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  • Malaysia’s first two female Islamic court judges will have the same power as male judges, the Malaysian government has confirmed. Easing the concerns of many women’s rights groups, Sharia Judiciary Department official Mohamad Na’im stated, "The female judges can hear all criminal or civil cases that fall under the Islamic court’s jurisdiction" and would also rule on divorce cases, reported Ms. Magazine Aug. 10.


    The Malaysian government has announced further steps that it is considering in order to reform the country’s legal system, including setting up a fund for women whose former husbands fail to pay alimony. Malaysian government officials have also announced that they are considering mending civil and Sharia law to ban underage marriages, the article reported.

    More News to Cheer This Week:

    • U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled to remove the temporary stay of same-sex marriages in California on Aug. 12, allowing same-sex marriages to resume Aug. 18 unless Proposition 8’s supporters are able to quickly obtain a stay from a higher court, reported Ms. Magazine Aug. 12. The temporary stay came in response to various groups supporting Proposition 8, a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger filed a brief this week urging Judge Walker to allow same sex- marriages to resume immediately, in which he argued that "California has already issued 18,000 marriage licenses to same-sex couples without suffering any resulting harm. Government officials can resume issuing such licenses without administrative delay or difficulty."
    • Louisiana state officials have been temporarily barred by U.S. District Judge Ralph Tyson from enforcing two new abortion measures saying the laws were unconstitutional, reported The Advocate Aug. 13. One law requires an ultrasound exam to be taken by women seeking abortions and the other stipulates that certain abortion materials be presented by a doctor to those seeking the procedure. A lawsuit filed by the New York City-based Center for Reproductive Rights claims the ultrasound requirement is "unconstitutionally vague" because it doesn’t specify whether abortion providers must force women to view or accept copies of their ultrasound. The law’s supporters said they hoped the ultrasounds could dissuade women from seeking the procedure, but the Center says the new requirement could violate a patient’s privacy rights, The Associated Press reported.
    • America’s Voice thanked the public Aug. 9 for sending 20,000 faxes that temporarily stopped the deportation of Marlen Moreno, a young mother of two U.S.-citizen children and the wife of a legal permanent resident. The Department of Homeland Security granted Moreno a deferred action, which means she can stay with her husband and kids for one year. Now, America’s Voice is urging the government to pass the DREAM Act, a bill that would enable undocumented youth who were brought to the United States at a young age to earn legal status by completing two years of college or military service. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has agreed to move the DREAM Act, if there is enough support. The organization has started a DREAM Act petition.
    • The Tamil Nadu State Women’s Commission announced on Aug. 10 that they have plans to launch a campaign to educate women and girls about their rights starting Sept. 15, reported the Times of India Aug. 11. "When we studied the situation prevalent in the city as well as the districts we found that women were not even aware of their basic rights. They did not know about the laws against sexual harassment and what recourse they had. Neither did they know about the ways in which they are protected under the dowry act or in divorce proceedings or even in the case of properties, said Sargunapandian, chair of the commission. The first phase will deal with female teens in high schools in the city of Chennai, and will later be extended to women in schools and colleges in the districts, the article reported.
    • Bibi Aisha, the 18-year-old from Afghanistan who was featured on the cover of Time Magazine on Aug. 9, will be receiving treatment for her missing nose and ears in Los Angeles, reported the Los Angeles Times Aug. 9. Aisha, the wife of a Taliban fighter, received her injuries from her husband when she tried to flee him. She will be treated at the Grossman Burn Center in West Hills, to be funded privately by a host family.
    • The pay gap between men and women has narrowed to 16 percent in New York State according to a report released Aug. 10 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, reported the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. The report found women earn $720 weekly, compared with $858 for men. The government said women have posted gains since 1979, when it began tracking data; at that time women made only 62 percent of men’s salaries. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 forbids paying men and women differently for the exact same job, but women have continued to lag, the article reported.
    • The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health has joined with the California Latinas for Reproductive Justice and the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights to launch the first Latina Week of Action for Reproductive Justice from Aug. 9 -15.The week’s activities aim to raise awareness about the need for affordable contraception in the Latina community. During the week, the coalition planned to engage Latinas to send e-mails to a congressional representative, participate in a "blog carnival" where sites re-post blog entries about personal experiences with contraception, or lack of it, or financially supporting the movement.
    • Letitia A. Long is the first woman to lead one of the United States’ 16 major intelligence agencies, reported The Associated Press Aug. 9. Long, 51, was praised by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, as the right person for the job, as she took up her post as director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in a ceremony at the agency’s campus in Springfield, Va. Her 32-year career has led to a series of senior management positions: deputy director of Naval Intelligence, deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence and, most recently, second in command at the Defense Intelligence Agency.
    • The Network of Women’s Rights Organizations on Aug. 2 issued a legal guide featuring its vision for reforming the Personal Status Law in Egypt. The guide includes a review of the laws regulating personal status issues in Egypt. It provides a methodological vision to amend some key issues, namely: engagement, marriage, abidance, alimony, child custody, child seeing, divorce and self-divorce, polygamy and joint properties. Through the guide, the organization hopes to contribute to the current societal dialogue on amending Personal Status Law and promote legal visions based on justice and equity in the field of the family and personal status domain.
    • So far this year, more than 40 bills have been enacted and roughly 350 introduced to combat human-trafficking in the United States, reported the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee Aug. 6. That compares with just eight bills adopted across the country in 2006. The U.S. government estimates that 14,500 to 17,500 victims of trafficking are brought to the country each year, the article reported.


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    Financial troubles can exacerbate abusive tendencies, domestic violence experts said Aug. 11, reported Newsday, a daily based in Long Island, N.Y. There was a nearly 58 percent increase in domestic violence cases in Nassau, N.Y., and about 24 percent increase in Suffolk County, N.Y., in 2009 compared with 2008.

    Olivia and Pamela Johnston, executive directors of Victims Information Bureau of Suffolk, N.Y., which looks for ways to prevent abuse and assists victims, said they recently have been serving families in more desperate situations. Often victims seeking help tell tales of job loss, hunger and chronic unemployment, they told Newsday.

    More News to Jeer This Week:

    • Two Cobb County workers who allegedly were touched inappropriately by Superior Court Judge Kenneth Nix say the incident is more serious than was previously reported, but they aren’t seeking criminal charges, reported the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Aug. 12. The two women stopped by the judge’s office to bid him goodbye for his retirement on Aug. 4, at which point he allegedly asked them to sit on his lap for a photograph and inappropriately touched them. The women said they decided not to speak out or take legal action because of their experience that the victim often becomes the target of criticism in sex crimes, the article reported.
    • A working group of current and former service members raised concerns that women may have a harder time than men being seen by their primary care physicians at Veterans Affairs Department hospitals. The limited access is due to a policy that restricts women to being seen only when those physicians rotate through the women’s health clinics, said Ryan Gallucci, a spokesperson for AmVets, a veteran service organization, reported Air Force Times Aug. 11. If a female veteran’s primary care physician sees patients in the women’s clinic only one afternoon a week, that veteran could see the physician only on that one afternoon. Male veterans, however, could see that physician on any day he takes appointments, Gallucci said. AmVets officials plan to use the recommendations discussed during a convention to prepare a formal presentation to be delivered to Congress and the Department of Veteran Affairs with specific proposals to change the law or policy, Gallucci said.
    • Tonya Hunter-Lyons obtained two warrants for the arrest of her abusive husband and the domestic abuse unit of the Cleveland Police Department consistently lost them. The missteps had a role in Hunter-Lyons’ murder, reported the Cleveland Plain Dealer Aug. 10. Hunter-Lyons had called the police to complain of assault on two separate occasions, and then of a death threat. Although her husband, Maurice Lyons, had been arrested for the first assault, the warrants for the following two phone calls had been misplaced. Days later, the victim was found stabbed 17 times. Ronald Adrine, administrative and presiding judge of the Cleveland Municipal Court, says he already has instituted procedures that track the status of warrants to ensure that "nothing like this can ever happen again."
    • Argentina’s public health system is failing many of the women who depend on it for access to birth control and abortion, a human rights group said Aug. 10, reported The Associated Press. In a new report, Human Rights Watch said the Argentine government hasn’t implemented its own reproductive health care laws and policies. Like most Latin American countries, Argentina outlaws abortion, but makes exceptions when the woman is developmentally disabled, a rape victim, or her health is endangered. But judges and doctors in Argentina routinely deny or delay abortion in these cases, forcing many women to undergo risky procedures outside the system. Women are also being given expired contraceptives in public health centers and given one form of birth control at one visit, and then another at the next, the article reported.
    • Sarah Shourd, one of three American hikers who have been in an Iranian prison for the last year, has discovered a lump in her breast and her mother has asked the United Nations to urgently intervene so her daughter can receive proper medical treatment, reported. Nora Shourd, the hiker’s mother, said Aug. 5 that she had asked the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture also to intervene with Iranian authorities to end her daughter’s 23 hours a day of solitary confinement and provide her with the proper follow up treatment.


    • Women are entitled to eight weeks of unpaid maternity leave under the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act without fear of losing their jobs, the state’s highest court ruled Aug. 9, reported The Boston Globe. If a woman takes a maternity leave of more than eight weeks and is terminated during that time, she is no longer legally protected under act. She can, however, sue for breach of contract if an employer promised a maternity leave exceeding eight weeks and reneged on it, the court ruled.
    • The Florida District Court of Appeal Aug.12 ruled that the rights of a pregnant woman were violated when she was forced to remain hospitalized against her will after disagreeing with a hospital’s recommended treatment, reported ACLU Media. The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Florida filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of themselves and the American Women’s Medical Association supporting the woman in her case against the state. In March 2009, the Circuit Court of Leon County ordered Samantha Burton, who was suffering from pregnancy complications, to be indefinitely confined to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital and forced to undergo any and all medical treatments the doctors there deemed necessary to save her fetus. The lower court order forbade Burton from transferring to another hospital of her own choosing. After three days of state-compelled hospitalization and a compelled Cesarean section, Burton suffered a stillbirth and was released.
    • The Women’s Commission in the Indian state of West Bengal has announced an inquiry into allegations that a tribal woman was forced to walk naked for nearly six miles through three villages as punishment for an affair, reported BBC News Aug. 11. Officials say that she was also molested and jeered by a large crowd. Six of the men who allegedly molested her have been arrested. Critics say that it was only after mobile phone clips of the woman went into wide circulation that the police got involved. The group’s main effort is to find out why the woman’s family maintained "such a long silence" and how the local administration "remained oblivious of such a shocking incident," Malini Bhattacharya of the West Bengal Commission for Women told the BBC.
    • Pain related to menstrual cramps can alter the structure of the brain, indicates a study scheduled for publication in the September issue of PAIN, reported UKPA Aug. 11. Taiwanese scientists who studied a group of menstrual pain sufferers found evidence of dramatic reshaping, with some brain areas shrinking and others increasing in size. The findings indicate that these changes are long lasting, since they are seen even between painful episodes, the article reported. Some of the reshaping in the brain is thought to inhibit pain while other changes may make it worse.
    • About 340,000 of the 4.3 million babies born in the United States in 2008–or eight percent–had at least one parent who was an undocumented immigrant, according to a study published Aug.11 by the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research group in Washington. The study comes as lawmakers in Washington have been debating whether to consider changing the 14th Amendment, which grants citizenship to anyone born in the U.S., reported The New York Times. It also casts light on an issue raised by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who said that many undocumented immigrants were crossing the border to have babies in this country to gain citizenship for their children. Approximately 85 percent of the parents who are undocumented immigrants are Hispanic, the article reported.
    • A new study suggests that women who used estrogen and progestin therapy in combination for 15 years or more increased the chances of contracting breast cancer by 83 percent, reported United Kingdom’s Top News Aug. 12. Women who used estrogen therapy alone for over 15 years were at a 19 percent increased risk. The risk factor depended on a woman’s body mass index, as slimmer women were at an elevated risk, the study published in the American Association for Cancer Research found. CBS News Medical Correspondent and obstetrics-gynecologists, Dr. Jennifer Ashton, said that they are already aware of the reality that hormone replacement therapy, also called HRT, boosts the possibility of breast cancer, but this study centers on the time use and blend of HRT, with estrogen and progesterone.
    • An anti-abortion group that has waged a seven-year court fight against the state for refusing to produce license plates that say "Choose Life" made a direct appeal to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, reported Gloucester County Times Aug. 10. Leaders of Children First Foundation said the governor, who opposes abortion, can end the legal fight with a phone call. The group initially applied for the plates in 2003 but was turned down by then-Motor Vehicle Chief Administrator Diane Legreide, who said state law bars organizational plates from containing a slogan or advocacy message.
    • A new study suggests that young girls are increasingly reaching puberty earlier–between 2004 and 2006 twice as many Caucasian girls showed breast maturity at age seven as compared to 1997, reported Time Aug. 9. The percentage of African American girls showing the same early sign of puberty remained constant over the same time period. The analysis, conducted by researchers collaborating in the multi-center Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Centers, adds to the growing evidence that the onset of puberty in girls may be shifting earlier and earlier, possibly due to obesity. Exposure to environmental chemicals including pesticides and endocrine-disrupting chemicals like bisphenol A, commonly found in plastics, and phthalates, which are contained in many personal-care product, could also play a role.

    In Memoriam:

    • A spokesperson for the family of Ted Stevens said he was among the five people killed Aug. 10 in a plane crash in Alaska, reported The Associated Press. Stevens was a major supporter of Title IX –a measure to ensure gender equality for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding–and the longest-serving Republican senator in U.S. history. He lost his seat after a corruption conviction that was later dismissed. He was 86.