Ms. Global: Goodbye Merkel, Hello Gender Parity in German Cabinet; Barbados Becomes a Republic; Rohingya Sue Facebook for Promoting Genocide

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.


Barbados

+ Sandra Mason will be Barbados’s first ever president as the country separates itself from British colonial links and declares itself a republic. It’s been nearly 400 years since the first English ship arrived in the Eastern Caribbean islands and nearly three decades since any nation removed the British monarch as head of state. The transition is part of a multiyear push in Barbados to become a republic

“The time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind,” Mason said. “Barbadians want a Barbadian head of state.”

“We believe that the time has come for us to claim our full destiny,” Prime Minister Mia Mottley said after the vote.

Philippines

Maria Ressa.

+ Maria Ressa, journalist and chief executive officer at digital news organization Rappler, has won the Nobel Peace Prize and will be allowed to travel to Norway this month to receive the award.

Authorization for her to travel outside of the Philippines was a long battle as several pending charges have been levied against her by the state. For years, Ressa and the team at Rappler have attempted to expose the actions of President Rodrigo Duterte, who has continuously suppressed press freedom and is responsible for countless human right violations, as well as other lawmakers, in an effort to protect global democracy, as she describes. International organizations have fought back for years, urging the Philippines not to restrict Ressa’s travel.

China

+ A recent report from Reporters Without Borders shows China is “the world’s biggest captor of journalists.” An overwhelming number of reporters and citizen journalists that have been arrested or imprisoned in China—often for ‘provoking trouble.’ The report documents the tactics used to censor and attack journalists. 

(See also: “China Unleashed Its Propaganda Machine on Peng Shuai’s #MeToo Accusation. Her Story Still Got Out.”)

United States

+ On December 6, the White House announced it will be staging a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics as a response to the “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses.” One publicly known case of abuse happened in the public eye, when Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai disappeared three weeks after she accused former senior official of the Chinese Communist Party of sexual assault.

The diplomatic boycott will preclude government officials from attending the Winter Games, but American athletes will still compete.

Peng Shuai in August 2012. The tennis star is currently missing after publicly accusing Zhang Gaoli, a former vice premier, of sexual assault. (mirsasha / Flickr)

+ A $150 billion class-action lawsuit against Facebook parent company Meta has been filed by a Rohingya woman in Illinois representing over 10,000 refugees. The lawsuit accuses Meta of “amplif[ying] hate speech” and alleges the company “neglected to remove inflammatory content despite repeated warnings that such posts could foment ethnic violence.”

This lawsuit is linked to a 2017 genocide in which the Myanmar military forced 750,000 Rohingya people out of Rakhine using violence, including sexual violence and murder. A top United Nations official called it a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” The event caused an uproar in posts that spread falsehoods, doctored images and slurs across the platform. Although Facebook has said it’s making an effort to delete posts and ban accounts that incite violence or misinformation, several court cases or lawsuits (such as this one) allege otherwise.

Germany

+ When Angela Merkel, once the most powerful woman in the world, stepped down as chancellor and Olaf Scholz took her place, many Germans were weary of the future of female leadership in German politics. But in a historic move, Germany will have a gender-equal Cabinet for the first time, with eight women and eight men.

Scholz has delivered on a number of promises, including gender parity in his Cabinet as well as ensuring that women will run all the briefs related to security and diplomacy. Germany will also have the first female foreign minister, and first female interior minister.  “Women and men account for half the population each, so women should also get half the power,” Scholz said, describing himself as a feminist. “I’m very proud that we have succeeded in realising [a gender-equal Cabinet].”

Olaf Scholz, the incoming chancellor, left, with members of his new cabinet in Berlin on Monday. (Instagram)

Belarus

+ As Belarus grapples with a violent dictatorship, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has risen to the forefront of the oppositional movement as a leader. After her journalist husband was captured and jailed by the government after declaring his candidacy in the rigged election, she decided to take up his fight and run herself, drawing thousands of supporters to her rallies. Her platform consisted of three demands: freedom for political prisoners, the constitutional reduction of the powers granted to the President; and legitimate elections. 

 “State officials have failed to understand that it’s not individual candidates but the people who threaten their power,” she said during a rally. “And the people are fed up with living in humiliation and fear.”

On Aug. 10, 2020, Tsikhanouskaya was forced to flee the country along with her children, settling in Lithuania. However, she began touring the capitals of Europe, meeting with world leaders and demanding they withhold recognition of the dictator Lukashenka as the leader of Belarus. Soon after, the European Parliament voted to deny recognition of the dictatorship regime, which established Tsikhanouskaya as the lawfully elected president. The struggle continues to establish a true democracy in the nation. 

International

+ SafetyDetectives, an international publishing group of cybersecurity experts and privacy researchers, have published a report on women’s safety around the world, taking into account the reports of violence as well as the legal framework of each country. Key findings include:

  • Countries with the lowest reported crimes against women include Italy, China, Greece and Egypt.
  • Countries with the highest reported crimes against women include Sweden, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S.
  • Countries with the most favorable laws for women include Australia, Cambodia, Greece, Iceland and Switzerland.
  • Countries with the least favorable laws for women include Yemen, Bahrain, Somalia, Jordan and El Salvador.

Honduras

+ In a likely landslide, Democratic socialist Xiomara Castro is set to become Honduras’s first female president. This would bring to an end 12 years of conservative National Party rule that has promoted corruption, exodus of migrants and anti-feminist legislation attacking reproductive rights.

“I firmly believe that the Democratic socialism I propose is the solution to pull Honduras out of the abyss we have been buried in by neoliberalism, a narco-dictator and corruption,” Castro said in a campaign speech.

Xiomara Castro. (Instagram)

On Nov. 28, Castro had received 53 percent of the vote, compared to 34 percent for the incumbent National Party. The government so far refuses to concede

+ In January, the National Party government proposed a bill that would incorporate the outlawing of abortion into the Honduran Constitution’s text. It also would prohibit the use, sale and purchase of emergency contraception, with the same imprisonment penalties as abortion. U.N. human rights experts condemned the bill, saying that it would move Honduras backwards in fulfilling women’s and girls’ fundamental rights. The bill passed on Jan. 30, citing that the fetus’s life “must be respected from the moment of conception.”

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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 America's health care system, disability, global politics and climate change, and criminal justice reform and abolition. Follow her @jschulmanhall