close that loophole and punish violators with fines and up to five years in prison.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • President Obama on June 2 extended a wider range of benefits to same-sex partners of eligible federal workers, including access to medical treatment, relocation assistance, credit unions and fitness centers, reported The Washington Post June 3. The move goes beyond a memo Obama signed in June 2009 permitting same-sex partners to use the government’s long-term-care insurance and other fringe benefits. This insurance will become available for same-sex partners next month, reports the article. Obama isn’t able to extend further benefits to same-sex partners based on federal law, the article reports, but he has reiterated his support for House and Senate legislation to grant all federal benefits to same-sex partners.
  • Following New Mexico’s June 1 primaries, two women–Democrat Diane Denish and Republican Susana Martinez–will be facing off in November’s gubernatorial election, reported Albuquerque’s KOAT June 3. Their race marks the third time in U.S. history that two women will be running for governor of the same state. Martinez is also the first Hispanic woman nominated for governor by any major party in the country.
  • The first Saudi Domestic Violence Awareness Forum was held in London May 29-30, reported Arab News June 1. The two-day British event attracted more than 300 Saudi men and women and included six sessions about various medical, psychological, educational, legal and media point of views on family abuse cases.
  • A study in mice suggests that a preventative breast cancer vaccine might be possible in humans, reported HealthDay May 30. Women may begin taking part in the next stage of the research as soon as next year. If successful, the vaccine would be targeted at women over the age of 40, since the vaccine disrupts breastfeeding and because older women–who have a greater chance of developing breast cancer–are less likely to become pregnant.
  • Responding to concerns that sexual assault complaints have been mishandled by police in New York, a task force appointed by Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly has recommended new training protocols for officers dealing with sex crime victims, reported The New York Times June 2. The new training emphasizes the police department’s policies mandating that crime reports be taken and addresses the procedures and sensitivity required in dealing with victims of sex crimes.
  • Two candidates vying to be the first African American woman to represent Alabama in the U.S. House of Representatives will face off in a July 13 runoff election, reported the Tuscaloosa News June 2. Terri Sewell and Sheila Smoot are running for the Democratic nomination for the state’s 7th Congressional District. In the June 1 primary election, Sewell, in her first try for elected office, won 37 percent of the vote, while Smoot had 29 percent.
  • The Dormitory Authority of the State of New York announced its largest assignment to a minority and women-owned business enterprise underwriter in state history, according to a June 1 press release from the Dormitory Authority. The group selected an investment banking firm headed by a woman: M. R. Beal and Company. The firm’s president is Donna Sims Wilson and its founder and CEO is Bernard B. Beal; both are African American.
  • As health reform regulations begin to take shape, Planned Parenthood has started a quiet campaign to ensure that birth control is counted among the free preventive services that health insurers must cover under the Affordable Care Act, reported Politico June 1.
  • New York on June 1 became the first state to pass legislation providing domestic workers with basic labor protections, including protection from discrimination and the right to bargain collectively, reported the radio station WAMC June 3. The Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights made it through the state’s Senate in a 33-28 vote; it will be combined with a similar bill passed last year by the Assembly. If signed into law by Gov. David Paterson, the measure will require employers to offer New York’s approximately 200,000 household workers paid holidays, overtime pay and sick days, reported AOL News June 3, and would serve as a model for the rest of the nation to protect this historically-excluded work force.

 


 

Jeers

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More than six years before the biggest sex discrimination lawsuit in history was filed against Wal-Mart Stores, the company hired the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld to examine its vulnerability to just such a suit, reported The New York Times June 4. The law firm found widespread gender disparities in pay and promotion at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores and urged the company to take basic steps–like posting every job opening and creating specific goals to promote women and minorities–to avoid liability. The 1995 report said that women employed by Wal-Mart earned less than men in numerous job categories, with men in salaried jobs earning 19 percent more than women.

In 2001, seven women filed a class-action on behalf of all women working at the company. They complained of a general pattern of discrimination in pay and promotions.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • At least 11 states have passed laws this year regulating or restricting abortion rights, giving anti-choice activists what partisans on both sides of the issue say is an unusually high number of victories, reported The New York Times June 2. In four other states, bills have passed at least one house of the legislature. Passed legislation includes a Mississippi bill barring insurers from covering abortion and Oklahoma’s reporting bill, which requires abortion-seeking woman to answer over 30 questions about themselves and their reasons for ending the pregnancy. Proposed legislation in other states includes Arizona’s ban on abortion coverage in state employees’ health plans and Nebraska’s ban on all abortions after 20 weeks, reports the article.
  • Three women in Namibia are suing the state for allegedly being sterilized without their informed consent after being diagnosed as HIV positive, reported the BBC June 1. The women say the doctors and nurses should have informed them properly about what was happening. The rights group representing them, the Legal Assistance Centre, says it has documented 15 cases of alleged HIV sterilization in hospitals since 2008.
  • England’s Prime Minister David Cameron backs its government’s proposal to extend anonymity to defendants in rape cases, reported the BBC June 2. However, he favors limiting the extension of the law to cover only the period between the arrest and charges rather than maintaining anonymity through conviction, as the law currently dictates. The anonymity extends to rape defendants in England and Wales, but not Scotland and Northern Ireland.
  • Muslim conservatives in Indonesia are pushing a bill that requires foreign men marrying a Muslim woman to pay a $55,000 "security guarantee," reported Agence France-Presse May 31. According to the bill, the provision "is intended to protect the rights of women and their children if their husbands neglect, fail to provide for, leave Indonesia secretly… divorce or do anything which harms their interests," reported the article. Some opposed to the bill argue it is undignified, treating women like a commodity, and that if the law is truly to protect women, it should apply to both foreign and local men.
  • The center-right Popular Party filed suit with Spain’s highest court on June 1 to challenge a new law allowing abortion without restrictions during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, reported the Associated Press. The new law removes the threat of imprisonment–in effect since 1985–for women who have had an abortion and declares abortion to be a woman’s right; it also allows 16- and 17-year-olds to have abortions without their parents’ permission, though parents would have to be informed. The Popular Party challenges the 14-week unrestricted-abortion law as unconstitutional, arguing that a woman’s right cannot systematically take precedence over those of an unborn child, except in cases of rape, fetal malformation or when the mother’s health is in jeopardy.

Noted:

  • The Center for Partnership Studies is calling for immediate action in formulating new measures to give policymakers and the public a more accurate picture of a country’s true economic health, according to a June 2 press release by the center. The organization cites the problem of a rising gross domestic product while joblessness is dangerously high and child care and education budgets have been slashed. Their call to action is based on a recently-released report by the center, which suggests using national indicators that measure both human well-being and economic success of all segments of society, including women, children and the elderly, as well as racial and other minorities.
  • Pregnant women in northern Italy who prove they are in financial hardship will be offered $5,500 over 18 months not to have abortions, reported the BBC June 2. The idea comes from the governor of the Lombardy region, Roberto Formigoni, who says no woman should end a pregnancy because of economic difficulty. Though praised by anti-abortion campaigners, the move is criticized in Italy as a short-term solution to a life-long responsibility.
  • Debrahlee Lorenzana, a 33-year-old single mom and banker, is speaking out about being fired last summer by a New York branch of Citibank for being "too hot," reported The Village Voice June 1. Lorenzana claims her bosses told her they could not concentrate on their work because her figure and appearance–the article describes her as a 5-foot-6-inch 125-pound hybrid of Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Simpson and Audrey Hepburn–were too distracting. Citibank officials have not commented on the suit, according to the article. Under the terms of Lorenzana’s employment, the lawsuit, filed in November 2009, will end in arbitration. There, she will have to prove that Citibank created a discriminatory and hostile work environment based on gender, while Citibank will have to show it fired her for legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons.
  • Although the New York City school system is 51 percent male, in gifted programs girls generally outnumber boys, reported The New York Times May 31. Educators and experts have long known that boys lag behind girls in measures such as high school graduation rates and college enrollment, but the gender disparity now also exists at the very beginning of the school experience. The current crop of gifted kindergartners is 56 percent female, the article reports, up 1 percent from last year.
  • British birth-control charity Marie Stopes International has opened five abortion clinics in China, with plans to set up three more, reported the U.K.’s Times Online May 30. The move has sparked anger among some British women’s rights campaigners, as China’s one child policy has routinely led to women terminating pregnancies based on gender selection.
  • The Ms. Foundation for Women issued a report June 3 on how foundations across the nation are funding awareness about gender-based violence and its impact on women and families, reported the foundation. The report–which coincides with the 15th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act–offers a comprehensive review of the state of funding in the field and marks a critical jumping-off point for the future of funding for gender-based violence programs.
  • Janet

    VERY informative group of stories about women’s accomplishments and challenges!