The US marine arrested in June for allegedly punching and raping a 19-year-old Japanese woman in Okinawa pleaded guilty yesterday to charges of rape and assault, reported Reuters. The incident, coming amidst ongoing sexual assault scandals at the US Air Force Academy and US Naval Academy, again highlights the persistent problem of sexual violence in the military. According to reports by the Okinawa Police, lance corporal Jose Torres allegedly punched the woman in the face, breaking her nose and then raped her on the street, reported the Associated Press. While the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) which details legal rights for US military personnel in Japan does not require the US to hand over suspects until they are indicted, a Japan-US Joint Committee in June agreed on Torres' immediate transfer, given the nature of the crime. US and Japanese officials are in talks this week, negotiating details in SOFA that pertain to the treatment of US servicemen accused of crimes in Japan, according to Reuters.
Sexual violence by the US military strikes sensitive chords among Okinawan residents, who in 1995 witnessed the gang rape of a 12-year-old girl by three US servicemen. Inhabitants of the small Japanese island, which hosts over half of the nearly 50,000 US troops stationed in Japan, have repeatedly called for a reduction in US military presence.
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. . . .