News roundup for November 2002

Ulrika, the accused and trial by media

BBC Report

Ulrika Jonsson’s rape claim and the subsequent media circus has reopened the problems of “trial by media” and naming of rape suspects. Tom Welsh of Media Lawyer warned that the papers were on “very dodgy ground” but added that fears of influencing juries were not necessarily well founded. Campaigners such as Bill Norris of Presswise, however, feared that the damage has already been done: “If we look at the man in the Ulrika case, this will leave his career in ruins, whether or not he is guilty.”

Law to crack down on “date rape”

Observer Report

Following the Ulrika furore came news that the government is to tighten the legal loophole over so-called “date rape”. New reforms will mean that men will be forced to prove they made efforts to ensure that their partner agreed to sex. They will no longer be able to argue that they “honestly believed” she was willing even if she was fighting him off, and will not be able to say that a woman’s sexual history entitled them to think she wanted to sleep with him. While this is great step towards eradicating the “no means yes” myth, critics will argue that dating will become a “politically correct minefield.”

Lawyers defend ‘sex slurs’ tactic

BBC Report

Lawyers defending the man accused of the 1990 murder of Geraldine Palk denied that they tried to defame the dead woman’s reputation. There is mounting criticism that the team’s only tactic was to discredit Palk’s character, relationships and sexual past, something even the judge criticised following Mark Hampson’s guilty verdict. The defence team issued a statement claiming that “Miss Palk’s attitude to casual sex was clearly of the utmost relevance”.

Yes, because that *clearly* justifies sexually assaulting a woman and then murdering her by stabbing and slashing her body more than 80 times.

Alcohol increases breast cancer risk

BBC Report

Yesterday: cigarettes v.v. bad. Alcohol OK in moderation.

Today: cigarettes OK, but alcohol V.V.V. bad! Increases breast cancer risk by 6% for each drink! Risk still relatively low, however; impact small compared to childbearing factors. Alcohol still beneficial against heart disease after 65.

Tomorrow: Alcohol OK again. Eggs, however, v. bad.

Warning over light pregnancy drinking

BBC Report

More alcohol warnings: even moderate drinking in pregnancy could produce problem children, leading scientists to warn pregnant women to avoid alcohol altogether. The problems of heavy or binge drinking have long been known but now there is evidence that even a small alcohol intake can cause “subtle, long-term cognitive impairments” in children.

Women suing for wrongful dismissal

Guardian Report

Two sex discrimination cases in the news this month, both brought by women claiming unfair dismissal from high ranking jobs. Kate Bleasdale agreed a £32.2m settlement, believed to be the biggest ever in a sex discrimination case, following the sexism of male colleagues at her recruitment company which brought her close to a nervous breakdown. Bleasdale claimed men on the board subjected her to sexually explicit e-mails and stared at her breasts before eventually forcing her to resign because they did not like working with a woman.

The second case has been brought by Andrea Madarassy against Nomura International. Madarassy claims she was “abused and humiliated” by a manager who allegedly reprimanded her for taking lunch breaks and referred to maternity leave as “pissing off”. She was made redundant after giving birth. Elsewhere, Madarassy was eager to point out that she “wanted to emphasise that I am not a feminist who is setting out to destroy Nomura.” What is it with these women so quick to insist that they’re not feminists?

British motor show defends “sexist” ad

Media Guardian Report

The ad in question features a woman clad in her underwear pouting at the camera with the caption “The other way to a man’s heart is down the M6 and off at Junction 4”, which, claim the motor show, is a “witty” way to encourage women to take their partners to the show. Not so, said trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt, who slammed the ad as sexist and pathetic. She accused the car industry of being stuck in the 1950s and said it “needs to change”. The ASA ruled that although it was “tasteless” it was not likely to cause serious offence, but added that they would reopen investigations if more people complained.

Wife walks free after murder appeal

BBC Report

A woman walked free after nine years in jail after her murder conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal. The court reduced Josephine Smith’s sentence for shooting her husband to manslaughter after her counsel told the judges that she had suffered years of “cumulative provocation”. During the original trial, Smith claimed that her husband repeatedly beat her, forced her to re-enact degrading sex acts, and told her that he would track her down if she tried to leave him. The prosecution suggested she had invented and exaggerated the abuse.

Justice for Lolo Ferrari

Guardian Report

A French court has decided there is enough evidence to place the husband and manager of Lolo Ferrari on trial for her murder. Lolo, best known as the woman with the largest breasts in the world – an enormous 54G that gave her difficulty breathing and meant she could only sleep on her side – died age 37. It was previously believed she died of an overdose but there is now suspicion that the svengali-like Eric Vigne suffocated her in her sleep. He has always denied any part in her death, pointing out that under his direction she became “the goose that laid my golden eggs”.

Scotland plans official red light zones

Guardian Report

Proposed legislation in the Scottish parliament will allow local councils to set up “tolerance zones” for prostitutes. MSP Margo MacDonald hopes that the scheme will improve health and safety by leading to lower rates of heroin addiction and STDs, increasing women’s security and reducing child prostitution. Under the bill, councils would have to consult with residents, the health service and police, before setting up the zones. Unsurprisingly, there has been opposition from police unions and some councils, but Ms MacDonald points to the success of the short-lived unofficial tolerance zone in Edinburgh which allowed police to monitor what was going on.

More news this month in brief…

  • “Tory resigns over adoption vote” – BBC Report
  • “MPs aim to overturn adoption defeat” – BBC Report
  • “Peers urged to reject gay adoption” – BBC Report
  • “New Rape law ‘will protect Scottish women'” – BBC Report
  • “Natural birth ‘puts twins at risk'” – BBC Report
  • “Safer HRT ‘on the horizon'” – BBC Report
  • “Press-and-play bra ad is ‘most sexist yet'” – Independent Report
  • “Bra ad infuriates angry feminists” – Daily Express
  • “Police launch manhunt for ‘Trophy Rapist'” – Independent Report
  • “Pensions trap for women” – BBC Report
  • “Men cannnot concentrate on the TV news what it is presented by women, according to scientists” – Daily Mail
  • “The arrival of the mobile phone has transformed our lifestyles so much men now spend more time on the phone than women, according to a new poll.” – Media Guardian Report
  • “Broadband needs more female subscribers and to get them the industry will have to ditch its obsession with speed.” – Media Guardian Report
  • “Mastectomies ‘unnecessary’, say key breast cancer studies” – Independent Report
  • “Boots forgets Botox and goes back to basics” – Independent Report
  • “British troops ‘gang raped Masai women'” – Observer Report
  • “More women than men become living organ donors” – British Medical Journal