Global: Foreign Policy’s “Sex Issue” is Both Important and Irksome
Foreign Policy has a special report on women and foreign policy this month, or “The Sex Issue,” as they’ve called it. It features key commentary and insights on key women leaders, ongoing barriers to women’s leadership, and a particular focus on women in the Arab world. A provocative piece by Mona Eltahawy bluntly pointed to the hostility of men and society toward women in the Arab world (“Why Do They Hate Us?”). There were some misses, like “The Most Powerful Women You’ve Never Heard Of” list, which a) included leaders most people have (and should have) heard of and b) included women that FP itself regularly features (Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala!? Helen Clark!?). One winner was the misogyny Mad Libs, which included gems like: The glass ceiling will be broken when… “There is a female U.S. president, a female secretary-general of the United Nations, and a female World Bank president at the same time.” —Mimoza Kusari-Lila. While the report is a refreshing departure from the male-dominated stodge of FP, why must it lean so far in the direction of funny, provocative, and sexy? Is it that we assume “women in foreign policy” won’t be taken seriously, so we treat it with irreverence from the start? It’s not clear that there was all that much thought behind the assembly of the report, but it’s still a win that FP would highlight such key components of what’s a critical and growing issue: the role that women play in shaping and leading our world. Contrary to popular belief, feminists do have a sense of humor but we also like intelligent humor. That is, the accompanying photo to the piece, “The FP Survey: Women in Politics,” of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton winking is a bit of a fail. Via Foreign Policy.
Uzbekistan: Forced Sterilizations Depict Cruel Disregard of Women’s Bodies and Rights
The Guardian reports on a BBC investigation has uncovered evidence of clandestine and forced sterilization in Uzbekistan. Because of the tense political situation in Uzbekistan, where dissent is not tolerated (the Human Rights Watch office there was shut down last year), all interviewees were anonymous. One gynecologist reported he was pressured to meet a monthly “sterilization quota” of four women. Coerced sterilization can be about a lot of things, but in Uzbekistan, as one surgeon explained, it seems to be a manipulation of women’s bodies and rights for the sake of broader national progress on health indicators: “It’s a simple formula – fewer women give birth, fewer of them die.” In response to the investigation, the Uzbek Government says the allegations “have nothing to do with reality,” but it sadly we know all too well the reality that most women face. In societies where freedom and rights are not supported, it is often women’s rights – and their bodies – that suffer most. Via The Guardian.
Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.
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India: Muslim Women Want Marriage Reform
In an article on the struggles of Indian Muslim women navigating marriage and divorce, the New York Times reports on the gaps in rights that exist under a plural legal system. The Indian constitution grants women and men equal rights, but for many Muslim men and women, Islamic law trumps that. Under some interpretations, a man’s declaration of “I divorce you” three times is equivalent to a binding split, and the woman has almost no legal rights of her own. To bridge that gap in rights, Muslim women’s advocates in the country have been pushing for a codification of the Indian legal system within the framework of the Koran itself, which they say does not dictate patriarchy (it is, rather, the conservative interpretations of the Koran that place women in peril at every turn). It’s a push to make marriage more about legality and less about culture and religion, all with the hopes of safeguarding women. The issue has also raised the question of who Muslim clerics – who interpret and define the law as it is lived – should actually speak for among the Muslim population (hint, probably not women). Via New York Times.
Britain: Female Genital Mutilation Persists Despite Best Efforts
A new investigative report by the Sunday Times has uncovered the persistence of female genital mutilation in the UK, with reporters Mazher Mahmood and Eleanor Mills claiming they obtained footage of three different providers performing the ritual for various payments, and in secret. The report suggests that 100,000 women in Britain had undergone the procedure in that country, although it’s unclear how these estimates were made. It is estimated that about 22,000 girls in the UK are at risk for the ritual each year. Because of the clandestine nature of the practice – perhaps more so now as global attention and outrage has grown – it is difficult to discern the magnitude and nature of the issue, especially as it persists in industrialized nations. In 2010, the Guardian did an in-depth report on the persistence of the practice among immigrant and later generation families in the UK, and the “shield” of culture and tradition that enabled impunity for the illegal act. Via Global Post.