thumb pointing up The Capitol produced some good news for women this week. On Wednesday, President Bush signed a law authorizing $48 billion more for international programs to prevent new cases of HIV-AIDS and help patients gain treatment and care. Worldwide, 17.5 million women live with HIV, and women are 61 percent of people in sub-Saharan Africa who are infected.</p>
<p>On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed a bill to narrow the gender wage gap and held a hearing on sexual assault in the military. The equal-pay bill would stiffen regulation of companies that do not pay women the same amount for equal work, sending a “message to women across the country that their work is valued,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat who championed the measure. Bush has threatened to veto the bill if it passes the Senate.</p>
<p>The House Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs held a hearing examining the problem of sexual assault in the military. The July 31 hearing triggered reintroduction of a bill to help military victims recover from assault and prosecute perpetrators. In the most recent fiscal year, 131 rapes and assaults against female soldiers were reported officially, the Associated Press reported July 27.</p>
<h2>More news to cheer this week:</h2>
<li>Michigan became the 11th state to expand electronic monitoring of violent abusers after passing a law allowing GPS tracking devices to be attached to them even before they go to trial, the Kalamazoo Gazette reported July 29. The device sends an alert to a victim’s cell phone if a suspect get too close. Massachusetts, Hawaii and Oklahoma have enacted similar measures.</li>
<li>Saudi officials and anti-violence advocates met in Jeddah on July 15 to discuss improving coordination between agencies, the Khaleej Times reported. Goals laid out in the meeting include ensuring that all victims are provided shelter and legal assistance and penalties are increased for abusers. </li>
<li>Girls had their strongest showing in the 71-year history of the American Soap Box Derby held in Akron, Ohio, on July 26, the AP reported. Female competitors won five of six divisions and swept the three majors. The winners are Johanna Barnowski of Akron; Haley Beitel of Tullahoma, Tenn.; Megan Newcomer of Danville, Ind.; Caitlin Smith of Federalsburg, Md.; and Courtney Rale of Washington, D.C., who, at 16, became the oldest competitor in the derby’s history to win the masters division. </li>
<li>The Women’s National Basketball Association scored A-plus for both gender and race diversity in a report card by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida, which reviews collegiate and professional athletic leagues. The WNBA’s combined grades were the highest in the history of the report card. WNBA’s Donna Orender is the only female league president in U.S. professional sports. </li>
<li>Females in Front, a network of members of the European Parliament, has collected over 24,000 signatures for a petition requesting that at least one woman be appointed to a top leadership post in the European Union following a restructuring anticipated by the Lisbon Treaty. One million signatures from EU citizens are required to spur a citizens’ initiative. The petition is directed at the European Commission requesting it implement gender parity measures. Currently, 31 percent of the European Parliament members are female.</li>
<h2>For more information:</h2>
<p><P>Females in Front petition:<BR><A HREF=

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thumb pointing downReproductive rights advocates continue to criticize a July 15 Bush administration proposal to redefine contraception as a form of abortion. The proposal allows medical providers to refuse to provide birth control services and referrals when it clashes with their private religious beliefs against abortion.

Advocates this week warned that the federal proposal could supercede state laws that require hospitals and clinics to provide emergency contraception to rape victims.

“Women would be totally subject to the luck of the draw when they went to get reproductive health care,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told the Washington Post.

Abortion services continue to become more difficult to obtain, and 87 percent of counties in the United States have no abortion provider. In Western states–where women may travel up to 300 miles to reach a facility–abortion is going to become increasingly inaccessible as doctors retire and aren’t replaced, Planet Jackson Hole reported July 30. Wyoming has one abortion provider, who works at a clinic bombed by protesters in 1995. South Dakota has one clinic for abortion services and a doctor is flown in for a few hours a week to provide the care. In Idaho, three doctors have performed abortions in recent years; one retired last year and a second will this December.

More news to jeer this week:

  • During the tenure of U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the Department of Justice used alleged homosexuality as a litmus test to hire and fire employees, according to a July 29 story in the Los Angeles Times. Margaret Chiara, one of nine U.S. attorneys fired in 2006, said she believes she was dismissed because of false rumors that she was a lesbian.
  • In a 16-month study of workers in Singapore, half said they had been sexually harassed on the job, the Straits Times reported July 10. Eleven percent of respondents had been told they could lose their jobs or miss promotions if they didn’t grant sexual favors; 70 percent said they were not aware their companies had policies to protect them.


  • South Korea’s Constitutional Court has overturned a 21-year-old law prohibiting doctors from revealing the sex of fetuses, the AP reported July 31. The law was passed in 1987 to help prevent sex-selective abortions. The court ruled the ban too restrictive and said Korea had “grown out of its preference for sons,” noting that the nation was nearing the natural gender ratio of 106 boys for every 100 girls.
  • The sexual abuse trial of Virginia Mokgobo, 28, who worked at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy near Johannesburg, South Africa, has begun, the BBC reported July 29. Winfrey spent $40 million to open the girls’ school in 2007 and praised the students who came forward to report alleged abuse by Mokgobo.

Allison Stevens is Washington bureau chief for Women’s eNews and Jennifer Thurston is associate editor.

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