Monthly Archives: July 2011

MADRE Denounces Sexual Violence Against Iraqi Women Protesters

A petition from MADRE, a global women’s rights organization, is accusing Iraqi government security forces of sexually assaulting women to break up pro-democracy protests and demanding that officials intervene to protect the peaceful demonstrators.

MADRE’s partner group, the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), reported that activists were beaten, violently groped, and sexually assaulted by thousands of men who were bussed into Baghdad’s Tehrir Square on June 10. Nineteen-year-old Aya Mohammad told Al Jazeera that the men called them “whores” and “prostitutes,” attempted to rip off her clothes, and broke a tooth. And when Mohammad went to government security forces standing by, bleeding and bruised, they refused to help.

According to MADRE’s press release, they believe that the attackers “were organized by Iraq’s official security forces and were un-uniformed to keep them from being held accountable.” Some of the assailants were even carrying police identification cards.

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Take Action for No Co-Pay Birth Control Coverage

Two days ago, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) announced their recommendation that all birth control methods — from sterilization to the morning-after pill — be categorized as preventative care, and as such free from co-pays under insurance coverage. This calls for a carnival!

Fortunately, the National Women’s Law Center and Planned Parenthood are holding a birth control blog carnival today. So bloggers across the internet have a chance to join the party and celebrate the IOM’s report, which also suggested that standard annual visits, STI testing, and domestic violence screening be among those no-cost services offered to women.

But today isn’t just a day for doing a little victory dance, because we still need the Department of Health and Human Services to accept the recommendations. Things are looking hopeful: HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebellius also commented favorably on the historic findings, pointing out, “Before today, guidelines regarding women’s health and preventive care did not exist.” Yet pressure from groups like the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have tried to derail the birth control preventative care train.

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Canadian Launches Petition Against Segregation of Menstruating Girls in Public School

“My concern is the Toronto District School Board (is) using tax money to tell girls that they are second-class citizens,” Tarek Fatah, founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, told the Toronto Sun. He’s talking about the District’s decision to allow a Muslim Friday prayer session in the Valley Park Middle School cafeteria, where it forces girls to sit behind the boys, and sends menstruating girls to the back where they can only listen, but not participate.

In just the past few hours, over 2000 people have signed a petition started by a Toronto resident, Tim Das, asking that the misogynist prayer sessions end — that if the school wants to provide religious accommodations, it must still uphold its own gender equity policy and the terms of Ontario’s Education Act. “The moment I read this story, I was aghast — as a first generation Canadian and child of South Asian immigrants, as a Toronto resident whose hard earned tax-dollars were being used to facilitate this extreme misogyny, and most of all as the father of a sweet, spirited six year old girl in the Toronto Public School system,” Das told Change.org. “After receiving an unsatisfactory response from the Chair of the School Board, I knew I had to do more.” That’s when he decided to start the petition.

The Muslim Canadian Congress is so strongly opposed to these gender segregated prayer sessions, it’s threatening legal action. Alia Hogben, Executive Director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, has also spoken out against the school’s segregated prayer sessions. Major Canadian papers on the right and left of the political spectrum have published editorials denouncing this practice, which gives school sanction to isolating and embarrassing young girls for a basic bodily function.

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Trust Women: Save Reproductive Health Clinics in Kansas

In 2009, Dr. George Tiller was murdered in his Kansas church for daring to provide late-term abortions — procedures provided to protect the health and lives of women or as a mercy for nonviable fetuses with severe abnormalities.

Harassment by both anti-choice legislation and extremist terrorism has lead to the closure of all but three reproductive health clinics in Kansas that offer abortions. In a state that once had 27 such clinics, many women have to drive hours to reach one of the few remaining places (all located in the northeast) to get any abortion procedure. It’s a barrier to access that anti-choicers use to undermine a woman’s right to control her own body upheld by Roe v. Wade — and for many Kansas women, it means that they cannot, in reality, exercise their reproductive rights.

Julie Burkhart, Executive Director of Trust Women, says, “We cannot stand idly by while thousands of women go without reproductive health care. We must work so that all women in America are free, no matter where they live. That is why we work in Kansas.” That’s why Trust Women is working to establish a new women’s medical facility with abortion services in Wichita, Kansas, where Dr. Tiller operated his clinic. Violence will not be allowed to deprive women of their rights.

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Notre Dame to Improve Rape Response, Suicide Victim’s Family Unsatisfied

Notre Dame’s sexual violence response came under heavy scrutiny following the suicide of Lizzy Seeberg, who had recently reported an assault by a student football player. Now, after months of investigation by the U.S. Department of Education, the university has agreed to extensive improvements.

Lizzy’s family discovered that their daughter, a first-year at a neighboring college, had received threatening messages from the accused’s friends (about “messing with Notre Dame football”), while campus police seemed to drag its feet in their investigation — before and after Lizzy’s death. They’ve called for transparency into what happened during those 15 days between the report of the crime and Lizzy’s suicide, but have been frustrated in their search for answers.

This agreement, however, gives them hope that Lizzy’s death can have some positive outcome for others. Tom Seeberg, Lizzy’s father, commented to the Chicago Tribune: “Perhaps it will be her legacy that our daughters and granddaughters, our sisters and nieces, may one day soon walk their college campuses with the safety and freedom that they should expect and that the people should demand.” The Seebergs are not the only victim’s family to complain about Notre Dame handling of sexual assault cases.

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NY Post Smears DSK Rape Victim as “Hooker,” Can’t Back Up Their Claim

The New York Post’s sensational headline calling the hotel maid who reported being raped by Dominique Strauss-Kahn a “hooker” probably sold a lot of papers. Too bad the claim is completely unsubstantiated, not to mention irrelevant, sexist, and offensive.

As a petition launched against the NY Post on Change.org points out, participating in sex work does not make a woman incapable of being raped, although smearing the “working girl” is a typical tactic used to discredit victims. “Our culture has no sympathy for a woman we consider to be less than pristine,” commented National Organization for Women-NYC Executive Director Sonia Ossorio.

“Not only is this abhorrently sexist, but it takes on a grossly racist tone,” states the petition. “Black women have been historically cast as ‘Jezebels’—a synonym for ‘hooker’—which has been used as the reason why Black women could not possibly be ‘good’ (meaning ‘sympathetic’ or ‘relatable’) rape victims.”

“I just couldn’t stand by and couldn’t stand being angry without doing something about it,” says Andrea Plaid, who formed the Coalition to Support Sexual-Violence Victims and Survivors and started the petition on Change.org in response to the NY Post article. “Everyone who signs is saying to NY Post that no one has the right to put their hands on anyone else, literally and metaphorically–in the case of NY Post, not journalistically.” The petition is supported by SisterSongNYC, Women’s Media Center, and End Violence Against Women, which is organizing the New York Slutwalk.

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Justice for Michelle Coalition Condemns Police Reponse to Crimes Against Women

Michelle Le, 26 years old, has been missing for over a month now. The Justice for Michelle Coalition, formed in response to Le’s kidnapping, believes that the Hayward Police Department failed to respond appropriately to her disappearance — and that is just one incident in a tradition of neglecting crimes against women.

A press release issued today by Filipina feminist group AF3IRM, announcing the coalition’s formation and the launch of a Change.org petition, states that police needlessly delayed beginning the investigation (because of a holiday weekend) and since then have failed to put sufficient resources toward finding the young woman. “Michelle’s case serves as a prime example of how law enforcement agencies de-prioritization and systematically neglect crimes against women,” Katrina Socco, AF3IRM Bay Area Coordinator, added to the criticisms.

AF3IRM, a Filipina feminist group, previously ran a successful “Justice for Laya” campaign, with a petition on Change.org that called for the resignation of UC Student Regent Jesse Cheng over the sexual assault of his former girlfriend.

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Victory! Oral Sex No Longer a Felony “Crime Against Nature” for LA Sex Workers

Two hundred-odd years ago, Louisiana decided that oral and anal sex were scourges upon society that needed to be criminalized. Puritanism and homophobia at its best! This week, the state of Louisiana decided that maybe it was time for an update to the lawbooks.

The courts had already struck down the meant of the “Crimes Against Nature” law for unconstitutionally invading people’s bedrooms. But instead of dying a long-deserved death, the law continued to be used in another form: to charge sex workers caught soliciting oral or anal sex with felonies, instead of the typical misdemeanor charge for illegal prostitution. And under these felony charges, sex workers were forced to register as sex offenders, alongside rapists and child molesters. I want to know: What makes offering a blow job worse than selling genital intercourse?

Nothing.

That probably explains why the LA state senate unanimously voted to stop this practice (and the state house only had three dissenters), backing a bill designed by the New Orlean’s group Women with a Vision. This week, Gov. Bobby Jindal dotted the last “i” by signing the bill into law.

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