Her Side of the Story

Week of January 24

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.
  • Please contact Gracie at gibsogd0@sewanee.edu with any feedback or ideas for next week’s stories!
  • Click on titles to be linked to more information/sources.

Spread of Zika Virus prompts pregnancy panic in Latin America, the Caribbean

A CDC map of areas with active Zika Virus transmission

Brazil’s outbreak of the Zika Virus — a mosquito-borne illness believed to cause birth defects — is continuing. Fearing similar outbreaks of the virus, authorities in Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, and Jamaica have recommended that women delay getting pregnant in order to avoid having babies with birth defects, which include microcephaly, or abnormally small heads. The US has warned pregnant women to avoid traveling to the regions of outbreak. Women’s rights activists have criticized governments’ calls to avoid pregnancy as naive, citing that in countries such as Colombia, 50% of pregnancies are unplanned, pregnancy resulting from sexual violence is common, and sexual education is sparse.

First women’s university opening in Kabul, Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani has begun plans to build the country’s first women’s university in Kabul, which will provide educational opportunities for girls forbidden from studying at other universities. Preparations for the university are underway, but the government has not said when it will open. Educational institutions for women and girls are often Taliban targets in Afghanistan because extremists consider education for women sacrilegious.

***Daniel Holtzclaw sentenced to 263 years in prison

Last month, ex-Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw was convicted of sexually assaulting and raping more than a dozen African American women over the course of six months. On Thursday, he was sentenced to 263 years in prison. During trial, prosecutors alleged that Holtzclaw intentionally sought out black victims with previous criminal records in a poor neighborhood because he assumed their “drug or prostitution records would undermine any claims they might make against him.” Two of Holtzclaw’s victims, including a grandmother, have spoken out about her experience in an interview with CNN. Jannie Ligons recounted how the officer assaulted her after pulling her over. Another victim, 17-years-old, was raped on her front porch. Yet another was raped while she was handcuffed to a hospital bed after Holtzclaw arrested her for intoxication.

***Domestic attack on Afghan woman prompts outrage

Image from The New York Times

On Sunday, 20-year-old Afghan woman Reza Gul was attacked by her husband, Muhammad Khan, with a knife, the culmination of six years of domestic abuse by Khan and his family. Reza Gul’s mother alleged that Khan attacked her after an argument about him taking his 6- or 7-year-old cousin as a second wife. The attack occurred in a small Taliban-controlled region of Faryab Province, but Reza Gul is hoping to travel to Turkey for reconstructive surgery and better medical care. The Taliban has claimed they have arrested Muhammad Khan and have him in custody.

New Policy for transgender athletes in the Rio Olympics

The International Olympic Committee introduced new standards of eligibility for transgender athletes. Since 2003, transgender athletes have been required to undergo sex reassignment surgery and at least two years of hormone therapy before competing under their identified gender. New guidelines require only one year of hormone therapy, meaning that this summer’s Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil could see rising numbers of transgender athletes. Similar standards have already been adopted by the NCAA.

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