The U.S. ranks as the 19th most dangerous country for women, 11th in maternal mortality, 30th in closing the gender pay gap, 75th in women’s political representation, and painfully lacks paid family leave and equal access to health care. But Ms. has always understood: Feminist movements around the world hold answers to some of the U.S.’s most intractable problems. Ms. Global is taking note of feminists worldwide.
A recent poll reveals women only account for 10 percent of managerial roles in Japan—meaning companies are likely to fall short of the 30 percent nationwide goal for women’s representation in manager positions by 2030. Keidanren, the country’s biggest business lobby, set the landmark as part of its “womenomics” campaign aimed at meeting workforce demands of an aging society while simultaneously empowering women. Eighty-six percent of poll respondents agreed that the goal set by Keidanren would not be reached by 2030. “We need first to raise the ratio of female managers, but we must also reform the corporate culture,” said a Japanese transportation firm manager.
Meanwhile, Japan’s annual economic policy guidelines advise employers to adopt a four-day work week, joining countries like Spain, New Zealand and Finland which have entertained the idea of—or plan on implementing—similar measures. The move will allow employees to better balance employment and at-home care work—a move that will positively impact women following COVID-19.
In other news, Japan’s highest court ruled that married couples must take the same surname, striking down a petition brought by three couples in Tokyo. The ruling disproportionately impacts women who face professional complications when they cannot maintain their own surname. There is a gap between the conservative ruling and public opinion, with a recent poll from March revealing that 67 percent of respondents support allowing couples to have separate surnames.
The U.N. Generation Equality Forum is ongoing in Paris (June 30–July 2) as an opportunity for countries and non-governmental partners to recommit to actualizing gender equality goals set in Beijing nearly two and a half decades ago. The Forum is launching six action coalitions to advance gender equality, including: gender-based violence, economic justice and rights, bodily autonomy and reproductive health rights, climate justice, technology and innovation for gender equality, and feminist movements and leadership.
Vice President Kamala Harris delivered remarks at the opening ceremony of the Forum, emphasizing the necessity of women’s full political, economic and social participation for true, robust democracy.
Meanwhile, President Emmanuel Macron’s party, Republique En Marche, withdrew support from Sara Zemmahi’s local election campaign after she released a poster in which she opted to wear a religious headscarf. Reactions to the poster sparked the most recent controversy regarding France’s extreme secularism, which has long waged restrictions on Muslim women’s ability to wear head and face coverings in public. “For me, with or without a veil, I continue to work in my neighborhood,” says Zemmahi. “And that’s the end of it.”
Ethiopia’s recent election was watched by the world as the country’s entrance into multi-party democracy; however, it has been overshadowed by the government’s ongoing occupation of Tigray and a series of crises delegitimizing election outcomes. Tigray was denied participation in the national election, and many polling sites closed in other areas where opposition parties received support. Currently, the U.N. estimates more than 350,000 people in Tigray are in famine, and 1.7 million have been made homeless. The occupation also brings on extreme gender-based violence, with an International Rescue Committee analysis reporting “rape…being used as a weapon of war across the conflict.” Officials warn of increased violence amid the uncertainty of the election.
However, the people in the city of Tigray are celebrating reclaiming Mekelle from governmental control. This is a remarkable achievement as the Ethiopian government controlled the region for several months—creating a fury of sexual violence, killings, famine and other atrocities.
Uncertainty and political tensions are rising as the U.S. announced its military withdrawal from Afghanistan, and human rights experts are highlighting the vulnerable position of Afghan women. The U.S. rhetoric of women’s liberation and empowerment that justified our invasion nearly two decades ago has not lived up to its promises. The small gains made in employment and education opportunities for women have varied regionally, and those in rural or Taliban-controlled areas remain restricted.
“A withdrawal of U.S. troops could mean greater human rights violations, more school closures and increased violence against women,” warns global women’s rights expert Lina AbiRafeh.
An exhibit featured in OCAT Shanghai, a nonprofit museum, has received backlash—and ultimately has closed—due to its misogynistic and violating portrayal of women. Song Ta, the artist for the exhibit entitled “Uglier and Uglier,” went across college campuses taking approximately 5,000 photos of women—without their consent. The nearly eight-hour-long video installation featured at OCAT displayed these photos and ranked the women based on their attractiveness. However, surprisingly, the exhibit received little to no backlash in 2013 when it was featured in an art space in Beijing. In an interview in 2012, Ta stated that although he featured approximately 5,000 women in his photos, he did not include two women who he deemed to be the most beautiful—he said he decided to save the photos for himself to enjoy.
In other news, WHO has certified China as malaria-free after a 70-year effort of eradicating the disease. China now joins 70 other countries that are certified as malaria-free, and is the first country in the Western Pacific Region to attain the status in more than three decades. Their key to success was the creation of free public healthcare packages that provide everyone in China—regardless of legal or financial status—access to affordable services for malaria diagnosis and treatment.
The election of Ebrahim Raisi threatens years of feminist organizing in Iran. The Iranian feminist movement has emerged as an inspiration on a global scale, however, the election—which was biased towards Raisi—sets up an administration that will likely be hostile towards human rights. Organizing efforts are to be heavily surveilled and retaliated against. Political prisoners—including notable women’s rights activists—are now more likely to be executed than released.
The Geneva-based United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released a report on June 18 finding that 82.4 million individuals are currently displaced due to wars or fighting, climate change and COVID-19. This is a new post-World War II record.
Furthermore, UNHCR found that, in comparison to 10 years ago, there are two times as many people forcibly displaced—42 percent of which are under 18 years old and nearly one million of which are refugee babies born between 2018 and 2020. Despite the necessity of staying indoors due to COVID-19, the sad truth is that globally, nearly three million people were forced to flee their homes last year.
On June 20, Egyptian TikTok influencer, Haneen Hossam, was fined, sentenced to 10 years in prison for encouraging women to share videos in exchange for money and found guilty for human trafficking. The sentencing is likely due to the way in which social media influencers, especially female influencers, have challenged Egypt’s social values and morals.
Hossam is appealing the court in hopes for a reduced jail sentence or an acquittal. However, the chances are unlikely as five other Egyptian social media influencers were also sentenced to prison, though, to shorter terms because they appeared in court—something Hossam was not legally obligated to do. The ruling also comes from a court case in July 2020, when the five influencers were sentenced to two years in jail for encouraging women to make money through social media. Although the appeal court overturned that ruling in January—after the influencers spent approximately eight months in jail—the Cairo court was the one to add the new charges of human trafficking.
(TW: sexual abuse) In an investigation by The New York Times, Mali, among several other nations, is engrossed in a series of scandals regarding the sexual, physical and emotional abuse and assault of women in sports. The New York Times found that, since the 2000s, at least 100 women basketball players in Mali have been abused by approximately one dozen coaches. One of the 100 women included a case in 2018 where a 16-year-old girl was impregnanted by her coach and forced to have an abortion.
This scenario is not uncommon as several of the coaches allegedly demanded sex in order for sports equipment or playing time—if the player refused, she would be removed from the games. Some of the players who underwent this treatment stated that Mali’s basketball federation excused this behavior by covering it up.
On June 10, Germany sent a NATO tank platoon back from Lithuania due to allegations of sexual assault, racism and anti-Semitism among crew members. The troops are still under investigation, however, the government also found 569 rounds of handgun ammunition missing. These findings add to the embarrassment and failures that German armed forces have undergone—including their inability to identify far-right extremists in their troops. The Minister of Defense for Germany, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, wrote on Twitter: “This derailment damages the reputation of Germany and its army and will be met with the most severe punishment possible.”
(TW: sexual assault) According to a recent report from the British government, the United Kingdom is failing survivors of sexual assault and abuse. The report, which focused solely on adult victims, found that despite the fact that reported rapes have skyrocketed from 24,093 to 43,187, rape prosecutions have fallen.
Other findings include the fact that 84 percent of cases involved women and only 1.6 percent of cases ended up in an rape charge. These findings do not include unreported cases—statistics that are essential to recognize as less than 20 percent of rape cases are reported to the police, making up 128,000 unreported cases a year. The British government has not addressed how they will help past and future victims.
Meanwhile, schools across Britain are encouraging female students to wear “modesty shorts” under their school uniform skirts to combat and protect girls from being sexually assaulted and abused. “Clothes are not the problem—misogyny is,” said British activist Gina Martin.
On June 28, an international court ruled that the Honduran government was at fault for the 2009 killing of a transgender woman, Vicky Hernández. This decision will set a precedent to work toward making Honduras a safer country for LGBTQ+ individuals. Honduras will be required to pay reparations to the family of Hernández, track violence against LGBTQ+ individuals, provide diversity training to security forces and allow transgender individuals to legally change their gender identity.
International: WHO and U.N. Peace Talks
Recent years have seen a rollback in women’s inclusion in peace talks, with only three in every 10 peace processes in the last three decades including a woman signatory or mediator. Studies have found that women’s contributions lead to more durable peace agreements, so while gendered exclusion at peace talks place direct barriers in front of women, barriers are also posed for reaching lasting peace agreements.
Also on the global stage, the World Health Organization (WHO) is facing backlash from advocacy groups for suggesting there should be “prevention of drinking among pregnant women and women of childbearing age.” The recommendation is being criticized for pitting women’s autonomy against the health and rights of a hypothetical fetus. The awareness around women’s alcohol consumption is especially relevant as data shows that women are increasing their alcohol intake at a faster rate than men. Concerningly, studies show the increase in alcohol consumption among women is not for pleasure, but to cope.