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News taken from the Feminist Majority website. To learn more, visit 

June 23, 2014

Senate Subcommittee to Tackle Violence Against Women Globally

Engaging the U.S. in the global fight to end gender-based violence will take center stage tomorrow as part of a Senate subcommittee hearing aimed at fully combating violence and discrimination against women worldwide.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy, and Global Women's Issues hearing will preside over the hearing at which several women senators will testify, including Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Patty Murray (D-WA).

The Senate subcommittee hearing will focus on how the U.S. and the international community can work to prevent violence against women, promote women's rights, and empower women and girls globally. Senator Boxer introduced the bipartisan International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) in May as a step toward reducing violence against women worldwide. The international community has also used the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), also known as the Women's Treaty, as a tool to fight violence against women globally. Although 187 countries have ratified the treaty, the U.S. has not, joining Iran, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Tonga, and Palau in its failure to ratify CEDAW.

Gender-based violence is the most widespread human rights violation around the world. According to the World Health Organization at least 35% of women worldwide have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime, although some national studies show prevalence rates as high as 70%. In conflict zones, women are more susceptible to rape, which has been systematically used as a weapon of war. Child marriage also continues to be a scourge. More than 64 million girls worldwide are child brides who suffer from sexual assault and life-threatening early pregnancy. One in nine girls in the developing world are married before age 15, and 90% of pregnancies to girls under age 18 occur within child marriage according to a recent UNFPA report.

Media Resources: U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Feminist Majority Foundation; Senator Barbara Boxer Press Release 5/8/14; Feminist Newswire 10/31/14; World Health Organization; UN Women

June 20, 2014 - UK Religious Groups Unite to Condemn Female Genital Mutilation

Community and religious leaders in the United Kingdom came together this week to condemn the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM).

The Church of England and the Muslim Women's Network UK were two of 160 groups who supported the announcement denouncing FGM as a form of violence against women and a denial of women's human rights not supported by religious doctrine. The groups will sign a joint declaration condemning FGM - currently a criminal offense in the U.K. - during the government's Girl Summit in July.

"No girl or woman should ever be forced to choose between her safety and her religious community and tradition and it is our sacred obligation to be just agents of change against this unjust practice," said Shahin Ashraf, Muslim chaplain and national network coordinator for the Muslim Women's Network UK.

Sometimes referred to as female genital cutting or female circumcision, FGM is the removal or cutting of part or all of a woman or girl's genitals. The practice, which is medically unnecessary, can lead to serious health issues such as infection, illness and death. FGM still affects up to 140 million women and girls worldwide, with an estimated 20,000 girls at risk in the U.K.

The practice of FGM on girls under 18 was made a crime in the United States in 1996. The law was strengthened by President Barack Obama in 2013 to make it a crime to transport a girl outside of the U.S. for the purpose of subjecting her to FGM.

June 20, 2014 - President Plans Expansion of Sick Leave For Same Sex Couples

The White House announced plans today to draft an expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act that would ensure people in same sex couples can take unpaid leave to care for a sick spouse. 

The new rules would apply even in states that don't recognize same-sex unions.

President Obama said he has instructed the Department of Labor to start writing rules for the new provision. According to the Wall Street Journal, the president will also push Congress to pass legislation qualifying same-sex couples for additional benefits that aren't extended to LGBT-identified employees and their spouses.

"We will work closely with Congress to ensure that veterans and elderly and disabled Americans can obtain for themselves or their spouses the essential benefits they have earned no matter where they live," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a memo.

The Department of Labor cites the Supreme Court's 2013 decision on same-sex marriage as the guiding influence on their proposed definition of a "spouse" under FMLA.

Earlier this week, the president announced he would issue an executive order calling for a ban on workplace discrimination against LGBT employees of federal contractors.


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