Her Side of the Story
April 13-April 19
A basic overview of current events this week involving women’s and gender issues in a social justice context.
- ** Starred stories contain disturbing content relating to sexual assault and violence.
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Just after U.S. Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton was arrested for the alleged drowning of Jennifer Laude, a transgender Filipina woman, in a hotel toilet bowl, the U.S. Pacific Command banned troops in the Phillipines from bars and nightclubs, set a 10 p.m. curfew, and restricted troops from straying too far from their accomodations. A spokesperson did not confirm that the restrictions were related to Laude’s death, but conceded that the new rules were imposed immediately after Pemberton’s arrest. Pemberton is undergoing trial for murder, and activists are using the incident to protest U.S. military presence in the country.
The Tahirih Justice Center, a national nonprofit that provides legal help for immigrants facing forced marriages, recently found that there were 3,000 forced marriages in the U.S. in just two years. Women such as Lina (who did not provide her last name to NPR for fear of her family finding out), a 22-year-old who immigrated from Yemen with her parents as a toddler, was taken on a “family trip” to Yemen with her parents when her father unexpectedly announced that they had arranged a marriage for her. Her family suggested that they would kill her if she refused. Another woman, Fraidy Reiss, who was raised ultra-Orthodox Jewish and went to a strict religious high school in New York that made her sign a contract promising that she would not take the SAT or go to college, says she was pushed into an abusive and “volatile” marriage at the age of 19. The Tahirih Justice Center says that the U.S. court system is not equipped to handle forced marriages of minors, and that the State Department is limited when handling cases of U.S. women abroad, such as Lina.
The Bay County, Florida, Sheriff’s Office confirmed Thursday that a third suspect had been apprehended in the Spring Break gang rape of a woman on Panama City Beach. After a video of the gang rape went viral, the victim survivor, who thinks she was drugged in a nearby club, recognized herself in the footage and contacted authorities. Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen commented that there were “hundreds, hundreds of people standing there — watching, looking, seeing, hearing what’s going on” but that none of the bystanders intervened to stop the attack, and that several videos of similar incidents, in which incoherent women are assaulted on public beaches in front of bystanders, have been recovered from social media. Three men, one of them a former student at MTSU in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, have been arrested. One of them has been released on $50,000 bond.
The New York Times reports that “a growing number of airline passengers, particularly on trips between the United States and Israel, are now sharing stories of conflicts between ultra-Orthodox Jewish men” and women seated next to them on flights. Several flights have been disrupted as Orthodox men ask women to change seats, saying that it is against their faith to sit next to a woman who is not their wife, or that it increases the risk of accidentally touching a woman. Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs at Agudath Israel of America, which represents ultra-Orthodox Jews, says that such incidents are exaggerated and overblown, and that despite religious laws prohibiting physical contact between the sexes, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein convinced many followers that sitting next to women on public transit is permissible as long as “there was no intention to seek sexual pleasure from any incidental contact.” Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, argues that these incidents are actually quite common and has started a campaign “urging women not to give up their seats.”
After Georgia woman Brittany Cartrett learned that she had suffered an incomplete miscarriage about five or six weeks into her pregnancy, her doctor prescribed Mistopropol to help her pass the miscarriage. The drug is often prescribed for gastric ulcers, labor induction, missed miscarriages, and postpartum bleeding, but can also be used to induce abortion early on in pregnancies. The Midgeville, Georgia Walmart refused to fill the prescription without any explanation, but eventually the pharmacist said that she “couldn’t think of a valid reason why [Cartrett] would need the medication. In Georgia, it is legal for pharmacists to turn down filling prescriptions for personal reasons. A corporate officer at Walmart says that the company “encourages [pharmacists] to exercise their professional judgment” when they “fill prescriptions on a case by case basis.”