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feminist news round-up 13.11.11

This new column will summarise events that have happened in the last week relevant to women, feminism, and sexuality and link you to related articles. It will also offer a brief analysis on some stories. This column is still finding its feet, so please feel free to give us feedback, as well as any news tip-offs!

australian gender pay-gap addressed by government

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that the government will take important measures in addressing the pay-gap between men and women. The funding is specifically targeted towards women in low-paid jobs, such as those in the social and community sector. This will particularly benefit women because most workers in these industries are women. Beneficiaries may be women who work with people with disabilities, in family crisis counselling, and other related and important services. Gillard has stated that ‘workers in this sector have been underpaid for too long because their work was viewed as women’s work’.

The government intends to address the pay gap by joining unions and representatives from various social service organisations to attain a better and fairer wage for those in these industries. You can read more about it here.

labor left determined to enact equal marriage

A leading member of the ALP’s left faction, Mark Butler, says that the left of the party will not support Julia Gillard’s proposal of making MPs take a conscience vote in deciding whether to enact equal marriage. Instead, he believes that the government should just make equal marriage legal, and the left faction of the ALP will be campaigning on this issue. Typically, conscience votes only happen on ‘life-and-death issues’ such as abortion or euthanasia, thus it does not seem obvious to put equal marriage in this category of policy. Butler points out that in parliament there would be a tendency to put a religious spin on a civil rights issue, exactly where religion ought to butt out. Read more here.

women offered free entry and cheaper drinks at nightclubs

Unfortunately, this is not as good news as you might think. Young women, who may be celebrating the end of high school or the end of their university exams, are being targeted by marketing for clubs and pubs around Australia. They are offering no cover charge and extremely cheap (or free) drinks. The result is that many women drink to excess, leaving them vulnerable. The Australian Medical Association has called these moves ‘irresponsible’ and posits that such marketing strategies ought to be illegal. You can read more about this issue here, but just a warning that some may find the picture accompanying this article distressing.

mexican government apologises for failing to investigate the killings of women

‘Slayings’ of women have been occurring in the Mexican state of Chihuahua since 1993. Victims are mostly raped and killed, with their bodies being dumped months later. These murders are largely unsolved, uninvestigated crimes, but the investigations that were carried out were mishandled by police and involved torturing suspects in order to provoke false confessions. In 2009, the families of three dead women went to an International Court, which ruled that the Mexican government was negligible in their failure to investigate these crimes. Subsequently, the Mexican government has apologised for their failure. You can read more about this here.

further allegations of cain’s sexual harassment

Last week, it was brought to light that US Republican presidential candidate, Herman Cain, had been accused of sexual harassment and of paying a large cash settlement to two women if they dropped their claims. This week, further allegations are emerging. Sharon Bialek claims that in a job interview, Cain ‘suddenly reached over and he put his hand on my leg under my skirt and reached for my genitals.’ When she made it clear that such advances were unwanted and were not what she was meeting Cain for, he allegedly responded, ‘You want a job, right?’ Further detail on this issue is available here.

In other related news, one of the women who accused Cain of sexual harassment was outed in public, against her will.

anti-abortion lobby is becoming influential in russia

Russia has the world’s highest abortion rate. In Russia, roughly 42 per cent of pregnancies end in abortion. Alloyed with fears about Russia’s declining population, the religious orthodoxy is campaigning to make abortion illegal, with quite a lot of support from the general public. Feminists and doctors are calling for better sex education as an alternative to banning abortion. Read more about this issue here.

six women named “most powerful”

Recently, Forbes magazine released a list of the 70 most powerful people in the world. Only six women were included in the list. The women were German Chancellor, Angela Merkel; Indian politician, Sonia Gandhi; US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton; President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff; IMF managing director, Christine Lagarde; and executive editor of the New York Times, Jill Abramson. Read more about the list, and an analysis of the women on it, here.

stop the presses: women are funny

A study confirms what we already knew – women are at least as funny as men. The study showed that humour is ‘misattributed’ to men, and is a trait shared equally in all genders. Read more here.

escort agency sells the virginity of a 19-year-old woman

An escort agency in Sydney has attempted to sell the virginity of a 19-year-old woman and four days of her time for $15,000. The woman is a student at the University of Sydney, originally from China. Unfortunately, according to the Daily Telegraph, auctions such as this are quite common in Australia.

worksites in male-dominated industries still lack female toilets

In male-dominated industries such as construction, women still face basic barriers to entry, including a lack of female toilets. Federal Employment Participation Minister, Kate Ellis, says, ‘There are a whole range of exciting jobs available to women in industry, yet only a tiny fraction of the jobs in these areas are occupied by females.’ She further suggests that industries such as construction, forestry, mining, and energy, must make cultural changes in order for them to be practical options for women in their careers. Read more here.

pelvic exams now require consent in canada

Previously in Canada, it was legal for medical students to perform pelvic exams on women in hospital. According to the law, the women only had to be aware of the possibility that a medical student could give them a pelvic exam during their stay. Now, hospitals require the explicit consent from women to conduct a pelvic exam. The change in the law comes after a poll which showed that 72 per cent of medical students had performed a pelvic exam on a woman while she was unconscious. More information is available here.

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