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Gender Justice

Some good news...from Saudi Arabia

Via The Week (link):

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
First woman minister: In a rare breakthrough for women’s rights, Saudi Arabia appointed its first female Cabinet minister this week. Noura bint Abdullah al-Fayez became deputy education minister in charge of a new department of girls’ education. “This is an honor not only for me but for all Saudi women,” she told the Riyadh Arab News. “I’ll be able to face challenges and create positive change.” In his first Cabinet reshuffle since assuming the throne in 2005, King Abdullah also replaced the chief of the religious police and the country’s top judge—two men who were known as enemies of women’s rights. The judge, Sheikh Salih Ibn al-Luhaydan, ruled last year that TV station owners that broadcast “immoral” programs showing unveiled women could be killed. “This is the true start of the promises of reform,” said Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent pro-reform newspaper editor.

In State Legislatures, Democrats Are Pushing Toward Parity Between the Sexes

From an article of the same title by Kirk Johnson in the NY Times:

On the low rungs of the nation's political system in the state legislatures, Democrats are pushing close to real parity among men and women - a historic threshold that is changing more than mere numbers. The new Democratic women, epitomized by the Woodbury Three, as they are known here, are focused on the bread-and-butter issues of the suburbs, like property taxes, schools and health care. They are the soccer-mom swing-voters of years past, now making the laws themselves, and that could end up changing both parties here and beyond.

While what happened here [Minnesota] was not repeated in Congressional elections, it was echoed in many other states, especially in the Northeast and West, where women made their biggest gains. Nationally, Democrats picked up more than 320 seats in state legislatures - about 140 of them by women - and gained control of 10 chambers, 4 of them here in the Upper Midwest: the Minnesota House, the Wisconsin Senate and both chambers of Iowa General Assembly. Republicans gained control of the Montana House of Representatives. Almost everywhere, women were crucial to those Democratic margins. In the New Hampshire Senate, which swung to Democratic control for the first time since 2000, women outnumber men almost two-to-one in the new majority caucus.

Republican women lost ground and saw their numbers slide everywhere but in parts of the South. There are now only 534 of them out of more than 7,300 party-affiliated state legislators nationwide, compared with 1,187 Democratic women, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a bipartisan group.

Gender Equality

A couple articles from a month back that address gender equality. From an article in USA Today:

When it comes to equality of the sexes, Scandinavian countries lead the world, but no nation has yet managed to bridge the gender gap completely, a report said Tuesday. Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland top the World Economic Forum rankings, followed by Germany in fifth place.

The nations studied had, on average, closed about 90% of the gender gap in education and health but only 50% in economic participation and opportunity, and 15% in political empowerment, said Saadia Zahidi, co-author of the report.

Denmark is rated eighth this year, while the United Kingdom comes ninth, the United States 22nd, Australia 15th and New Zealand seventh. The Philippines, which is ranked sixth, is the only Asian country in the top 10. The two countries ranked as having the biggest gender gaps by the report are Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

From an article in the NY Times titled "Gender pay gap narrows -- for unexpected reasons" by Molly Hennessy-Fiske:

Women are closing in on men when it comes to wages, but not for the reasons anticipated - or hoped for - when gender pay equity became a rallying cry in the 1970s. Data show that the pay gap has been narrowing not because women have made great strides, labor experts say, but because men's wages are eroding. The disparity in median hourly pay between men and women narrowed to 18.3% in August from 21.5% five years earlier, according to recently released census figures. In addition, the U.S. Labor Department noted recently that the wage differential in 2005 was the smallest since the department began tracking it 33 years ago, when it was 36.9%. Even when men's and women's work patterns are taken into account - men tend to work more hours - the pay gap is narrowing.

However - as the economy expanded, profits rose and unemployment fell - men's hourly wages declined a total of 2% from 2000 to 2005 while women's rose 3%, census records show. Women's gains were barely enough to keep up with inflation.

Economists say the forces behind these trends show that men and women are experiencing the economy in different ways. In the U.S., men have tended to dominate in blue-collar and manufacturing jobs, which have been disappearing - or seeing downward wage pressure - for the last few decades. Women, on the other hand, have been more prevalent in service jobs such as healthcare, which historically have been lower-paying but have seen wages rise in recent years.

Court: Groups Must Offer Contraceptives

From an AP article of the same title on beliefnet:

New York's highest court ruled Thursday that social service agencies run by the Roman Catholic Church and other faiths must provide birth-control coverage to their employees, even if they consider contraception a sin. The 6-0 decision by the Court of Appeals hinged on whether Catholic Charities and the nine other groups are essentially social service agencies, not churches. At issue was a 2002 state law that requires employers to provide health insurance coverage for mammograms, bone density screening and other preventive services for women, including prescription contraceptives. The law exempts churches, seminaries and other institutions with a mainly religious mission. Catholic Charities and the other groups sued the state for an exemption but lost in the lower courts.

Ethiopian women are most abused

From an article of the same title on

Nearly 60% of Ethiopian women were subjected to sexual violence, including marital rape, according to the Ending Violence Against Women report. Almost half of all Zambian women said they had been attacked by a partner... In addition to violence from partners, the report also condemned what it found to be high levels of institutionalised violence, such as female genital mutilation, estimating that 130 million girls and women had undergone this practice.


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