Ms. Global: Taliban’s Leader Says Women Prosper Under His Rule; Singapore Pride Returns; Disabled Women in DR Against Obstetric Violence; Kenyan Workers Forced to Strip in Period Shaming Incident

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.


+ Akhundzada says that Afghan women are “comfortable” and prosper under Taliban rule

On June 25, the Taliban issued a statement declaring Afghan women are given a “comfortable and prosperous life” under their regime, despite the government’s ban against women’s education after sixth grade and involvement in public life and work. Most recently, the Taliban banned beauty salons, which allowed women to join the workforce and form social communities.

The statement was released before one of the biggest Muslim holidays, Eid al-Adha, and was given by the Taliban’s supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, who is rarely seen outside of Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province. According to the Associated Press, he “surrounds himself with other religious scholars and allies who oppose education and work for women.” 

Within the message, Akhundzada argued that various effective actions have been implemented to protect women from “traditional oppressions,” such as forced marriage and protection of “Shariah rights.” It added that, “necessary steps have been taken for the betterment of women as half of society.” 

Akhundzada expressed that the negative elements of the previous two decades of occupation regarding women’s hijab and what he referred to as “misguidance” will come to an end in the near future. 

“The status of women as a free and dignified human being has been restored and all institutions have been obliged to help women in securing marriage, inheritance and other rights,” he said.

Afghan women demonstrate outside Houses of Parliament for the right of all women to education, work and freedom in response to Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers ordering a ban on university education for women in London, United Kingdom on January 14, 2023. (Photo by Wiktor Szymanowicz/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

However, the Taliban have implemented strict measures following their takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, coinciding with the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces. They banned women from secondary education, university, and public spaces such as parks and gyms. They are not allowed to leave their homes without a male relative and are not allowed to work.

This message also comes after a U.N. report called these regulations on women “a gender persecution, a crime against humanity and possibly gender apartheid.” 


+ Prime suspect in Natalee Holloway’s disappearance is extradited to the U.S. while serving sentence for killing Peruvian student

Joran van der Sloot was extradited to the U.S. last month and pleaded not guilty to charges of extortion and wire fraud tied to the Holloway case. He has been serving a 28-year sentence in Peru for the murder of Stephany Flores in 2010–exactly five years to the day after Natalee Holloway vanished during her high school graduation trip in Aruba. 

After an exhaustive investigation, van der Sloot claimed he would reveal the whereabouts of Holloway’s remains in exchange for $250,000. However, he provided false information and received $25,000 from Beth Holloway, the victim’s mother. He allegedly used these funds to flee to Peru, where he met Flores in a casino poker tournament before strangling and killing her in a hotel room in Lima. Van der Sloot pleaded guilty to the murder in 2012 and will be released in 2038

Peruvian authorities initially wanted van der Sloot to serve the totality of his sentence in Peru before he faced the federal charges in Alabama, however, they have agreed to this temporary extradition and he is bound to return to Peru to serve the rest of his sentence.

“We hope that this action will enable a process that will help to bring peace to Mrs. Holloway and to her family, who are grieving in the same way that the Flores family in Peru is grieving for the loss of their daughter,” said Gustavo Meza-Cuadra, Peru’s ambassador to the U.S. 


+Singapore celebrates its first LGBTQ+ pride rally since the decriminalization of gay sex

In Singapore, the first LGBTQ+ pride rally since gay sex was decriminalized last year was held on June 25. Although the anti-gay law was not “actively enforced”, it prosecuted “sex between men with up to two years in jail.” It was passed during the British colonial era. 

Pink Dot’s 2014 rally in Singapore. (Wikimedia Commons)

The “Pink Dot LGBTQ rally,” named after Pink Dot, an LGBTQ+ advocacy group located in Singapore, hosted hundreds of attendees at the event. Although there was not an official count, reporters estimated more than 1,000 people visited. The rally started in 2009 and had many attendees consistently through the years.  


+Colombia inaugurates the Ministry of Equality and Equity in an effort to move toward peace

This past week, Colombia officially established the Ministry of Equality and Equity with Vice President Francia Márquez as its head. Márquez is the first Black VP Colombia has seen and has first-hand experience with the discrimination and violence many Indigenous and Afro-Colombian women experience, according to advocates. 

As the country with the second-highest level of inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the World Bank, President Gustavo Petro and his administration have made it a goal to give representation to historically excluded communities in Colombia. This is one of many projects that the Government of Change will establish as the first leftist government Colombia has seen perhaps since Alfonso López Pumarejo in the 1930s.  

Francia Márquez in 2019. (Wikimedia Commons)

“Creating the ministry is to create the most powerful instrument of public administration to make a goal become a reality: to eliminate discrimination, exclusion, material inequality and lack of access to opportunities in all of Colombia and among its inhabitants,” said the head of the Ministry of the Interior. 


+ PM Modi refutes religious discrimination in India during a White House press conference.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a rare appearance before reporters at the White House on June 22nd and refuted the acceptability of religious discrimination in his country. The Prime Minister has faced backlash for the treatment of Muslims and other minorities under the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party government. 

Modi, who assumed office in 2014, addressed journalists and responded to two questions at a joint press conference with President Joe Biden in the aftermath of a meeting between the two leaders.

Modi addressing at the joint SCO-CSTO Outreach Summit on Afghanistan, through video conferencing, in New Delhi on September 17, 2021. (Wikimedia Commons)

One of the questions was on the measures the Indian government would be ready to take to enhance the rights of Muslims and other minority groups and safeguard freedom of speech. He responded that Indians “live democracy” as established by their forefathers in the country’s constitution of 1949.

“Our government has taken the basic principles of democracy and on that basis our constitution is made and the entire country runs on that … we have always proved that democracy can deliver. And when I say deliver, this is regardless of caste, creed, religion, gender, there’s absolutely no space for discrimination,” he said.

Modi emphasized that democracy cannot thrive without the fundamental principles of “human values,” “human rights,” and “humanity.” He restated firmly that within a democratic framework, there is absolutely “no room” for any form of discrimination against individuals.

“In India, the benefits that are provided by the government are accessible to all, whoever deserves those benefits is available to everybody,” Modi said. “And that is why in India’s democratic values, there’s absolutely no discrimination, neither on basis of caste, creed, or age or any kind of geographic location.”

Dominican Republic

+ Disabled women in DR fight against obstetric violence 

Cristina Francisco became paralyzed at age nine after a rogue bullet went through her spine. With the support of her family, she was able to grow up thinking her inability to use her legs did not limit her life outcomes–she finished her studies, funded an NGO and started a family. However, in a country like the Dominican Republic, there are several systemic barriers in place against people like Francisco. 

Women comprise 57.8 percent of the disabled population in the Dominican Republic. Nonetheless, holding the majority does not guarantee legal safeguards for these women. More specifically, disabled women have no legal protections in terms of their reproductive health and sexuality. They are left with no choice at the hands of most medical professionals and are repeatedly subject to obstetric violence, according to El País. Limited access to birth control, no bodily autonomy, forced sterilization and forced abortion is just a fraction of what they experience from healthcare providers.

Francisco’s story is one of many that resonate in their community. “I fell in love and got married,” she told El País. What should have been a happy start to a life together turned sour once the couple decided to start a family. “Finding an accessible hospital was a monumental fight.” Even though she was reproductively able to carry a child, social opinion and systemic barriers dictated otherwise. When she got pregnant, a gynecologist told her “We’re going to take it out.”

Despite DR’s restrictive legislation against abortion, it is common for medical practitioners to offer and even force clandestine abortion methods on disabled women. Most believe even if these women can carry, they wouldn’t be able to care for a child in the same capacity as able-bodied women. Those like Francisco that choose to do so are often villainized by society or seen as having been sexually abused. 

The Ministry of Women states they are moving towards progress for disabled women in their response to the CEDAW’s report


+ Period shaming taken to an extreme at a Kenyan cheese factory

On July 3rd, a manager at Brown’s Food Company in Limuru forced female workers to undress to find who had disposed of a used sanitary towel in the incorrect trash can. After attempts to get the women to confess, the manager decided she “needed to find out who was on their period so that she could punish the person that threw the sanitary towel in that bin,” added Senator Gloria Orwoba in a Facebook post after the targeted workers spoke out. 

Orwoba, an advocate fighting against period shaming and period poverty in Kenya, has previously been subject to period shame. Back in February, she was asked to leave parliament due to a period stain. She said the incident helped her better understand the discrimination women in Kenya constantly face. 

Police have since arrested three company personnel for charges of indecent assault following an investigation.

Brown’s Food Company has since issued a statement on its website indicating they “have begun internal investigations” and have suspended the managers responsible for the period shaming incident since this behavior does not align with company values. They have also vowed to “implement a Menstrual Hygiene Management policy” to “adequately reconcile with the employees who were affected.” 

Similar incidents have previously occurred at other companies in the area—advocates note that period shaming is a significant issue in Kenya.


+ Iranian activist Narges Mohammadi is awarded the 2023 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award 

On May 18, Iranian writer and human rights activist Narges Mohammadi was awarded the 2023 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award at Pen America’s annual gala. Mohammadi was unable to accept her award in-person, as she is currently imprisoned by the Iranian government following a 10-year jail sentence in a prison in north Tehran. Throughout her career, which spans over three decades, she has come into conflict with the Iranian government multiple times. While Mohammadi was in college, the Iranian authorities arrested her for writing about women’s rights in her student newspaper and attending political meetings. She has been detained for the majority of the last 10 years and was most recently arrested in November 2021 for “spreading anti-state propaganda.”

“I sit in front of the window every day, stare at the greenery and dream of a free Iran,” Mohammadi said in an unauthorized interview with the New York Times in April. “The more they punish me, the more they take away from me, the more determined I become to fight until we achieve democracy and freedom and nothing less.”

Despite being one of the Iranian government’s most persecuted targets, Mohammadi continues to denounce the country’s human rights violations through interviews and on Instagram

The Barbey Freedom to Write Award commemorates “an international writer of conscience, imprisoned to silence them.” Throughout solitary confinement, torture, maltreatment and separation from her family, Mohammadi continues to “fiercely defend women, political prisoners and ethnic minorities.”


+ Turkish activists held their annual Istanbul Pride rally

On June 25, Turkish activists held their annual Istanbul Pride despite the government’s ban on Pride events. At the event, over 60 marchers and allies were detained.

The celebration of speeches and marches was tainted by tear gas and rubber bullets, as many people attended the march although it was illegal. Many attendees were vocal in their anger towards President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s anti-LGBTQ+ expression.

Many people tweeted in support of the event:

“The governor of Istanbul said that ‘any activity that threatens the institution of the family’ would not be allowed, and the police closed Taksim. But LGBTI+s found a way around and did not give up on the march!” 

“Despite all the pressure, thousands of queers marched in Istanbul today. This victory is enough for us. I can cry of happiness.”

“Our stories of honour are different from each other, but they are also the same. My heart and soul are in Istanbul today. We were, we are, we will be.”

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About and

Val Diez Canseco is a Ms. editorial intern and a rising sophomore at Tulane University studying international relations and English. She is passionate about reproductive rights, political frameworks in the Global South, and education equity. You can follow more of her work here.
Clara Scholl is a Ms. editorial intern and is completing her undergraduate studies at New York University. She is the arts editor for NYU's independent student newspaper, Washington Square News. Clara has previously worked as a girl advocate with the Working Group on Girls at the UN Commission on the Status of Women from 2018 to 2021. You can find her on Twitter @scholl_clara.