The Week in Women: maternity harassment, yoga bans, and a very special birthday

A group of enthusiasts practise yoga at a resort in Russia. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin

Happy 239th, America! It’s time to celebrate the spirited birth of this great nation in true ‘Murican style (which is to say with flashy pyrotechnics and an obscene number of hot dogs). In honor of Independence Day, let’s pay tribute to the freedom fighters and revolutionary spirits that dominated the news this week. Here is a look back.

At a conference in Japan, several mothers spoke out against “matahara,” a practice in which pregnant women are deliberately assigned work that is difficult or dangerous for expectant mothers. It is estimated that one out of four mothers are subjected to maternity harassment. Prevailing cultural norms in Japan dictate that women should devote all their time to their children, rather than to their careers. Hunky gorillas have also been deemed an acceptable subject of women’s attention.

A new penal code in Mozambique has erased a colonial-era law that sentenced those convicted of homosexuality to three years of hard labor. The abolition of the law came about thanks to the lobbying efforts of Lambda, the country’s only gay rights organization. Activists greeted this new development with cautious optimism, asserting that true progress can only begin when Lambda is recognized by the Mozambique government. “We haven’t heard much,” said Lambda spokesperson Carina Capitine. “But we are all pushing and believe we will have [recognition] soon.”

Thanks to Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York state lawmakers passed nine out of 10 bills of the Women’s Equality Act. The legislation includes such initiatives as strengthening equal pay laws, outlawing discrimination against parents and pregnant women in the workplace, and increasing protections for victims of domestic violence. The passing of the bill is great news for the modern-day women’s rights movement, and for Cuomo, who finally has something to talk about aside from the Shawshank-like shenanigans of two very crafty convicts.

Praise Buddha! Citizens of Nizhnevartovskin, Russia have been liberated from the oppression of anti-yoga fascists. Last month, government officials sent letters to yoga schools throughout the city, notifying them that their Hatha yoga classes needed to be suspended due to their “occult” nature. Once this news hit the Western media, officials retracted the letter. It’s not entirely clear why local politicians found yoga to be so offensive in the first place, but it looks like Lululemon’s demonic sweaters aren’t the only enemy of perfect zen.

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