Ms. Global: #WhereIsPengShuai?; Sweden May Get Its First Woman PM; Bolivia Debates Abortion Rights; The End of COP 26

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.


USA

+ The names of 102 Native American students at the federally operated boarding school in Genoa, Nebraska, have been uncovered this month. With the school’s history of abuse, many historians have been searching for the records and documents (often destroyed or distributed throughout the country) of those who died. 

Outside the Supreme Court after the 2016 decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which struck down a Texas admitting privileges law. (Adam Fagen / Flickr)

+ Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng, the United Nations special rapporteur, said the U.S. Supreme Court should uphold abortion rights in the United States. To continue to infringe upon the human right to abortion would be to risk “undermining international human rights law and threatening that right elsewhere in the world.”

New Zealand

+ Julie Anne Genter, a Green Party member of Parliament, was recently threatened by a man on social media who said he tried to hit her while she was biking in Wellington. This threat is one of many she and other female politicians have received.

Greece

+ At least one woman has been murdered by their partner or ex-partner every month in Greece this year. Of the 11 reported victims of femicide, two reported their attacker for domestic violence (though the men weren’t prosecuted) and one was in the process of a restraining order before being stabbed to death by her ex-husband. According to lawyers and activists, these femicides are in part due to the fact that Greece has ignored reports of domestic violence and laxly punishes femicides. 

In fact, there are several initiatives from the Greek government that support abusers—including a law that forces women to share custody of their child even if the parent is an abuser and a penal code that reduces the sentences of those who commited or were accused of committing a homicide if it was “provoked.” Furthermore, domestic violence convictions remain low in Greece with only 23 percent of prosecuted men being convicted—many receiving suspended sentences.

Romania

+ Romania is dealing with a massive coronavirus outbreak and death toll as a result of anti-vaccine propaganda and politicians and religious leaders advocating for their followers to remain unvaccinated. On Nov. 2 alone, 600 Romanians died. Much of this can be attributed to the fact that Romania has the second-lowest vaccination rate in Europe and has had the world’s highest per capita death rate from COVID-19 in the past few weeks.

Afghanistan

+ Afghan families have been forced to sell their daughters “for marriage” to older men in order to pay for their grocery bills and cover their debts. This phenomenon is likely to progress as the World Food Program estimates that approximately 22.8 million people or more than half of the population will face acute food insecurity this month.

A young girl attends school in April 2008 in Nangarhar, Afghanistan. (U.N. Photo / Roger Lemoyne)

+ Thousands of Afghan evacuees are beginning to attend public schooling in the U.S. “The one thing we have learned,” stated Victoria Flores the director of student support and health service in the Sacramento City Unified School District, “is kind of just being open-arms—really assessing what are the needs, and just being open-minded and openhearted.”

COP 26

+ Since COP 26 ended on November 13, leaders and activists have been reflecting upon whether the commitments and deals are enough. Many have warned that global heating will top 2.4 C by the end of this century, a disastrous level that isn’t likely to significantly change even with the carbon-cutting pledges made at the conference.

Various developing countries continue to be frustrated by the lack of significant commitments and investments by wealthier nations—stating that they aren’t doing enough to cut their emissions. Furthermore, despite a “youth and public empowerment” day at COP, youth climate activists remain angered by the “failure” of global leaders in creating innovative and necessary solutions to the climate crisis, as Greta Thunberg described it.

A student protest in Milan, Italy, on Oct. 1, 2021, ahead of the COP 26 talks. The sign reads, “Basta Blah Blah Blah” which means “No more blah blah blah”—referring to the speech given by Greta Thunberg in Milan few days before the strike. (Mænsard Vokser / Wikimedia Commons)

Belarus

+ 2,000 migrants and refugees, including pregnant individuals and children, have been camped out between the Belarus and Poland border in what appears to be a political battle brought on by Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus.

After last year’s election, where protesters argued that the election was fraudulent, 33,000 people were arrested and many were beaten. In response, the EU placed numerous sanctions on Belarus. Lukashenko, angered, has decided to retaliate by directing migrants and refugees to the borders of EU countries. Lukashenko isn’t taking responsibility for this crisis.

Barbados

+ At the Glasgow UN Climate Change Conference earlier in November, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley delivered a moving speech, calling upon the other world leaders to take action: “We want to exist a hundred years from now. … When will leaders lead?”

Barbados, like other island countries, is becoming increasingly vulnerable to climate change and seeing record levels of flooding, coral bleaching, food insecurity and hurricanes. The nation itself has barely contributed to global emissions, yet suffers disproportionately. 

Globally, the prime minister’s words are being praised for bringing attention to what the island nations are experiencing, calling the speech “what leadership should look like.” 

Australia

+ A parliament campaign in Australia called “Raise Our Voice” received over 600 speech submissions of which 61 percent were from young women expressing discontent with the state of gender rights in the country, especially regarding representation in politics. Only last year, the first female Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was elected for a third term in the state of Queensland, and many political parties continue to lack in gender representation.

A poll conducted by Plan International Australia in April 2021 found that 73 percent of young Australian women don’t believe that equal treatment of the genders exists in the country, with only 12 percent of them expressing desire to pursue a career in politics.

China

+ Journalists and human rights organizations are calling for the release of Zhang Zhan who was imprisoned in December of 2020 for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”—or, in more explanative terms, for revealing China’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. She was sentenced to four years in prison. Zhang is currently on a hunger strike and being force fed through a nasal tube while her health is deteriorating. Zhang is one of at least 122 journalists who have been imprisoned in China, many that have health problems like hers. 

+ World-famous tennis star Peng Shuai has come forward with her story of sexual assault by the former vice premier of China, Zhang Gaoli. Her story has sparked another wave of #MeToo online, the first to expose those in power within China’s Communist Party. Although Shuai’s video describing the incident posted on Weibo—China’s version of Twitter—was removed within minutes, the allegation had already begun circulating beyond the government’s control. 

Soon after, Shuai disappeared from the public eye, raising concerns of many keeping tabs on the case. Days later, she appeared on a video call with the president of the International Olympic Committee and other officials that was an attempt to address questions on her wellbeing and safety. However, many remain suspicious including tennis officials who have been unable to establish independent contact with Shuai as the Chinese government continues to censor any discussion of her allegations.

Steve Simon, the chief executive of the Women’s Tennis Association expressed his thoughts in a recent statement

“It was good to see Peng Shuai in recent videos, but they don’t alleviate or address the WTA’s concern about her well-being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion. This video does not change our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship, into her allegation of sexual assault, which is the issue that gave rise to our initial concern.”

The hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai is currently trending, with a number of Shuai’s colleagues such as Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka posting on social media in support.

Nicaragua

+ Despite mass protests and the detainment of dozens of prominent critics of the current Nicaraguan government, President Daniel Ortega claimed victory for the general elections on Nov. 7. Ortega has had a history of violence against his political opponents as well as civilians, stifling freedom of speech and democracy. Many have labeled the elections as a “sham,” “parody” and “pantomime,” with the governments of Colombia, Chile and Costa Rica refusing to recognize the outcome. The UK, US and EU have also issued statements questioning the legitimacy of the election. 

Sweden

+ Forty years after its neighbor Norway, Sweden got its first woman prime minister as the ruling Social Democrat party recently elected Magdalena Andersson, the current finance minister of Sweden, as its leader. Her election, however, was peculiar in that although she was announced as leader on Wednesday, seven hours later she was forced to resign. The same day of her election, her budget failed to pass and a coalition partner quit—which, according to BBC, means that (by convention) she is supposed to resign. On Monday, Andersson was reelected by the majority of Swedish Parliament. She will take office on Tuesday.

Andersson says her priorities are reducing the role of the private sector in healthcare and education, as well as addressing climate change and gang crime. Her leadership will come in key in the face of increased anti-immigration sentiment in the country, as will solidify Sweden’s reputation as a global leader in gender equality. If she is confirmed as prime minister, she will face the difficult task of creating a new government out of a fragmented parliament. 

Libya

+ In March, Najla El-Mangoush was appointed as the first female foreign minister in Libya. However, the lawyer and human rights activist may soon lose her job. In a move that stunned many, Libya’s Presidency Council suspended El-Mangoush for “administrative violations” and barred her from traveling. Libya’s transitional Government of National Unity rejected the decision soon after, stating that the council had no legal right to appoint, suspend or investigate members of the executive authority.

The disagreement over the council’s decision will most likely add to the ongoing tension between political factions, and the attacks against El-Mangoush have not relented as a reaction to her call for Turkish troops to leave the country. 

International

+ A report released by the Williams Institute of UCLA School of Law analyzed survey data from 175 countries on the social acceptance of LGBTI and their respective rights. The data showed an overall positive trend, with the average level of global LGBTI acceptance increasing since 1980. Iceland, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden and Canada were the top five most accepting countries. 

On the other hand, Peru, Mozambique, Barbados, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Palestine showed very little change between 2010 and 2020. The least accepting countries had a dip in acceptance levels, while most accepting countries saw a rise in numbers. However, the continents of Australia and Oceania, North America, South America and Western Europe all had positive changes, suggesting a trend towards the global progress of LGBTI rights.

Spain

+ On November 5, the health minister of Spain Carolina Darias signed an order that granted women, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people access to medically assisted reproduction in the free public health system. Only six years ago, the conservative government in power had limited public fertility treatment to heterosexual women who have a partner, creating a financial barrier for others who could only access the service from private clinics. 

At the signing ceremony, Darias remarked that the day marked a “restitution of rights—rights that never should have been denied.” Activists at the event celebrated the win for LGBTQ+ rights with proclamations that the policy change would transform thousands of lives

Bolivia

+ In Bolivia, debates over abortion rights erupted after an 11-year-old girl who was pregnant as a result of incest sought to get an abortion but was obstructed by a local Catholic organization. Abortion is illegal in Bolivia except in cases of rape, incest or to protect the pregnant person’s health. On Nov. 7, the Bolivian government minister announced in a news conference that the girl had discontinued her pregnancy in accordance with the law, and that the relative who had raped her was in jail. 

Bolivia has the highest rate of sexual violence in Latin America, with one in three girls experiencing sexual violence before age 18. 

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About and

Leela de Paula is an editorial fellow at Ms. and a junior at Smith College studying government and gender studies. Her academic interests include global feminism, international politics and feminist legal theory. She calls many continents home.
Juliet Schulman-Hall is an editorial fellow for Ms. and a 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