The U.S. Naval Academy’s new installment of a four-year sexual harassment awareness program for the incoming class of 2011 signals a change in how the institution handles sexual harassment cases involving its students, CNN reported June 21.

“That’s been shown to make a difference, so they are starting to experiment, so I’m optimistic on that level,” said Debby Tucker of the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence. Tucker added that she hopes the program, which includes peer training, will do more to make the seriousness of sexual harassment clear to students.

Supporters of the program say the institution is seriously addressing recent harassment cases–which include a former medical officer taping students having sex and the conviction of two athletes in sex-related incidents in April–and historic incidents, such as the handcuffing of a female student to a urinal in 1990.

The academy first admitted women 30 years ago; they are now 20 percent of the student body. Last year, Capt. Margaret Klein was appointed the first female commandant of the academy, which makes her second in command at the institution.

Female students and recent graduates at the academy have noticed that, along with institutional changes, the overall atmosphere among students has been one of more respect, communication and sensitivity.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • The U.S. House of Representatives successfully skirted the Bush administration’s “global gag rule,” which prevents contraceptives from being donated to international groups who offer abortions or referrals, the Washington Post reported June 22. Democrats tucked in an amendment to a 2008 appropriations bill allowing the donations. President Bush has threatened to veto the measure.
  • Canadian obstetricians strongly condemned the use of gender testing kits for selective abortions, the CBC reported June 21. The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada says early tests could be used by parents to decide whether to maintain the pregnancy or abort the fetus based on its gender, calling the practice unhealthy, discriminatory and unethical. Some prenatal tests can determine the sex of a fetus as early as five weeks.
  • British steeplechaser Hatti Dean set a new record at the June 9 Manchester Grand Prix, Athletics Weekly reported, beating the previous record by five seconds. Meanwhile, at Emerald Down in Auburn, Wash., five female jockeys were favorites to win in the track’s nine thoroughbred stakes races, which have the largest purses, the Seattle Times reported June 21. “These days, it’s a lot easier to do the job that we are all doing here because of where we are in society,” said Sharon Ross, a longtime trainer. Female jockeys are gaining better mounts as they make inroads in the sport.
  • President Nicolas Sarkozy has appointed France’s first female finance minister in a cabinet reshuffle, the Independent reported June 20. Christine Lagarde, who spent 20 years in the United States, was head of the Chicago law firm Baker and McKenzie. Sarkozy named seven other women to the 16-member cabinet, fulfilling a campaign promise.

For more information:

“Soldier’s Harassment Claim Leads to Court Martial”:

“New Prenatal Tests Raise Hopes and Fears”:

United Nations Millennium Development Goals:

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The Bush administration is countering widespread critiques of abstinence-only sex education with a negative report on comprehensive education programs, the Washington Post reported June 21.

The 40-page report from the Department of Health and Human Services concluded that nine popular sex education curricula used by schools contained inaccurate facts about condoms–for example, not mentioning that effectiveness depends on correct usage–and did not mention abstinence as an alternative to intercourse frequently enough.

The $77,000 study was conducted by two nonprofit groups–the Medical Institute for Sexual Health in Austin, Texas, and the Sagamore Institute for Policy Research in Indianapolis–that promote abstinence and lifelong monogamous relationships, the Post reported.

A congressional report released in April found that abstinence-only curricula do not significantly dissuade teens from having sex nor does they increase condom use.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • Not a single country in sub-Saharan Africa is on target to meet the United Nations’ eight millennium development goals intended to reduce poverty and improve health, education and women’s status worldwide by 2015, the Associated Press reported June 17. The number of sub-Saharan Africans living on $1 a day has declined almost 5 percent since 1999, but AIDS deaths continue to mount, reaching 2 million in 2006. A woman in Africa has a 1 in 16 chance of dying in childbirth or from complications in pregnancy, compared to the 1 in 3,800 chance in developed countries.
  • Fewer than 50 black women hold high-level, decision-making political positions in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Inter Press Service reported June 19, but over 75 million black women live in the region. Over 90 percent of Latin American people of African descent live in poverty and only have access to the lowest-paying jobs.