Afghan Editor Works to Rebuild Country

Shukria Barakzai started the first newspaper aimed at women in Afghanistan. The editor began her work trying to inform women and girls under the Taliban when she started an undergound school. Now, she is running for political office.

Court Hears Bias Case; Cairo Protesters Assaulted

CheersA sex discrimination case against the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department went to trial in federal court on Wednesday, reports The Sacramento Bee. The plaintiff, Elaine Stevenson, claims she was discriminated against and transferred out of the homicide bureau on Feb. 2, 2002, after working 25 years for the department.”Things changed in 2000 when Craig Hill came to the bureau as the supervising sergeant,” said Stevenson’s attorney, Pamela Price, to the jury. Sgt. Hill is a defendant in the case.

Kuwaitis Gain Vote; Shooting Blamed on Turkish TV

CheersThe Kuwait parliament on Monday approved voting rights for women as well as giving them the right to run for elective office, reports The New York Times.”It has been 20 years of work, but at last we got our rights,” said Lulua al-Mulla, general secretary of Kuwait’s Social Cultural Women’s Society, a women’s advocacy group. “It’s about time.”Two weeks ago the parliament voted against the measure, leaving women’s rights advocates and their supporters disheartened and unsure when they might have a second chance at voting on women’s suffrage.But on Monday members of parliament reintroduced the legislation and the government invoked a rarely used “order for urgency” to pressure legislators to vote on the matter in one session, thus curtailing heated debate with Islamist members.The members voted 35 to 23 in favor to remove the word “men” from Article 1 of the election law, but added a clause with the phrase “females abide by Islamic law” to appease religious conservatives.Analysts are unsure what the clause means for future elections, but it might simply translate to having separate voting booths for men and women.Other Things to Cheer this Week:– State Rep. LeAnna Washington, a pro-choice Democratic woman, was elected on Tuesday to a state Senate seat in the battleground state of Pennsylvania. Washington won the seat in a special election held to replace Allyson Schwartz, another pro-choice Democratic woman who was elected to Congress last year.– One in four wives in the U.S. are paid more money than their husband, according to a study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, reports the Chicago Sun-Times on Sunday. While a wage gender gap persists–full-time working women’s wages are 80 percent of men’s according to this report–women now contribute 35 percent of family income, the highest percentage ever. For the 8.3 million wives who make more than their husbands, the household contribution can be much more than half.– Harvard University President Lawrence Summers–who came under fire earlier this year for his remarks about women in the fields of engineering and science–pledged $50 million over the next decade for programs to recruit more female and minority faculty, reports the London-based Independent.For more information:World Economic Forum–Women’s Empowerment: Measuring the Global Gender Gap : popular daytime television talk show in Istanbul, Turkey, which frequently hosted women facing violence at home, has been abruptly cancelled following the second violent incident blamed on the program.The show, “Kadinin Sesi” (Women’s Voice), was Turkey’s most popular daytime show and one of a number of similar shows that covered women’s issues.

Honor Killings Protested; Plan B Stalls

CheersMore than 300 Palestinian women took to the streets in protest of honor killing, demanding legislation to protect the mostly young women who are killed by male relatives for “dishonoring” the family or tarnishing its name with “unchaste behavior,” reports Al Jazeera on its Web site this week.Last week a Palestinian Christian in Ramallah confessed to murdering his 20-year-old daughter for marrying a Muslim without his consent.On Monday a Palestinian man in East Jerusalem murdered his two sisters and forced his third sister to drink acid in what the police say appears to be honor killings.In light of a recent increase in honor killings, “The Palestinian Authority is now looking to implement a law which deals with civil crimes,” said Zuhaira Kamal, Palestinian Women’s Affairs Minister.Current laws in the Palestinian territories consider honor killing a crime of passion with “extenuating circumstances,” and treats the culprit with leniency, giving on average sentences of six months. The proposed legislation would treat honor killing similarly to other murders, which would make it a capital crime.Other Things to Cheer This Week:–A judge ruled in favor of allowing hundreds of women who allege sexual assault and abuse at Nabraska’s three mental health hospitals to bring a class action against the hospitals, reports the Omaha World-Herald on Thursday. Bruce G. Mason, a lawyer for Nebraska Advocacy Services, says at least 100 women were sexually abused or assaulted at the state facilities between 1998 and 2004.–Rep. Garnet Coleman, (D-Houston) derailed a bill that requires written parental consent for minors seeking to have an abortion, reports the Houston Chronicle on Wednesday. Coleman used a technicality to thwart the Republicans’ efforts at curtailing abortion rights in Texas, saying the bill incorrectly listed a lawmaker as author. –The French government launched a campaign Tuesday to improve pay equity for the country’s women, who still earn an average of 25 percent less than their male counterparts, reports The Guardian.

Black Scientists Lauded; Dems: Teen Bill Twisted

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersThe House of Representatives passed on Tuesday a resolution to honor the contributions of African American women in the sciences. The bill is intended to draw attention to the group’s lack of representation in those fields.African American women comprise less than 1 percent of employed workers who have earned doctorate degrees in the fields of science and engineering, according to Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), who sponsored the bill.”To increase the numbers of African American youth pursuing science, especially young women, it is critical that we provide them strong science role models to admire and emulate,” she said on the House floor.The resolution now awaits action in the Senate.Other Things to Cheer this Week:– Too much exposure to fairytales like “Cinderella” and “Beauty and the Beast” can prime a girl’s mind to put up with abuse later in life, according to a study by psychotherapist Susan Darker-Smith, reports The Guardian. Darker-Smith found that abuse survivors had identified at an early age with submissive fairy tale female characters, or thought they could change their abusive partner with patience and love, just like the female protagonist did in “Beauty and the Beast.” Darker-Smith will deliver her findings next month at the International Congress of Cognitive Psychotherapy in Gothenburg, United Kingdom.– Timed the week before Mothers’ Day, congressional Democrats are hosting a “nurse-in” on Capitol Hill next week to build public support for legislation that would promote breastfeeding. Nursing mothers are slated to breastfeed their babies on the outdoor terrace of one of the House office buildings to promote the practice.

Sponge Is Back; Florida Okays New Abortion Rules

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersThe Food & Drug Administration announced Friday that after 11 years it has re-approved the Today Sponge, once the most popular over-the-counter female contraceptive.From 1983 to 1994, the Today Sponge was widely available in the United States and more than 250 million Sponges were sold. The current manufacturer, Allendale Pharmaceuticals, a New Jersey-based consumer health care products company, plans to begin U.S. production immediately and will begin national distribution this summer, according to a company press release.The previous Sponge manufacturer stopped making it in 1994, along with other products, due to complications with its production facilities. Allendale bought the rights to the Sponge in 1998 and has been navigating the FDA approval process ever since. Despite its absence from the market, the Sponge has remained popular among women as an effective, hormone-free, contraceptive choice.Other Things to Cheer About This Week:In the U.K. domestic violence declined more than half since the mid-1990s as the government continues to pass tougher laws, the Economist reports in this week’s issue.Over the years the police have gotten tougher, abandoning a “tea and sympathy approach” to abuse, instead following something akin to the U.S. government’s approach to Al Capone, said Simon Letchford of the Metropolitan Police. (He was arrested for tax violations not bootlegging.)”If we can’t get him for beating up his wife, what else can we get him for?”

Pharmacist Penalized; Maloney Muzzled in House

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersA pharmacist who refused to fill a birth control prescription was punished on Wednesday in Madison, Wisc., when the state Pharmacy Examining Board reprimanded him and limited his license, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.Pharmacist Neil T. Noesen, 31, refused in July 2002 to fill a prescription for Amanda Phiede, then a student at the University of Wisconsin–Stout. Noesen was working as a free-lance pharmacist on a Saturday at a Menomonie Kmart pharmacy when he also refused to transfer Phiede’s prescription to another pharmacy, causing Phiede to miss one of her doses before she finally received her prescription from another pharmacist on Monday.The disciplinary action against Noesen requires him to provide advance written notice to all pharmacies where he works about professional duties and obligations he declines to perform and the steps he will take to ensure alternative pharmacy access to patients he won’t service. He is also required to undergo six hours of professional practices continuing education and pay the cost of the proceedings he has caused, estimated at $20,000.Other Things to Cheer this Week– Congressional Democrats introduced legislation this week that would require pharmacies to fill prescriptions for contraceptives. The legislation is aimed at pharmacists across the country who have refused to fill birth control prescriptions because of their religious beliefs.”A pharmacist’s personal beliefs should not come between a patient and their doctor,” said Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat from New Jersey. The bill, however, is unlikely to move through the Congress, now controlled by members who oppose reproductive rights.– In a remarkable move toward women’s rights, Saudi clerics cracked down on fathers who force their daughters into marriage saying such men should be jailed until they change their mind, reports the Houston Chronicle.

Senators Block FDA Nominee; Gov Nixes EC Bill

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersTwo female senators–Democrats Hillary Clinton of New York and Patty Murray of Washington–pledged to block President Bush’s nominee to head the Food and Drug Administration to protest the agency’s delayed decision on a policy regarding emergency contraceptives.Clinton and Murray said they plan to place a “hold” on the nominee, Lester Crawford, until the agency approves or rejects an application for over-the-counter status of an emergency contraceptive known as Plan B.The drug’s manufacturer has awaited a decision from the FDA for two years. The administration, which opposes abortion rights, has postponed the decision for political and ideological reasons, Murray charged.”The FDA advisory committee has recommended approval of Plan B based on safety and effectiveness, but the FDA continues to drag its feet,” Murray said in a press release issued on Thursday. “I have always supported a strong and independent FDA, but by ignoring sound science, they have jeopardized public confidence and the health of American women.”Other reasons to Cheer this week:—- Four female financial consultants filed a lawsuit in San Francisco on Thursday charging Smith Barney, the retail brokerage arm of Citigroup, with sexual harassment, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The women said that Smith Barney routinely assigns smaller accounts to female brokers, including those who outperform their male counterparts, and provides them with less administrative support, creating a corporate culture hostile to women’s career advancement. Smith Barney issued a statement denying the allegations.– Dr. Elias Zerhouni, the director of the National Institutes of Health, said Wednesday “there is mounting evidence” that stem-cell research would benefit science, reports The New York Times.

New Shelter for Deaf; Psych Patients Raped

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersSeattle on Monday became the first city in the country to begin building apartments specifically designed to support deaf and deaf-blind women overcoming domestic violence, reported the Seattle Post Intelligencer.The effort started 19 years ago when Marilyn Smith, a therapist, founded Abused Deaf Women’s Advocacy Services after a man killed his deaf wife during a domestic dispute in Seattle. The victim had tried to seek help, but service providers repeatedly turned her away because they were unable to understand or meet her needs.”The police will talk to the hearing person first,” said Lisa Vosburg-Buhl, a deaf victim of abuse, told the Seattle Post Intelligencer through an interpreter. “They think we aren’t educated or smart enough, or that we can’t communicate, can’t understand the legal system.”Often emergency responders grab a deaf woman’s hand to calm her down if she is frantic, which limits her ability to communicate, according to the report. Sometimes police arriving at the scene of a domestic dispute will take a statement from the abusive boyfriend or husband and not from the victim because they can’t communicate with her, Vosburg-Buhl said.Sixty-four percent of the $7.7 million project, which will provide 19 apartments of affordable housing to residents comes from state funds.Other Reasons to Cheer:–Gov. Rod Blagojevich issued an emergency rule on Friday requiring pharmacies in Illinois to fill prescriptions for contraceptives without delay, according to a press release on Blagojevich’s Web site. The move follows a recent complaint filed against an Illinois pharmacy that refused to fill a prescription for birth control.