After hanging in limbo for months, legislation that would fund existing and new programs that aid victims of domestic violence broke through an impasse this week and appeared headed for quick enactment. House and Senate lawmakers reached an agreement Friday that would allow the measure to win final passage before the end of the year and perhaps as early as this weekend. The 10-year-old Violence Against Women Act expired Sept. 30 and is temporarily being funded at last year’s levels.
"The House and Senate Judiciary Committees have done their job and we are so pleased that they have reached this agreement on a strong bill that will help save lives," said Lynn Rosenthal, the president of the National Network to End Domestic Violence in a release.
The bill that is expected to pass will authorize funding of $3.935 billion over five years, a 21 percent increase over the $3.241 billion last authorized in 2000.
There were a few sticking points holding up the bill, mainly on provisions involving immigrant outreach programs and guaranteed housing for victims of domestic violence and stalking. Compromises were reached in both areas, leaving Allison Randall of the National Network to End Domestic Violence "very pleased" with the anticipated outcome.
Other News to Cheer This Week:
Socialist presidential candidate Michelle Bachelet is poised to make history if she becomes Chile’s first female president in January, Reuters reported. Results from the Dec. 11 election found that Bachelet, a medical doctor and former defense minister, had won nearly 46 percent of the vote, about 20 percentage points higher than her billionaire opponent, Sebastian Pinera, a moderate conservative. She will now face a runoff election against Pinera on Jan. 15.
If she wins, Bachelet has pledged to continue the liberal social programs and free-market economic policies of her predecessor. "Today in Chile, one third of households are run by women," Bachelet told Women’s eNews before the election. "We wake up, get the children ready and go to work. To them I am hope."
- Two House Democrats, John Dingell of Michigan and Carolyn Maloney of New York, introduced legislation Thursday that would establish an institute to monitor differences in pay between men and women and make recommendations to business to narrow the so-called wage gap. If the measure is passed, the institute would be housed at a public university and would receive $5 million over five years in federal funding.
- The House of Representatives unanimously voted to pass legislation Wednesday that would turn the nation’s attention to sex trafficking in the United States. The bill would broaden the focus of an existing law aimed at curbing sex trafficking on an international level. The bill now awaits action in the Senate. Each year, an estimated 800,000 people are trafficked around the world and the United States remains a primary destination.
- Columbia University senior Caroline Bierbaum and University of Maryland junior Paula Infante have been voted the nation’s most outstanding athletes in their sports, cross country and field hockey respectively, as part of the Collegiate Women Sports Awards program. Each will receive the Honda Award, given annually to the top women athletes in 12 National Collegiate Athletic Association-sanctioned sports.
Hundreds of battered immigrant women have been forced to choose between safety and food after they were denied cash assistance, food stamps and other social benefits, The New York Times reported Thursday. Lawyers on behalf of more than a dozen plaintiffs filed suit in federal court Tuesday in a last-resort effort to force New York City and state officials to remedy the computer programming errors and faulty staff training that led to the situation.
The suit alleges that a computer pull-down menu that mistakenly lacks a "battered qualified alien" category causes case workers who enter information into the system to automatically reject the client. Additionally, faulty state training manuals compound the problem.
"We have clients who have chosen to return to the abuser rather than not to have food for their children," Elizabeth S. Saylor, a lawyer with the Domestic Violence Project of the Legal Aid Society, told the Times.
Other News to Jeer This Week:
Despite an approximate 70 percent voter turnout in the Iraqi general election on Thursday, activists’ fears that some women would be kept from the polls were confirmed. An election round-up issued by the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting said that some women the more conservative areas of Iraq were not permitted to go to the polls. Nada Yassin from Mosul is quoted as saying her husband directed her not to vote for former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.
"My husband would not let me vote for Allawi," she claimed her husband told her. "He told me, ‘If you vote for Allawi, then you have to go to Allawi’s instead of coming home.’" Also, while reporting from Falluja, National Public Radio correspondent Anne Garrels confirmed seeing men voting on behalf of women, against election rules.
- After Colombia’s highest court denied hearing a lawsuit challenging that country’s total ban on abortion last week due to legal technicalities, a women’s rights group filed a new lawsuit on Monday, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported. While the earlier lawsuit proposed that abortion be legalized if a woman’s life was at risk or if the fetus was thought incapable of surviving outside the womb, the revised version submitted by the Madrid-based Women’s Link asks that abortion in general be made legal. According to national statistics, approximately 300,000 pregnancies are terminated in Colombia each year resulting in complications for 30 percent of the women. Unsafe abortion is the third leading cause of maternal mortality in Colombia.
- Approximately 100 Afghan women have set themselves on fire in the past year, according to a report released by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported Dec. 10. Forced marriages, physical torture and beatings were the main incidents that are thought to be a factor in the immolations and remains severely underreported because women fear going to the police. The report also found that about 80 cases of forced marriage and almost 200 cases of torture and beatings were registered over the past year.
- Nigerian women in the northern state of Kano have been banned from riding motorcycle taxis under an Islamic Sharia law that went into effect last week. Drivers are now forbidden from carrying female passengers, the Beijing-based People’s Daily reported. However, the BBC reported that clashes between riders and the religious marshals charged with implementing the ban have occurred and that many women are ignoring it, citing a lack of transportation alternatives.
–Allison Stevens contributed to this report.
Karen James is a Women’s eNews intern and master’s candidate at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Allison Stevens is Washington bureau chief for Women’s eNews.
Women’s eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at [email protected].