Author’s note: This article discusses sexual assault.
The past week has been a revolutionary one for the Californian history books – Governor Jerry Brown signed numerous key pieces of legislation into existence. The list includes two very important laws: mandated sexual assault prevention education in high school and one of the strictest equal pay laws in the nation.
Quite a few bills and legal troubles regarding sexual assault have been discussed in recent years; consent laws on campus (“Yes means yes!”) and Bill Cosby’s sexual assault of numerous women are among them. The one signed on October 1 takes forth the “yes means yes” policy and seeks to educate high school students about it. School districts that mandate a health class as a high school graduation requirement are now also required to teach them about affirmative and vocal consent.
At the moment, the sexual assault law is the first of its kind in the United States, and could have a tremendous effect. While passing through both chambers of state Congress, it met next to no opposition. Another bill signed into existence by Brown mandated comprehensive sex education classes in all school districts throughout California, which could also revolutionize the cultural mindset surrounding sex in the state. The second bill would cover people who identify as members of all sexual orientations, and address relationship violence between teens.
When sexual assault rates still remain high in the country, it’s vital that more states begin to re-examine what they can do to prevent it, rather than solve the problem after it’s been set in stone. With 29% of sexual assault victims being ages 12 to 17, and up to 93% of sexual assault victims knowing their assailant, it’s important that we do what we can to re-evaluate and change the ways that individuals think about sex.
Another law signed into existence by Brown is the California Fair Pay Act, which aims to level the paying field between men and women. Even if the workers’ titles are different, or they work at different sites, if they are doing substantially similar work, then the law mandates that they must be paid the same. Wage differences must be proven to be due to other factors, such as merit and seniority – which can sound and be very ambiguous.
However, that is not to say that the equal pay law comes without flaws. Historically, women dominate and work in lower-paid professions, a result of numerous factors that mean that they will not benefit so much from the new legislation. In newer industries like the tech sector, women do not hold the same kind of seniority due to the hostility of the environment. Is it possible that we will see some employers abuse these new justifications for paying men more than women in the name of maintaining the economic and gendered relationship at work? It’s certainly possible. We can hope that it won’t happen, though.
What we can say is that it certainly provides support and ample evidence for why women working the same or similar jobs as men should be paid the same. In a nation where women make 79 cents to every dollar a man makes (a .79 to 1 ratio), it’s incredibly necessary to continue on with this work if we want to be as inclusive and equal as we do. It’s our hope that these new laws will do some good in rectifying the problems that women in the working world and victims of sexual assault currently face.
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.