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A panel consisting of six men and one woman cleared Sgt. 1st Class Alfred Ray Palma on Aug. 8 of charges that he had sex with a trainee. A 20-year-old woman had accused the former Fort Jackson drill sergeant of consensual sodomy, adultery, and inappropriate association with a trainee. Army officials are now considering whether to charge the woman who made the accusations.
8/11/1997 - Sri Lanka's Army Recruits Women Soldiers
In its 14th year of civil war, Sri Lanka is having trouble finding recruits for its military. The shortage has led recruiters to look more favorably upon young women as potential soldiers. Military officials claim that women make up half the fighters in any Tamil rebel army, but fewer females contribute to Sri Lanka's fighting forces. Of the country's 2050 military officers, only 50 are women. Army officials believe, however, that the number of women showing interest in entering the military is increasing. At the Kotewala Defense Academy at Ratmalana 17 women graduated in this year's class of 107 cadets.
Diya Singh from Jaripur, India, has defied tradition by marrying a man outside the Hindu warrior caste to which she belongs. Last week, Singh married a family aide, disobeying the custom that requires marriage within the caste. For allowing the marriage to take place, Singh's father, Bhawani Singh, was excommunicated from his caste. The Hindu warrior class, which prides itself on following ancient tradition, is a caste that consists of descendants of kings and generals and proudly adheres to tradition.
A tight game led to Brazil’s win over the United States 101-95 in the gold medal game of the America zone qualifier for the women's basketball World Championships. U.S. Coach Nell Fortner attributed his team's loss to Brazilian forward Maria Paula de Silva, who scored 38 points in the game: "We simply could not stop Maria Paula, the key player on the Brazilian team. Our defense was weak and we failed to apply pressure in a consistent way."
Fifty female custodians have sued Congress and the Capitol architect for pay discrimination. The highest the women make is $10.08 an hour, while the men get $11.10. After formal mediation was unsuccessful, the women filed a class-action suit with the help of their union: the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. The employees have charged Congress and the Capitol architect with violating equal pay laws, and the women seek back pay and punitive damages.
The Center for Disease Control announced on Thursday, August 7 that the rate of hysterectomies performed in the United States remained constant between 1988 and 1993. Experts had expected an increase in the rate since the number of women over 40 grew during those years. The lower-than-expected rate may be due to an increased number of alternatives to the surgery, and to more women getting second opinions on health care matters. Health care professionals say that the procedure is often performed unnecessarily.
According to Drs. Jane Goodall, Jennifer Williams and Anne Pusey, who have been studying chimpanzee behavior since 1960, recent findings have determined that female chimpanzees are much less dependent on male chimpanzees as a source of power than previously believed. Female chimpanzees usually control their reproductive success. Female chimpanzees, although they have frequent sex with male chimpanzees in their own colony, will leave the colony during the most fertile days of their cycle to mate with chimpanzees they consider to be superior to the local chimpanzees.
In addition, female chimpanzees have an internal hierarchy within their ranks. Those female chimpanzees who are of higher rank generally have children who live longer and are healthier than the children of those of lower rank. It is uncertain as to how the females of higher status achieved this rank, however evidence suggests it is not due to blatant acts of aggression, but due to more subtle strategies. These findings contradict earlier assumptions of male dominance in chimpanzees.
Current and former female employees of the Marin Municipal Water District in San Francisco won $635,000 from their employer in a sexual harassment case. After the two women who filed the suit get a portion of the money, the rest will go to about 75 other women. The women charged their managers with discriminating and harassing behavior, particularly after the women complained about certain incidents. In one instance, men showed the females a copy of Penthouse magazine. On many other occasions, men subjected them to sexually demeaning profanities and demoted or denied the women better jobs when they complained.
8/8/1997 - Surfers Ride Wave of Gender Equality
For the first time in surfing history, a female pro surfer was allowed to compete with the men. Three-time world champion Lisa Anderson competed this week at the U.S. Open of Surfing, held in California, in both the men's and women's divisions. Although Anderson failed to qualify for the men's final, she believes that competing against the men will allow her to improve her skills and will pave the way for other female surfers.
8/8/1997 - Packwood Returns
The disgraced former Oregon Senator Bob Packwood has returned to work in Washington as a lobbyist on tax reform, the tobacco industry, and the balanced budget amendment. Packwood resigned his seat in the Senate less than two years ago amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
"In American politics today, you can achieve rehabilitation very quickly," said Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia.
Although the number of women police officers in major cities has increased, smaller towns lag far behind. Women officers comprise about 15% of the nation's largest departments, up from three percent 20 years ago. Advocacy groups and lawsuits have pressured the larger cities to make this change but have not challenged small cities. Thus, suburban police chiefs have little incentive to let go of tradition and urge women to apply for openings. These chiefs, however, argue that the low number of women officers is not their fault. They argue that most women do not apply for police work, so most of the jobs go to men.
A few smaller departments have made efforts to encourage female applicants. In New Haven, Conn., recruiters advertise job openings in women's groups' newsletters and hand out fliers in day care centers. This tactic worked well for Officer Jennifer Raymond, who applied for her job after seeing a flier which said New Haven wanted female officers.
According to Penny Harrington, the director of the Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Center for Women and Policing in Los Angeles, recruiting female officers not only helps women, but the communities which the departments serve. "Citizens' complaints go down because women tend to be better communicators," she said. "They try to solve problems rather than make an arrest and go away."
8/7/1997 - Abortion Fraud Charge Dropped
Lincoln County prosecutors dropped Medicaid fraud charges against a Nebraska woman who had a state-funded abortion last fall because the charges were "no longer appropriate." Nebraska Medicaid pays for abortions in cases of rape or incest, but requires that victims report the incident to police. The woman told authorities that she had been raped in a park by a stranger when she was actually raped in a hotel room by a man she had met two days before. She did not tell police officers this because she feared they would not believe she had been raped.
"Our system still finds it difficult for women to be taken seriously especially when the rapist is well known to the victim" said Judith Cross, Nebraska's chair of the state Commission on the Status of Women.
Lactation consultants report that women are still reluctant to continue breast-feeding their infants after they return to work. Although technology such as portable breast milk machines has made expressing milk easier than ever, many women are too embarrassed to bring up the subject with their employers, and many employers are reluctant to make adequat breastfeeding facilities available. Employers are urged to make it easy for mothers to express milk while at work, since it could reduce health care costs and time taken off by parents of sick children, since breast-fed babies are often healthier than their bottle-fed counterparts.
8/6/1997 - California Parental Consent Law Struck Down
The California Supreme Court struck down the state’s parental consent law on Tuesday, August 5. Lawyers argued that the law, which required minors to obtain permission to get an abortion from either a parent or a judge, violated minors’ privacy rights. The court upheld the law last year but, with the departure of two judges supporting the law, agreed to reexamine the case this year. Members of the medical community, assisted by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, had sued to have the law overturned. More than 20 other states have similar laws on the books, and a dozen more require parental notification. Federal courts have tended to uphold the constitutionality of such laws. In California, the 1987 law has not been enforced for the most part while tied up in court.
The California Supreme Court voted 4-3 against the parental consent law, citing a teenager’s right to privacy. “I would not go so far as to say that this will set a legal trend, but other states many look to the analysis that the California Supreme Court did here,” said Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. Antiabortion activists claim they will try to put the parental consent law in voters’ hands in 2000 as an amendment to the California state constitution.
8/6/1997 - Congress Restricts Abortions
The 105th Congress passed several restrictions on abortion this year. On June 5, the House adopted an amendment to the State Department Authorization bill which bans funding for overseas organizations that use their own money to promote or perform abortions. The U.S. is already prohibited from making direct contributions to overseas abortions. Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), who sponsored the amendment, plans to propose a similar one to the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. Both Houses voted to keep a ban on abortions in overseas military hospitals in place, even if the women want to pay for the procedures themselves. On July 22, the Senate adopted an amendment that, for the third year, would prevent federal employee health plans from paying for abortions except in the cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the woman. Congress this year reauthorized the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortions except in the cases mentioned above. This amendment would also apply to the children’s health initiatives in both Budget Reconciliation bills. The Senate passed a bill May 20 that would outlaw D&X procedures, but the House has not yet voted on it.
A Richmond federal appeals court ruled on August 5 that seven white male police officers could sue their supervisor for making derogatory comments about women and blacks and for creating a hostile work environment. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision overruled an earlier court decision throwing out the lawsuit because the men were not the targets of the insults. The officers have accused their supervisor of making disparaging remarks to and about female and black members of the police force for a two-month interval in 1993. They sued in 1995 after their complaint to a precinct captain resulted in no action against the supervisor.
Female employees’ allegations of "inappropriate office behavior" led to Rear Admiral Robert S. Cole's removal from the command post at Norfolk-based Atlantic Fleet shore facilities. Women working in Cole's office alleged that Cole kissed them on the cheek or held them, creating an uncomfortable office environment. There are also allegations that Cole had an "excessively familiar relationship" with a female subordinate, according to the Virginian-Pilot newspaper.
Admiral J. Paul Reason, commander-in-chief of the Atlantic fleet, cited the reasons for Cole's dismissal as "a loss in confidence in his judgment and ability to command."
Girls in Fairfax County are protesting that the county provides more and better facilities for its baseball teams than for its softball teams. Softball coaches complained at a County Board of Supervisors meeting that the recreation department provides 109 baseball fields but only 10 softball fields. Boys comprise the majority of the county’s 31,000 youth baseball players, but there are about 15,000 girl softball players. Supervisors voted 8-0 to remedy the inequality by constructing two new softball fields and creating a committee to investigate the problem.
8/5/1997 - Chilean Feminists Work to Change Divorce Law
A bill legalizing divorce may soon be debated in the Chile legislature. Chilean feminists have long argued that the century-old ban on divorce prevents battered women from leaving violent spouses. The nation, under the influence of the Roman Catholic Church and extreme conservatism of the former military government, has outlawed divorce since the 1880's. Physician Jimean Letelier, who left her husband after enduring their violent marriage for 16 years, said, "I can't divorce him. The law doesn't allow it. No matter what I try to do, I will always belong to him....It makes me sick." While Chile permits legal separation, the process is time-consuming and expensive. Even if couples obtain legal separations, they cannot marry again. In addition to hurting abused women, the law has actually increased the number of Chilean couples who live together out of wedlock and raised the birth rate of illegitimate children to almost 40%, the highest in Latin America. Chilean society stigmatizes these children and gives them a lower social status by prohibiting them from becoming military officers or holding high police positions.
Political analysts believe that a divorce law would pass in the lower house of Congress, but the Senate, which includes eight "designated" legislators appointed by the military, presents more of an obstacle. These senators, however, are likely to lose their offices in the December election, so the bill will probably pass by early next year. .
Lilith Fair Musicians Joan Osbourne and Sarah McLachlan were successful in their efforts to convince officials at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion to revoke their policy barring those advocating "controversial issues" from setting up booths at the venue. After Osbourne and McLachlan threatened a future boycott of the pavilion unless officials permitted Planned Parenthood set up an information booth, the booth was reinstated. Planned Parenthood has had a booth at every other Lilith Fair concert.
8/5/1997 - Lieutenant Defends "Private Life" at Hearing
Lieutenant Crista Davis defended her right to a "private life" yesterday at a public hearing on the charges resulting from her affair with a married Air Force Academy instructor. She denied wrongdoing and asked that the military not judge her on the basis of her personal correspondence with the instructor. Davis, who is black, has accused the Air Force of prosecuting her because she has filed sex and race discrimination complaints against several officers. The Air Force denies this accusation.
At the Ninth Assembly meeting from July 8 to 16 in Africa, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) denounced discrimination against women in nations and churches. General Secretary Rev. Dr. Ishmael Noko pointed out that domestic violence and sexual harassment prove women still face disadvantages in society. In his own church, he said women's representation was still inadequate despite the LWF's focus on affirmative action for women. Rev. Noko suggested that the LWF Assembly, the highest decision-making body in the federation, come to an agreement on ways to increase the number of women in church leadership and at the local level.
A Japanese court decided on July 31 in favor of a woman who divorced her husband after he demanded she make him breakfast, iron his clothes and clean the house even though she works full time. The husband filed a lawsuit demanding $38,000 from his wife because he claimed she did not abide by their marriage agreement. The Tokyo District Court rejected the husband's suit but asked the wife to return her wedding rings, which she had already done, and a cash gift of $8,000. Women's groups applauded the case, which they see as a symbol of the increasing resistance among Japanese women to obeying their traditional husbands.
On August 1, 1997, Janet Travell passed away at the age of 95. Dr. Travell was the first woman to hold the White House post of physician, caring for President John F. Kennedy and his family. Her appointment caused controversy among Washington elites since she was the first non-military personnel to hold the position since the 1920's.
Dr. Travell graduated from Wellesley College and Cornell University's medical school. She specialized in pain treatment, which helped her to develop innovative techniques to treat John F. Kennedy's back pain. President Kennedy described Dr. Travell as a "medical genius," and others described her as a woman with "a patrician dignity and a fey sense of humor." In addition to serving on President Kennedy's staff, Dr. Travell was a professor at George Washington University, and was the author of "Office Hours Day and Night," and "Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual."
Dr. Travell died in Northampton, Massachusetts of congestive heart failure. Her survivors include two daughters, Virginia B. Wilson of Northampton and Janet Powell Pinci of Milan; six grandchildren; and five great grandchildren.
8/4/1997 - Web Site Harasses High School Girls
A web site which rated the looks of girls about to enter a high school in the northern California community of Palo Alto "crossed the line of appropriateness, good taste and even sexual harassment as defined by the California Education Code," according to Irv Rollins, the district's assistant superintendent. A woman alerted the school about the site, and the school notified Geocities, the site's Internet provider. Geocities removed the page because it violated "hate speech" guidelines. Palo Alto school officials do not know who authored the site, and they are not investigating it because the site creators did not break any laws. If students designed the page on school time and on school premises, the school would expel them for sexual harassment.