President Barack Obama signed an executive order banning workplace discrimination against LGBT federal employees, Feministing.com reported July 21. The order makes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity illegal. It does not contain religious exemptions that the current Employee Non-Discrimination Act has.
Meanwhile in Maryland, transgender employees now have access to gender reassignment surgery, hormone therapy and other transition-related care under their state-provided health insurance plans, The Baltimore Sun reported July 22. Sailor Holobaugh, a clinical research assistant at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, brought a discrimination case against the state in November 2012 after he was denied reimbursement for a $4,500 surgery. Maryland joins California and Oregon to become the third state to offer such coverage.
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Pregnant women at the lowest rung of the nation’s economic ladder have narrowed the gap with wealthier women in the health of their babies, The Washington Post reported July 20. While experts agree that government policy has been critical to boosting the health of poor newborns, the improvements aren’t because of a single policy or administration. Rather, they reflect improved access to care, as well as a complex array of other factors, some not easily within the government’s grasp to change, from pollution to nutrition to violence at home.
A campaign to promote male circumcision to prevent AIDS infection also indirectly benefits women by reducing their risk of contracting the HIV virus, according to a study presented July 25 at a six-day world forum on AIDS, Agence France-Presse reported.
A United Nations human rights panel called on Japan to undertake independent investigations of wartime sex slavery and apologize to the women who were victims before it was too late, Reuters reported July 24. Some historians estimate that as many as 200,000 so-called comfort women, many from China and South Korea, were forced into the Imperial Japanese Army’s brothels before and during World War II.
Mariam Yahya Ibrahim, a Sudanese woman who faced the death sentence for refusing to renounce Christianity, met with Pope Francis in Italy, TIME reported July 24. Ibrahim and her family, en route to the U.S., where her husband is a citizen, conversed with the Pope, who wanted to show “his closeness and prayers” for those who suffer because of their faith, in the Vatican.
Congress introduced on July 22 a bill meant to promote flexible work places and prevent abusive scheduling practices. Many low-income workers receive their schedules last minute and their hours can change weekly, according to A Better Balance, a nonprofit organization. The bill would give workers the right to request changes in their work schedules and protect them from retaliation from employers.
Marie Claire has added Janet Mock, a New York Times best-selling author and transgender rights activist, as a contributing editor, Mediabistro.com reported July 21. Mock is the author of “Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love and So Much More.”
A Montana judge who gave a rapist a lenient sentence and suggested that the 14-year-old victim was at least partially to blame for her attack received a public reprimand from the Montana Supreme Court, RH Reality Check reported July 23. When delivering the rapist’s sentence, Judge G. Todd Baugh suggested that the victim “looked older than her chronological age,” and therefore was “as much in control of the situation” as her rapist.
The Huffington Post reported July 21 on the absence of women at the top of companies that make and market products to women. The online publication and Catalyst, an organization aimed at boosting women in business, looked at 19 of the largest companies that cater in a large part to women and found that just one company, Avon, has a board of directors with a majority of women. The lack of female executives may help explain why some products and marketing campaigns are so out of touch, added The Huffington Post.
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African American women who work full time, year round, are paid on average only 64 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. This gap–which amounts to a loss of $18,650 a year–means that African American women have to work nearly 19 months–until almost the end of July–to make as much as white, non-Hispanic men did in the previous year alone, according to a fact sheet published in July by the National Women’s Law Center. The center also produced a chart providing a state by state breakdown of the wide differences in the wage gap for African American women. African American women in Louisiana on average experience the highest wage gap: 49 cents for every dollar Louisiana non-Hispanic white men earn.
Two Finnish women were shot and killed by unknown gunmen while riding in a taxi in the western Afghan city of Herat on July 24, France 24 reported. The attack came the same day that a market bombing in Afghanistan’s north killed six people. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the killings, but the Christian medical charity the women worked for was targeted by the Taliban four years ago in an attack that killed eight. The militants claimed at the time that the medics were “missionaries.”
Religious groups in Iraq are threatening to kill the members of an organization dedicated to helping women and LGBT people, The Daily Beast reported July 22. The Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq has received threats from Asaib Ahl al Haq, a Shia militia in Baghdad. The militia accused the organization of prostituting women in its shelters. The young women and gay men have been moved from the organization’s main office to undisclosed locations.
An Italian Catholic school could lose its public funding if it is found it fired a teacher for being gay, Gay Star News reported July 22. Italy’s Ministry of Education is investigating the Trento school after a teacher alleged that she was fired to “protect the school’s ethics.” Firing an employee because of their sexual orientation is illegal in Italy.
Mordechai Kedar, an Israeli scholar of Arabic literature and lecturer at Bar-Ilan University, declared that raping the wives and mothers of Palestinian combatants would deter attacks, Alternative News reported July 21. “The only thing that could deter a suicide bomber is knowing that if caught, his sister or his mother would be raped,” said Kedar during a radio talk show this week.
The Mormon Church has not shifted its official positions on the roles of men and women since the 1970s, according to a study, Yahoo News reported July 21. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints emphasizes the importance of innate gender differences and promotes traditionally masculine traits for men (e.g., strength, leadership) and traditionally feminine traits for women (e.g., delicacy, gentleness). Women are not allowed to have leadership roles in the Mormon Church hierarchy, and are encouraged to take on a supportive role for their husbands.
A mother who was arrested for leaving her children in her car while she went on a job interview will not go to prison, ThinkProgress.org reported July 21. Shanesha Taylor left her children in the car after plans with the babysitter she hired fell through. Taylor was charged with two counts of felony child abuse and faced up to eight years in prison. She agreed to a plea agreement in which the charges against her will be dropped if she completes classes and establishes trusts for her children with the funds the public had sent her in response to her arrest.
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