By Rasha Elass
Saturday, May 14, 2005
More than 300 Palestinian women took to the streets in protest of honor killing, demanding legislation to protect the mostly young women who are killed by male relatives for "dishonoring" the family or tarnishing its name with "unchaste behavior," reports Al Jazeera on its Web site this week.
Last week a Palestinian Christian in Ramallah confessed to murdering his 20-year-old daughter for marrying a Muslim without his consent.
On Monday a Palestinian man in East Jerusalem murdered his two sisters and forced his third sister to drink acid in what the police say appears to be honor killings.
In light of a recent increase in honor killings, "The Palestinian Authority is now looking to implement a law which deals with civil crimes," said Zuhaira Kamal, Palestinian Women's Affairs Minister.
Current laws in the Palestinian territories consider honor killing a crime of passion with "extenuating circumstances," and treats the culprit with leniency, giving on average sentences of six months. The proposed legislation would treat honor killing similarly to other murders, which would make it a capital crime.
--A judge ruled in favor of allowing hundreds of women who allege sexual assault and abuse at Nabraska's three mental health hospitals to bring a class action against the hospitals, reports the Omaha World-Herald on Thursday. Bruce G. Mason, a lawyer for Nebraska Advocacy Services, says at least 100 women were sexually abused or assaulted at the state facilities between 1998 and 2004.
--Rep. Garnet Coleman, (D-Houston) derailed a bill that requires written parental consent for minors seeking to have an abortion, reports the Houston Chronicle on Wednesday. Coleman used a technicality to thwart the Republicans' efforts at curtailing abortion rights in Texas, saying the bill incorrectly listed a lawmaker as author.
--The French government launched a campaign Tuesday to improve pay equity for the country's women, who still earn an average of 25 percent less than their male counterparts, reports The Guardian. France has pay equality laws dating back to the 1970s, but there is usually little effort at implementing them.
--The largest scientific study to examine the relationship of gender to heart disease is underway in Canada, with McGill University leading the $1.5 million, five-year study, reports The Montreal Gazette on Thursday. Traditionally more than 70 percent of studies on heart disease focus on men, making their results sometimes irrelevant or inapplicable to women.
--The Law Reform Commission in Victoria, Australia, called this week for discrimination against single women and lesbian couples in invitro fertility treatment to stop, reports the Herald Sun on Thursday. The statement follows a High Court ruling that found discriminatory that only married couples are eligible for IVF treatment.
--Republican reproductive rights activists are teaming up with Republican gay rights advocates to oppose President Bush judicial nominee William Pryor to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the Log Cabin Republicans announced Wednesday. The Republican Majority for Choice noted that Pryor has called the landmark law that legalized abortion in 1973 "the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history," according to a joint release issued by the two groups. The nomination now awaits action on the Senate floor.
--A washing machine that forces the man of the house to do laundry is now on sale throughout Europe, reports the Ottawa Citizen on Saturday. The "Your Turn" washing machine uses a digital fingerprint sensor that operates the machine or prevents it from working if the same person attempts to operate it twice in a row, forcing couples to alternate laundry duty.
Morning After Pills May Become as Available as 911:
A prominent Kentucky obstetrician and gynecologist, W. David Hager, who is also an outspoken evangelical Christian, says the FDA asked him to submit a "minority report" to help overrule the agency's advisory board 23-4 vote in favor of making Plan B available without a prescription, reports The Washington Post on Thursday.
"I argued from a scientific perspective and God took that information and he used it through this minority report to influence the decision," Hager said in a sermon he delivered at the Asbury College chapel in Wilmore, Ky., in October.
An FDA spokesperson denied the report, saying the agency does not ask for minority reports and opinions. She said Hager had sent an unsolicited "private citizen letter" to Commissioner Mark McClellan.
Hager, who says he is at "war" with people trying to take faith and values out of medical care, served on the FDA Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee in 2002 and again last year. He says White House officials had initially asked him to serve as a member of two advisory boards, but later asked him to resign his position to join the FDA because "there are some issues coming up we feel are very critical and we want you to be on that advisory board."
Plan B has been available in the U.S. with prescription since 1999, and the FDA was expected to approve a non-prescription status in January, when it abruptly announced it "needed more time."
--Administration officials conceded in a press release that their plan to overhaul Social Security cuts benefits for surviving children and widows of workers who die before retirement, according to The Associated Press this week. These cuts pose a financial blow for women, who receive 98 percent of benefits that go to surviving spouses, the release noted. President Bush said his plan, which allows workers to invest a portion of their payroll taxes in private accounts, is necessary to keep the federal program solvent in coming decades.
--Nebraska state senators failed to ban discrimination against gays and lesbians by state-funded agencies, reports the Omaha World-Herald on Thursday. Sen. Mike Foley of Lincoln, the only senator to speak against the anti-discrimination bill, said social issues should not be part of the budgetary legislative process. Foley also defeated attempts to redirect a $500,000 anti-choice pilot program into prenatal services aimed at reducing fetal alcohol syndrome in American Indian women.
--A House subcommittee on Wednesday approved legislation that would ban women from serving in certain Army units that support combat battalions. "This legislation, if allowed to become law, would set women in the military back decades," said Nancy Duff Campbell, co-president of the National Women's Law Center in Washington, D.C. The legislation must win approval in the full House Armed Services Committee before it is scheduled for a vote on the floor.
-- Alison Stevens contributed to this report.
Rasha Elass, an intern at Women's eNews and a freelance writer based in New York City, attends Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Allison Stevens is Women's eNews' Washington bureau chief.