This Week in Women: Taking Steps Toward Gender Parity in Politics Worldwide

3 months ago
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This Week in Women is produced in partnership between Ms. and the Fuller Project for International Reporting. This column is also part of a newsletter; sign up here to receive it regularly.

Waving signs and holding banners bearing the slogan “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality and Women’s Rights”, thousands snaked through midtown Manhattan in 2015 in a collective show of solidarity for the global women’s movement. (Ryan Brown for UN Women / Creative Commons)

It’s official: Tuesday’s primaries broke the record for the number of women who have secured a major party nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives.

185 Democratic and Republican women will vie for House seats this November, beating the previous record of 167 female nominees in 2016. Most of the female candidates are Democrats, many galvanized to political action by the election of President Donald Trump, NPR’s Danielle Kurtzleben reported.

On Tuesday night, Rashida Tlaib won the Democratic nomination in Michigan’s 13th Congressional District, clearing the path for her to become the first Muslim woman elected to Congress, CNBC reported. Immigration is a key issue for Tlaib, who is the daughter of Palestinian parents.

Although important gains have been made, women still have a lot of work to do to achieve parity in politics. Currently, women make up nearly 20 percent of the House, while 23 of the 100 senators are women, according to Politico’s Heather Caygle and Elana Schor.

Gender Watch 2018, a nonpartisan project of the Barbara Lee Foundation and the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University (of which Ms. is a partner!), tracks how women are faring in the elections and reports out here.

On Thursday, Argentina’s Senate voted against legalizing elective abortion in the largely Catholic country. The Senate rejected a proposed bill 38 to 31, with two abstentions and one absentee, CNN reported. The bill would have expanded women’s access to abortion—now limited to rape and case where the mother’s health is at risk—to allow women to end a pregnancy within the first 14 weeks. Activists say getting the bill past the House and to the Senate floor for a vote was an important milestone.

The bill, part of the #NiUnaMenos campaign to end violence against women, made headlines just as a horrifying video from Brazil emerged of a man beating his wife and dragging her into an elevator while she kicked and screamed. Less than 20 minutes later, the man returned to the elevator to retrieve his wife’s lifeless body. Shocking reports revealed that the woman’s screams for help were ignored for nearly 15 minutes, the New York Times reported. The video, which went viral in Brazil and across the world, has sparked new debate about domestic abuse in a country where nearly a third of women report suffering violence, with nearly half reporting it was from a partner.

Other Stories From This Week

The ACLU announced its decision to sue the U.S. government in response to a new Trump administration policy that severely restricts asylum by excluding victims of “private violence” such as domestic abuse and gang violence. According to data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, officers denied approximately 13 percent of asylum cases in June, compared to eight percent in May.

On Thursday, Trump administration officials removed a woman and her daughter to El Salvador while her court hearing appealing deportation was underway. The judge ordered the mother and daughter to be flown back to the US and threatened to hold Attorney General Sessions in contempt, reports The Washington Post.

As long as women are detained at the border, their pregnancies are at risk. In a passionate piece for ELLE, Sady Doyle wrote about how the Trump administration’s detention policies put women at great risk of miscarriage and other pregnancy complications. The article highlights a new bill in the Senate, the Stop Shackling and Detaining Pregnant Women Act, introduced by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and co-sponsored by 21 other senators.

Meanwhile, First Lady Melania Trump’s parents, Viktor and Amalija Knavs, have managed to skirt President Trump’s crackdown on immigration, officially becoming U.S. citizens on Thursday, CNN reported. Advocates for restricting immigration have argued against issuing green cards through family connections, calling for a “merit-based” system that would choose immigrants based on need instead.

Elsewhere, Britain announced its first specialist army training team set up to help tackle sexual violence and the use of female suicide bombers in East Africa. The expert unit, which includes male and female soldiers, will focus on Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, “where the Islamist terror group Al-Shabaab has launched brutal attacks on the civilian population and military peacekeepers have sometimes struggled with local cultural sensitivities,” the Guardian reported this week.

In Saudi Arabia, a group of biker women are taking advantage of their new ability to drive—on two wheels, not four. The “Ladies of Harley” Riyadh chapter opened with eight founding female members, but anticipate that number growing as more women gain the confidence to take to the open road, Fox News reported.

Female Kenyan entrepreneur Vava Angwenyi was determined to change the African coffee industry, long dominated by foreigners, to include more Africans like herself, Forbes reported. But when she tried to engage with farmers, many refused to work with her because she is a woman. So she created Vava Coffee.

In an opinion piece for the New York Times, Laura Secorum discussed the dangers domestic migrant workers face while working in the Middle East.

On Thursday, Al Jazeera released The Apology, a new segment of its show “Witness” that follows the personal journeys of three former “comfort women” who were among the 200,000 girls and young women kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. And in a disturbing account for BBC, Sarah McDermott told the story of Anna, a Romanian immigrant in London who was snatched off the side of the road and sold into sexual slavery in Ireland.

Neha Wadekar is an editor and journalist with the Fuller Project.

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