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 healthcare. 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.
+ Sweden’s new government decides to discard its internationally acclaimed feminist foreign policy.
In October, following the establishment of a new, more conservative Swedish government, the incoming Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tobias Billström, announced that Sweden will no longer champion a feminist foreign policy agenda.
Since its introduction in 2014, Sweden’s feminist foreign policy has continued to center issues of gender equality in all aspects of policy development. Indeed, Sweden’s decision to embrace feminist foreign policy reflected their understanding that issues of gender equality are central to all foreign policy objectives. Sweden was the world’s first country to adopt a foreign policy approach with an explicit “feminist” label.
In the last decade, the Swedish government has become a powerful example of a country that embraces progressive policy-making that directly acknowledges and reflects women’s interests and issues; Sweden’s feminist approach to foreign policy has influenced other countries’ foreign policy agendas to follow suit.
But now, the new Swedish government has decided to abandon their groundbreaking feminist approach to policymaking. In an interview on Oct. 18, Billström said that the Swedish government will not “continue with a feminist foreign policy because the label obscures the fact the Swedish foreign policy must be based on Swedish values and Swedish interests.” Despite that fact that Sweden’s feminist foreign policy set an important precedent on the international stage, Billström and the new Swedish government appear to believe that Sweden’s landmark feminist foreign policy conflicts with the core of Swedish values.
This decision by the Swedish government to ditch their feminist foreign policy comes at a turbulent time for many countries, particularly regarding women’s rights.
+ In Denmark’s general election, a record number of women are elected into parliament.
In Denmark’s general election earlier this month, a record number of women were elected into the national parliament. Although the official figures of nominated and elected candidates of parliament have yet to be published by Statistics Denmark, according to the Danish news agency Ritzau, 44 percent of the 179 newly elected lawmakers are women. This figure marks a significant milestone towards gender parity in the Danish parliament.
Mette Frederiksen, Denmark’s current Prime Minister and the second woman in Danish history to lead its government, also secured a majority and will continue to serve as the country’s leader.
+ New Chinese law tells women to ‘obey family values.’
A new amendment to the Women’s Rights and Interests Protection Law introduced a set of moral standards for women across China. “Women should respect and obey national laws, respect social morals, professional ethics and family values,” explains the law’s opening chapter.
This growing pressure to conform to domestic values comes as China’s birth rate falls below 10 million babies, compared to 10.6 million births last year.
“China is attempting to use laws to regulate and discipline women,” said Xiaowen Liang, a New York-based feminist and lawyer. “Why do you only need women to observe family values? What kind of family values are we talking about? These are very vague ideas.”
The law, adopted by the country’s top legislative body, is set to go into effect next year.
+ Women demand trains sell tampons to combat period shame.
Earlier this year, one Chinese woman posted on social media about her irritation over not being able to purchase period products on trains, and thus sparked a debate over the place of menstruation in public life. “I don’t want more women to feel embarrassed, so I’m bringing this up in the hope that it may be addressed,” wrote the unnamed woman.
In response, the Chinese railway company explained that period products are “private items” that are not normally sold, and instead encouraged all passengers to be prepared with their own products. Some online commenters wrote on the original post that it is inappropriate and dirty for pads to be sold alongside food.
“Sanitary napkin[s] [seem] to be a small issue, but behind this is a fact that’s long been ignored — the neglect of women’s rights,” said Duan Tao, a professor at the Shanghai First Maternity and Infant Hospital.
To challenge social taboos on periods, university student Wendy Kou created a series of posters about menstruation and posted them around her campus. She was inspired by the black plastic bags given by cashiers to customers purchasing period products. “I think that ‘period’ shouldn’t be a shameful word for women to speak out in public,” she said.
Period Pride, a group formed by young women, is working to fight the stigma around periods in China. To celebrate International Women’s day, the group launched an online campaign called #NothingToBeAshamedOf, encouraging women to openly share their personal stories related to menstruation.
“Maybe only when we finally end the stigma of periods and feel free to talk about it directly [will] sanitary pads…become a ‘normal commodity’ instead of a ‘private item’” one social media user commented.
The United States
+ A record number of women, LGBTQ+ and Black candidates win races in midterm elections.
In the U.S.’s midterm elections earlier this month, women, LGBTQ+ and Black candidates made historic advances.
In 2023, the number of women that serve as governors will, for the first time, reach double digits—with a grand total of 12 women serving in the role across the country.
According to The Associated Press, in Arkansas, Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) won her gubernatorial race, which means that she will be the first woman to serve as the state’s governor. In Pennsylvania, Summer Lee (D) won the state’s 12th District race and will be the state’s first Black congresswoman. In Maryland, Wes Moore (D) won his gubernatorial race, which means that the state will have its first Black governor. Notably, Moore is the third Black candidate in the entire country to be elected governor.
In Florida, 25-year-old Maxwell Frost (D) won the state’s 10th District race, and will be the first member of Gen Z to be elected to Congress. In Vermont, Becca Balint (D) won the state’s at-large House race, making her the first woman and the first openly gay person to be elected to Congress in the state’s history. In Illinois, Delia Ramirez (D) won the state’s 3rd District race and will be the state’s first Latina congresswoman.
In New Hampshire, James Roesener (D) won the state’s 22nd District race, making him the first out trans man elected to a state legislature. In Minnesota and Montana respectively, Leigh Finke (D) and Zooey Zephyr (D) won their races to become the first out trans people elected to their states’ legislatures. And in Montana, SJ Howell (D) won the state’s 95th District race, which means that they will be the first out nonbinary candidate elected to the state’s legislature.
Click here to see Ms.’s 2022 elections archive for more information and articles about the results of the midterm elections.
+ Despite underrepresentation, women at COP27 achieve a climate reparations agreement.
The 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27), which ran from Nov. 6-18th in Egypt, brought together national representatives to discuss climate negotiations. In 2011, countries pledged to increase women’s participation in the discussions. However, women made up less than 34 percent of country negotiation teams this year.
Climate change disproportionately impacts women — they are often forced to drop out of school or marry early to assist their families with the financial stress that accompanies climate disasters. In Kenya, Rwanda, Zambia and Nigeria, climate change is increasing gender-based violence and damaging women’s mental health, according to new research from ActionAid.
This year, women at COP27 are leading discussions on a particularly divisive issue — reparations for climate disasters. For more than 30 years, activists have tried to get reparations onto the COP agenda and have finally succeeded.
“There are better results because women tend to be better in conflict resolution. They tend to be better in terms of reaching agreements, better in developing stricter policies that tend to be more sustainable,” said Milagros De Camps, vice minister of international cooperation for the Dominican Republic.
On Nov. 20, representatives reached an agreement that would create a new global fund for climate reparations. The U.S. and European Union will face pressure to contribute. Details about the agreement will be discussed at next year’s conference. “It is a small victory for humankind,” said Avinash Persaud, special climate envoy to the prime minister of Barbados.
+ Nov. 25 marks International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Ahead of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Nov. 25, U.N. Women and the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released a new study on gender-related violence. The report tracks global estimates of gender-related killings in 2021.
The evidence suggests there has been little progress in preventing gender-related killings. 56 percent of women murdered last year died at the hands of family or intimate partners, compared to 11 percent of men. The report will inform the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, sponsored by the U.N.
“Behind every femicide statistic is the story of an individual woman or girl who has been failed. These deaths are preventable – the tools and the knowledge to do so already exist,” said Sima Bahous, Executive Director at U.N. Women.
+ U.N. Population Fund establishes reproductive healthcare in drought-impacted areas.
Earlier this month, UNFPA appealed for a life-saving $113.7 million for sexual and reproductive healthcare in the Horn of Africa, which faces its worst drought in 40 years. The fund will establish mobile and static clinics, deploy midwives to facilities with the greatest need and strengthen community outreach.
Overall, more than 36 million people across Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya require humanitarian assistance due to the drought, which has combined with conflict, locust infestations, and the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic to push millions toward starvation. More than 1.7 million people have been forced to leave their homes in search of food, water and basic services. Most are mothers and end up walking for several weeks.
“As the food security situation continues to deteriorate in the Horn of Africa, women and girls are facing hunger and other serious threats to their health, rights and safety,” said Dr. Natalia Kanem, UNFPA Executive Director. “UNFPA’s priority is to safeguard access to life-saving reproductive health and protection services that are critical to the survival and well-being of women and girls.”
Gender-based violence is rising as the drought continues, with maternal care and family planning services becoming particularly compromised. There are currently more than 892,000 pregnant people who will give birth over the next three months — many of whom are facing malnutrition and pregnancy complications.
“We need to act now to save thousands of lives and provide women and girls with the essential support they urgently need and a chance at building a better future,” said Kanem.
+ Iranian authorities target youth protesters.
As protests in Iran calling for women’s rights and governmental social reform continue, hundreds of minors have been detained by Iranian authorities, according to Iranian lawyers familiar with the ongoing cases. A majority of the protests across the country are young people; according to Iranian officials, the average age of protestors is 15. And so, as Iranian authorities have become increasingly aggressive, cracking down on protests writ-large, young people have become targets for arrests; Iranian authorities have responded to youth protestors with the same violence they have used against adults.
“What makes these protests different is children are much more visibly present, displaying a bold determination to defy the establishment and ask for a better future for themselves. And they are using all the tools of repression at their disposal to crack down on them,” explains Diana Elthaway, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Middle East and North Africa. Families of children in custody continue to face immense pressure from Iranian authorities to comply with proceedings — some children have gone missing and others have been killed.
According to Bahram Rahimi, a founding member of Iran’s Committee to Protect the Rights of Children, Iran has “never respected or accepted the concept of children having any rights. Even the most conservative families are infuriated at the ways they are targeting children.”
+ Women’s rights defenders arrested by the Taliban.
On Nov. 4, women’s rights activist Zarifa Yaqoobi was detained by the Taliban during a press conference in Kabul. The Taliban tried to prevent the press conference, but the activists continued with their agenda and announced the “Afghan Women Movement for Equality.” About 60 Taliban members stormed the event and deleted photos from the phones of those in attendance.
Then, Farhat Popalzai, 23-year-old activist and founder of the “Spontaneous Movement of Afghan Women,” was arrested by the Taliban on Nov. 8. Only five days later, activist Humaira Yusuf was also taken into custody by the Taliban.
Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid claims the activists are encouraged by foreign countries to protest against the Taliban. According to Mujahid, the arrests of these women are justified because they failed to disclose the time, place and purpose of their protests with the Taliban beforehand.
“The recent wave of arrests of women human rights defenders in Afghanistan is yet another attempt to quell all forms of peaceful protests and any dissent against the Taliban’s oppressive policies that violate human rights, particularly of women and girls. Such arrests will no doubt increase the environment of fear and reprisal in a continuing system of repression that goes unchecked,” said Samira Hamidi, Amnesty International’s South Asia campaigner.
Amnesty International and the U.N. have called for the immediate release of these women and their peers.
+ As El Salvador’s “State of Emergency” persists, police continue to commit arrests arbitrarily, impacting many members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Under El Salvador’s continued “state of emergency” — which has reigned since March of this year when the country’s President Nayib Bukele launched a crackdown on criminal gangs — police raids meant to target gang activity have affected members of the LGBTQ community through arbitrary arrests. According to an activist with a San Salvador-based pro-LGBTQ organization in an interview with Inter Press Service, “Cases like this, which reveal hatred towards gay or trans people, are happening, but the organizations are not really speaking out, because of the fear that has been generated by ‘the state of exception.’”
Organizations that advocate for human rights in El Salvador, including Cristosal, have collected approximately 4,000 complaints of police brutality and massive arbitrary arrests. Although only 40 people from the LGBTQ community have been reported to be arrested of the 58,000 people detained, it is quite likely that the real number of detained members of the LGBTQ community is much bigger.
Since the beginning of El Salvador’s state of emergency, many constitutional rights have been suspended — including the right to defense counsel — and the period in which a person can be detained and presented in court has been extended.
Lawmakers of the Salvadorian ruling party, New Ideas, declared that the suspension and restriction of civil rights will continue “until the last gang member is arrested.”
+ Cuban women’s rights activists want more explicit legal protections against violence against women.
As the Associated Press reported in November, Cuban women’s rights activists are hard at work to codify protections against women abused at home into law.
Although the Cuban government has taken significant steps towards acknowledging and combatting domestic violence against women (such as creating over 150 care centers with specialized counseling, legal services and a hotline for victims, as well as establishing the National Program for the Advancement of Women), many Cuban women’s rights activists are skeptical of the extent to which these measures are effective.
Cuban authorities argue that the recent passage of two measures, the Family Code and a new penal code, adequately address the issue of violence against women. But, Cuban women’s rights activists want more explicit protections.
It is important to note that Cuban law does not recognize femicide as a separate crime from aggravated homicide. So, there is no recent public data that accounts for acts of femicide in Cuba. Many activists blame this lack of data on Cuban police. “The distrust that women have in Cuba is related to the police’s own actions. When they file a complaint, they don’t get the protection they need. Many are revictimized,” says Cuban activist and entrepreneur Deyni Terry. Gender-based violence is woven into the country’s social structure when police officers refuse to report violence against women or to believe victim’s stories.
+ Fola Francis debuts as the first trans model at Lagos Fashion Week.
Fola Francis became the first trans person to walk the Lagos Fashion Week runway, modeling for brands such as Cute-Saint and Fruché. Lagos Fashion Week is described as the African continent’s largest fashion week and has received international attention following its commitment to the designers.
Francis’ debut is a win for the trans community, which has virtually no rights in Nigeria. Trans, intersex and nonbinary people are not mentioned in the Constitution and are targeted by various penal codes.
One of the companies Francis modeled for, Cute-Saint, is a genderless contemporary fashion company that values diversity. When Francis approached them about modeling, they were eager to spread a positive message.
“I want the Nigerian fashion industry to be intentional in creating a safe space for queer and trans people,” said Francis. “Don’t say you’re looking for male and female models when casting. Leave it at ‘models,’ because this helps create a sense of safety without alienating anyone. Degender fashion, too. Not just for inclusion’s sake, but because you care about everyone.”
+ Ugandan feminists address domestic violence with eco-friendly solutions.
Constance Okollet Achom, a woman from a rural village in Eastern Uganda, founded Osukuru United Women Network to address domestic violence. Okollet Achom seeks to equip those impacted by violence with the skills needed to manufacture eco-friendly biofuels from agro-forestry waste.
Fifty-one percent of African women report that they are attacked by their husbands for either burning or refusing to prepare food, according to the latest World Bank report. However, domestic violence is highly normalized in Uganda, with a 77 percent acceptance rate.
“There have been a growing number of women in my village who experienced intimate partner violence. But they have always accepted to continue bearing the brunt of suffering because of their inability to deal with their finances,” explains Okollet Achom.
The organization currently has 2,000 members engaged in various environmentally-friendly projects, such as tree planting, education on climate change and the manufacture of low-emitting stoves. Communities have benefited greatly from increased food production and reforestation. Most importantly, Okollet Achom explains that the project provides counseling to women affected by domestic violence and entrepreneurial skills, which empowers them to become financially independent.
The organization is also challenging traditional gender norms that shame women who work outside the home. “These income-generating projects from green initiatives are helping the majority of these women to develop self-sufficiency in their families and stand on their feet,” Okollet said.
+ The Spanish right launches sexist attacks against Irene Montero, Spain’s Minister of Equality, over Spain’s new sexual consent law.
Following the passage of Spain’s “Only yes means yes” sexual consent law in August, many rightwing Spanish politicians have launched sexist attacks against Irene Montero, the Podemos party MP and Spain’s Minister of Equality.
The new law explicitly defines rape as sex without consent and redefines the scope of potential minimum and maximum prison sentences. This, in turn, allows for convicted sex offenders to have their sentences reexamined. While Montero continues to defend the law, some members of opposing parties have accused the left-leaning Spanish government of not doing enough to ensure that justice is served for victims of sexual assaults.
Last week, Carmen Herrarted, a city councilor for the center-right Citizens party, accused the Spanish government of “Devoting themselves to allowing rapists back on the streets,” and attacked Montero by saying that she “has got where she is because of being impregnated by an alpha male.” The next day, Carla Toscano, one of the members of the far-right Vox party, called Montero a “liberator of rapists.”
Despite the recent wave of far-right attacks against Montero, other politicians have publicly condemned these attacks. Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister, offered Montero his support and described the recent attacks by the Spanish right in parliament as “the worst of politics; a politics of insults and sexism.”
In the face of these attacks, Montero said, “I want everyone to remember the political violence, and those who employ it, so that everyone can see that feminists and democrats outnumber them and that we will use more rights to put this gang of fascists in their place.”
+ Thousands protest to demand an end to violence against women.
On Nov. 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, thousands marched in Barcelona and Madrid to demand an end to genderp-based violence. Many of the protestors wore purple, chanting “No is no, anything else is rape” and “We women are not goods.”
In 2022 alone, 38 women in Spain have died as a result of gender-based violence, according to the ministry of equality. The protests broke out after prison sentences were reduced following a loophole introduced by recent legislation. The new “Yes means yes” law means that victims no longer need to prove that they suffered violence and intimidation. However, the new law lowers the minimum sentence for sexual crimes. According to Spanish law, a criminal can appeal to have their sentence reduced in light of these changes to the penal code. For instance, a man sentenced in Madrid to six years and nine months for abusing a minor had his sentence reduced by five years.
In response, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called on men to step forward and end machismo, a term used to describe often violent masculinity. “Male violence is a tragic reality that shames us every day,” he said at a Socialist Party event.
+ Chile’s first lady, Irina Karamanos, resigns from her official duties and eliminates the institutional role of the first lady.
In October, Irina Karamanos, the First Lady of Chile, announced that she will be completely eliminating the institutional role of the first lady in the Chilean government. She said that the role “As we know it now will end…The partner of the president is chosen to be a partner, not to be a president of foundations.”
In September, Karamanos announced that she will be stepping down from performing the functions of Chile’s First Lady. Since her husband, Gabriel Boric, was elected president of Chile in December of last year, it was clear that Karamanos did not want to assume the official duties of First Lady: “From now on, everything I do will come second. The first thing everyone will know about me was that I was the president’s partner.”
In eliminating the official duties of Chile’s First Lady, Karamanos says she hoped to dismantle the notion that a powerful man needs a woman to offer him emotional support and serve at his side.