Campus Accountability and Safety Finally?
With sexual assaults and rapes on college campuses a national crisis, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has introduced the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, legislation aimed at increasing support, training and accountability protocols to make campuses safer places. The bill has bipartisan support.
One in five college women will be sexually assaulted before graduation, research has shown, and more than 100 colleges are currently under investigation by the federal government for mishandling sexual assault and rape cases. Despite the alarming statistics, current federal law actually encourages colleges to underreport assaults, and provides no real penalties for schools that try to sweep sexual assaults under the rug.
A recent study shows that there may be up to 30,000 sexual assaults on college campuses a year, yet in 2013, college officials reported only 5,000 to the federal government. In the last five years, more than 40 percent of colleges have not investigated a single sexual assault case. How will the Campus Accountability and Safety Act help make needed change?
Real penalties: Current penalties for schools that fail to address sexual assault on campus have no teeth. The only allowable penalty for a Title IX violation is the loss of all federal funding, so extreme it will likely never be used. This bill creates a penalty of up to one percent of a school’s operating budget for Title IX violations, and increases penalties for schools that violate the Clery Act’s reporting requirements. Increased transparency: The bill mandates anonymous, standardized surveys of students at every school in the country, with results published online. The Department of Education would also be required to publish names of any school under investigation or with a resolved case.
Uniform discipline process: Requires one consistent disciplinary process, prohibiting schools from allowing athletic departments or other campus groups to investigate and discipline their own members.
Minimum training standards for school staff: Requires training to ensure that under- or untrained campus personnel don’t negatively interfere with sexual assault investigations or disciplinary proceedings.
More than 30 senators from both parties have already signed on in support of the bill. To sign a petition in support of the proposed legislation go to: http://act.credoaction.com/sign/Campus_Safety_Act?t=6&akid=14233.4082155.3Hd8-k
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Amid the Baltimore protests against police brutality following Freddie Gray’s death while in police custody, few in the mainstream media considered how racial inequality is in part maintained by the diminishing presence of black male role models in underprivileged urban communities.
Many of “the blue-collar jobs that built the black middle class in Baltimore are gone,” says John Blake, a CNN writer and African American who grew up in West Baltimore. Gone, too, Blake wrote in a recent article, are both the respect many Baltimore youth once held for their employed male elders, and the youth job programs responsible for jump-starting the careers of many, including Blake himself.
As a result, many black men end up unemployed, incarcerated, or dead. Without job opportunities and successful role models, Blake says, many black youth are unable to get ahead in life.
The conservative refrain that stereotypes young black men as “thugs” and seeks to explain away urban violence as part of a “culture of poverty” is out of step with reality, Blake says.
It refuses to acknowledge the political and economic circumstances that limit the choices available to young black men, and which are behind the rage and mistrust of political leaders many promote.
Without strong male role models, it’s hard to change the prevailing narrative. Many political decisions have decimated the source of positive adult guidance and turned West Baltimore into a place where men with no jobs fear boys who sell drugs. While he failed to address the plight of women, Blake’s conclusion: “If you want to destroy a people, first break their men.”
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Women’s Leadership In Uganda Growing
Women in Leadership Uganda (WIL) is a femalerun grassroots organization comprising mostly of British and Ugandan volunteers based in the rural East Ugandan village of Busembatia. WIL runs school programs that teach women and girls about leadership, rights and advocacy, careers, and sexual and reproductive health. It also teaches business and literacy skills to adults through community initiatives. Lack of female education in these areas can be linked to poor health, lower income, and higher numbers of pregnancies. Founded in June 2014 by Cianne Jones, a lawyer and gender equality advocate, WIL’s mission is “to empower women and girls with the knowledge and skills to become leaders in their own communities.”
A survey conducted by the group found that many Ugandan girls and women are forced out of school by teenage pregnancy, early marriage, and family pressure. Often lacking basic literacy skills, many find it difficult to make a living. By offering programs designed to counteract these problems, WIL strives to help women assume community leadership positions, participate in social development, and take control of their reproductive health and rights.
One WIL participant, 18-year-old Kisakye Esereda, recently had an article on the problem of child sacrifice in Uganda published in Teen Voices, an online publication run by Women’s eNews (womensenews. org) dedicated to allowing teenage girls around the world the opportunity to challenge the misrepresentation and underrepresentation of girls in the media.
To learn more, go to wiluganda.co.uk.
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Twilight for the “Friend Zone”?
The “friend zone” is an aggressive term that “perpetuates damaging stereotypes about women,” says Mic’s senior editor Elizabeth Plank. It’s “mostly used by men to describe a failure to romantically attract someone with whom they happen to be friends.”
Anyone who thinks they’ve been “friend zoned” is “probably not [your] friend”—and the mindset suggesting men are “owed” sex in exchange for kindness devalues platonic friendships with women and erases their individuality, Plank believes. “Friends respect, rather than undermine, each other’s decisions,” and women always have a “right to say no.”
The central problem is a culture where “women who don’t welcome male advances are punished for it,” Plank says.
It doesn’t stop there. Not only are women shamed for refusing sexual advances, they’re also shamed for accepting and making sexual advances: “Societydoesn’t only scrutinize women based on who they sleep with… it also passes judgment based on who they don’t sleep with,” Plank observed. “For women, there’s no real way to win.”
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A Curfew for Men?
During Israel’s early years, authorities were alarmed by reports of women being attacked at night in the streets. Law enforcement officials studying the problem presented a remedy to the fledgling country’s cabinet: institute a curfew for women. If no females were out on the street late at night, the proposal’s logic asserted, women would not be attacked, and sexual assault would diminish. Astonished, that’s when Golda Meir, a founding mother of Israel, spoke up.
The women who are being attacked are not the cause of this violence, the future prime minister pointed out; they are its victims, reported David Waksberg in J.Weekly.com. If a curfew is the answer, she said, it’s men who should be banned from the streets at night. Her male colleagues were flustered; a curfew for men was deemed much too radical and the idea was dropped. No doubt Waksberg, CEO of Jewish Learning- Works in San Francisco, would agree it’s time to reconsider implementing the plan around the world today.
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Army’s Double Vision
Army Sgt. Shane Ortega, a helicopter crew chief based in Hawaii and an openly trans man, is seen by the Army as suffering from a mental illness—grounds for discharge. It has not yet done so in large part because of the intervention of the ACLU on Ortega’s (and other transgender soldiers’) behalf. Ortega, the subject of a profile in The Washington Post not long ago, was suspended from flight service in the summer of 2014. Separation proceedings have not been scheduled pending a formal decision on whether the Army will allow openly transgender soldiers to serve. The process, overseen by civilian assistant secretary of the Army Debra S. Wada may not be resolved until 2017. Ortega and his lawyers claim that his transition has not impeded his fitness to serve. He has met the physical standards required of male soldiers his age, and is scheduled to compete as a bodybuilder this fall.
The senior behavioral health officer for his brigade has stated that Ortega does not suffer from gender dysphoria (gender identity disorder), the controversial condition in which patients experience debilitating stress as a result of not identifying with their assigned gender. Although Ortega is listed as a male on his passport, the Army still regards him as a woman, and requires him to wear a female dress uniform. The result? He often is referred to by the wrong gender. Since being grounded, Ortega has been performing administrative work and has begun tweeting from @OnlyShaneOrtega.
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Now What: Recruit Gay Spies?
In May, the British surveillance agency Government Communication Headquarters, better known as GCHQ—the most extremist and invasive in the West—bathed its futuristic headquarters with rainbow-colored lights “as a symbol of the intelligence agency’s commitment to diversity” and to express solidarity with “International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.” So wrote investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald in The Intercept.
GCHQ’s public affairs office proudly distributed a photograph of their headquarters awash in the colors of LGBT equality. Referring to Alan Turing, the closeted and oppressed gay World War II British code-breaker memorialized by the Oscar-nominated film The Imitation Game, and a documentary, Codebreaker, Prime Minister David Cameron’s office was quick to celebrate GCHQ’s inspirational lights. Gay Brits are now just as free as everyone else to spy on people, covertly disseminate state propaganda, and destroy online privacy, wrote Greenwald.
“Whatever your views on all this nasty surveillance business might be, how can you not feel good about GCHQ when it drapes itself in the colors of LGBT equality?” In the US, the CIA also loves this strategy, Greenwald noted.
It hailed LGBT Pride Month and its “Agency Network of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Officers and Allies (ANGLE),” highlighting “a photography exhibit at CIA Headquarters showcasing LGBT officers, allied employees, and their families.” Not long ago, the spy agency set up a recruiting tent at the Miami Beach Gay Pride Parade, and summoned Maureen Dowd to Langley to interview female agents—ones whom the New York Times columnist hailed as a “perky 69-year-old blond” and a mid-30s “chic analyst”—to produce a glowing portrait of “the C.I.A. sisterhood.”
Figuratively dressing up American wars “in the pretty packaging of progressive social causes, or literally decorating pernicious spy agencies with the colors of the LGBT cause, should leave no doubt about what this tactic is,” Greenwald concluded. “Militarism and aggression don’t become any more palatable because the institutions that perpetrate them let women and gays participate in those abuses, nor do American wars become less criminal or destructive because their targets share the same primitive social issue stances as America’s closest allies.”
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State of the World’s Fathers
Around 80 percent of the world’s men and boys will become fathers in their lifetime, and virtually all men have at least some connection to children in caregiving relationships. Still, engaging men in caregiving is only just beginning to be recognized as an important way to advance gender equality globally. Over the past 20 years, much has changed with regard to trends in fatherhood, caregiving and unpaid work. However, the empowerment of women and girls and full gender equality are still far from realized. Although women now represent 40 percent of the paid workforce, and 50 percent of the world’s food producers, women’s time spent and responsibility for unpaid care remains disproportionate to men’s: spending two to 10 times longer on caring for a child or older person than men do.
MenCare released the first State of the World’s Fathers report in June. The report provides a data-driven snapshot of the state of men’s contributions to parenting and caregiving globally by addressing four issues related to fatherhood: unpaid care work in the home; sexual and reproductive health and rights, and maternal, newborn and child health; men’s caregiving and violence against children and women; and child development.
Using global data on men’s involvement in caregiving and maternal and child health, and on the connections between fatherhood and violence, the report provides the basis for concentrated social, political, and healthcare initiatives; broad institutional change; and public awareness to bring about a transformation toward equitable, involved fatherhood. It defines a global agenda for involving men and boys as part of the solution to achieve gender equality and positive outcomes in the lives of women, children, and men themselves.
To learn more go to http://men-care.org/what-we-do/advocacy/state-of-the-worldsfathers/.
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Deflating Domestic Violence
After former Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice, knocked his then-fiancée unconscious in an Atlantic City casino elevator, he was initially suspended from the NFL for two games by league commissioner Roger Goodell. After the tsunami of protest that followed, Goodell upped the suspension to four and then six games, before Rice was indefinitely suspended from the NFL.
But the league’s swift, severe response to Deflategate—allegations that New England Patriots’ quarterback, Tom Brady sanctioned letting air out of footballs used in the conference championship game—proved the NFL is still more concerned with its on-field product than its players’ off-field transgressions. Brady was suspended for four games. His appeal is pending.
While widespread reforms followed revelations of Rice’s domestic violence—including a revamped personal conduct policy, and an advisory board to address policies toward such incidents in the future—those changes took nearly a year to put in place, and only after several top sponsors threatened to drop the NFL.
“That the NFL would issue more severe penalties for deflating a football than a player knocking his fiancé unconscious demonstrates how little the organization cares about family values,” said Emily Rothman, an associate professor at the Boston University School of Public Health. “The NFL seems more concerned about the health of footballs than the health and safety of women.”
Domestic violence prevention activists continue to press for more accountability from the league.
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Global Female Condom Day
How about a day of education and advocacy dedicated to female condoms? September 16 will mark the third annual Global Female Condom Day. Thousands of individuals and 250 organizations from 54 countries participated in Global Female Condom Day last year. People demonstrated and danced to show the world that women and men want access to female condoms. Meanwhile, UAFC (Unversal Access to Female Condoms), together with three international partners, will be hosting the Third Global Female Condom Conference 2015 with this year’s slogan, “Initiate, Innovate, Integrate.” An initiative of three Dutch civil society organizations and the Dutch government, UAFC was launched in 2009 to challenge the major barriers to sustainable, widespread use of condoms. The conference will take place in Durban, South Africa, December 1–3.
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