This Week in Women: Keeping an Eye on the Courts and the Border

This Week in Women is part of a series produced in partnership between Ms. and the Fuller Project for International Reporting. This column is also part of a newsletter; sign up here to receive it regularly.

Order in the Court—and Chaos at the Border

The Supreme Court dominated the news this week, both with important rulings and the news of Justice Kennedy’s retirement.

On Wednesday, Kennedy submitted his resignation to President Trump. He will likely be replaced with a judge that will more consistently vote with the conservative majority on the bench; Kennedy having been a swing vote on issues ranging from same-sex marriage to affirmative action.

Many see Kennedy’s retirement as dramatically changing the balance in national abortion debates. Feminist Jill Filipovic wrote in Time Magazine that“[Kennedy] became a firewall—one that prompted anti-abortion activists to set about chipping away at access to abortion, instead of mounting a direct legal challenge.”

On Tuesday, the Court upheld a challenge to a 2015 California law requiring reproductive health clinics to provide accurate information about abortion. Justice Kennedy wrote a concurrence scolding California lawmakers for targeting these individual clinics “because of their beliefs.” Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote the dissent for the court’s liberals, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan—the three women on the bench.

Elsewhere, a Sudanese court has overturned the death sentence for teenager Noura Hussein, who killed her husband after he raped her, in a case that has put a spotlight on forced child marriage and marital rape in the African nation. Her legal team told CNN on Tuesday that Hussein, now 19, has been given a five-year jail term for killing the 35-year-old man. The court ordered her family to pay $18,700 in “blood money” to the man’s family. Her lawyers say they plan to appeal both the jail term and the payment.

Immigration also continues to dominate the headlines this week, and with good reason. Dozens of immigrant women who have been separated from their children by the Trump administration reportedly reside in T. Don Hutto Residential Center, which has a history of sexual abuse allegations. On Tuesday, advocates addressed a letter to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and other administration officials on behalf of two women who both say they were sexually abused, harassed and intimidated by guards at the facility who continue to work there.

In a sharply-written op-ed for Spectator USA, Kelly Jane Torrance writes her suspicion that President Trump is using the women in his family—namely Ivanka and Melania—to soften his image on immigration. Meanwhile, women held a “mass civil disobedience” act in the U.S. capital on Thursday ahead of weekend protests across the country against the Trump administration’s immigration policy.

Other Stories from the Week

It’s time for Kenya to experience its own #MeToo movement, especially in combating workplace harassment, wrote Naisola Likimani in Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper. Kenyans must move beyond conversations about women’s harassment in the political sphere, and begin discussing the treatment of women in the workplace if the country wants to see more women in meaningful leadership positions, she said.

Rwanda is sending a unit of all-women peacekeepers to South Sudan under the UN peacekeeping mission, the Daily Nation reported. The contingent of 85 officers is the first female team to be sent on a foreign mission by the country. The UN hopes to increase the representation of women to 20 percent in police peacekeepers and to 15 percent in military units by the end of 2018, arguing that gender equality will lower the prevalence of social injustices and biases within the peacekeeping sector.

In a stunning upset Tuesday night, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a twenty-eight year old Bronx-born community organizer and member of the Democratic Socialists of America, defeated Representative Joseph Crowley, a 10 term incumbent and Queens political stalwart who had not faced a primary challenger in 14 years, the New York Times reported. Ocasio-Cortez will face the Republican candidate, Anthony Pappas, in the fall and, if she wins, she’ll be the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

According to a new poll from the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the United States is the 10th most dangerous country to be a women, ranking third on the question of sexual violence and sixth on the issue of non-sexual violence. India topped the list as the most dangerous country. Somalia, Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan and Syria were also named.

In the Guardian, Carys Afoko, the founder of anti-sexism organization Level Up, argues that the UK government’s announcement that it has “no intention” of changing laws around single-sex spaces is, “unnecessary, undesirable and impossible.”

This fall, Nevada voters will vote on a referendum to close down several legally-owned and operated brothels. In a poignant piece for Quartz, Allison Schrager interviews a young woman named Mia who, after years of suffering through dangerous sex work with violent men and no protection, found some semblance of safety and stability in a legal Nevada brothel.

In a touching piece in CNN, journalist Anne Lekas Miller describes the impact of President Trump’s immigration ban on herself and her Syrian husband. The couple has finally found a home in the United Kingdom, but, “just wish that the United States could have given us the same.”

And in a colorful multimedia piece, the BBC points out examples of sexism in FIFA World Cup culture, and questions if the game is still mired in misogyny.


Neha Wadekar is a contributing editor at the Fuller Project for International Reporting.