Monthly Archives: November 2008

Domestic Violence and the Military

A disturbing article in this Sunday’s New York Times revealed one woman’s story of dealing with domestic violence through the military channels. We have recently blogged about sexual abuse in the military. Though these occurrences are highly upsetting, it’s encouraging to see that the media is helping to shed light on these issues.

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Filed under Domestic violence, Military, The New York Times

Prowel v. Wise Business Forms

Just a quick note to let you know that the Women’s Law Project is mentioned in this week’s feature story in the Pittsburgh City Paper, “Gender Gap,” about the work we’re doing in the case of Brian Prowel, a Butler County man who was subject to years of harassment at his job because he did not conform to stereotypical male behavior. For more information about the case, check out our website.

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Filed under Employment, Equality, LGBT, Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh City Paper

Women’s Rights Around the World

Some good news from the current administration: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has signed onto a UN-sponsored campaign to end violence against women worldwide.  This is a change from the United States’ previous reluctance to sign onto and ratify international documents. For example, though we are a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the US government has failed to ratify the second most-ratified treaty in the world.

South America has been a source of bad news for women this week. Lawmakers in Uruguay failed to reach enough votes to overturn the country’s 70-year-old ban on abortion. And in Brazil, where abortion is also illegal, some 1,200 women are being investigated for having obtained illegal abortions. Despite this wave of negative developments, women around the world are anxiously awaiting the near-certain repeal of the gag rule by President-elect Obama (we blogged about it here).

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Filed under Abortion, Reproductive Rights, Women's health

Tom Daschle as the New HHS Secretary

Tom Daschle’s nomination for Secretary of Health and Human Services sent a powerful message of the importance of health reform to President-elect Obama. But what does his nomination mean to the women’s rights community? Here’s an interesting analysis of Daschle’s record on reproductive rights.

Daschle will inherit the oppressive Provider Conscience Regulation that the DHHS issued in August. Here’s a great editorial from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, criticizing the regulations.

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Filed under Abortion, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Reproductive Rights, Women's health

Reducing Domestic Violence at the Salon

Hair salons are not exactly synonymous with feminist activism. But in cities like New York and Chicago, law enforcement officials and activists are working with hairstylists to recognize signs of domestic abuse in their clients and help them get the assistance they need.

Martha Castillo knew her client had a problem because their weekly hair-straightening sessions were always interrupted by phone calls from a boyfriend angrily accusing her of being with another man. Magda Florentino noticed cigarette burns on a woman’s temples when she pulled back her hair for washing – and did not buy the explanation that they had happened accidentally while she was bartending.

And Candida Vasquez received a hysterical call from a customer soon after she had spent three hours knitting extensions into the woman’s hair. Her boyfriend hated the look, and in a fit of rage he had cut off not only the extensions, but also the rest of her hair.

Ms. Vasquez said she was not surprised by the call. Troubled clients tell her their personal stories all the time. “They are so tormented, they just come in and share,” she said.

Ms. Vasquez, Ms. Castillo and Ms. Florentino are all stylists in Manhattan who have been trained (or are being trained) as part of a one-year-old program by the city’s Administration for Children’s Services in beauty salons in the Washington Heights area, where many cases of domestic abuse and neglect include violence that is not necessarily aimed at children.

The initiative joins similar efforts that have been sprouting across the nation; perhaps the best known, called Cut It Out and based in Chicago, has trained 40,000 salon workers in all 50 states to recognize signs of domestic abuse. In the past few months, the Cut It Out program was also adopted by the Empire Education Group, which has 87 cosmetology schools, and endorsed by the American Association of Cosmetology Schools, the trade organization representing another 800 schools.

Nearly 600,000 women and girls and 144,000 men and boys nationwide were victims of violence by an intimate partner in 2006, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. In New York last year, the police received hundreds of domestic disturbance calls every day and recorded about 55,000 crimes connected to domestic violence.

This is a great, innovative way to help inform domestic violence survivors of their options in a trusted, often women-only setting. As acting U.S. attorney Laurie Magid says in the article, “The salon may be one of the few places women might be without their abuser around. … This program really addresses a need. You don’t have a case unless you have a crime reported in the first place and that is the difficult area of domestic violence.”

Here’s hoping this program will help the women who need it the most.

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Filed under Domestic violence, Women's health

Westinghouse Encourages Girls to Pursue Interest in Engineering

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that Westinghouse is presenting a program aimed at increasing girls’ interest in engineering.

Just as the demand for nuclear energy specialists is growing, so too is interest in Westinghouse Electric Co.’s “Introduce a Girl to Engineering” program.

In its sixth year, the program this week stretches across two days, attracting 75 students from 20 schools to the company’s Waltz Mill nuclear services facility near Madison in Westmoreland County.

The program “encourages girls to pursue their natural talents and abilities, and gives them some role models to see that there are future opportunities for them,” said Cheryl Boggess, a senior project manager and president of Women In Nuclear Global. The local chapter is the sponsor.

Programs that introduce girls to non-traditional careers such as engineering are a great way to get girls thinking about their possibilities and encourage them to pursue their interests.

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Filed under Employment, Equality, Girls, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

HHS Regulations Cause More Controversy

The New York Times ran an interesting story today about continued protests over the DHHS regulations we blogged about here. According to the article, HHS officials intend to issue a final version of the regulations within days. President-elect Obama has promised to rescind the regulations, but that process could take three to six months.

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Filed under Reproductive Rights, Women's health

U.S. Ranks 27th in Gender Equity

The 2008 Global Gender Gap report was released by the World Economic Forum last week, and the United States is lagging behind countries such as Germany, France, Lesotho and Cuba when it comes to equality between the sexes.

Using United Nations data, the report found that girls and women around the world had generally reached near-parity with their male peers in literacy, access to education and health and survival. But in terms of economics and politics, including relative access to executive government and corporate posts, the gap between the sexes remains large.

The United States ranked 27th, above Russia (42nd), China (57th), Brazil (73rd) and India (113th). But the United States was ranked below Germany (11th), Britain (13th), France (15th), Lesotho (16th), Trinidad and Tobago (19th), South Africa (22nd), Argentina (24th) and Cuba (25th).

“The world’s women are nearly as educated and as healthy as men, but are nowhere to be found in terms of decision-making,” said Saadia Zahidi of the World Economic Forum.

Norway, Finland and Sweden had the highest marks, while Saudi Arabia, Chad and Yemen had the worst.

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Filed under Equality

U.S. has Dismal Rate of Preterm Births

USA Today reports that the March of Dimes has just released its first “Premature Birth Report Card” for the United States, and it’s not very encouraging. Overall, the nation gets a “D,” with 530,000 preterm births each year. According to the organization, preterm birth is the leading cause of death for infants and can lead to lifelong disabilities.

The March of Dimes conducted the research by comparing each state’s percentage of preterm births to the country’s goal to limit the number of preterm births to 7.6% or less of the number of all births. Vermont got the highest grade, a “B,” with 9% of births in that state being preterm. Mississippi ranked last, with 18.8% of births being preterm. Pennsylvania got a “D” – 11.9% of births in our state are preterm.

How can preterm births be reduced? According to the study, one way to do it is by increasing health care coverage to more pregnant women. Women who receive proper prenatal care are less likely to deliver a baby preterm. Another way is to review the reasons for labor inductions and caesarean births, which increase the likelihood of preterm births.

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Filed under Childbirth, Pregnancy, Reproductive Rights, Women's health

Thousands Rally for Marriage Equality

Across the country, thousands rallied this past weekend in support of equal marriage rights. The rallies were spurred by the passage of Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative that overturned a state Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage. In Philadelphia, several thousand gathered outside City Hall, and in Pittsburgh, several hundred rallied in Oakland’s Schenley Plaza.

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Filed under Equality, LGBT, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh