Ms Global: Women and Children Bear Brunt of Gaza Conflict, Mistreatment of Pregnant Women in Japanese Prisons, Free Public Transit for Trans People in India

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.

Gaza Strip

+ Israel’s escalated war on Gaza since Oct. 7 is affecting Palestinian women and children at unprecedented and catastrophic levels, per new U.N. Women report

Israel’s three-month military campaign in Gaza is impacting Palestinian women and children at unprecedented catastrophic levels, according to a January 2024 U.N. Women report. More than 28,000 Palestinians have been killed since Oct. 7, 70 percent of whom were women and children. 

A woman sits amongst damaged homes caused by Israeli air strikes, on January 18, 2024 in Rafah, Gaza. (Ahmad Hasaballah / Getty Images)

Suffering from forced displacement and the lack of food, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene products including menstrual pads, Gazans are “experiencing an almost complete erosion of individual and collective coping mechanisms,” the report reads.

“As a father, I have been searching for work, loans, and assistance, but nothing seems to work. … We are hungry and if we don’t die from the missiles, we will die from hunger and despair,” a 38-year-old man from North Gaza told U.N. Women

Giving birth in Gaza is also increasingly dire, especially as hospitals in Gaza become battlegrounds

“Two weeks after the war started on my due date, I went to the hospital knowing that I was risking my life and that of my long-awaited baby. … My doctor decided to use a private clinic that was not fully equipped as it was the only solution available at that time,” a 30-year-old Gazan woman told the U.N. in the same report.

The U.N. polled women-led and women’s rights organizations currently operating in Gaza and found that their key asks are for the humanitarian system to: 

  • Support the urgent need for immediate ceasefire. 
  • Prioritize flexible funding for women’s organizations to remain operational, recognizing their vital role in providing lifesaving services. 
  • Ensure that women’s organizations are meaningfully participating in humanitarian response planning, implementation, and monitoring.


+ Justice minister acknowledges rights abuses of pregnant women in Japanese prisons

During a parliamentary session on Feb. 8, Japan’s Justice Minister Ryuji Koizumi conceded to six violations of a 2014 directive that forbids the use of restraints on pregnant women in prison delivery rooms.

“We have been researching this matter since issuing the directive in 2014, and as a result, up until the end of 2022, we found six violations in which handcuffs were used,” Koizumi said in response to a question by an opposition lawmaker, Human Rights Watch reports. “In light of this, we broadened the directive in 2022 to refrain from the use of handcuffs when [imprisoned people are] holding, bathing, changing diapers, and breastfeeding babies.” 

This admission follows a damning Human Rights Watch report from Nov. 2023 which uncovered several distressing testimonies from formerly incarcerated women about these violations. The report highlighted severe human rights abuses, including poor access to medical services, forcible separation from newborns and excessive restrictions on communication within and outside prison.

In light of these violations, calls are intensifying for the Japanese government to broaden the directive even further to ban the use of restraints on women during childbirth and postpartum, a step towards meeting international standards and safeguarding the dignity and safety of pregnant women.

“The government must act now to prevent further violations of this directive,” said Yumi Tanaka, a former inmate who experienced the use of restraints during childbirth, BBN reports. “No woman should have to endure such treatment.”


+ India grants free public transport access to trans people 

On Feb. 5, in Delhi, India, the government declared that public transportation will now be free for the transgender community. This move extends the existing scheme of free state-run bus travel, which already includes women and senior citizens, to include transgender people.

“Want to give some good news,” chief minister Arvind Kejriwal stated, according to the Times of India. “In the last 75 years, no government in the country has done any good work for the kinnar (transgender) community. Delhi govt is taking a big step and making it free for members of the community to travel on public buses.”

Marchers at Awadh Queer Pride Walk in Lucknow, India. (Wikimedia Commons)

However, there are concerns that not all transgender individuals will be able to access this service. Rupika Dhillon, director of the NGO SPACE, welcomed the announcement but mentioned that there are several details that need to be addressed first, such as whether or not transgender men will be included in this decision, Feminist Giant reports. 

Recognizing the struggles the queer community in India has faced, Mumbai recently marked its first Pride March in four years. This event saw thousands marching through the streets of South Mumbai to promote awareness of queer rights within the country.


+ U.K. officials investigate the first reported sexual assault of a minor in the metaverse

British authorities are probing a case involving the sexual assault of a girl under 16 in the metaverse, marking the U.K.’s first such investigation. The victim was reportedly wearing a virtual reality headset and playing an immersive game in the metaverse when her avatar was attacked by several others.

While the victim was not physically injured, she is reported to have endured psychological and emotional trauma.

Critics have questioned the use of police resources to pursue crimes in the metaverse, especially as real-world sexual assault cases are on the rise. In response, U.K. Home Secretary James Cleverly defends the investigation, emphasizing the potential link between virtual actions and real-world behavior. “It is worth realising that somebody who is willing to put a child through a trauma like that digitally may well be someone that could go on to do terrible things in the physical realm.” 

“I know it is easy to dismiss this as being not real, but the whole point of these virtual environments is that they are incredibly immersive. And we’re talking about a child here, and a child has gone through sexual trauma,” he told LBC.  

This world-first case underscores the challenge existing laws face in tackling offenses in virtual settings, sparking debate on the need for legal reforms to better address the realities of the digital age.


+ Hundreds rallied in support of trans rights in the Canadian province of Alberta after Premier Danielle Smith announced Canada’s harshest anti-trans legislation to date 

Hundreds of students and community members rallied across Alberta in support of trans rights shortly after Alberta Premier Danielle Smith unveiled sweeping new restrictions on gender-affirming care, sex education and sports regarding transgender youth. 

The proposed policies—announced via social media on Wednesday, Jan. 31st—include requiring parental consent if a child 15 years or younger changes their name and pronouns at school, mandating parents to opt students in to every lesson about sex education, sexual orientation or gender identity and prohibiting the participation of trans girls and women in women’s sports leagues.

“Our fear is that … younger kids won’t be able to explore those identities and won’t be able to explore themselves in a comfortable and safe way,” said one Albertan transgender student participating in one of the many student walkouts across the Canadian province. 

These policies have caused concerns not only at the grassroots level but also for professional organizations such as the Alberta Medical Association and the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA). 

“We are concerned about the chilling effect placed on classrooms and schools,” said ATA president Jason Schilling in a statement. “Transgender youth are 5 times more likely to think about suicide and nearly eight times more likely to attempt it than other children. We must be mindful of the vulnerability of these students and their need for safety, security and support.”


+ France is one step closer to enshrining abortion rights

France’s National Assembly took a landmark step towards constitutionalizing abortion rights on Jan. 30. 

France decriminalized abortion in 1975, but its constitution lacks explicit protections for abortion rights. The Macron administration is seeking to revise Article 34 of the French Constitution to ensure it specifies that “the law guarantees women’s freedom to opt for an abortion, outlining the conditions under which this right is exercised.”

This legislative push gained momentum after the U.S. Supreme Court’s repeal of Roe v. Wade in June 2022.

In a vote in the lower house of the French Parliament, 493 lawmakers voted in favor of this bill, 30 against. The bill now advances to the Senate for further deliberation. Success here will lead to a final review by a joint parliamentary committee for adoption.

If the bill becomes law, France will become the first country in the world to include abortion rights in its constitution, as Guillaume Gouffier Valent, a lawmaker in charge of the law, told CNN


+ Far-right Argentinian president Javier Milei’s sexist and anti-feminist rhetoric alarms feminists, who say it poses material threats to women’s conditions in Argentina. 

Since assuming the presidential office in December of last year, far-right populist Javier Milei has taken significant strides in eroding women and LGBTQ people’s rights in Argentina. Milei recently eliminated the country’s Women, Gender and Diversity Ministry—originally established by then-president Alberto Fernández in 2019 as a response to the longstanding #NiUnaMenos (“not one less”) movement against femicide and gender inequality in Argentina.

Feminists across the country are raising concerns about the increasing threats to women’s rights and fear that Argentina’s hard-won legalization of abortion in 2020 could be next to go. Milei has long espoused anti-abortion rhetoric throughout his presidential campaign, including in an interview with then-Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson

Argentinian president Javier Milei and vice president Victoria Villarruel in December 2023. (Wikimedia Commons)

Argentinian activist and journalist Luciana Peker, exiled right after Milei’s election due to threats to her safety, tells The Guardian about the continued rise of anti-feminist extremism in Argentina and around the globe. 

“Women in Latin America need women in the west to work with us to put an end to this violent oppression,” writes Peker. “Read the work of Latin authors, activists, writers and journalists, follow them on social media, share their content and support our women’s words, so that violence does not silence us and economic suffocation does not steal our voices again.”


+ Feminist concerns over conflict in Sudan rise as it continues to fuel the world’s largest internal and child displacement crisis 

Ongoing military escalation in Sudan has fueled what the International Organization for Migration calls the world’s largest internal and child displacement crisis, and feminists are sounding their calls for an immediate resolution to the conflict. 

Since the war erupted between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on April 15th of last year, more than 7.3 million people have fled their homes, with children representing about half of those displaced. 

Hundreds of women can be seen lining up for humanitarian aid in the village of Jabait, in eastern Sudan, according to a UN report detailing displaced women’s humanitarian needs. 

“I fled the town with my mother, my sister, and my little son after the town was attacked by RSF…two of my cousins had been killed after a grenade fell in their house. My neighbor was also killed, and her daughter’s hand was cut off,” said a woman in her twenties from the town of Nyala. “We just fled with the clothes we are wearing…I hope the war will stop and there will be safety and stability so that we can return to our homes and families.”

Organized by the Sudan-based Sudanese Women’s Union, feminists highlighted in a December 2023 symposium how the conflict’s escalation has pushed many Sudanese women into economic fragility and “violence including harassment and beatings by security personnel and police.”

The symposium regarding the conflict concluded in a resounding call for “strengthening the women’s front against the war, advocating for intensified fieldwork, escalating public action to stop the conflict, and planning for a vision for the post-war era.”

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U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.

About and

Wakaba Oto is an editorial intern at Ms. and is completing her undergraduate degree in English and journalism at Fordham University. She is passionate about investigative journalism, with a focus on uncovering misconduct in government and corporate sectors. She has roots in Amsterdam and Tokyo.
Kiara Alvarez is an editorial intern at Ms. and student at Smith College, focusing on History and Women and Gender Studies. Her academic and writing interests include transnational feminism, environmental justice, histories of gender and sexuality, and feminist pop culture analysis.