A Somali woman who accused government security forces of rape was sentenced to one year in prison on Tuesday after the court ruled that her accusation was false. A journalist who had interviewed the woman but never published a story was also sentenced to one year in prison.
The Somali court ruled that the woman had not been raped based on the testimony of a midwife who performed a "finger test." According to the Human Rights Watch, the so-called "finger test" is "an unscientific and degrading practice that has long been discredited because it is not a credible test of whether a woman has been raped." Mohamed Mohamud Afrah, the lawyer representing the journalist, told the BBC that he was not allowed to call witnesses or submit witness statements that provided credibility to the woman's claims. Both were convicted of "offending state institutions." The woman's sentence was delayed for a year because she is currently breastfeeding.
The United Nations and the White House have issued statements condemning the decision. In a statement, a spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the Secretary-General "urges the Government of Somalia to ensure that all allegations of sexual violence are investigated fully and perpetrators are brought to justice. Above all, it is essential that the rights of the alleged victim and the journalist to a fair and transparent judicial process, including the right of appeal, are fully respected." Victoria Nuland, Department Spokesperson for the White House said in an official statement "Women should be able to seek justice for rape and other gender-based violence without fear of retribution, and journalists in Somalia must be free to work without being subjected to violence and harassment... We have raised our concerns directly with the Somali Government and have urged it to uphold its constitution, including with respect to media freedom, women's rights, and due process of law."
Media Resources: CNN 2/6/2013; BBC 2/5/2013; State Department "Concern About Somalia Rape Case Verdict" 2/5/2013; U.N. "Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Somalia" 2/5/2013
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. . . .