Thursday, 18 September 2014

News for Today

Contributed by Karol Arámbula:

'Islamic State recruiting women from US heartland' (The Guardian):

'Dying out here': US job gains leave balck women behind' (NBC News):

'Men say women 'not as hot' after age 21' (Discovery):

'ISIS Jihadists forcing Yazidi women to work as sex slaves' (Breit Bart):

'Women donate their brains to science' (Stuff NZ):

'Yes, it's official, men are from Mars and women from Venus, and here's the science to prove it' (The Telegraph):

Contributed by Farah Najar Arevalo:

El calvario de las esclavas sexuales del Estado Islámico: 
La falta de mujeres en los campos de la ciencia, tecnología, ingeniería y matemáticas (CTIM) = Problemas en el sector privado: 
What these Indian men have to say about rape will shock you 
Male Birth Control Is Almost Here — And No, We Don’t Mean Condoms 
Más de la mitad de usuarias del transporte público en AL ha sido acosada sexualmente, dice estudio del Banco Mundial 
Beliefs About Sexual Assault That Are Totally Wrong 
Los abortos elevan el costo de las niñas en India:

A Clevelander, Retired Flight Attendant, And Women’s Rights Pioneer

    Barbara "Dusty" Roads grew up in Cleveland, and is now 86 years old. She was a long-time flight attendant who in the 1960s, stood up to gender and age discrimination for her and her peers. Ideastream's Tony Ganzer spoke to her. She'll be participating in a panel discussion Wednesday, called "the Fight for Fairness in Flight."
In the last century the fight for women’s rights has been fought on on many fronts, including in the air. Barbara “Dusty” Roads grew up in Cleveland, and is now 86 years old.  She was a long-time flight attendant who in the 1960s, stood up to gender and age discrimination for her and her peers.  Ideastream’s Tony Ganzer spoke to her about her life, beginning with her youth in Cleveland.
ROADS: “It was the easiest place to grow up in the world, I think.  We had no gangs, we had no tattoos, we had no drugs, and we didn’t have all this 20% of all college girls expect to be sexually harassed.”
GANZER: “We you brought up with self-confidence, being a young woman?”
ROADS: “Yes, my mother worked, and my father was an attorney.  He graduated from Adelbert in 1912, and he was a captain in World War I, and my mother adored him. And it was a happy, happy family.  My grandmother lived with us.”
GANZER: “You had a long career with the airlines, but maybe one of the most fiery portions of your career was when you stood up to them, and you said the rules for flight attendants, of when they had to retire, were not fair.  Could you remind us of that story?”
ROADS: “I was with American Airlines, and I joined American as a stewardess—we were stewardesses then—in 1950.  And in 1953 American Airlines so deemed, in a contract, that anyone that was hired by American after November 1953 would be fired at age 32, and also if you married you were fired.”
GANZER: “Really?”
ROADS: “Yes.”
GANZER: “Now one interesting thing you did was you used the press, and you brought your fellow flight attendants together.”
ROADS: “They used the press, and so did we.  We had that wonderful news conference in 1963.  Nothing happened that day, we were lucky, we didn’t go to war, no bad thing happened, and we hit all the papers.  And it was amazing because stewardesses were glamorous, and.. ‘What do you mean they’re firing you at age 32?’”
GANZER: “What do you think you accomplished with that? Do you think you opened these people’s eyes?”
ROADS: “I don’t think we opened American Airlines’ eyes, because they knew it.  And the airlines wanted that because it was cheaper.  It was cheaper to have someone that’ll never get married, never have babies, never get pensions, never get the highest rate of pay, and never get 6 weeks vacation.”
GANZER: “Something I found interesting in your story, is that we may take about the Women’s Rights Movement, but this was part of the Civil Rights Movement in this country, more broadly.”
ROADS: “Yes it was. But it was also..I think…we had so much help from a congresswoman named Martha Griffiths, from Detroit.  And Martha had been, pardon the expression, screwed, because she and her husband had graduated from Missouri, and they applied to Harvard Law School.  He was accepted, and the Ivy Leagues did not take women in law school.  So they went to Michigan, University of Michigan and they changed Michigan politics forever. And Martha was the woman who got the Equal Rights Amendment through the House after years and years of trying, and no one could do it then.”
GANZER: “You’ve told a story in the past about going into, just after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is founded, and you go into the office, and it’s mostly African-Americans there.”
ROADS: “We were the first ones there, they hadn’t even unpacked the typewriters.  And they looked at us, white, dressed in our uniforms.  And they asked us ‘what are you doing here? You’re free, white and 21.’ And I said Oh honey we’ve got a story to tell you.  And they looked at us..they couldn’t believe.  We came close to going on strike in August of 68.  I knew we couldn’t get 22 year old girls to go on strike for 32 year old ladies, because they’ll never be 32.  So I called Martha and said we’ve been worried about this, we may go on strike.  And I said if you know anybody at the EEOC, call them, and make a decision one way or the other.  And the next day American came in and said the age thing was out.”
GANZER: “I’ve heard before that there is hope in the younger generations, especially in young men, in how we look at women, and there’s more respect, I guess, general respect from a younger age.  Do you see that, too?”
ROADS: “Well, I just saw on television where a young guy beat the hell out of his wife in an elevator, cold-cocked her, knocked her out.  And she married him.  He belongs in jail, and she belongs in an insane asylum.”
GANZER: “So you’re not optimistic for social change?”
ROADS: “Well, there’s been a lot of brutality.  I don’t know whether the fathers are not teaching their sons how to treat women, or not.  I don’t really know. But there’s a lot of sexual harassment in college that we never had.  I don’t remember that.  We just don’t know how to treat each other anymore.  I think women are doing a lot…we have more women in Congress, but we have a long way to go.  When I was growing up there’s was no such thing as a woman Supreme Court Justice, now we have three.  Next year, the White House.”


Wednesday, 17 September 2014

What Victory for Women's Rights Looks Like

When the curtain fell on California's legislative session, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins released a bland statement celebrating its accomplishments. In it, she singled out a water bond, an on-time budget, and a bill that would cut down plastic bag use. What Atkins failed to mention: The state's first openly gay speaker had just wrapped up one of the most women-friendly legislative sessions ever.
That puts California on vastly different footing than many state legislatures around the country that have been hacking away at women's rights— including an astounding 200-plus restrictions on reproductive rights over the last three years, according to the Guttmacher Institute. But in California, "Women came out in a much better position than they have in past years," Kathy Kneer, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, told me.
None of the legislature's work is a done deal. Gov. Jerry Brown has until the end of the month to veto bills passed this session. But even if the governor tosses any of the bills (and it’s unlikely that he will), the sheer number of measures passed is a very positive sign for California’s women, and, in turn, women across the country.

Here's what passed:
  • A bill requiring the state's commercial airports to offer a clean, private space for mothers to breastfeed or pump.
  • A bill barring the sterilization of prison inmates
  • A bill establishing timelines for local law enforcement to process rape kits.
  • A bill expanding the definition of the word "harm" for the purposes of a restraining order to include and protect minors who were present during an act of domestic violence.
  • A bill making it easier for pregnant graduate students to finish their studies.
  • A bill bolstering Title IX enforcement.
  • A bill strengthening the California attorney general’s oversight of hospital mergers (mergers that could limit access to abortion services).
  • A bill requiring colleges to adopt an “affirmative consent” model in their sexual assault policies.
  • A bill ensuring all California workers have the right to earn and use three paid sick days a year.
At least two of those bills – the hospital mergers measure and paid sick leave – don't target women specifically. But they will have a disproportionate impact on women. The Shriver Report on women and poverty has listed paid sick days as the most important reform that could be made to improve the lives of working women.
An honorable mention goes to a bill that was tabled before the end of the session but would have made California the first state to cover diapers under welfare benefits. That jump-started a national dialogue about working moms and the cost of diapers (and possibly marked the first time a lawmaker tweeted Eminem lyrics to make her case).
This session marks the first time a chamber of the state Legislature has been led by women on both side of the aisle: Atkins leads the majority, and the Assembly minority is helmed by Connie Conway, who in 2010 became the first female Assembly Republican leader in 30 years. That means that while the legislature was busy debating these measures, the face of the opposition was often female.
Despite the impressive list of measures that passed, there's room for more: An effort to overturn the state's Maximum Family Grant rule—a state provision that denies welfare benefits to new children in families that received benefits 10 months before the child’s birth—stalled. Jamelle Bouie wrote earlier this year in Slate that such laws are "designed to make life more difficult for low-income mothers, to thrust them deeper into poverty, and thereby discourage births."
Still, California offers a rare glimmer of hope that victory for women at the state level doesn’t just mean successfully beating back efforts to curb freedoms, it means actually expanding them.
Kneer objects to those who might dismiss the Legislature's work this session as an outlier from whacky, liberal California. The state's demographics actually make it a harbinger for what could be coming in statehouses around the country, she said.
"The biggest demographic shift that's happened is the emergence of Latino voters and the emergence of Asian Pacific Islanders," Kneer said. "And we have, in fact, a changing demographic that tends to favor reproductive health. That's why it's going to happen eventually in these other states—Latinos don't just live in California anymore."


Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Eleven things women in Saudi Arabia can't do

  The Saudi Arabia government has been criticised by human rights groups for failing to include a single female athlete in its team for next month's Asian Games, saying it was because women were "not competitive enough".
Out of 45 competing countries, the conservative Muslim nation is the only one that has not included both genders on their team. Human Rights Watch told Reuters it was "another crisis of women's participation".
Saudi Arabia has an abysmal human rights record, particularly with regards to women's rights. The country's Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, or the religious police, have come under fire for restricting the movement of women as well as numerous other human rights violations.
In a country where a woman cannot open a bank account without her husband's permission, here are several other things women in Saudi Arabia are unable to do:
Go anywhere without a male chaperone
When leaving the house, Saudi women need to be accompanied by a 'mahram' who is usually a male relative. Such practices are rooted in "conservative traditions and religious views that hold giving freedom of movement to women would make them vulnerable to sins," according to The Guardian.
In one extreme case, a teenager reported that she had been gang-raped, but because she was not with a mahram when it occurred, she was punished by the court. The victim, known as "the Girl of Qatif' was given more lashes than one of her alleged rapists received, the Washington Post reports.
Drive a car
There is no official law that bans women from driving but deeply held religious beliefs prohibit it, with Saudi clerics arguing that female drivers "undermine social values".
In 2011 a group of Saudi women organised the "Women2Drive" campaign which encouraged women to disregard the laws and post images and videos of themselves driving on social media to raise awareness of the issue in an attempt to force change. It was not a major success.
Saudi journalist Talal Alharbi says women should be allowed to drive – but only to take their children to school or a family member to hospital. "Women should accept simple things", he writes for Arab News. "This is a wise thing women could do at this stage. Being stubborn won't support their cause."
Vote in elections
Saudi Arabia is the only other country in the world, apart from the Vatican City where women are not allowed to vote, but men are, the Washington Post reports. However, a royal decree will allow women to vote in local elections in 2015.
Go for a swim
Reuters correspondent Arlene Getz describes her experience of trying to use the gym and pool at an upmarket Riyadh hotel: "As a woman, I wasn't even allowed to look at them ('there are men in swimsuits there,' a hotel staffer told me with horror) — let alone use them."
Try on clothes when shopping
"The mere thought of a disrobed woman behind a dressing-room door is apparently too much for men to handle," says Vanity Fair writer Maureen Dowd in 'A Girl's Guide to Saudi Arabia'.
Other more unusual restrictions include:
  • Entering a cemetery
  • Working in a lingerie shop  (some stores have recently begun hiring female employees, but the majority are still staffed by men)
  • Reading an uncensored fashion magazine
  • Buying a Barbie
However, explains Dowd, everything in Saudi Arabia "operates on a sliding scale, depending on who you are, whom you know, whom you ask, whom you're with, and where you are".
But things are slowly beginning to modernise in a country that has historically had some of the most repressive attitudes towards women.  "Women in Saudi Arabia are highly educated and qualified," says Rothna Begum from Human Right Watch. "They don’t want to be left in the dark." · 
For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.


Monday, 15 September 2014

Don't disparage women's rights

Let's talk about the letter, “Speak out for the most vulnerable”:

1. Virtually all abortions that happen during the last trimester are done because a) something is drastically wrong with the fetus or b) the mother's health is endangered. Do some research before you imply that dozens of women do this every day.

2. The resultant child of a 12- or 13-year-old mother is painfully vulnerable if raised by a mother who is still a child.

3. Why disparage women's rights in the name of something that cannot exist for even a nanosecond outside of that specific woman's uterus?

4. To force a woman to remain pregnant and give birth against her will not only makes her vulnerable (reducing her to the status of a brood mare), it's a slippery slope to forced birthing or even worse, forced abortion.

Lynette Dee


Sunday, 14 September 2014

Women's rights flow from 'ancient traditions', says India at UN

NEW DELHI: "Respect for women and their rights flow from the ancient traditions of the Indian civilization and are now enshrined into the Constitution and laws of modern India." No, this is not another pearl of wisdom from Dina Nath Batra, the controversial interpreter of ancient history. It's the position taken by India on July 2 in Geneva while presenting its periodic reports before the UN committee on elimination of discrimination against women (CEDAW).

Such an attribution of statutory safeguards to India's hoary past rather than to modern notions of feminism is contained in the speech delivered by Shankar Aggarwal, secretary to the ministry of women and child development. He did so as the leader of an inter-ministerial delegation appearing before CEDAW.

But, while responding to questions from CEDAW on July 2, the Indian delegation made a contradictory admission, as evident from an eight-page UN press release on the interaction. Asked about the measures to check "sex selection at birth", the delegation said that though it was forbidden by the pre-conception and pre-natal diagnostic techniques Act (PNDT), "it was very hard to monitor the implementation of the Act and to prove that women and their families were practicing it". Unwittingly undermining its own claim that tradition respected women, the delegation added: "This culturally ingrained practice was an issue of great concern to the Government."

The UN press release also shows that this was not the only inconsistent reply given by India. Take the political consensus in India to keep the institution of marriage outside the purview of the stringent rape law enacted in 2013. In a tacit reference to the rejection of the Verma Committee's recommendation in this regard, CEDAW asked India if it still intended to criminalize marital rape. Instead of addressing the deficiency in the criminal law, the Indian delegation cited the civil remedies available to a victim of marital rape. "Concerning marital rape, the delegation stressed that the 2005 Prevention of Domestic Violence Act protected women from all forms of violence, including sexual." But then, even as it protects the wife from sexual violence, the 2005 law does not impose any punishment on the husband.

This legal lacuna, not surprisingly, figured prominently among the findings of UN special rapporteur Rashida Manjoo submitted in April on the basis of her official visit to India earlier in the year. A law professor from South Africa, Manjoo said: "Violence against women in India is systematic and occurs in the public and private spheres." (In its written response on June 6 before the UN human rights council, India vehemently denied this and asserted: "Such a sweeping remark smacks of a highly prejudiced state of mind.")

Reflecting the feedback she got from "numerous interlocutors", the special rapporteur alleged that "the physical, sexual and psychological abuse of women in the private sphere is widely tolerated by the State and the community." She pointed out that the perpetrators included husbands, in-laws and other family members. Again, India brushed this aside as a "general remark" which was "baseless".

Further, it sought to buttress its reply by conflating the violence in the private sphere with the violence in the public sphere. While responding to Manjoo's observations about violence against women within the family, India quoted Manjoo's own remarks saying that in the wake of the Nirbhaya episode which took place on a moving bus, "there was widespread social mobilization of citizens demanding justice, accountability and more protection for women and girls". It added that Manjoo's report also acknowledged "various measures taken by the State in addressing these challenges". Thus, in the bizarre logic of India's reply, the 2013 law met the special rapporteur's concerns about the violence against women in the private sphere although its provisions expressly maintained the exemption of marital rape from the penal code.

Like in the case of the CEDAW interrogation, India's sensitivities over its ancient traditions were tested by Manjoo's strictures on its notoriously lax implementation of the PNDT Act. She said: "Customary practices in the family and community point to a pattern of daughter aversion and son preference." Referring to the declining girl-child sex ratio, she said: "The desire for sons has led to 'policing' of pregnancies by spouses and families through prenatal monitoring systems." The government kept mum on these findings as there was no way it could have shirked responsibility for sex-selective abortions. Nor could it have really de-linked such violence against women from its baggage of ancient traditions.


Saturday, 13 September 2014

Wanted: A Singaporean to champion women's rights in ASEAN

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) has invited civil society organisations to nominate candidates for Singapore’s representative for women’s rights on the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC).
The term of office will be from October this year to October 2017, the ministry said in a press release issued on Tuesday (Sep 2).
The ACWC was inaugurated in 2010 in Hanoi with Dr Aline Wong as Singapore’s representative. Dr Wong, who will end her term in October after serving four-and-a-half years, initiated the first ASEAN-wide training programme for frontline social workers in helping victims of family violence. During her term, she also initiated the establishment of an ASEAN network of social service agencies which is currently being considered by the 10 ASEAN member states for implementation.
According to the MSF, nominees should meet the following selection criteria:
  • A Singapore Citizen with standing among women leaders and women’s groups in Singapore;
  • Have experience in dealing with women-related issues and be able to take part in international discussions and debates and to objectively defend Singapore’s position and interests on such issues; and
  • Understand the history of our region, the diversity of people, cultures and political systems in ASEAN and the realities that this diversity imposes on ASEAN in all fields.
Candidates should be nominated by an organisation whose work is relevant to the ACWC. Nomination forms are available for download on the MSF website and should be submitted by noon on Sep 15.