Ms. Global: First Indigenous Canadian Elected Governor-General; Anti-LGBTQ Bill Introduced in Ghana; Tanzania’s First Woman President

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.


Canada

On July 26, Mary May Simon became Canada’s 30th governor general and the first Indigenous Canadian to hold the position in office. “Where we gather today is of enormous significance to me,” said Simon. “39 years ago, this was [where] I worked with other Indigenous leaders … to have our rights affirmed in the Constitution of Canada. That moment made this one possible.”

The installation ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa of Mary May Simon as Canada’s 30th governor-general and the first Indigenous person to hold the office, July 26, 2021. (U.N. Photo / Sgt. Johanie Maheu)

Meanwhile, Northwest Territories 19th Legislative Assembly made history, electing nine women out of 19 members to serve on the Assembly. This is the most number of women who have served in the Assembly and is now the Assembly with the highest proportion of women legislators in Canada. 

China

Anger across China is mounting as numerous high-profile companies and celebrities have been accused or found guilty of sexual assault. At an e-commerce company, Alibaba, a female employee was reportedly groped by a male client and sexually assaulted by her boss. Alibaba did not address either allegation until she wrote an account of the assaults on Weibo. Since then, there have been a series of resignations and the company has fired a male employee. These allegations are not new but they are a part of a series of sexual assault allegations in the pubic view in China. Chinese Canadian pop star Kris Wu has been detained for sexually assaulting young women. Women’s rights activists say these allegations, firings and arrests reflect a society increasingly intolerant of sexual violence. 

U.S.

With the election of President Joe Biden, America’s image abroad has rebounded. A study conducted by the Pew Research Center found that, among other statistics, out of 12 nations surveyed in 2020 and 2021, 75 percent expressed confidence in Biden while only 17 percent did so for Trump in 2020. Furthermore, out of 12 countries polled during the first year of each presidency, 77 percent described Biden as well-qualified for presidency while only 16 percent felt this way about Trump. 

Tanzania

Tanzania has its first woman president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, who has since implemented the African nation’s immunization drive and required the use of face masks. This is a historic achievement as the country’s previous president, John Magufuli, refused to administer vaccinations and continually denied the COVID-19 outbreak. However, at the age of 61, he died, giving way to Hassan. Whether his death was from COVID-19 remains unknown. Although other political leaders are opposed to the vaccines, the country’s goal is to vaccinate at least 60 percent of the population.

Hungary

In Budapest, 300,000 activists marched in July to celebrate Pride but also to protest the passage of a law in June that restricts (and in some cases prohibits) the use of media to promote homosexuality or gender nonconformity. In response, Prime Minister Orbán is planning on holding a referendum to the law.

A solidarity protest for the Hungarian LGBTQ community in Ljubljana, Slovenia. (Twitter)

Syria

After ISIS attacked the city of Sinjar and kidnapped and enslaved more than 6,000 women and children, two women have been found alive in Syria. Their appearance gives hope to the families and friends of the over 2,768 Yazidis who might similarly be alive. However, there remains several challenges to finding these individuals—including a lack of international support.

“People like to talk about these kinds of things in formal settings,” said Pari Ibrahim, founder of the Free Yezidi Foundation. “But come into the real world: Who is going to help to identify where these women are? How are we going to help them get back, because they are still going through hell after seven years?”

Myanmar

In February, the Myanmar armed forces overthrew the elected civilian government. Since then, thousands of women have been used in revenge porn, arrested, sexually assaulted among other egregious conditions for the political cause. This violence against women is put on “social punishment” pages which also publishes women’s addresses and their personal information. One of the daughters of a minister on the junta’s State Administration Council appeared on such sites—circulating explicit content of her.

Czech Republic

President Miloš Zeman signed a new bill into law that awards 300,000 Czech crowns to the victims of forced sterilization. The country has yet to announce when or how this compensation will occur, however, those sterilized after 1990 will have to support their claims and describe what occurred to them in order to receive such compensation.

Belarus

Belarusian track and field athlete Krystsina Timanovskaya has been given asylum in Poland after refusing to go home after the Tokyo Olympics. The reason? An Instagram post criticizing her coaches for registering her in an event she had never trained for—without consulting her. Activists are calling for a human rights policy to better support athletes at the Olympics.

India

Protests have emerged after a 9-year-old child was reportedly abused, raped and later cremated without parental consent. Although police have arrested the four men for rape, murder and wrongful confinement, the parents of the child and oppositional leaders and activists have raised questions about the handling of the case by the New Delhi police. In fact, many witnesses have stated that two police officers were there at the time of the forced cremation but did not stop it.

Zimbabwe

A 14-year-old child, Memory Machaya, who was married to an adult man in Zimbabwe died while giving birth. The United Nations, women’s rights activists and other oppositional groups are calling on the police and the government in Zimbabwe to end child marriage by adopting the Marriage Bill which recognizes child marriage as a crime. By instituting such law, girls will begin to be protected—as one in every three girls are married before the age of 18 in Zimbabwe. Although the police have stated they are conducting investigations into Machaya’s death, activists are determined that no matter what, there will be justice for young girls living in Zimbabwe.

U.K.

An ongoing parliamentary inquiry in the U.K. seeks to determine whether further legal protections are necessary to prevent discrimination against workers experiencing menopause. Nearly one million women left the U.K. workforce as a result of menopausal symptoms, often at an age that aligns with the height of their careers. The inquiry will evaluate the impact of such a trend—including the extent of discrimination against menopausal workers, the economic impact of menopause discrimination and how protections for menopausal workers can be implemented. The inquiry is seeking written submissions on any of these issues until September 17, 2021. 

Ghana

After its first reading in the House, Ghana’s anti-LGBTQ+ bill was formally introduced to Parliament on August 2. The so-called Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill would impose a maximum sentence of 10 years for anyone who supports LGBTQ+ rights and is already sponsored by eight lawmakers. Groups and individuals also risk retaliation for merely providing social or medical support to LGBTQ+ people. Kwasi Prempeh, head of the Ghana Center for Democratic Development, casts doubt on the longevity of the bill. Prempeh said, “In parliament it may well pass, but I doubt very much it will survive executive scrutiny, hopefully not. If it does get presidential assent, I’m almost certain that it will be challenged judicially.”

https://twitter.com/RightifyGhana/status/1422263764326535174

Indonesia

The Indonesian army hinted towards ending mandatory “virginity tests” for women recruits, which have been described as “abusive, unscientific, and discriminatory” by the Human Rights Watch. The invasive test checks whether the hymen of the recruit is intact—a test which holds no scientific validity. Indonesian army Chief of Staff General Andika Perkasa indicated the end to the practice in a teleconference, saying, “We have to be consistent. The selection we do for men should be the same [as] tests for women, in terms of testing their capabilities to follow the basic of military training.”

Uganda

Victoria Nyanjura—a survivor of abduction, abuse and sexual assault at the hands of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group in northern Uganda—is working to provide other survivors in Uganda with the resources that they need. Nyanjura helped enact a major Ugandan law reform by coordinating the Women’s Advocacy Network, a collective that includes over 900 women who survived the war in northern Uganda.

In 2014, they petitioned the government asking for redress for the long-term impacts of their trauma. Their demands included free and accessible healthcare, funding for children who were born in captivity and training for educators on how to work with trauma. In 2019, the government passed a transitional justice policy after listening to the needs of survivors.

“Through our network, I have begun to understand what collective strength truly means,” said Nyanjura. “Survivors, community and government officials all working together towards the common goal of restoring the dignity of those who have been victims of great injustices.”

Bangladesh

In Rohingya camps, community leaders and Rohingya women are being threatened for being educated or speaking out about women’s rights. COVID restrictions have limited the number of aid workers allowed in the refugee camps, which has resulted in violence reaching a crisis point. Women report being kidnapped, harassed, extorted or assaulted by men. As the U.N. works with Bangladesh to restore humanitarian protection services, women continue to speak out despite retaliation. “I said, ‘Even if you threaten to kill me, I will not stop speaking up,’” said Laila, a member of Rohingya civil society. 

South Korea

A wave of heightened misogyny and anti-feminism backlash in South Korea continues to make the internet an unsafe place for women.

South Korean Olympic gold medalist An San faced an onslaught of online abuse for her short haircut at the Tokyo games. Men believed that the haircut was meant to indicate she was a feminist, and many demanded that she apologize and even be stripped of her Olympic title after winning two gold medals in the women’s team and mixed team archery. In response, at least 6,000 pictures were posted by women of themselves sporting short haircuts in support of An San.

The anti-feminist online vigilante continues in South Korea with companies accused of “extreme feminism” being boycotted by men and pressured into releasing public apologies. Most of the accusations come from a hand gesture in ads meant to point at products, but taken as a misandrist symbol referring to the size of men’s genitals. Ads with the pointing gesture—including Starbucks espresso, credit cards and even COVID-19 vaccines—resulted in each company removing the image and issuing an apology. 

Egypt

In July, the Egyptian government summoned at least five prominent human rights activists and defenders as part of an ongoing criminal investigation. Case 173, first introduced in 2011, has been used ever since to arbitrarily prosecute organizations and individuals over allegations of receiving forein money, tax evasion and corruption. Over the years, many of the summoned organizations have been placed on travel bans or have had their assets frozen without trial.Two of the most recently summoned activists focus on women’s rights, including the director of Nazra for Feminist Studies, Mozn Hassan, and director of the Center for Egyptian Women Legal Awareness, Azza Soliman.

Sudan

Since the civilian-led transitional government in 2019, women’s rights activists have been concerned by the comparatively slow pace of gender equality in Sudan. Some advancements have been made, especially with the country’s ratification of two international treaties: The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Maputo Protocol. However, the council did not endorse parts of the treaties that declare women to have equal political and social rights, and to have equal roles to men in familial matters, like marriage. 

Afghanistan

On July 30, about 200 Afghan interpreters and their families arrived in Virginia. Their arrival to the U.S. marks the first evacuation of many for people working with the U.S. in Afghanistan as the Taliban gains more territorial control. “Today is an important milestone as we continue to fulfill our promise to the thousands of Afghan nationals who served shoulder-to-shoulder with American troops and diplomats over the last 20 years in Afghanistan,” said President Biden. 

In response to growing Taliban violence, activists are demanding a new approach to foreign policy with peace-building investments from the U.S. that support women and Afghan civil society. In a statement from the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), the group declared: “Our people have realized that the U.S.’s claims of democracy, women’s rights and progress in any country, including Afghanistan, is a blatant lie.”

Activists are demanding a new approach to foreign policy with peace-building investments from the U.S. that support women and Afghan civil society.

Pakistan

Activists from Pakistan report that violence against women is surging as the country moves towards religious extremism.The brutal beating and beheading of Noor Mukadam, the daughter of a diplomat, on July 20 highlighted the reality of femicide facing the country. Most victims are middle to lower class, without the status and subsequent attention received compared to Mukadam.

About the attacks, rights activist Tahira Abdullah said, “I could give you a list longer than my arm, only in one week. The epidemic of sexual crimes and violence against women in Pakistan is a silent epidemic. No one sees it. No one is talking about it.”

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About and

Juliet Schulman-Hall is an editorial fellow for Ms. and a rising senior at Smith College. She is majoring in English language & literature, minoring in sociology, and concentrating in poetry. Her beats include caregiving, mental health and disability advocacy, and criminal justice reform and abolition. Follow her @jschulmanhall
Lily Sendroff is an editorial fellow at Ms. and a rising senior at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She majors in the study of women and gender and government, with a concentrative subfield in comparative politics. Her work typically focuses on feminist economics, transnational feminism, and policy analysis.