Proposed Bills Threaten Rights of Sexual Assault, Rape Victims
The US Senate Armed Services Committee may vote as early as tomorrow on two pieces of legislation that could greatly reduce the rights of victims of sexual assault and rape. The Military Commissions Act of 2006, sponsored by Senator Warner (R-VA), and The Bringing Terrorists to Justice Act of 2006, sponsored by Senator Frist (R-TN), aim to clarify how suspected terrorists should be treated, interrogated, and prosecuted. Groups such as the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), however, are concerned that the bills’ content could significantly redefine sexual crimes such as rape.
Under the Geneva Conventions, which articulate how uniformed prisoners of war should be treated, rape and sexual violence are considered torture; sexual violence and abuse are considered cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment; and “outrages upon personal dignity” are considered crimes. Both bills on the Senate floor omit these three principles of the Geneva Conventions, making it difficult to prosecute perpetrators of rape and sexual violence. According to CCR, the definitions of rape in the two proposed bills are inconsistent with definitions in international law and other US law. The definitions also exclude sexual abuse that is not characterized by genital or anal penetration, such as other forms of physical contact and non-physical abuses, like forced nakedness, humiliation, and harassment, which were prevalent in the Abu Ghraib scandal earlier this year.
Media Resources: Center for Constitutional Rights Alert 9/15/06; USA Today 9/17/06; Jurist 9/13/06
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. . . .