International Roundup: Women in the News

Notable gender-related changes that fit with the interests and purpose of this blog—gender issues in the workplace—are happening all over the world. The people and events involved are inspirational and informative. Here are a few recent ones.


Salman Masood writes that after decades of struggle to secure representation and rights for women, Justice Ayesha A. Malik has been cleared to be appointed to the Pakistani Supreme Court. In this conservative, male-dominated society, where sexual assault and discrimination are largely ignored by the legal system, this “is a small step forward in [the] struggle” for female representation, said Zarmeeneh Rahim, an Islamabad-based lawyer. Nonetheless, as Aliya Hamza Malik, a member of Parliament, noted, “It is a defining moment for women’s empowerment in the country.”

South Korea

Choe Sang-Hun, writing for the New York Times, reports that limited job opportunities and the #MeToo movement have produced a strong backlash from angry young men in South Korea against feminists, who some call “a social evil.” More than three-quarters of young men in their twenties say that they are victims of serious reverse gender discrimination despite these facts:

  • South Korea has the highest gender wage gap among wealthy countries.
  • Less than one-fifth of its national lawmakers are women.
  • Women make up only 5.2 percent of board members of publicly listed businesses, compared to 28 percent in the United States.

While more women attend college than men and women have more opportunities in government than they’ve ever had before, a significant glass ceiling still exists. But in the current presidential election campaigns, no major candidate is speaking out for women’s rights, which is a major reversal from past elections as recent as five years ago.

Women’s rights activists have made gains in recent years in expanding women’s rights, legalizing abortion, and starting one of the most powerful #MeToo movements in Asia. They worry that the current environment will result in a blockage or rollback of hard-won progress.


Natalie Kitroeff writes that just days after Texas began enacting a new ban on abortions, which effectively makes abortion unattainable in Texas, “Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that abortion could no longer be treated as a crime.” Feminists in Mexico fought for years to help Mexican women get access to abortion-inducing drugs and to get safe abortion legalized. Now that they have succeeded, they plan to help American women get abortions in Mexico or gain access to the medical abortion drug misoprostol. Misoprostol, a safe, effective, and often cheap drug, was recently approved by the US FDA for delivery by mail for home use so women can end pregnancies in private. The United States is a global outlier in access to abortion, but women will always find a way if they need one.


Journalist Jane Arraf, writing for the New York Times, reports that Randa Abd Al-Aziz, has made Iraqi history by becoming the first Black Iraqi news anchor employed on air at the state television news and information in at least two decades. Other Black news anchors were possibly hired during Saddam Hussein’s rule, but no one can remember that being the case. She may be the first ever African Iraqi news anchor. African Iraqis have been part of Iraq for a long time, but they do not see themselves represented in public roles:

  • About 1.5 million African Iraqis live in the country of forty million.
  • Black Iraqis have no political representation as Iraq’s Parliament does not have a single Black lawmaker.
  • No senior Black officials work in government ministries.

Arraf explains, “Most members of Iraq’s Black community are descendants of enslaved East Africans brought to the southern coast of Iraq beginning in the ninth century” as part of a slave trade that lasted for more than one thousand years. Racism against Black Iraqis is deeply entrenched in Iraqi culture. Black students tend to drop out of school due to bullying by students and teachers. The illiteracy rate among Black Iraqis was 80 percent in 2011 when the survey was last done. This visible public role for Abd Al-Aziz is bound to have a positive impact on Black Iraqis, showing them they, too, can aspire to be all they can be.


Photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash

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