Laws Block Trafficking; Sexual Terror Ignored

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersThe Washington-based Center for Women’s Policy Studies published the first state-by-state evaluation of human trafficking legislation May 23. The “Report Card on State Action to Combat International Trafficking” honors lawmakers who have made positive efforts to halt human trafficking.The Center for Women’s Policy Studies issued the report card as a way to increase visibility of the human trafficking issue and spur new legislation in additional states.The report found that half of all states’ laws now make trafficking a felony, nine state laws provide restitution to victims and 11 states enacted laws providing for victim protection. Many Midwestern states, including Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska, had additional laws such as those to regulate travel service providers that facilitate sex tourism.New York, a major hub for the more than 20,000 people trafficked each year, passed its first comprehensive state legislation May 22 to fight trafficking. The legislation creates a task force to fight trafficking and enforces punishments for the crime. The laws outlaws “prostitution tourism” and makes sex trafficking a felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison.More News to Cheer This Week: The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said he will investigate human rights violations committed during a 2002-2003 rebellion in the Central African Republic, the BBC reported May 22.

Dems Rebuff Abstinence Funding; Bias Harms Girls

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersDemocratic leaders plan to let $50 million drop from the Title V federal funding stream earmarked for abstinence-only education programs after a recent study released to Congress reported the programs did not dissuade teens from having sex. Congressional Quarterly reported May 15 that lawmakers, who say they would rather see funding focused toward comprehensive sex education that includes abstinence, will not reauthorize the funding when it expires on June 30.”Abstinence-only seems to be a colossal failure,” said Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which controls the earmark, adding that the deficit and the war were also factors.Abstinence supporters said the move would only embolden their efforts to maintain abstinence-only education.More News to Cheer This Week:New Hampshire has skirted controversy with its distribution of free HPV vaccines, United Press International reported May 12. Although other states initiating mandatory vaccine measures have encountered controversy, New Hampshire has dispensed more than 14,000 doses on a voluntary basis to girls ages 11 to 18 without significant opposition. The state has spent $4.9 million on the vaccine, Gardasil, so far, the New York Times reported May 12.Nicolas Sarkozy, the new French president, has appointed seven women to his 15-member cabinet, Agence France Press reported May 18. Women will oversee the ministries of the interior; justice; agriculture; higher education; culture; health, youth and sports; and social cohesion.Two women from different walks of life jumpstarted a fund for women in southeastern Ohio, reported the Zanesville Times Recorder May 12.

Wade Horn Departs; Rape Rate High in New Hampshire

(WOMENSENEWS)–Cheers Wade Horn, an influential fathers’ rights advocate whose views shaped much of the 1996 welfare law, resigned as assistant secretary for children and families, the Washington Post reported April 3. Horn oversaw a $46 billion budget and 65 programs that serve vulnerable children and families for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He will join the accounting firm Deloitte and ToucheWomen’s groups recently criticized Horn and Health and Human Services for providing discriminatory funding to men’s groups. According to a report from the Washington-based National Organization for Women, the department awarded $5 million to the National Fatherhood Initiative, an organization previously directed by Horn. NOW and Legal Momentum filed complaints on March 28 with the government alleging sex discrimination in program funding.”Wade Horn takes the cake.

Keroack Resigns; Pregnancy Bias Claims Rise

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersDr. Eric Keroack, who has been embroiled in controversy since he was appointed as the Health and Human Services Department’s chief family planning officer in November, abruptly resigned his post on March 29, Reuters reported.Keroack’s selection by President Bush was met with strong criticism from women’s groups over his anti-abortion stance and his previous work with five Massachusetts “crisis pregnancy” centers. Massachusetts state Medicaid officials took an undisclosed action against Keroack earlier in the week, which led to his departure.In his federal position, Keroack oversaw $283 million in family planning grants used to provide contraception to low-income women, but his opposition to contraception provoked 107 House Democrats and three Republicans to call for his resignation in December.”It’s a good day for women’s health,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said. “Keroack was unqualified to run the nation’s family planning program. The nation’s family planning program should be run by a champion for women’s health and safety.”More News to Cheer This Week: The ‘Yogyakarta Principles’ for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights were introduced at the U.N. Human Rights Council’s session in Geneva by a group of 29 advocates, the New York-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission announced March 29. The principles recommend a strategy for how governments should treat lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and address rape and other forms of gender-based violence; extrajudicial executions, torture and other forms of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment; medical abuses; repression of free speech and assembly; and discrimination in work, health, education, housing, access to justice and immigration.Several thousand women marched in Mexico City to support a bill that would legalize abortion in the capital city, the Associated Press reported March 29.

U.N. Impugns Impunity; Saudi Raped Teen Faces Lash

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersThe United Nations marked International Women’s Day, designated in many countries as a national holiday, with a resolution to prevent perpetrators of violence against girls and women from escaping with impunity, a U.N. press release reported March 8.”Violence against women and girls continues unabated in every continent, country and culture,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said and called on diplomats, international advocates and private sector organizations to work for gender equity at all levels of society.From Feb. 26 to March 9, the U. N. Commission on the Status of Women held meetings on ending discrimination and violence against girls. In a forum moderated by CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric, girls described problems they personally faced in their regions. The speakers included former child soldiers, factory workers, sex workers and rape victims who had escaped exploitation by joining groups and appealing to local leaders for change.”What is unachievable if given an opportunity?” asked Sunita Tamang, a 16-year-old matchstick factory worker from Nepal who has found time to attend school on top of her job.

Women’s Soccer in the Works; FDA Cuts Health Funds

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersA U.S. professional women’s soccer league is in the works for an April 2008 launch, with plans to form teams in Los Angeles, Dallas, St. Louis, Chicago and Washington, and is working to find a sixth city to host a team, the Associated Press reported Feb. 27. Two other franchises are planned for 2009.The league, organized by the Women’s Soccer Initiative, will replace the Women’s United Soccer Association, which folded in 2003 after low ticket sales. Tonya Antonucci, the initiative’s CEO, said the new league was working to reduce costs and each team would operate on annual budgets between $1.5 million and $2.5 million.

Millions More for Birth Control; Docs Keep Mum

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersCongressional Democrats on Feb. 5. introduced a package of bills designed to increase access to contraception and reduce unplanned pregnancies in the United States.The Reid-Slaughter Prevention First Act proposes an increase in funding for family planning programs to $699 million from $283 million. The higher amount reflects where the budget for the national family planning program–or Title X–would be if it had kept up with inflation since 1980.”If we want to reduce the number of abortions in this country, the methodology is clear: empower women to prevent unintended pregnancies through education and access to contraception,” Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York, a co-sponsor, said in a statement.The New York-based Guttmacher Institute reports that nearly half of pregnancies of U.S. women are unintended, and 4 in 10 of those pregnancies end in abortion.Slaughter also introduced a bill to encourage greater female participation in sports in high schools, her office announced Feb. 7.

New Era for Female Pols; Chemo Rations Shorted

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersThe influence of women in U.S. electoral politics bodes well for the entry of New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton into the presidential race, the Washington Post reported Jan. 21.In the last presidential election, 9 million more women than men voted. Although Clinton has had “rocky moments with female voters” in the past, a Jan. 19 Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that she has a 59 percent favorable rating among U.S. women nationwide. Among women over 55, Clinton’s approval rating has improved by 10 percentage points in the past year.

Bias Suit Settled; California Urges Sterilization

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersThe Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, Akron, Ohio, has settled a pay discrimination case filed by the U.S. Department of Labor in 2005. The company has agreed to pay $925,000 to over 800 women who were denied jobs at its plant in Danville, Va., in the 1990s and up to 60 of the women who were seeking jobs, the Associated Press reported Jan. 16.Because Goodyear is a federal contractor, it is prohibited from discriminatory employment practices. Announcing the settlement, the Labor Department’s Charles E. James Sr. said the agreement “puts federal contractors on notice that the Labor Department is serious about eliminating systemic discrimination.”Goodyear said they did not believe their practices were discriminatory, but settling the case was in the company’s best interests.The Supreme Court is currently reviewing a separate pay discrimination case involving Goodyear, in which Lilly Ledbetter, an employee at an Alabama tire plant, alleged that she received lower wages than her male colleagues for 19 years. Ledbetter filed suit after she discovered the discrepancies.