New legislation passed in New York state grants workplace rights to domestic employees, reported the New York Times July 1. Domestic workers will now have a set workweek consisting of 40 hours with three vacation days annually after a year of employment. They will also be protected against sexual harassment and be entitled to disability benefits, unemployment insurance and overtime. New York is the first state to grant such rights to domestic employees. Also, the state legislature approved a law June 30 that permits midwives to practice independently of obstetricians.
More News to Cheer This Week:
- The Gender Equality Architecture Reform, GEAR, campaign celebrated the United Nations General Assembly resolution, agreed to on June 30 and formally adopted by the General Assembly on July 2, to establish "UN Women"–the new gender equality entity at the U.N. The new entity, to be headed by an under-secretary general, will consolidate the four existing U.N. agencies that focus on women, increase operational capacity at the country level and gain increased funding for work on women’s empowerment and advancement, according to a July 1 press release from GEAR.
- Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., introduced a bill on June 30 that would regulate the misleading practices of crisis pregnancy centers, reported Ms. Magazine July 1. Some of these centers, typically run by anti-abortion volunteers who are not medical professionals, pressure women to not consider abortion as an option and prevent women from receiving neutral and comprehensive medical advice, the article reported. The Stop Deceptive Advertising for Women’s Services Act would require the Federal Trade Commission to create and enforce rules to prohibit crisis pregnancy centers’ deceptive advertising practices, such as advertising under the term "abortion services."
- The New Jersey Senate approved legislation restoring $7.5 million in family planning funding, reported the Associated Press June 28. Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s budget plan had eliminated state funding for 58 women’s health centers. Sen. Loretta Weinberg, a Democrat who advocated for the restoration, said "the money will not be used for abortions" but for other health care needs. If the bill is passed, thousands of uninsured women will receive financial assistance with medical care, reported the State House Bureau June 28. The General Assembly will consider the bill on July 5. Christie has not said whether he would sign it.
- In a case that pitted antidiscrimination principles against religious freedom, the United States Supreme Court ruled June 28 that a university can legally deny recognition to a student group that bars gay students, reported Reuters. The court upheld a ruling allowing the University of California’s Hastings College of Law to deny recognition of the Christian Legal Society–a group that, since 2004, has required its members to sign a statement of faith that vows devotion to Jesus Christ and bars those with what it defines as a "sexually immoral lifestyle," including gay and lesbian students. In the court’s opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that the university need not provide a religious-based exception to its policy that groups must open membership to all students who want to join.
- For the first time in history, a women’s major professional bowling event will be held at "a traditional sporting venue," reported the PR Newswire June 30. The 2011 Bowling’s U.S. Women’s Open is scheduled to take place at the Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
An Iranian woman accused of adultery has been sentenced to death by stoning, reported The Jerusalem Post June 30. Sakineh Mohamamadi e Ashtiani, 43, allegedly had affairs with two men who then murdered her husband. Infidelity is illegal in Iran and is usually punished with lashes and prison time; execution by stoning in these cases is rare, the article reported. If carried out the sentence would be the first known stoning to take place in the Islamic Republic in years.
More News to Jeer This Week:
- A doctor in Florida is giving her pregnant patients an experimental hormone, dexamethasone, to ensure that female babies will be more feminine and not become lesbians, reported Jezebel July 1. Some scientists believe the hormone, if administered prenatally, might prevent ambiguous genitalia, but pediatric endocrinologist Maria New says the hormone will also keep girls from doing such things as hanging out with boys, choosing male-dominated careers and being gay.
- A senior official in Afghanistan’s Ministry for Women’s Affairs told a recent United Nations workshop that about half of Afghanistan’s 476 female prisoners were detained for "moral crimes," reported the BBC July 1. The article looks at female prisoners in Badam Bagh, or Almond Garden, Afghanistan’s only prison for women in the capital Kabul. One of the prisoners is a 16-year-old girl who was arrested after her boyfriend proposed marriage to her unaccompanied by his parents. The girl was initially sentenced to three years in prison, but the sentence was reduced to 18 months. The prison is home to 147 women and children and was opened two years ago.
- More women in Ireland are reporting difficulties in coming up with the money for abortion services, reported The Irish Times June 29. Counselors at the Irish Family Planning Association are seeing more women report this difficulty amidst the current economic climate, said the association’s chief executive, Niall Behan. At the same time, the Dublin’s Well Woman Centre said increasing numbers of women using their services were considering terminating pregnancies as a consequence of the recession. Not all crisis pregnancy counseling services in the United Kingdom are seeing the same trend, the article reported.
- The Supreme Court’s June 28 ruling that Americans have the right to own a gun for self-defense anywhere in the United States has some Chicago residents disappointed and others concerned about the safety of women, reported National Public Radio June 29. The ruling, which says that state and local gun laws may not infringe an individual’s legitimate right to keep and bear arms, means that Chicago’s 28–year-old gun ban will be abolished as of July 15. Some residents fear that the modified gun law will disproportionately affect women, who are the primary victims of weapon homicides in the city, reported The American Prospect June 29. Eighty-seven percent of violent crimes in Chicago are committed with handguns.
- Planned Parenthood of the Heartland filed a lawsuit June 28 challenging a new Nebraska law requiring mental health screening for women seeking abortion, reported the Associated Press. The new law requires women wanting abortions to be screened by doctors or other health professionals to determine whether they were pressured into having the procedure. Those women also would have to be screened for risk factors indicating they could have mental or physical problems after an abortion, reported the article.
- HIV rates are on the rise among Asian women, highlighting the need for new policy priorities with a gender focus, warns the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, reported South Africa’s Times Live June 28. "A gender focus is crucial to stem the spread of HIV fuelled by gender inequalities that increasingly place women and girls at risk," said the U.N. Programme’s Asia Pacific Regional Gender Advisor Jane Wilson. In 2007, women accounted for 35 percent of all people living with HIV in Asia, up from 18 percent in 1990, reported the article.
- Supermodel Naomi Campbell, as well as her agent and actress Mia Farrow, have been called to testify at the trial of Charles G. Taylor, the deposed president of Liberia, reported the New York Times July 1. Campbell allegedly received diamonds from two men representing Taylor in September 1997; her testimony would contradict Taylor’s claim in court that he had never owned or traded in diamonds. The prosecution contends that he used them as currency to finance a rebellion in Sierra Leone in the 1990s, in which tens of thousands of people were killed, raped or mutilated. The charges against him include murder, conscripting child soldiers and terrorizing and mutilating civilians.
- A divorce bill, approved July 1, would for the first time allow a couple in New York to dissolve their marriage by mutual consent and without requiring one spouse to accuse the other of adultery, cruelty, imprisonment or abandonment, reported the New York Times July 1. The bill makes New York the last state to allow some version of no-fault divorce.
- Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., pressed Elena Kagan on her views about life and health exemptions for the mother within abortion bans during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings this week, reported Campus Progress June 30. "Senator Feinstein, I do think that the continuing holding of Roe and Doe v. Bolton is that women’s life and women’s health have to be protected in abortion regulation," Kagan replied. Kagan went on to talk about banning so-called partial-birth abortions, which she encouraged Bill Clinton to support while he was president.
- Overweight women have a much higher risk of a miscarriage after having in-vitro fertilization compared with slimmer women, new research indicates, reported the Associated Press June 28. Research from a London clinic tracking women who became pregnant after having in-vitro fertilization found that among women with a normal weight, 22 percent using in-vitro at the clinic had a miscarriage, but among overweight and obese women, the risk of miscarriage was 33 percent. Doctors aren’t sure why excess body weight makes pregnancy more risky, but suspect fat may have harmful effects on the lining of the uterus, making it more difficult for proper embryo implantation.
- A study indicates that home births may be best for the mother because she is less likely to have medical intervention–from painkilling drugs to forceps to a Caesarean section–but is riskier for the baby, reported The Guardian July 1. The research shows that home births carry three times the risk that her baby will die. The study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, analyzed studies in the United States and Europe, looking at a total of 342,056 planned home births and 207,551 planned hospital births.
- A New York City woman was charged with sex trafficking, promoting prostitution and conspiracy, reported the New York Daily News June 29. Jin Hua Cui, 44, is said to have coerced young Korean women applying for jobs as nail salon attendants into prostitution. After answering help wanted ads in Korean language newspapers, applicants were threatened with either embarrassment or violence by Chinese gangs if they did not comply. The defendant pleaded not guilty and is currently awaiting trial on $10,000 bail.
- Nearly 20 percent of older American women have opted to not have children compared to 10 percent in the 1970s, according to a Pew Research Center study, reported Reuters June 25. "Women have more options than in the past to build strong careers and to exercise the choice not to have children," said D’Vera Cohn, a co-author of the report.. Cohn said another reason for the increase is that children are seen by some couples as less important for a successful marriage. Education is also a key factor, as the more educated the woman, the higher the childless rate.
- A simple blood test may one day help predict the age at which a woman will begin menopause, say the scientists who developed the test, reported HealthDay News June 28. Their study found that the average difference between the age predicted by the test and the actual age a woman reached menopause was about four months, while the maximum margin of error was between three and four years. The test measures a hormone produced by cells in the ovaries. If the test’s accuracy can be confirmed in larger studies, it could be used by women early in their reproductive life to help decide when to start planning a family, the article reported.
- A growing movement in Europe to ban burkas and niqabs–the face coverings worn by some Muslim women–is igniting a debate over individual religious freedom versus broader cultural values, reported USA Today June 28. In Belgium, a bill making it a crime to wear a face veil in public passed unanimously in April in the lower house of parliament and is expected to become law later this year. Similar legislation in France could mean up to $18,575 in penalties and a year in prison for someone convicted of forcing a woman to wear coverings. Lawmakers across the continent are considering similar measures, reported the article.
- Pregnant women should be given a breath test to reveal the impact of smoking on their unborn child, says the United Kingdom’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, reported Australia’s Herald Sun June 28. The carbon monoxide test would determine if the woman smokes, how much and even the impact of secondhand smoke. Women who fail the test would be offered support to help them quit for the good of their fetus, reported the article.
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