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feminist news round-up 20.11.11

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!

uk judge: women should get top law jobs

This week, a UK judge, Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury (they have the coolest names), has called for instituting a new law which would give top law jobs to more women and minorities. He has said that when deliberating over two equal candidates – one male and one female – selectors should choose the woman. Read more here.

If such changes were instituted, affirmative action isn’t without its set-backs. For instance, the legitimacy of female judges could be questioned if people thought they only held the position because of their gender. However, so few women in the UK are in top law professions that it is difficult for young female lawyers to find successful role models and mentors. This is particularly concerning in an industry which has quite a ‘men’s club’ atmosphere.

an australian rural women’s hotline has closed

Due to funding pressures, the Women’s Legal Service, which provides legal advice to rural women, has closed. The line provided significant services such as advising women on Legal Aid, family violence, and domestic violence. The organisation has called on the government for an extra $250,000 of funding a year, obviously to no avail. While state-wide hotlines are available to women, often these lines are busy and some people do not get through to an operator. You can read more here.

pay gap between childless women and mothers

A recent study from Stanford has confirmed that women with children are significantly disadvantaged in their working-life. Indeed, mothers tend to be less likely to be offered a job than other jobseekers and, when they are employed, tend to be offered a lower wage than their colleagues. What is interesting is that the pay-gap between mothers and childless women is actually larger than the pay gap between women and men. According to the study, employees tend to think that mothers are less committed to and capable of performing their job than other workers. You can read more about it here. This report is further evidence of the penalties many women face in having children.

saudi women may have to cover eyes

A new repressive measure in Saudi Arabia may mean that women with particularly attractive eyes may be forced to cover them up. Women in Saudi Arabia are required to wear an abaya in public, and now the government is tabling further restrictions. A report alleged that the reason behind this move was that one of the people behind this decision became attracted to a woman on the street because of her eyes, and ended up provoking a fight. The woman’s husband was supposedly stabbed twice in the hand after this rumoured altercation.  More information is available here.

the sexual state of the union

It is no secret that US sexual education classes, along with the hetero-normative, ‘abstinence-only’ lesson plans therein is horrible. In good news, the state of New York has recently mandated sex-ed – it is now compulsory for all schools to teach it (read more here). In news that isn’t so good, 24 US states still have not mandated sexual education. Moreover, in Alabama, it is not permissible to teach anything positive about homosexuality, and in Texas, 96 per cent of school districts have abstinence-only sex-ed. Unsurprisingly, these states all have very high prevalence of unsafe sex, teen pregnancy, and STIs. You can read more here.

In a related article, in the US city of Philadelphia, a liberal, private school actually includes the idea of pleasure on their syllabus. You can read more about it here.

boards don’t realise that they lack diversity

A recent study has shown that while the majority of charity and corporate board members think that their board is diverse, in all likelihood, it isn’t. For 218 different charity boards and 164 corporate boards around Canada, one in seven members are female, one in twenty are ‘visible minorities’, and less than 1 per cent are aboriginal. The real problem in addressing the issue of underrepresentation is that the boards don’t even know that they are underrepresenting women and people of different ethnicities. You can read more about it here.

This has some real implications for feminists and other activists in regard to having equal representation. Clearly, more needs to be done in educating people about what equal representation actually looks like.

one in four women take prescription drugs for mental illness

In general, women are more likely to take prescription medication for mental illness than men. This disparity is a large one. In the US, while 25 per cent of women are given medication for mental illness, only 15 per cent of men are. Common medication for women include anti-depressants and anti-anxiety prescriptions.

Part of the reason behind this discrepancy is that women are more likely to take their problems to the doctor than are men. In addition, it is believed that women are more prone to mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Another interesting finding is that there has been a shift from men predominantly using drugs to help control the symptoms of ADHD to women. You can read more about it, including an interview with psychiatrist David Muzina, here.

ban on forced marriages in pakistan

Laws have recently been passed in Pakistan which will put a halt on forced marriages in the country. A new bill has been passed in Pakistan which states that ‘Whoever coerces or in any manner compels a woman to enter into marriage shall be punished with imprisonment of three to ten years or is liable to a fine of Rs 0.5million.’ Obviously this new Act, if effective, will help many women in Pakistan find a greater degree of freedom. The Act took a long time to get passed, and was put on hold since 2008 for dubious reasons (such as there weren’t enough printed copies). Nonetheless, it is a step in a positive direction. You can read more about it here.

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