Monday, January 4, 2016
A groundbreaking law on domestic abuse takes effect today in England and Wales. It expands the meaning of domestic violence to include psychological and emotional torment. So it is now a crime there to control your spouse, say, through social media or online stalking. Experts in domestic violence say it represents a new way to look at the whole issue of abuse.
Until recently, the only way police there could arrest someone for domestic violence was if the person assaulted or threatened their spouse. After a lot of research with victims, authorities realized that abuse often starts earlier and is more pervasive than they thought.
The new law makes illegal all sorts of controlling and coercive behavior in a relationship. This can include stealing money from a spouse, limiting financial freedom, Internet stalking or restricting access to friends and family. Prosecutors will have to show a pattern of abuse and that it has real impact on a victim's life.
Police around England and Wales are now being trained to spot signs of controlling behavior and enforce the law. Violators could face a sentence of up to five years behind bars.
When Chinese survivors of domestic violence summon the courage to go to the police, they often hear one thing: That's a private matter, go home.
That, at long last, may change.
After years of feminist organizing and advocacy, China's legislature this weekend passed a domestic violence law. For those who worked to make it happen, it's a hard-earned victory — an achievement "worth celebrating," according to veteran campaigner Feng Yuan.
At the same time, advocates say, the law is deeply flawed, a sort of field guide to enduring stereotypes and societal blind-spots. It fails to account for sexual violence, for one. And it is silent on the matter of same-sex couples.
"The law is very necessary to combat the epidemic of domestic violence, but there are a lot of problems with this legislation," said Leta Hong Fincher, author of “Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China."
"And," she said, "we will have to see how it's enforced."
The law was a long time coming. Women's groups here have for more than a decade campaigned to take domestic violence out of the shadows and into the courts.
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
The Atlantic, Gender Equity Requires Changes in Law, Not Just Culture
Women’s labor-force participation doesn’t alone signify economic freedom, but it is one of the mechanisms by which women can build wealth and gain financial independence. A new report from the World Bank takes a look at the legal status of women around the world and finds that while there has been progress in many countries when it comes to making financial freedom more accessible, laws still exist that can make women especially economically vulnerable.
Legal barriers that restrict women’s opportunities to work are the most obvious culprits of gender inequality across the globe. In Russia, for instance, researchers found that women are legally barred from working 456 different (and pretty specific) jobs including woodworking and driving trucks that carry agricultural goods. Similar laws are also prevalent in the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, and North Africa. And while wealthier, more developed nations are less likely to have explicit legal prohibitions on women working, they do exist. Eight of 32 OECD high-income countries, including Israel, France, the Republic of Korea, and Japan, have laws that bar women from certain jobs. French law prohibits women moving loads that weigh more than 45 kilograms via a wheelbarrow. And in Argentina, women are barred from loading and unloading ships, the paper finds.
Friday, December 11, 2015
Five women are suing the government of Japan over a law requiring spouses to adopt the same surname.
“By losing your surname ... you’re being made light of, you’re not respected ... It’s as if part of your self vanishes,” said Kaori Oguni, a translator and one of the five women involved in the lawsuit.
A decision by the supreme court, due on 16 December, coincides with prime minister Shinzo Abe’s push to draw more women into a shrinking workforce. Despite that, many in his conservative ruling party are opposed to any legal change.
An 1896 law says spouses must adopt the same surname to legally register their marriage. The law does not specify which one, but in practice, 96% of women take their husband’s name, a reflection of Japan’s male-dominated society.
Conservatives say allowing couples to choose whether they share the same surname or not could damage family ties and threaten society.
“Names are the best way to bind families,” Masaomi Takanori, a constitutional scholar, told NHK public television.
“Allowing different surnames risks destroying social stability, the maintenance of public order and the basis for social welfare.”
H/T Joanna Grossman
Friday, November 27, 2015
While the world has made progress closing the gap between women and men in health, education, economic participation, and political empowerment over the last decade, the United States is not keeping up.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) just released its 2015 Global Gender Gap report, which showed that the gap has dropped by 4 percent in the last ten years. While this marks progress, it could take another 118 years to completely close the gap. Gender equality will not be reached until the year 2133 at this rate.
Progress also isn’t even across the globe. Over those 10 years, Nordic countries have consistently been doing the most to close the gender gap. Iceland came in at number one over the past six years, followed by Norway, Finland and Sweden.
The United States, on the other hand, has actually moved backward. On the list of 145 countries, the United States has never broken into the top 15 countries with the lowest gender gap. Worse, it fell eight places over the last year, to a rank of 28 for overall gender equality. The authors of the study credit this fall to slightly “less perceived wage equality for similar work and changes in ministerial level positions.” Though the U.S. has nearly closed the gender gap in education and health, the largest gaps stills remain in labor force participation, wage equality for similar work, and political empowerment.
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Melanie Randall (W. Ontario), Particularized Social Groups and Categorical Imperatives in Refugee Law: State Failures to Recognize Gender and the Legal Reception of Gender Persecution Claims in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States, 23 American J. Gender, Social Policy & Law 529 (2015)
Thursday, November 5, 2015
Trudeau on Wednesday continued his hot streak by introducing his 30-person cabinet that had just as many women as men—a first for the country.
From the Globe and Mail:Justin Trudeau is ushering in a new era in Canadian politics with a cabinet that is reflective of the country’s ethnic diversity, peppered with rookie politicians, and composed of more women than ever before… After the swearing-in ceremony, Mr. Trudeau addressed reporters and other members of the public outside Rideau Hall saying he was proud to “present to Canada a cabinet that looks like Canada.”
When asked why he opted for gender equity, Trudeau responded: “Because it’s 2015.” The current 16-person cabinet in the Obama administration, by comparison, is made up of just 25 percent women.
Sunday, November 1, 2015
A court has granted a divorce to a man who was responsible for the breakup of his marriage by cheating on his wife, overturning the lower court's ruling.
It is the first court decision that allowed a divorce sought by a cheating spouse after the Supreme Court's ruling in September that expanded the grounds for divorce in limited cases, although it largely upheld the legal principle that bans a party responsible for destroying the marriage from filing for divorce.
Following the ruling, similar divorce requests are expected from estranged couples who have been barely maintaining a paper-only marriage relationship.
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Hundreds of women, some of them pregnant or domestic servants who are victims of rape, are being imprisoned in the United Arab Emirates every year under laws that outlaw consensual sex outside marriage, according to a BBC Arabic investigation.
Secret footage obtained by BBC Arabic show pregnant women shackled in chains walking into a courtrooms where laws prohibiting “Zina” – or sex outside marriage – could mean sentences of months to years in prison and flogging.
“Because the UAE authorities have not clarified what they mean by indecency, the judges can use their culture and customs and Sharia ultimately to broaden out that definition and convict people for illicit sexual relations or even acts of public affection,” said Rothna Begum, women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch in London.
While both men and women could in theory be imprisoned for having sex outside marriage, the investigation – which will air at the opening of BBC Arabic festival on 31 October – found that in reality pregnancy is often used as proof of the “crime”, with domestic female migrant workers – numbering about 150,000 in the UAE – left most vulnerable.
Saturday, October 24, 2015
Forty years ago, the women of Iceland went on strike - they refused to work, cook and look after children for a day. It was a moment that changed the way women were seen in the country and helped put Iceland at the forefront of the fight for equality.
When Ronald Reagan became the US President, one small boy in Iceland was outraged. "He can't be a president - he's a man!" he exclaimed to his mother when he saw the news on the television.
It was November 1980, and Vigdis Finnbogadottir, a divorced single mother, had won Iceland's presidency that summer. The boy didn't know it, but Vigdis (all Icelanders go by their first name) was Europe's first female president, and the first woman in the world to be democratically elected as a head of state.
Many more Icelandic children may well have grown up assuming that being president was a woman's job, as Vigdis went on to hold the position for 16 years - years that set Iceland on course to become known as "the world's most feminist country".
But Vigdis insists she would never have been president had it not been for the events of one sunny day - 24 October 1975 - when 90% of women in the country decided to demonstrate their importance by going on strike.
Friday, October 23, 2015
Tokyo’s Shibuya ward said Friday that it will start accepting applications for same-sex partnership certificates beginning next week after passing an ordinance earlier this year that permits the ward to recognize the partners equivalent to those married under the law.
According to the ward, same-sex couples applying for a certificate must both reside in Shibuya and be at least 20 years old. They must also be unrelated and have no spouses or other same-sex partners. The ward will also require that the couple submit notarized documents proving their relationship.
The ward said it will start issuing the certificates beginning Nov. 5.
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Around the world, women in 155 countries face legal restrictions on the economic opportunities available to them, according to the recent World Bank Group's reportWomen, Business and the Law 2016, which highlights the challenges women face in the global economy and underscores the need for legal reform.
These legal barriers are just the beginning of the obstacles women face to accessing economic opportunities. Establishing women's equality in the law is critical, but more work is needed to dismantle the social and cultural norms that prevent women from knowing and accessing their rights.
Friday, October 16, 2015
It’s not novel that minors in the US can, in very rare cases, be sentenced to reform programs or secure confinement for actions that wouldn’t be illegal if adults did them. But the system used to punish youth for the likes of skipping school or drinking has never been used systematically to address cases where minors engage in survival sex – meaning, youths who exchange sex for money, shelter, food, drugs or other needs.
That is about to change, even though treating juveniles charged with prostitution like truants will increase arrests and extend court-involvement and institutionalization of victims.
Monday, October 12, 2015
In the midst of earthquake reconstruction and political violence in the country's south, Nepal's new constitution provides a reason for many citizens to celebrate -- particularly its lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community.
After more than seven years of deliberation, on September 20, Nepal's President Ram Baran Yadav promulgated the small Himalayan country's historic constitution. It stands as the first national constitution in Asia--and only the third in the world along with South Africa (1996) and Ecuador (1998)--to include explicit rights and protections for LGBTI people.
Friday, October 9, 2015
"Everyone has a fundamental right to be recognized in their gender," the Delhi High Court declared this week in a short but powerful judgment that vindicates the rights of India’s transgender people.
The court stepped in to protect Shivy, a 19-year-old transgender man studying neurobiology in California, who was being mistreated by his parents during a family holiday to India. Shivy said his parents confined him to his grandparents’ home in Agra, took away his Indian passport and United States residency card, and compelled him to enroll in a university in Agra. When he ran away, his parents reported him to the police, who searched for him and reportedly harassed activists who had assisted him.
Thursday, October 8, 2015
Section 28 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was supposed to be a game changer for women. It reads: "Notwithstanding anything in this Charter, the rights and freedoms referred to in it are guaranteed equally to male and female persons." But lawyer, Trudeau Foundation scholar, and Queen's University PhD candidate Kerri Froc says it has been used to hurt women's rights instead of advance them.
Froc would like to see Section 28 - which was modelled on the proposed American Equal Rights Amendment - rehabilitated to protect and promote women's rights, as it was intended.
Right after the Charter was entrenched, there was a flurry of activity with respect to sex discrimination cases but most of it was brought by men, essentially attacking some of the very few legislative provisions that protected women. There was a case concerning social assistance benefits that gave some small protections to single mothers and what the courts said was, 'Section 28 requires absolute equal treatment between men and women, you can't have that.' So it struck down that benefit.
h/t Sonia Lawrence
Friday, September 25, 2015
BEIJING — Chinese leader Xi Jinping will preside this weekend over a U.N. conference on gender equality, which some activists say is galling given China's recent detentions of women's rights activists and its history of stopping people from attending U.N. meetings to discuss such issues.
Scheduled to draw more than 80 national leaders at the United Nations' headquarters in New York on Sunday, the meeting co-hosted by China comes 20 years after Beijing held a groundbreaking U.N. conference on women's rights in which Hillary Clinton equated women's rights with human rights.
China has made some progress in women's rights since then, including the introduction of local-level regulations against domestic violence, but much remains to be done in bringing women into positions of power. Only two women are in the Communist Party's powerful 25-member Politburo.
Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Nawel was in Tunis’s city centre when it happened. “This guy came up to me from nowhere. He was dressed really religiously and, without any warning, he just slapped me across the face – and the weird thing was that it wasn’t just the slap. It was that no one did anything. They all just carried on. It was if I deserved it.”
Nawel shakes her head, still stung by the casual indifference of the crowd. There isn’t anything unusual about her that might mark her out for attack. With her short hair, jeans and T-shirt she is indistinguishable from many other young women.
Tunisia’s attitude to its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community goes beyond the social. Article 230 of Tunisia’s constitution forbids acts of sodomy, with those found guilty facing jail sentences of up to three years. Article 226 rules against outrages to public decency, a catch-all law often used to target the country’s trans community. Both laws date from 1914 and remain untouched by the 2011 revolution and the subsequent rush to reform.
Much of the focus for Tunisia’s LGBT pushback has focused on the pressure group Shams, which campaigns for the repeal of Article 230. But an organisation formed in June last year is providing a feminist alternative. Chouf, whose members see themselves primarily as visual activists, offers a desperately needed safe haven for Tunisia’s most isolated and vulnerable groups, its lesbian, bisexual and trans communities.
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
About three weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, the Colombian government issued a directive that received little international notice. On June 4th, the government announced that it would allow Colombian citizens to change their gender on identity documents without first undergoing gender-reassignment surgery or obtaining permission from a medical professional. These requirements, which remain in place, either in whole or in part, in the U.S. and most of the rest of the world, were “profoundly invasive of the right to privacy and based upon an impermissible bias,” said Yesid Reyes, the minister of justice. “The construction of sexual identity and gender is a matter that does not depend on biology.”
England and Spain passed the first laws making it easier for a person to change her gender on official documents, in 2004 and 2007, respectively, and Uruguay followed suit in 2009. Three years later, Argentina passed the most progressive gender-identity law in the world. Not only are Argentines spared the usual requirement of reassignment surgery or a medical diagnosis to change identity documents, but medical practitioners are bound by law to provide them with free hormone treatment and gender-reassignment surgery. Colombia’s decree, which was issued by the president, lacks the reach and force of Argentina’s legislation, but it is striking just the same. Now, in Colombia, all an individual has to do to change his or her gender on official documents is appear before a notary public.
Monday, August 17, 2015
From the NYT, a seeming contradiction between women's rights and radical Islam:
....young women attracted to what some experts are calling a jihadi, girl-power subculture. An estimated 4,000 Westerners have traveled to Syria and Iraq, more than 550 of them women and girls, to join the Islamic State, according to a recent report by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, which helps manage the largest database of female travelers to the region.
They were smart, popular girls from a world in which teenage rebellion is expressed through a radical religiosity that questions everything around them. In this world, the counterculture is conservative. Islam is punk rock. The head scarf is liberating. Beards are sexy.
Ask young Muslim women in their neighborhood what kind of guys are popular at school these days and they start raving about “the brothers who pray.”
“Girls used to want someone who is good-looking; nowadays girls want Muslims who are practicing,” said Zahra Qadir, 22, who does deradicalization work for the Active Change Foundation, her father’s charity in East London. “It’s a new thing over the last couple of years. A lot of girls want that, even some nonpracticing girls.”