In tonight’s Dispatch, we’re looking at the news that thousands of women were denied breast cancer screenings as a result of a computer error.
Plus: a Korean newsreader challenges beauty norms, Iranian women trick their way into male-only football matches, and a new report highlights major issues in the UK’s women’s prison system.
450,000 women missed out on breast cancer screenings, Jeremy Hunt admits
An IT glitch meant that hundreds of thousands of women were not invited to NHS breast cancer screenings - and hundreds may have died as a result, the government had said.
Health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt apologised on Wednesday for the error, which meant that 450,000 women over the age of 50 were not sent letters inviting them to routine breast cancer screenings.
“Tragically there are likely to be some people in this group who would be alive today had this failure not happened,” Hunt said in a statement.
He admitted that up to 270 women in England may have died as a result of the technical issue, which took place in 2009 but was only spotted this year. Officials have since confirmed that other women may have had their cancer caught at a later, less treatable stage.
The government has announced an independent enquiry into what charities are describing as an “appalling error”, and said it would begin contacting families to ascertain whether they are owed compensation.
Read more on this story at The Independent.
Female newsreader sparks conversation about beauty norms - by wearing glasses on TV
News anchor Lim Hyeon-ju has sparked a national debate about beauty norms in South Korea after she wore her glasses to read the morning bulletin.
Lim works for Korean cable channel MBC, and says she decided to start wearing glasses on screen as a “litmus test” for how people would respond. Previously, she had always worn contact lenses to work, but became tired of having to wear these alongside fake eyelashes and use eye drops every day.
Despite the fact that 70% of people in South Korea under the age of 30 suffer from nearsightedness, many women are reluctant to wear glasses to work, thanks to a culture where female beauty standards are rigid and narrowly-defined. A woman who wears glasses to the office may be considered not to have prepared adequately for her day, for example, a standard that is not applied to men.
Lim told Korean media that she wanted to simplify her styling so that she could “concentrate more on content”, adding that she had been pleasantly surprised by the response to her glasses.
“I think if the reaction had been negative, I would have thought about pushing it as an issue,” she said. “But I have had a lot of positive reactions and now I can just enjoy [wearing glasses] when I need to.”
Read more on this story at Quartz.
Record numbers of women are dying in our prisons, says report
The government is failing vulnerable women in prison in England and Wales, according to a major new report which positions these deaths as “a form of structural violence against women”.
The review was conducted by the charity Inquest. Titled Still Dying on the Inside, it shows that 94 women have died in jail in England and Wales since March 2007, with 2016 the deadliest year on record for women’s prisons. The 94 deaths included at least 37 that were self-inflicted.
Women make up just 5% of all prisoners in England and Wales, and most female prisoners (84%) are there because they committed non-violent offences such as theft related to poverty and addictions (47%). A significant proportion of women in prison have experienced domestic violence, abuse and/or other trauma before being convicted of a crime, and two-thirds are mothers of dependent children.
“Law breaking by women differs markedly from that by men. It is less frequent, and less serious,” said Deborah Coles, Inquest’s executive director.
She added that women who end up in prison are “amongst the most powerless and disadvantaged in society… For far too many women, prison remains a disproportionate and inappropriate response.”
Read more on this story here.
Women are disguising themselves as men to watch football matches in Iran
A group of women who dressed up as men in order to sneak into a football stadium in Iran have gone viral.
While there is no official law against women attending sporting events in Iran, female football fans are generally denied entry to stadiums. However, there have been multiple reports in recent years of women disguising themselves as men to watch their favourite team.
Most recently, a group of women sneaked into the Azadi stadium in Tehran to watch a match between Persepolis and Sepidrood. Photos of the women in the stands, wearing wigs, fake beards, and pencilled-in bushy eyebrows, quickly did the rounds on Iranian and international social media.
In an interview with Iranian newspaper Khabar Varzeshi, one of the women said: “Our goal is to keep going until they allow all women to go.
“We are doing this to say to the authorities that if they don’t let us in, we will keep going nonetheless, with or without beards.”
Read more on this story here.
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