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Federal officials launched the website NotAlone.gov to support survivors of sexual assault on campuses and also plan to challenge colleges to survey their students next year about sexual misconduct and other safety issues, the White House announced, the Washington Post reported April 29. “Colleges and universities need to face the facts about sexual assault,” Vice President Biden said in a statement as a 20-page report was released. “No more turning a blind eye or pretending it doesn’t exist. We need to give victims the support they need — like a confidential place to go — and we need to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
For the first time, the Education Department also revealed its list of colleges under investigation on May 1 — though no details of the complaints — as the Obama administration sought to bring more openness to the issue of sexual violence on and around the nation’s campuses, the Associated Press reported. Fifty-five schools across the United States are facing federal investigation for the way they handle sexual abuse allegations by their students. The schools range from public universities, including Ohio State, the University of California, Berkeley and Arizona State, to private schools including Knox College in Illinois, Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania and Catholic University of America in the District of Columbia. Ivy League schools including Harvard, Princeton and Dartmouth are also on the list.
Meanwhile, Harvard graduate students, undergraduates and alumni have united in a joint campaign to bring broader awareness to the problem of the mishandling of sexual assault cases and other gender violence and discrimination at Harvard, a group called GradSage said in an April 28 press statement. Read more in the Women’s eNews story, “Harvard Alum Finds Her Alma Mater Failing Women.”
More News to Cheer This Week:
Tunisia has officially lifted key reservations to the international women’s treaty, an important step toward realizing gender equality, Human Rights Watch said May 1. The United Nations on April 23 confirmed receipt of Tunisia‘s notification to officially withdraw all of its specific reservations to the treaty known as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, referred to as CEDAW. These reservations had enabled Tunisia to opt out of certain provisions, including on women’s rights within the family, even though the country had ratified the treaty. Tunisia started this process in 2011, but only in recent days formally notified the U.N. Tunisia is the first country in its region to remove all specific reservations to the treaty and is often a trend-setter.
The National Partnership for Women and Families protested the Senate’s failure on April 30 to move ahead the debate on raising the federal minimum wage. “The Senate’s failure today to invoke cloture on a modest proposal to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour is simply inexcusable,” President Debra Ness said in a press statement. Also, members of the National Domestic Workers Alliance joined protests outside the Capitol building in Washington to call on Congress to raise the minimum wage and cut corporate tax breaks, the National People’s Action reported April 28. Protesters posted updates on Twitter with the #risingvoices hashtag.
Google is removing Web search ads for some “crisis pregnancy centers,” after an investigation by NARAL Pro-Choice America found evidence that the ads violate Google’s policy against deceptive advertising, the Washington Post reported April 28. “We have no problem with crisis pregnancy centers advertising online; we have no problem with their existing,” said Illyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. “That is their right in America.” But Hogue said NARAL objects to the way the centers have been promoted online, with ads that include text indicating that the centers provide abortions.
United Church of Christ along with ministers of other congregations in the Charlotte, N.C., area, including a rabbi, filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s marriage laws for restricting ministers’ free exercise of religion, Time reported April 28. The UCC is also seeking preliminary injunction that would allow ministers to choose whether to perform a religious marriage. Time editors say this appears to be the first time a national Christian denomination has challenged a state’s same-sex marriage laws.
The Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women on April 25 announced grant solicitations to launch a new $3 million special initiative for the energy-booming rural areas of western North Dakota and eastern Montana known by geologists as the Bakken Region. The initiative will help expand services to victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking.
The number of kidnapped schoolgirls missing in Nigeria has risen to 276, up by more than 30 from a previous estimate, police have said, adding that the actual number abducted by Islamic extremists on April 14 was more than 300, reported The Times of India May 2.
Police Commissioner Tanko Lawan said the number of girls and young women who have escaped also has risen, to 53. Relatives of the schoolgirls snatched by Boko Haram militants in the north-eastern Nigerian village of Chibok have heard that the missing girls were subjected to mass marriages and “shared out” as wives among the kidnappers, the Guardian reported April 29.
On April 30, hundreds of the schoolgirls’ mothers and countrywomen marched to the National Assembly in the capital, Abuja, to protest a lack of action, the Associated Press reported. A similar march was held in Kano, in the country’s north.
More News to Jeer This Week:
The United States is among just eight countries in the world to experience an increase in maternal mortality since 2003 – joining Afghanistan and countries in Africa and Central America, according to a new study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, the institute said in a May 2 press release. The study, published in The Lancet, ranked the United States number 60 in the list of 180 countries on maternal deaths, compared to its rank of 22 in 1990. In the U.S., 18.5 mothers died for every 100,000 live births in 2013, more than double the figures for maternal mortality in Saudi Arabia (7) and Canada (8.2) and more than triple that for the United Kingdom (6.1).
Sabrina Schaeffer, executive director of the Independent Women’s Forum, outlined in an April 30 press call the arguments of her group–which she described as “dedicated to expanding the conservative coalition and promoting free markets”– against Democratic efforts to raise the federally-mandated minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. In a scripted statement, she said minimum-wage jobs offer flexibility to students and parents, who often work part time to accommodate other scheduling demands. Schaeffer argued that raising the minimum wage would mean employers cut these jobs altogether and that would hurt women disproportionately since women are two-thirds of those minimum-wage earners and two-thirds of those working part time. She said poverty isn’t caused by low wages; instead it’s caused by inconsistent employment, which a minimum-wage hike would worsen. She added that minimum-wage jobs offer young people career entries and skill building and that young people in these jobs often earned a raise within a year. The effort to reduce poverty, she argued, should be focused on boosting the economy so it could improve job market conditions and put upward competitive pressure on wages. She concluded by saying it would be better to support “targeted assistance programs for those truly in need” than to raise the federal minimum wage.
–Corinna Barnard, editor
Legislation that would ban abortions after 19 weeks in South Carolina has advanced in the state Senate, the Associated Press reported. A Senate subcommittee voted 4-1 on April 30 to advance the bill after amending it to give exceptions to the ban for cases of rape, incest and fetal anomaly. The sole exception originally permitted in the bill, which passed the House 81-22 last month, was when the mother’s life is in danger.
Massachusetts officials are in hot water after an offensive tweet about sexual assault was sent from a government Twitter account, ABC News reported May 1. “Sexual assault is always avoidable,” read the tweet, posted the night of April 30 by the account @MassGov. It was later deleted. Officials issued an apology and explanation.
The American Civil Liberties Union on April 29 sharply criticized Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam for “signing a dangerous law that would give prosecutors the authority to bring criminal charges against a woman who chooses to continue her pregnancy to term while struggling with a drug dependency, even while she is in treatment.” Haslam signed SB 1391 despite widespread calls for a veto and objections from doctors.
A Muslim woman in eastern India has alleged she was gang raped by more than a dozen men because of her work helping the Hindu nationalist opposition in ongoing elections, police have said, the Guardian reported April 29. The woman from Jharkhand state filed a complaint with police that a mob attacked her in her home and also assaulted her 13-year-old daughter. Her husband was allegedly handcuffed during the attack. A spokesperson for Jharkhand police said an investigation had begun and it was too soon to confirm the woman’s allegations of a political motive for the attack. See the related Women’s eNews article, “Indian Women Channel Rape Outrage into Elections.”
Gao Yu, a prominent Chinese journalist who was imprisoned following the 1989 suppression of the student protests in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, is missing, with friends saying she may have been detained ahead of the 25th anniversary of the crackdown, The New York Times reported April 29.
A federal appeals court heard arguments in the challenge to a Mississippi law that would close the last abortion clinic in the state, MSNBC reported April 28. The same law that threatens to end legal abortion in Mississippi has swept across southern states, leaving women there with waning alternatives. Unless the federal courts step in, access may be decimated in a vast swath of the country, potentially closing three-quarters of the abortion clinics in states where 21 million women live. And so far, those courts have been divided on the constitutionality of such laws.
UN Women launched an April 27 report, “We Just Keep Silent,” finding high levels of gender-based violence among Syrian refugees in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. It reveals increased levels of intimate partner violence, high levels of sexual harassment by employers and taxi drivers and a significant number of reports of sexual commercial transactions inside and outside camps.
Despite the declining overall teenage pregnancy rate in Finland, poorer background continues to be associated with a higher risk of conceiving and of giving birth, finds research released April 29 on Twitter by the Guttmacher Institute.
A new law went into effect in Kenya this week that makes it legal for a man to marry as many women as he wants, CNN reported May 1. The law legalizes polygamous unions, but does not provide an official limit on the number of wives a man can have. President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the measure into law April 29, formally recognizing what has long been a cultural practice in the nation. Parliament passed the bill in March despite protests from female lawmakers who angrily stormed out of the late-night session at the time. However, the Federation of Women Lawyers, a powerful women’s rights group, applauded aspects of the bill and criticized others. The bill, the group said, is long overdue because polygamous unions were previously not regarded as equal to regular marriages.
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