U.S. women now face the smallest wage gap in history, the Census Bureau announced Aug. 26 in an analysis of 2007 data, narrowing the gap by one penny over the previous year. Women now earn 78 cents for every dollar a man earns for equal work. In 1980, women earned 60 percent of men’s pay.
California has the smallest wage gap among states, the San Jose Mercury News reported, and women there earn 84 percent of men’s wages.
The gender wage gap persists around the world. A United Nations report criticized Britain this week for allowing rampant discrimination against women, including unequal pay, the Independent reported Sept. 2. U.K. women earn 83 percent as much as men.
In Germany, progress to equalize pay is stagnant and women earn 24 percent less than men, the New York Times reported Sept. 2. Women’s caregiving duties are considered a major explanation for both lower wages and smaller work-force participation. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration has authorized an increase of $216 million for 79 universities that demonstrate a commitment to workplace equality, Der Spiegel reported Sept. 4. Only 15 percent of the country’s tenured professors are female.
More News to Cheer This Week:
- Spanish Equality Minister Bibiana Aido announced that the government will introduce a bill to liberalize the country’s restrictive abortion law by mid-2009, the Associated Press reported Sept. 4. The current law allows abortion up to 12 weeks in cases of rape, 22 weeks in cases of fetal malformation and at any time if a woman’s mental health is endangered. Most abortions are performed under the mental health exception, and the new law will not require it, making abortions legal by choice up to 12 to 14 weeks. Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero promised to liberalize the law as a candidate in 2004.
- Women’s rights activists in the Philippines launched an online campaign to gather 1 million signatures in support of a family-planning bill, the Philippine Star reported Sept. 5. The Catholic Church opposes the bill and threatens lawmakers who support it with excommunication but surveys show that over 80 percent of Filipinos want control over their fertility, Agence France-Presse reported. The high rate of poverty is being linked to high birth rates by supporters of the bill, which would legalize birth control in the predominantly Catholic nation.
- Sexual assaults that lead to pregnancy may face harsher penalties, the California Supreme Court ruled unanimously Sept. 4. The court argued that pregnancy could be considered a "great bodily injury" in the appeals trial of a man who repeatedly raped his 13-year-old daughter and arranged for her abortion. He was sentenced to a term of 15 years to life in prison.
- With the August signing of a landmark protocol guaranteeing women’s equality by the South African Development Community, the tourism sector is primed for advancing women, the Times of Johannesburg reported Aug. 31. Six of the tourism council’s board members and its CEO are women, and the government is directing efforts to reduce unemployment through creating tourism jobs. Most of these jobs are low-paying but the council wants to create targets for more women in leadership positions.
- Three fiction writers, two essayists and a poet will be awarded $25,000 grants each as "women writers of talent and promise in the early stages of their writing careers" and as winners of the 2008 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards. The 2008 winners include Jennifer Culkin, Amy Leach, Hasanthika Sirisena, Jolie Lewis, Therese Stanton and Joanne Dominique Dwyer. The foundation’s literary program supports female writers.
The Republican Party adopted its platform during its convention this week that calls for a ban on abortion, the AP reported Sept. 2. The ban has no exceptions for rape or incest or to protect the life of the woman.
The platform takes a harder stance on abortion rights than presidential nominee Sen. John McCain of Arizona has in the past. McCain opposes abortion but has favored the exceptions. His running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin opposes abortion in cases of rape and incest and has said the only exception should be to protect the life of the woman.
During the Democratic convention, the party adopted a platform that supported reproductive rights and emphasized prevention efforts. Campaign manager David Plouffe said Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign would step up efforts to appeal to pro-choice voters and women, the Wall Street Journal reported Sept. 4. "I think a lot of voters don’t have a full appreciation of Sen. McCain’s position on this," Plouffe said.
Palin’s entry on the ticket has energized fundraising for the McCain campaign, which raised over $10 million in the first two and a half days after she became the first woman named to a GOP national ticket, ABC News reported Sept. 1.
More News to Jeer This Week:
- Pakistan launched investigations into the honor killings of two women and three teens, who were shot and buried alive more than a month ago. At least three of the women had sought marriage in civil courts after the request was rejected by village elders, AP reported Sept. 1. Three suspects have been arrested and confessed to the killings. In socially conservative regions of Pakistan women cannot marry without the consent of male relatives. At least 280 Pakistani women were victims of honor crimes in 2007, and 107 during the first five months of 2008, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.
- In Iran four women’s rights activists in the One Million Signatures Campaign–a grassroots movement petitioning to end gender discrimination in Iran–were sentenced to prison. Mariam Hossein-Khah, Hahid Keshavarz, Jelveh Javaheri and Parvin Ardalan, each received six months for contributing to banned women’s Web sites. Their lawyer is Shirin Ebadi, the prominent women’s rights activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003. News of the arrests soured a legislative victory for Iranian activists on Sept. 1, when the country’s parliament indefinitely delayed a vote on legislation that encouraged polygamy. The proposed Family Protection Bill removed the need for consent of the first wife if her husband wanted to marry a second spouse.
- The annual "Sex and Power" report by Europe’s Equality and Human Rights Commission found that women in Britain occupied fewer senior positions in politics, the media and the judiciary compared with last year, Reuters reported Sept. 4. The number of women in positions of power dropped in 12 out of 25 categories, remaining the same in another five. The report blamed Britain’s long hours and inflexible working practices for creating an era of "stay at home mums" and "breadwinner dads."
- A Boston University study of hospitals in 21 states found that 94 percent distribute free formula to new mothers in welcome-baby packages, Reuters reported Sept. 3. The free formula has been shown in previous studies to discourage breastfeeding, which is healthier for mother and baby. Only 11 percent of U.S. infants are exclusively breastfed through the first six months of life.
Dominique Soguel is Arabic editor and Jennifer Thurston is associate editor of Women’s eNews.
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