The National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, created in 2003 by Congress under the Prison Rape Elimination Act, proposed new standards on June 23 to help reduce the 60,000 cases of inmate sexual assault each year, reported the Huffington Post. States that fail to adhere to these standards risk losing portions of their federal funding. Suggested measures include zero tolerance policies, better staff training and increased screening of inmates to identify potential abuse victims, reported the examiner.com.
There are 148,200 women in U.S. state and federal prisons and in women’s correctional facilities. In these facilities and prisons, 70 percent of the guards are male. Records indicate that correctional officials have subjected female inmates to rape, other sexual assault, sexual extortion and groping during body searches, according a 2005 fact sheet compiled by Amnesty International.
More News to Cheer This Week:
- The U.S. Census Bureau announced on June 19 that it will include same-sex couples in the 2010 census. This move is a reversal of an earlier Bush-era court decision that same-sex marriages were not to be counted. The revision acknowledges that same-sex marriage was not legal in the U.S. during the previous decision, but it is now legal in six states, reported the New York Times. “We’re in the midst of determining the best way to ensure that gay and lesbian couples are accurately counted,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told the Associated Press on June 20.
- Police in Bolivia have arrested eight men accused of raping over 60 women in their Mennonite community over the past few months, according to the Associated Press. The men were arrested on June 23 in the eastern Santa Cruz region, which is home to a Mennonite farming settlement. The federal prosecutor said the men were suspected of raping at least two underage girls, reported Reuters.
- Sista’s Organizing to Survive, a one-year-old Florida-based organization, held a three-day conference in Orlando, Fla., this week to raise HIV awareness among black women and to encourage them to be tested, reported the Orlando Sentinel on June 21. Debbie Tucci, coordinator for the Orange County Health Department’s HIV-AIDS program, told the Kaiser Family Foundation that one in 68 black women in the state is living with HIV-AIDS and many are unaware that they are infected.
French cosmetics company L’Oreal was found guilty of racial discrimination by the La Cour de Cassation, the French equivalent of the U.S. Supreme Court, on June 25. The company had sent out a fax stating that Garnier’s Fructise Style promoters “should be aged 18 to 22, wear size 38 to 42 clothes and be BBR,” reported SkyNews. “BBR” translates to “bleu, blanc, rouge”–the colors of the French flag–and is generally code for white French people born to white French parents, reported the Times Online. This would disqualify ethnic minorities living in France.
The ruling is the second blow to the cosmetics brand; L’Oreal was accused of lightening singer Beyonce Knowles’s skin for a campaign last year, reported the Times Online.
More News to Jeer This Week:
- Rahima Begum was sentenced to being caned 39 times for pointing out the father of her child. She lives in an eastern village of Bangladesh that is strictly Muslim, where it is taboo to have a child out of wedlock, reported Agence France-Presse. Human rights groups are concerned with the rise of such incidents in Bangladesh and say it’s becoming increasingly common. They blame hard-line clerics who are taking the law into their own hands and handing down harsh punishments via the village courts for occurrences such as adultery and being raped. It’s mostly women who are being impacted by these guilty verdicts. One group has recorded 15 such incidents in May and June, reported the article.
- Reproductive freedom in the U.S. received two blows this week from state legislatures. On June 23, the Arizona Senate approved more restrictions to women seeking abortions. Women will now have to wait 24-hours after their first visit to a doctor when seeking an abortion, and this visit must include specific information regarding the risks of the procedure as outlined by the state, reported the Associated Press. The bill also allows pharmacists and medical professionals to refuse to provide emergency contraception if they are morally opposed to it. Abortion providers in Virginia are now legally subject to criminal charges if they perform a second trimester abortion, under a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals on June 25.
- Singer Chris Brown will not serve jail time for his assault of pop star Rihanna, thanks to a plea agreement reached just hours before the scheduled trial on June 22. Brown will serve five years of probation–about 1,400 hours of community service– and take a year-long domestic violence course. He must also stay fifty yards away from Rihanna (except at industry events, in which case, it is ten yards), reported the LA Times.
- A yearlong, three-part study by a Princeton economics student looked at the gender bias in theater. It found that there were twice as many male playwrights as female ones, and that the men tended to be more prolific, turning out more plays, reported the New York Times. The research also found that there is discrimination against female playwrights, but that it exists mostly because of female artistic directors and literary managers. Finally, the study showed that plays by women had to be “better” than those by men, in terms of making profit.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy officially announced on June 22 that the burka, the traditional Muslim head-to-toe attire, was not welcome in France. Sarkozy said the Islamic burka is “a symbol of subjugation rather than faith,” the American Free Press reported. While the burka has not been legally banned in the country, the French National Assembly does plan to set up a commission to study the wearing of the burka, Voice of America reported on June 23.
Kayla Hutzler, a journalism major at Manhattan College, is an editorial intern with Women’s eNews.
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