Category: Women’s Rights

Trans Model Chased During Transphobic Attack

Trans model Tia Latham, best known for appearing on ITV2 reality show Survival of the Fittest, was allegedly subjected to transphobic slurs by a group of men, who chased her and then vandalized her car.

Latham, 29, had returned from a gas station with her friend Charley Grabczak, where they bought wine and snacks for a film night at Grabczak’s flat in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, on the night of January 17.

CCTV footage sent to PinkNews shows Latham getting out of her BMW with her friend and walking towards Grabczak’s apartment building, when two men run towards them.

Both Latham and Grabczak, 20, were able to get inside before the men reached them.

However, after not being able to reach Latham, the men then started to damage Latham’s car, with one of them using a metal pole that he had been carrying and the other kicking the left wing mirror until it partially broke off.

Grabczak, who is gay, told PinkNews that he heard the men shouting “tr*nny and gay boy” at him and Latham as they ran inside the building.

Latham said “This is 2019, this doesn’t make sense whatsoever, it’s disgusting.”

She added: “ If we hadn’t got inside when we did we would have got hit by that metal pole.I want to bring awareness to [incidents] like this. This is going on all around the world. We shouldn’t have to put up with this.”

New Arizona Abortion Law Makes Patients Explain Their Choices

TUCSON – Abortion has long been a controversial topic and a new law that went into effect in Arizona Jan. 1 is now adding even more conflict.

Women seeking an abortion now have to face a series of questions about their decision.

Many oppose this new law, saying it is too intrusive.

Senate Bill 1394 requires doctors to ask each patient a series of questions. Among them, there will be questions about the reason for wanting an abortion.

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona Executive Director, Jodi Liggett, says these questions can bring up trauma.

“This mostly is an attempt to intimidate patients from seeking abortion care and to make providing abortion care burdensome administratively,” said Liggett.

The stated objective of the bill is to gather information.

“Look that’s apple pie. Nobody is against having more or better information, but as we do in Democracies, we have to draw a line somewhere around people’s privacy,” Liggett said.

Liggett says there is a provision that allows women to refuse to answer why they are seeking an abortion and they plan to let their patients know that up front.

Though Planned Parenthood opposes this law, others support it.

Elisa Medina, Executive Director for the Tucson non-profit Hands of Hope, says this law will help women.

“Let’s say a pregnancy is the result of sexual violence or sexual assault,” said Medina. “Regardless of what that woman chooses for the pregnancy, we want to know that information and abortion providers should want to know that information so that they can provide additional support for her.”

The bill requires doctors to ask patients if they were raped or are victims of domestic abuse. If they say yes, doctors are required by law to provide resources to seek help.

“As a sexual assault survivor personally, I think it would have been wonderful to have my medical provider talk to me about the resources that could have been available to me, so I’m surprised that anyone would be opposed to gathering more information,” Medina said. “And women don’t have to answer these questions.”

Ohio Supreme Court Decides Lower Court Failed By Trying Trafficking Survivor As An Adult, But Still Upholds Conviction

The Summit County Juvenile Court in Ohio didn’t follow the law when it allowed a 15-year-old girl who was a human trafficking victim to be tried as an adult in the robbery and murder of the man who trafficked her, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

The high court, however, upheld the girl’s conviction and sentence to prison for the rest of her life.

The court ruled Alexis Martin couldn’t prove that the judge’s decision to bind her over to adult court would have changed if the juvenile court had further explored her human trafficking history.

Attorneys across Ohio working on Martin’s behalf were disappointed in the decision, which they called “illogical.”

“I believe in the court. I believe in the system,” said Megan Mattimoe, a Toledo attorney whose agency, Advocating Opportunity, assists human trafficking victims. “Here, the system failed her [Martin)] at every turn.”

Martin, who is originally from Canton, pleaded guilty to murder and felonious assault in the 2013 robbery and slaying of Angelo Kerney, 36, of Akron. She was sentenced in March 2015 to life in prison with possible parole after 21 years.

Prosecutors say Martin, Travaski Jackson and Dashaun Spear organized a robbery in November 2013 that left Kerney dead and another man with a bullet wound in his head.

Janae Jones and Martin went into the home of Kerney, and they distracted him and his brother, Alecio Samuel, by having sex with them so Jackson and Spear could rob them. Spear shot and killed Kerney. Samuel, 20, was shot in the head but survived. The four people involved were sentenced to life in prison.

Jennifer Kinsley, Martin’s Cincinnati attorney, argued before the Ohio Supreme Court that the juvenile court judge should have determined that Martin was covered by safe harbor, a 2012 law that protects children whose crimes are tied to them being human trafficking victims. This would have triggered a requirement for the juvenile court to appoint a guardian ad litem to explore Martin’s history and make a recommendation to the court on what was best for her.

Martin, who is now 20, had a troubled childhood, with both of her parents and her stepfather involved with drugs. Her mother went to prison for drug trafficking and her father abused her. She was shuffled between family members and the foster care system. At 14, she was kidnapped and forced into exotic dancing, according to court records.

Martin told authorities Kerney forced her to dance, sell drugs, prepare other girls for prostitution and collect money from them.

Summit County Juvenile Court Judge Linda Tucci Teodosio considered Martin to be a human-trafficking victim but neither she, Martin’s attorney nor the prosecutors invoked the safe harbor law.

Martin didn’t challenge this decision in juvenile court, but raised it when her case was transferred to Summit County Common Pleas Court. The adult court ruled it lacked jurisdiction.

Martin raised the issue again on appeal, with the Supreme Court agreeing to hear the case.

The justices, in a 6-1 decision, agreed the safe harbor law should have been triggered, but they also said — even with this step — that Teodosio may still have bound Martin over as an adult.

“The specific facts and evidence in this case do not show that her [Martin’s] offenses were ‘related to’ her victimization,” Justice Judith L. French wrote.

Justice Terrence O’Donnell, however, disagreed.

He said failing to appoint a guardian was a “manifest miscarriage of justice” that should be corrected by vacating Martin’s sentence, returning the case to juvenile court and appointing a guardian.

Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh, though, was pleased with the majority’s decision.

“Alexis Martin conspired with others to rob Angelo Kerney and Alecio Samuel,” she said in an email. “Her actions led to Kerney’s death after both he and Samuel were shot in the head.

“We must hold people accountable.”

Summit County Juvenile Court officials declined to comment Tuesday. In 2016, the court was the first juvenile court in Ohio to start a special program, called Restore Court, that is aimed at helping human trafficking victims.

Mattimoe said the court’s decision points to a need to clarify the safe harbor language and her organization plans to push for that through a pending bill. She and others also will continue doing all they can to free Martin.

“We can’t allow her to sit in prison,” she said. “It’s not right.”

Jail Death Results in 10 Million Dollar Judgment

A federal judge in Oregon has approved a $10 million judgment against Washington County and Corizon Health, following the 2014 death of a woman who died in the county jail.

The settlement is the highest Corizon — a private health care company which operates in jails and prisons across the country — has ever paid in a judgment of this kind and means the company and county accept responsibility.

On April 24, 2014, Madaline Pitkin, 26, was found dead in a cell in the Washington County Jail where she was detoxing from heroin.

In 2016, Pitkin’s parents, Mary and Russell Pitkin, filed a lawsuit against Corizon and the county over their daughter’s death.

“What we wanted to accomplish with this lawsuit, was to help make change,” said Russell Pitkin, during an emotional news conference Friday in downtown Portland. “We wanted Washington County and Corizon to acknowledge that they were responsible for what happened and to make changes. There are too many of these kinds of deaths.”

Portland defense attorney David Sugerman, who didn’t work on the case, said the judgment is significant.

“The company has determined this is so risky, they would rather admit fault — which is very rare — and pay $10 million, than face the possible consequences of what a federal jury would do,” he said. “The company has admitted responsibility rather than face the wrath, the potential of a much higher outcome, a much higher verdict.”

Attorney John Coletti, one of the attorneys who represented the Pitkins, said their daughter needed basic medical care; an IV to stay hydrated while she detoxed.

“This is not cutting-edge medical care,” Coletti said. “The ability to provide an IV is not heroic on any level.”

The CEO of Corizon Steve Rector released a statement pointing out that he had not been at the company when Pitkin died.

He added that the company has gone through a significant restructuring and that the amount of the settlement “reflects how far removed the facts of this case are from our standards and expectations of care.

“For whatever small comfort this may provide, the lessons we’ve learned from this case have been catalysts for significant changes we have made and are still making to our clinical program.”

At a press conference after the settlement was announced, Madaline’s father said that his daughter “was smart, beautiful, talented, funny and a person who stood up for others. So, we felt we needed to stand up for her.”

Woman Accused of Being Transgender, Left in Male Jail Cell

TAMPA, FL – A woman is suing employees of a Florida jail after they allegedly forced her to spend several hours in a cell surrounded by dozens of men, because they suspected she was transgender.

The Miami Herald reports 55-year-old Fior Pichardo de Veloz had come to Miami from the Dominican Republic to witness the birth of her grandchild in 2013, when she was arrested at the airport on an outstanding drug charge. Her arrest report listed her as female and Pichardo de Veloz was booked into the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center and processed as a woman. She was even strip searched.

Due to her history of high blood pressure, Pichardo de Veloz was examined by a nurse as a precaution. The nurse saw she had been taking hormone pills and questioned her about her gender. Pichardo de Veloz explained she was taking hormone pills to help menopause symptoms, but despite Pichardo de Veloz’s denial of being a man, the nurse. Fatu Kamara Harris, added a note to her file that read: “Transgender, male parts, female tendencies.”

The nurse notified a doctor, Dr. Fredesvindo Rodriguez-Garcia, who reclassified Pichardo de Veloz as male without an examination, according to an appeals court opinion.

Pichardo insisted to an officer she was a woman. “You are a woman. Good luck if you’re alive tomorrow,” the officer replied.

Pichardo was transferred to the Metro West Detention Center, an all-male jail, and shared a cell with about 40 men, who jeered at her yelling “Mami! Mami!”, according to the newspaper. She was there for 10 hours and said she was terrified to go to the bathroom and “urinated on herself instead.”

Jail workers eventually realized their mistake once family members went to the facility where she was originally processed and asked why she was moved.

Pichardo de Veloz was removed from her holding cell and given a new examination. During that exam, she recalled several male officers laughed at her during the examination. She also remembered someone took a photo of her while she was undressed.

Pichardo de Veloz sued the county and jail staff for negligence and “cruel and unusual punishment,” but the case was thrown out by a judge who said the jail staffers were protected from a trial for negligence.

In November, the newspaper reports an appeals court ruled the conduct of the nurse and doctor amounts to “deliberate indifference.”

“Every reasonable prison officer and medical personnel would have known that wrongfully misclassifying a biological female as a male inmate and placing that female in the male population of a detention facility was unlawful,” Judge Frank Hull wrote in an unanimous opinion.

Majority Female Homicide Victims are Killed by Family or Partners, According to U.N. Study

The “most dangerous place” for women around the world may be at home. More than half of female murder victims last year were killed by their partners or family members, according to a new United Nations study.

he findings were released by the U.N.’s Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on Sunday to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The report found that of 87,000 recorded female homicide cases last year, 50,000, or 58%, were committed by the victims’ intimate partners or family members. The toll equates to six women killed every hour, or 137 killed every day, by people they know.

“Women continue to pay the highest price as a result of gender inequality, discrimination and negative stereotypes,” UNODC executive director Yury Fedotov told Agence France-Presse. “The fact that women continue to be affected by this type of violence to a greater degree than men is indicative of an imbalance in power relations between women and men inside the domestic sphere.”

Acting Attorney General Has History of Wanting to Ban Abortion

As Republicans prepared to battle Barack Obama’s re-election in 2011, Matthew Whitaker bounded on to a stage in Washington to rally the party’s troops on the “culture wars” between conservatives and liberals on social policy.

“They’re not over,” Whitaker assured his audience, at an event convened by Steve King, the rightwing Iowa congressman. “We’re still fighting.”

Whitaker and his allies lost ensuing battles on issues such as same-sex marriage. But civil rights activists fear that having now been installed as Donald Trump’s acting attorney general, Whitaker is readying a counterattack.

A review by The Guardian of previously unreported remarks revealed Whitaker has advocated for hardline anti-abortion policies that would drastically reshape laws affecting American women seeking to terminate a pregnancy.

Whitaker, a conservative Christian, endorsed “personhood” bills that would effectively outlaw abortion, and said as a Senate candidate that he would spend every day in Washington pushing anti-abortion policy.

He also once said that as a federal prosecutor, he personally disagreed with having to use a clinic protection law against a man who crashed his car into a women’s health facility and tried to set it on fire while complaining about abortion.

The comments position Whitaker, a conservative Christian, as an even more forceful opponent of abortion than his predecessor, Jeff Sessions, whose own record on the issue raised concerns among abortion rights advocates.

Whitaker, 49, has been frank about the strength of his religious views. In 2014, as a private attorney in Iowa representing an editor fired for writing homophobic blog posts, Whitaker told a radio interviewer: “We’re all poor, miserable sinners … without a saviour we’re all doomed to eternal damnation.”

Earlier that year, Whitaker said judges needed a “biblical view of justice” and raised doubts about the judgment of non-religious lawyers. In 2007, as US attorney for Iowa’s southern district, Whitaker was ordered by justice department officials in Washington to pull out of a planned appearance hosting an event for the Iowa Christian Alliance.

While seeking the Iowa Republican party’s US Senate nomination in 2014, Whitaker told a group of college students he was “100% pro-life” and supported a bill proposed by Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky that would grant constitutional protections to fetuses the moment they were conceived, effectively outlawing abortion. Video footage of the event was viewed by the Guardian.

“I don’t want to criminalize females who find themselves in crisis. But at the same time, I do believe life begins at conception,” Whitaker said at the time.

Anger Mounts as South Korea Ends Program Created to Aide ‘Comfort Women’

South Korea has announced it will dissolve the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation. The Japanese-funded foundation was established in 2016 to support the victims of Japanese wartime sexual slavery, often known as “comfort women”

Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, said the move risked damaging relations and foreign minister Taro Kono called the decision “unacceptable”. “If international pledges are broken then forging ties between countries becomes impossible and as a member of the international community we urge South Korea to act responsibly,” Abe told reporters.

The widely expected decision effectively kills a controversial 2015 agreement to settle a decades-long impasse over the sexual slavery issue and threatens to aggravate a bitter diplomatic feud between the Asian U.S. allies over history.

Relations between the two neighbors are already strained after a South Korean court ordered a Japanese company to pay compensation for wartime labour. Bilateral ties have continued to deteriorate under South Korean president Moon Jae-in, who has focused on improving relations with North Korea and sees Japan as a potential obstacle.

As part of the pact, Abe offered his “most sincere apologies” and the two sides agreed to “finally and irreversibly” resolve the issue of “comfort women”, a common euphemism for the victims.

Japan contributed about $9 million to establish a foundation to support surviving victims and their families. About $3.9 million has already been paid to 34 surviving victims and 58 families of deceased victims, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news. The government has not decided what to do with the remaining funds but plans to consult various civic groups and the Japanese government.

South Korea said the foundation did not sufficiently reflect the opinions of the women. In announcing the decision, Seoul’s ministry of gender equality and family, which managed the foundation, said: “We will try our best in setting up policies to recover the honor and dignity of the victims. We have … decided to end the project based on the result of our reviews and current circumstances around the foundation.”

Federal Judge Strikes Down Mississippi Abortion Law

A federal judge in Mississippi has permanently blocked one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country — a ban on the procedure after 15 weeks of gestation.

Governor Phil Bryant signed H.B. 1510, also known as the Gestational Age Act, in March, pledging his “commitment to making Mississippi the safest place in America for an unborn child.”

The law made exceptions only for medical emergencies or cases in which there’s a “severe fetal abnormality.” There were no exceptions for incidents of rape or incest.
Mississippi argued that because of these exceptions, the law was a “regulation” and did not place an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to choose.

“The ban’s lawfulness hinges on a single question: whether the 15-week mark is before or after viability,” District Judge Carlton W. Reeves wrote in his Tuesday ruling.

“The record is clear: States may not ban abortions prior to viability; 15 weeks [since a woman’s last menstrual period] is prior to viability,” he wrote.

“This act is a ban. It is not a regulation,” Reeves wrote in response to the state’s argument.
Furthermore, he called the Legislature’s professed interest in women’s health “pure gaslighting,” pointing to evidence of the state’s high infant and maternal mortality rates.

“Its leaders are proud to challenge Roe but choose not to lift a finger to address the tragedies lurking on the other side of the delivery room, such as high infant and maternal mortality rates,” he wrote in a footnote.

“No, legislation like H.B. 1510 is closer to the old Mississippi — the Mississippi bent on controlling women and minorities.”

The fact that men, myself included, are determining how women may choose to manage their reproductive health is a sad irony not lost on the court,” he wrote.
“As a man, who cannot get pregnant or seek an abortion, I can only imagine the anxiety and turmoil a woman might experience when she decides whether to terminate her pregnancy through an abortion. Respecting her autonomy demands that this statute be enjoined.

Reuters reports the ruling effectively blocks a similar ban on abortions after 15 weeks gestation in Louisiana, which was set to take effect if the Mississippi law survived.


Teen Who Fought Against Child Marriage is Elected to NH House

As a 17-year-old girl scout, Cassandra Levesque led a campaign to end child marriage in New Hampshire, and was brushed aside by a state legislator. He dismissed her saying it would be absurd to raise the age of marriage from 13 just because “of a request from a minor doing a Girl Scout project.He said he saw no need to change a law that was more than 100 years old.

Ms. Levesque’s first effort to raise the age of marriage failed. Rather than being deterred, Ms. Levesque decided to take her crusade a step further: She ran for the state legislature and won.

Levesque, 19, was elected to the state House of Representatives as a Democrat last Tuesday after an election that saw the number of state representatives under age 40 double in a legislature that was once the oldest in the country. As recently as 2015, the average age of a New Hampshire state legislator was 66 years old.

In doing so, Ms. Levesque (pronounced le-VECK), now 19 and a Democrat, became one of a group of young people across the country who were elected to office for the first time this year. Some said they were galvanized by opposition to President Trump’s policies and a desire to push the Democratic Party to the left. Others were more focused on local issues, such as education, or said they sought to get other young people civically involved.

Kalan Haywood, 19 and a Democrat, was elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly. He has said that he wants to pass a law requiring high school students who are 18 or older to register to vote.

In Iowa, Zach Wahls, who as a teenager gave a speech that went viral before the State House of Representatives about growing up with two lesbian mothers, was elected at age 27 to the State Senate.

Meanwhile, in New York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 29, became the youngest woman ever elected to the United States House of Representatives, after defeating Representative Joseph Crowley, the fourth-ranked House Democrat, in a primary in June.

Ms. Levesque, who is from Barrington, N.H., became a girl scout when she was around 5 years old, because her mother thought there were not enough children her age in the mobile home co-op where they lived with Ms. Levesque’s father and maternal grandmother.

In 2016, Ms. Levesque, with encouragement from her mother, who was her troop leader, began researching the issue of child marriage as part of a project for a Gold Award, the highest honor in the Girl Scouts. She said she was shocked to realize that girls as young as 13 and boys as young as 14 could marry under state law if they had parental consent and the approval of a judge. Having recently been 13 herself, she said she thought that it was crazy that girls in middle school, “with band posters and stuffed animals and Barbie dolls,” could get married.

“I thought, ‘O.K., I need to change this,’” she said.

She approached a local state representative, Jacalyn Cilley, whom she had known since she was 8 (when Ms. Cilley gave her Brownie Girl Scout troop a tour of the State House) with her research.

At first, Ms. Cilley, a Democrat, said she was sure Ms. Levesque had to be mistaken. When she realized that Ms. Levesque was right, she said she was astonished — and thought that changing the law to raise the age would be an easy lift.

“How could anybody defend the practice of 13-year-olds getting married?” she said.

But a bill Ms. Cilley championed, which would have raised the minimum age for marriage, ran into a wall of opposition from her Republican colleagues. Among critics of the idea was Representative David Bates, the lawmaker who dismissed Ms. Levesque as “a minor doing a Girl Scout project.” (Mr. Bates, who did not respond to a message left at his home, did not run for re-election this year.)

In March 2017, Republicans killed the bill, using a procedural move intended to keep it from being considered again for two years.

“It didn’t make me want to stop — it just made me want to push forward,” Ms. Levesque said. This year, with Ms. Levesque continuing to press the issue, Ms. Cilley and several of her colleagues passed a trio of bills which raised the minimum marriage age to 16 and gave judges more guidance about how to consider petitions for marriage licenses from people 17 and younger.

Ms. Levesque said that among the first things she wants to do is to pass a bill raising the minimum age to get married to 18, since that is the age when young people can sign contracts and get a divorce if they want to. She also wants to raise the minimum wage — New Hampshire currently does not have a state minimum wage, but goes by the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour — and focus on ways to attract more young people to New Hampshire.

Asked if she had a message for legislators who had once dismissed her, Ms. Levesque said that she knew she would encounter others like them.

“I will definitely figure out ways to navigate through it, and I will always stick to my gut and what I feel is right,” she said.