A royal decree in Saudi Arabia gave women the right to check in to hotels without a male guardian, Al Watan reported Jan. 21. Currently, women cannot move about in public unless they are covered head-to-toe in Islamic dress and are accompanied by a male guardian, but the easing of the hotel rules will benefit businesswomen who must travel.
Another decree allowing women to drive is expected by the end of the year, the Daily Telegraph reported Jan. 21. Saudi women’s rights activists have mounted growing protests over the driving ban and sent the king multiple petitions to allow them to drive without male chauffeurs. Fouzia al-Ayouni, Wajiha Huwaidar, Ibtihal Mubarak and Haifa Usra have led the effort, forming an association for the protection and defense of women’s rights.
“We have broken the barrier of fear,” al-Ayouni said. “We want the authorities to know that we’re here, that we want to drive and that many people feel the way we do.”
More News to Cheer This Week:
- Rosa Parks, the mother of the civil rights movement, will be inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame in a March 6 ceremony, the Tuscaloosa News reported. A native of Tuskegee, Ala., Parks refused in 1955 to give up her seat on a bus, sparking a historic bus boycott that was instrumental in the post-war civil rights fight for African Americans. Normally two women are inducted each year, but Parks’ prominence outshadows all other nominees and so she will stand in the spotlight alone, said Prof. Michael Brooks of Judson College, which hosts the hall of fame.
- A federal appeals court overturned a 2005 Missouri state policy that prevented female inmates from obtaining abortions by denying them transportation to medical clinics, the Kansas City Star reported. The Jan. 21 decision came on the 35th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision to legalize abortion. To commemorate the day, the National Organization for Women organized a vigil in front of the Supreme Court in Washington and a counter-protest to oppose anti-choice demonstrations. President Bush also hosted about 200 anti-choice activists in the White House and thousands rallied against abortion rights after his speech.
- The Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem will ordain women as Orthodox rabbis for the first time next year, the Jerusalem Post reported Jan. 10. The three other Jewish denominations already ordain women: the Reform movement first allowed it in 1972, Reconstruction in 1977 and Conservative in 1983. The new female Orthodox rabbis will be trained for teaching positions in the United States.
- Kuwaiti women’s participation in the work force increased from 37 percent in 2003 to 42 percent in 2006, putting Kuwait ahead of other nations in the Arab region, the Kuwait Times reported Jan. 24. Regionally, 28 percent of the work force is female, the lowest in the world, according to the United Nations. Kuwaiti working women are concentrated in the public sector, but only 6 percent are in top jobs.
- California State Assemblywoman Fiona Ma has proposed a bill to make her state first in the nation to create a registry for domestic violence offenders, the San Jose Mercury News reported Jan. 17. The database would disclose the identities of convicted abusers and allow the public to check names. Meanwhile, in Britain, the Association of Chief Police Officers has proposed a national registry for domestic violence offenders, the Guardian reported Jan. 23. Advocates said it could prevent murders by allowing different agencies to share information about offenders.
For more information:
NARAL Pro-Choice America’s Nancy Keenan, speech on the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade
The Shalom Hartman Institute:
Washington Press Club Foundation, Women in Journalism
Oral History Project:
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Sexual and gender-based violence are on the rise in Kenya’s post-election violent clashes, the BBC reported Jan 23. The number of cases affecting women and female teens doubled in January, according to the Nairobi Women’s hospital, which treated 140 rape victims.
“We were used to seeing an average of about four cases a day, now there is an average of between eight and ten,” Rahab Ngugi, patient services manager at the hospital, told the BBC.
Almost half of women treated at the specialized clinic were under the age of 18 and one case was a 2-year-old girl, Ngugi added. Many women have been left without clinical care or access to AIDS preventive treatments. A quarter-million people have been displaced by the civil unrest; about 85 percent are women and children.
More News to Jeer This Week:
- An Afghan journalism student received the death sentence for circulating an article that questioned Islam’s treatment of women, the Telegraph reported Jan. 24. Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh, 23, was charged with blasphemy but human rights groups argue that the sentence was a political maneuver to pressure his brother–a journalist that has written critical articles of local officials and warlords–into silence.
- Insurance co-payments for mammograms deter women from getting them to screen for breast cancer, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has concluded. Screening rates were 8.3 percent lower for women who had co-payments than for women whose insurance coverage paid for the exams in full. The study involved 367,000 women aged 65 to 69 with Medicare coverage.
- Meg Whitman, the CEO of eBay, has announced her retirement from the Internet giant and is considering a run on the Republican ticket for governor of California, the Los Angeles Times reported Jan. 25. She has been a fundraiser for presidential candidate Mitt Romney. With an estimated net worth of $1.4 billion, Whitman is considered one of the most powerful women in U.S. business.
- Since December Oprah Winfrey’s Web site has been flooded with criticism that she betrayed women by endorsing Barack Obama for the presidency over Hillary Clinton, the London Times reported Jan. 20. Winfrey has not joined the Obama campaign since mid-January. Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, told ABC News that her group had faced similar backlashes when endorsing male candidates over women.
Frances Lewine, 86 and an assignment editor for CNN, died Jan.19 in Washington, D.C. Lewine joined the Associated Press in 1956 as a general assignment reporter. In 1978, she and five other female journalists filed a discrimination suit against the AP that led to a $2 million settlement and improved policies on hiring, salaries, promotions and pensions; she spent the last 27 years of her career with CNN. In the early years, Lewine often worked in an evening gown to cover the social circuit but eventually became the AP’s first female full-time White House reporter. A pioneer for women in journalism, she pressed consistently against gender barriers, leading the fight to admit women into the National Press Club, among other institutions.
Dominique Soguel is Arabic editor and Jennifer Thurston is associate editor of Women’s eNews.
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