Three members of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot were found guilty of "hooliganism" and sentenced to two years in prison today in Russia. The maximum sentence for the charges was seven years. In a case that has garnered international attention, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, and Marina Alyokhina, 24, have been in jail since March, when they were arrested after performing (video) a "punk prayer" on the altar of Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral in dissent of Vladimir Putin.
The members entered the church wearing bright colors and balaclavas, singing "Mother of God, Blessed Virgin, drive out Putin!" They noted later that their intent was to challenge the Church's political support for Putin and to show their dissatisfaction with Putin's 12-year political dominance.
The Associated Press reports that Boris Akunin, one of Russia's best known authors, said: "This is all nonsense. I can't believe that in the 21st century a judge in a secular court is talking about devilish movements. I can't believe that a government official is quoting medieval church councils."
Musicians, activists and human rights groups worldwide have been standing in solidarity with Pussy Riot both online and in the streets. Amnesty International has named the women prisoners of conscience, and artists including Sting, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bjork, Madonna, and Chloe Sevigny have been speaking out in support. Activists have marked August 17 as Pussy Riot Global Day and are staging solidarity protests all over the world. Although the women have experienced an outpouring of international support and solidarity, opinion polls indicate that Russians themselves are not very sympathetic. The case has shed international light on the Russian government's intolerance of dissent.
In her closing statement at the trial, Alyokhina said, "I am not afraid of you. I am not afraid of you and I am not afraid of the thinly veneered deceit of your verdict at this 'so-called' trial. My truth lives with me. I believe that honesty, free-speaking and the thirst for truth will make us all a little freer. We will see this come to pass."
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .