It’s Vagina News Link Madness!

Holy cow, there’s a lot going on. Time to play catch-up. Ready? Let’s go:

  • I just finished a free online class in International Women’s Health and Human Rights through Stanford (they’re going to offer it again, and I HIGHLY recommend it – get on the list here). I learned a lot about the history of these issues in the UN, and specifically about the Millennium Development Goals. Last week, the 2014 Commission on the Status of Women ended “with an agreement that called for the acceleration of progress towards achieving the millennium development goals, and confirming the need for a stand-alone goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment in the set of international targets that will be introduced once they expire in 2015. The agreement also said gender equality must underpin all other goals.” The details are interesting and encouraging, and very much worth a read.
  • Last week also saw the Hobby Lobby case argued before the Supreme Court. The craziest part of the case, IMHO, is the fact that the entire argument is based on an objection to ACA coverage of IUDs and the morning-after pill, based on the belief that they cause abortion – which they absolutely, undeniably DON’T. (They prevent conception. Hence the word “contra-ception”. Spermy no meet eggy.) Yet this case has risen all the way to the Supreme Court because the owners of Hobby Lobby (and another company) BELIEVE they cause abortion, and that would violate their religious beliefs (never mind that a corporation can’t believe anything.) Anyway, I bring it up to introduce this great piece on our three female Supreme Court Justices, which pounds home the importance of gender parity in all levels of government.
  •  Buzzfeed isn’t just lists of .gifs… They’ve done some important reporting on campus sexual assault; specifically, legal violations serious enough to prompt the federal investigation of a school less than a mile from where I’m sitting right now.
  • Jimmy Carter has a new book out, ‘A Call to Action’, and in it, he blames selective application of religious dogma for the unconscionable treatment of women and girls around the world. “The most serious and unaddressed worldwide challenge is the deprivation and abuse of women and girls… This claim that women are inferior before God spreads to the secular world to justify gross and sustained acts of discrimination and violence against them… This is not just a women’s issue. It is not confined to the poorest countries. It affects us all.”
  • And finally, a great article from the Money section of The New York Times about how gender discrimination affects women’s salary negotiations in the workplace. Like most contemporary manifestations of sexism, it’s not overt; rather it’s a combination of learned behavior and double standards that make everyone complicit. The article is a solid step toward becoming aware of how we may be participating unknowingly, and how to stop.
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The STAGGERING Study No One Talked About

A few weeks ago, the World Health Organization issued a report – the first of its kind – on  domestic violence wordwide.

The results are staggering.

Based on data from 1983 to 2010, 1 in 3 women on the planet has experienced intimate partner violence, and 40% of all women who are murdered are killed by a current or former intimate partner.

This has ramifications in all areas of women’s health – increased likelihood of sexually transmitted infections, depression and other mental illness, alcohol and drug addiction, unwanted pregnancy and abortion, and reproductive problems like low birth weight.

The report suggests the best opportunity to recognize and address domestic violence  is often in a health care setting – but heath care practitioners often lack the training required to see the signs, especially in the developing world.  

Imagine a study that found 40% of all murdered men were killed by a current or former girlfriend. Even just a woman – any woman. Would have been a pretty huge story. We’d be having a big cultural conversation about what’s gone wrong and what we must do to fix it. But this? Nope.

Ask yourself why.

“Some girls rape easy” – Wisconsin Rep. Roger Rivard (R)

I’m not going to post every time a politician says something incredibly stupid about rape, abortion, or other vagina-related issues. If I did, I’d have no time for any other posts, or… you know… life activities. It’s really a matter of what strikes me as ‘news’ vs ‘same old shit’.

So why does this strike me as ‘news’? I think it’s the
stunningly cavalier, ignorant spin on a sexist classic.

Dear friends, if there happens to be a politician near you,
please remind him (or her, but probably him) that statutory rape is illegal,
both the day of and the day after, and it’s never the tantalizing minor’s
fault.

Sexual assault of women serving in the military

I could do 4 posts based on this one article and blow your minds with every one.

Some (really horrible) highlights:

– The rate of sexual assault in the military is double that in the general public.

– HuffPo calculates that “… a servicewoman was nearly 180
times more likely to have become a victim of military sexual assault (MSA) in
the past year than to have died while deployed during the last 11 years of
combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

– The Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response
Office (created in 2006) estimates that there were approximately 52 MSAs per
day between 10/1/10 and 9/31/11.

– Only 14% (or 3,192) of those MSAs were reported, and by
the end of 2011 only 240 were brought to trial. 6% of reported cases resulted
in a court marshal conviction, mostly resulting in reduction in rank,
confinement, a fine, or discharge.

– SAPRO estimates that 90% of MSAs are committed by repeat
offenders.

– Victims have no direct legal recourse. Per the Uniform
Code of Military Justice, MSAs must be reported to the victim’s unit commander,
who decides whether to authorize an investigation and whether the case should
be prosecuted. When deciding how to proceed, commanding officers can consider
factors like how valuable the accused perpetrator is to the unit.

– According to the recently released documentary “The
Invisible War,” about one in four service-member victims don’t report an
assault because the person to whom they must report it is the
perpetrator.

– MSAs are subject to UCMJ policy, not civil law. One victim
was told her case could not be prosecuted because “sodomy was not a crime under
the UCMJ — forcible or otherwise”. If a case is tried, the judge, jury,
prosecutor, and defense are all military.

Sexual assault in the military, Part 2

On Saturday, we talked about the military’s failure to address the staggering issue of sexual assault among service-members. 

Now let’s talk about their failure to respond to military sexual assault once it’s happened.

– As we’ve discussed before, military health insurance (or
TRICARE) does not cover abortion, even in cases of rape. In many military
medical facilities, especially in combat zones, abortion services are
unavailable even to women willing to pay out-of-pocket. The Shaheen Amendment
would fix this, but House Republicans have blocked it. Google “Shaheen
Amendment” or click here to learn more.

– Sexism is baked into the benefits process. PTSD can
qualify a veteran for disability benefits, and the amount of the benefit is
determined by Veterans Affairs Department. Marine Capt. Anu Bhagwati, executive
director of the Service Women’s Action Network, says “Women were more likely
to receive a 10% to 30% rating and men were more likely to receive a 70% to
100% disability rating.” 

From 2008 to 2010, only 32% of PTSD claims stemming from
military sexual assault were approved for benefits by the Department of
Veterans Affairs – that’s compared to 53% of all other PTSD claims. Part of the
problem is that victims are required to prove the attack happened during their
service in order to receive benefits – hard to do if the person you’d have to
report to was your attacker.