News roundup for August 2002

Report shows one in twenty women in England and Wales have been raped

Guardian report

Fax Your MP for free to ask what s/he is going to do about it

Home Office research found that an estimated 754,000 victims have been raped since they were 16, and 61,000 women had been raped in the previous 12 months. This figure is almost 10 times the number of rapes recorded by the police. The research also showed that the majority of rapes take place in the home, and women are most likely to be attacked by their partner (45% of cases). Strangers caused only 8% of rapes. About a third of victims had never told anybody what had happened to them. Only 7% of rapes reported to the police result in a conviction.

How did Big Brother’s Jade become the object of such a searingly vicious hate campaign?

Guardian report

Cast as the (now obligatory) backstabbing bitch of the BB house this year, it was, naturally, Jade rather than PJ who was condemned for their drunken copulation. PJ was revered as a real stud for ignoring Jade the following morning while she was roundly mocked for a sexual encounter that actually seemed to have some emotional meaning for her. So was she a pig, moron, intolerable loudmouth or poorly educated working-class girl exploited in the name of entertainment?

Prestigious Mercury Music Prize nominees are announced – and a third of them are women

Guardian report

The twelve Mercury Music Prize nominees have been announced and this year features four female musicians: Joanna MacGregor, Ms Dynamite, Beverley Knight and Gemma Hayes. PJ Harvey’s success last year – as the first female solo artiste to win the prize – is unlikely to be repeated this September, though, as Doves and the Streets were swiftly installed as the favourites.

Jordan’s baby born blind

Mirror report

Glamour model Jordan’s baby has been born blind: medically-trained Daily Mail is quick to insinuate that this is because of her partying lifestyle. Because of course, as we all know, going out and partying while pregnant can lead to congenital illnesses in children.

The Metro printed this letter the following day:

“Your article on Jordan’s baby being blind was disgusting. It hinted that a lifestyle could cause the condition, with a reminder that she was partying when pregnant. The whole article was a thinly veiled accusation that she
caused her son’s condition, which is extremely unlikely. I’m amazed at the bitterness Jordan attracts – she’s just a glamour model, not some evil Jezebel. At the moment, she’s trying to come to terms with her son’s handicap. Just give the girl a break instead of sly malice.”

– Kirsten Clarke, Edinburgh

Call for greater protection of rape victims after teenager’s suicide

Guardian report 1
Guardian report 2

Campaigners have called for greater protection of rape victims by the courts following the suicide of a 17-year-old raped by a 14-year-old who was jailed for four years. During the trial, Lindsay Armstrong was twice asked to hold up the knickers she had been wearing at the time and read out what was printed on them: ‘Little Devil’. Her parents believe this was so the jury would make assumptions about their daughter, who was a virgin before the attack. They say their daughter was made to feel to blame for the assault and was totally destroyed by the cross-examining.

An act coming into force later this year will mean an alleged rapist will not be able to question the victim himself in court, and lawyers will have to show the relevance of bringing up a victim’s sexual history before doing so. However, this would not have prevented lawyers asking Lindsay to hold up her underwear in court.

Cherie Blair suffers miscarriage

Guardian report

Cherie Blair suffered a miscarriage, taking Westminster and the country by surprise as the pregnancy was unannounced. The child would have been her and Tony Blair’s fifth child after the birth of Leo in 2000 when Cherie was 45. She is believed to have known she was pregnant.

Outrage over Indian ritual burning

BBC Report

India’s National Commission for Women has strongly condemned the burning of a widow, Kuttu Bai, on her husband’s funeral pyre. The act of Sati, or ritual burning, was reported very differently by cheering villagers who claim she sat calmly on the pyre as opposed to the state government who claim she was forced. Sati has long been banned in India but there is still great honour in it, as the dead woman is worshipped as a new goddess and villagers can collect money to buy a new temple.

Florida women test law on sex history adverts

Guardian Report

Six women are launching a legal challenge against a Florida law that states mothers who do not know who the father of their child is must publish detailsof their sexual partners in local newspapers before they can put their children up for adoption. It does not exempt underage mothers or victims of statutory rape (consensual sex between an adult male and a child of 12 or more). Senator Campbell said it was “to ensure that when couples adopt a child, it’s going to be final” as it gives the putative father a chance to contest the adoption, but critics have condemned it as a gross invasion of privacy.

Ladyfest Manchester 2003 in planning stages

In the aftermath of Ladyfest London, a group of dedicated and enthusiastic women and men are already planning ahead for next year’s festival to be held in Manchester.

“Ladyfest is a festival designed by women in order to celebrate and showcase the artistic, organizational and political talents of women in independent culture. Ladyfest Manchester will be put on in Summer 2003. It is in the planning stages at the moment and we are looking for a committee of people who would be interested in helping to organise the event. If you are interested in this or if you want to perform, show your art, run a workshop etc please contact us for more information: [email protected]

Judge reprimanded for falling asleep during rape trial

Reuters report

Judge Gabriel Hutton, 69, has been reprimanded by the Lord Chancellor’s Department after falling asleep twice during a rape trial in December and therefore causing the trial to be abandoned. After an inquiry, the Judge said he “very much regrets” falling asleep. A BBC report estimated the cost of the abandoned trial at over 35,000 pounds.

Scottish women in legal profession paid a fifth less

Edinburgh News report

The Equal Opportunities Commission has published a report which showed that women entering the legal profession in Scotland are getting paid a fifth less than the men. The worst offenders were shown to be law firms, where female legal graduates with a first or 2.1 degree are earning 21% less than their male colleagues.

Girls diet more than boys, researchers find

BBC Report

Researchers from the University of Glasgow has found that teenage girls are far more likely to be on a diet than boys – whether they are overweight or not. At the age of 15, 26% of girls were dieting compared to 5% of boys. By the time children reached their mid-teens, the difference between girls and boys worries about weight had become “huge”. Between the ages of 11 and 15, the number of boys worried about their weight fell, but 70% of 15 year old girls were concerned about their weight.

Model Karen Elson talks about her struggle with anorexia in September’s Vogue

In September’s issue of Vogue, model Karen Elson talks about her battle with anorexia and bulemia. Former magazine editor Liz Jones, writing in the Evening Standard, wondered whether this meant that the fashion and magazine industry is finally admitting its ‘body fascism’. Two years ago, she had published two issues of her glossy magazine: one with a thin model, one more ‘curvy’, to see which readers preferred. At her office, she received a fax signed by “almost every other glossy editor saying they would not be changing the way they portrayed women, nor would they contemplate the idea to form some sort of comittee to look into our industry… One editor said I was discriminating against thin people.”