9-18-21 Afghanistan: Girls excluded as Afghan secondary schools reopen
The Taliban have excluded girls from Afghan secondary schools, after they ordered only boys and male teachers to return to the classroom. Schoolgirls told the BBC they were devastated not to be returning. "Everything looks very dark," one said. A Taliban spokesman said there were plans to open girls' schools soon. But there are fears Afghanistan is returning to the harsh rule of the 1990s when a similar ban on girls' schooling was in place. A statement issued ahead of Afghan schools reopening on Saturday said: "All male teachers and students should attend their educational institutions." Secondary schools are usually for students aged between 13 and 18, and most are segregated. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid was later quoted by Afghanistan's Bakhtar News Agency as saying that girls' schools would open soon. He said officials were currently working on the "procedure" for this, and details including the division of teachers. But schoolgirls and their parents said prospects were bleak. "I am so worried about my future," said one Afghan schoolgirl, who had hoped to be a lawyer. "Everything looks very dark. Every day I wake up and ask myself why I am alive? Should I stay at home and wait for someone to knock on the door and ask me to marry him? Is this the purpose of being a woman?" Her father said: "My mother was illiterate, and my father constantly bullied her and called her an idiot. I didn't want my daughter to become like my mum." Another schoolgirl, a 16-year-old from Kabul, said it was a "sorrowful day". "I wanted to become a doctor! And that dream has vanished. I don't think they would let us go back to school. Even if they open the high schools again, they don't want women to become educated." Earlier this week, the Taliban announced that women would be allowed to study at universities, but they would not be able to do so alongside men and would face a new dress code. Some suggested the new rules would exclude women from education because the universities do not have the resources to provide separate classes. Barring girls from secondary schools would mean none would be able to go on to further education.
9-18-21 'No reason' for optimism Taliban's ban on girls' education will end, human rights analyst warns
Boys in grades 7-12 returned to school in Afghanistan on Saturday for the first time in months, but girls of the same age did not, as they effectively remain banned from going to class by the Taliban. The group has suggested it would allow girls to return to secondary school once the country's security situation eases, but there's widespread speculation that those are empty words. The last time the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, they never formally banned girls' education, but maintained throughout their reign that it wasn't safe for them to attend. Heather Barr, the associate director of Human Rights Watch's Women's Rights Division, told The Wall Street Journal the current situation "feels very familiar" to the period between 1996 and 2001 when Afghan women and girls "were told to be patient and wait for a day that never came." Now, she said, there is once again "no reason for much optimism that this ban will end." Primary school-aged girls are allowed back in school, though they'll be taught separately from boys, and some private universities have also been given the go ahead to open gender-segregated classrooms. Still, many female students have opted against attending out of fear, the Journal reports. The latest development may suggest that the more moderate, pragmatic voices within the Taliban are losing out to hard-liners in policy fights at the moment, Mabouba Suraj, the head of the Afghan Women's Network, told The Associated Press. Read more at The Wall Street Journal.
9-15-21 Afghanistan women's youth soccer team escapes to Pakistan
Female players from Afghanistan's junior national soccer team have crossed the border into Pakistan. The girls had spent the past month in hiding amid fears of a crackdown on women's rights by the Taliban. The adult side flew out of Kabul last month but the youth team were reportedly left stranded as they lacked passports and other documentation. 32 players and their families won visas after lobbying of the government by charity "Football for Peace". Officials said the group, totalling 115 people, will travel from Peshawar to the eastern city of Lahore, where they will be housed at the Pakistani Football Federation's headquarters. The Independent recently revealed that the players had written to the Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan to ask for permission to urgently enter the country. The letter claimed that the girls were at risk of "grave threats" from the Taliban. After the fall of Kabul players were warned by the national team's former captain, Khalida Popal, to delete pictures of themselves playing on social media and to burn their kits to protect themselves from potential reprisals from the new regime. Last week the deputy head of the Taliban's cultural commission, Ahmadullah Wasiq, cast doubt over the future of women's sport in the country when he said it was considered neither appropriate nor necessary in response to a question about the fate of the women's cricket team. "In cricket, they might face a situation where their face and body will not be covered. Islam does not allow women to be seen like this", Wasiq said. "It is the media era, and there will be photos and videos, and then people watch it. Islam and the Islamic Emirate [Afghanistan] do not allow women to play cricket or play the kind of sports where they get exposed." Women were barred from participating in sports during the Taliban's last spell in power from 1996-2001. Their departure is part of a wider exodus of Afghan sports and cultural stars amid fears of a crackdown on women's rights following the takeover of the country by the Taliban last month. As well as the departure of the women's football teams, the country's biggest pop singer Aryana Sayeed and the famed film director Sahraa Karimi both left during the evacuation last month.
9-12-21 Taliban says Afghan women can continue college, but not alongside men and only in Islamic dress
The Taliban on Sunday announced that Afghan women will be allowed to continue studying at universities, including post-graduate studies, but universities will be strictly segregated by gender and women must dress in burqas. "We will not allow boys and girls to study together," said Abdul Baqi Haqqani, higher education minister in the Taliban's new all-male government. "We will not allow co-education." Haqqani also said the new government will review the subjects being taught, but added that he wants Afghan university graduates to be competitive with their peers in the region and the world. The last time the Taliban governed Afghanistan, from 1996 to 2001, they barred girls and women from education and most other aspects of public life. Once the U.S. toppled the Taliban and helped set up a new government, universities were coed and there was no dress code — though, The Associated Press notes, "the vast majority of female university students opted to wear headscarves in line with tradition." Haqqani said "we will start building on what exists today," not try to turn the clock back 20 years. When the Taliban seized power and in the months before, it tried to assure the world and fellow Afghans that it had changed over the past 20 years and would allow a more inclusive society, within limits. But women are barred from sports and the Taliban has banned and violently suppressed protests in the past week, including from women demanding greater rights. There are "tens of thousands of urban Afghans who had until recently spent their adult lives in a country propped up by Western forces, surrounded by the liberal rhetoric that came alongside two decades of war," The Washington Post reports. "While the billions of dollars spent on the country's security forces and government vanished with the Taliban takeover, this generation of young Afghans determined to live in a more tolerant society could be one of the few enduring legacies of foreign intervention and investment here." "The Taliban call us the 'American generation,' and they try to say we are not Muslims because we have been influenced by Western thoughts," Rohullah Raziqi, a local journalist in Kabul who has now joined the protests, told the Post. "But it's not true. I just believe in freedom."
9-12-21 The consequences of the Taliban's gender-segregated education policy in Afghanistan
The Taliban's higher education minister, Abdul Baqi Haqqani, told reporters in Kabul on Sunday that, unlike the last time the group ruled Afghanistan, women will be allowed to continue their university and post-graduate studies. However, they'll have to comply with Islamic dress orders and will not be allowed to attend classes alongside men. "We will not allow female and male students to study in one classroom," Haqqani said. "Coeducation is in opposition to Sharia law." The situation appears to be an example of how the Taliban will try to balance their historic style of rule as they face broad international scrutiny in a country that has changed significantly in several ways over the last two decades. While the announcement has been viewed as a sign of progress by some, there's still skepticism about how things will unfold when it comes to women's rights, including education. For example, The Guardian reports that one female student pursuing a science degree in Kandahar said her university has already told her it's not economical to teach women separately from men, leaving her uncertain as to whether she'll ever get to finish her final semester. A professor ar Herat University, which used to have a majority of female students, added that despite being "one of the biggest and best equipped universities in Afghanistan," the institution does "not have the capacity" to handle segregated education. "There are some departments which don't have a female professor at all or have only a few of them, but with a lot of women students," the professor told The Guardian. "How can we function if we have to have a female professor for women and male for men?" Read more at The Washington Post and The Guardian.
9-9-21 Afghanistan cricket: Australia will cancel men's Test if women's team banned
Cricket Australia (CA) will cancel its men's Test match with Afghanistan if reports that the women's team cannot play under Taliban rule are true. On Wednesday, the International Cricket Council said it was concerned by Taliban cultural commission deputy head Ahmadullah Wasiq's comments. Wasiq told Australian broadcaster SBS News: "I don't think women will be allowed to play cricket." CA said they "support the game unequivocally" for women at all levels. "If recent media reports that women's cricket will not be supported in Afghanistan are substantiated, Cricket Australia would have no alternative but to not host Afghanistan for the proposed test match due to be played in Hobart," they added. Australia were scheduled to host their first ever Test against Afghanistan from 26 November ahead of the Ashes series with England, which begins on 8 December. The men's team has already received support from the Taliban - but under ICC rules all 12 full members must have a national women's team, with only full members able to play Test matches. The ICC expressed concerns after Wasiq said: "I don't think women will be allowed to play cricket because it is not necessary that women should play. "In cricket, they might face a situation where their face and body will not be covered. Islam does not allow women to be seen like this." An ICC statement said the organisation "is committed to the long-term growth of women's cricket and despite the cultural and religious challenges in Afghanistan, steady progress had been made in this area since Afghanistan's admission as a full member in 2017". The statement continued: "The ICC has been monitoring the changing situation in Afghanistan and is concerned to note recent media reports that women will no longer be allowed to play cricket. "This, and the impact it will have on the continued development of the game, will be discussed by the ICC board at its next meeting." The Taliban named a new government on Tuesday, three weeks after reclaiming power, but doubts remain over the regime's rules. "So far, we don't have any news from the government," Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) chief executive Hamid Shinwari said in a telephone interview with SBC and Reuters. Last week, BBC Sport reported how many of the women's team are in hiding in Kabul, claiming members of the Taliban have already come looking for them.
9-8-21 Denmark tells some migrants to work for benefits
Some migrants in Denmark will now be required to work 37 hours a week in order to receive welfare benefits. It will be a requirement for those who have been on benefits for three to four years, and who have not reached a certain level of proficiency in Danish. Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said the rules were directly aimed at women from "non-Western backgrounds" living on benefits. Denmark has repeatedly tightened its immigration policies in recent years. It now has some of the toughest rules in Europe, and has set a target of zero asylum applications. The government said the new plan was designed to help migrants assimilate into Danish society, but some have said the rules are misguided and unfair. "We want to introduce a new work logic where people have a duty to contribute and be useful, and if they can't find a regular job, they have to work for their allowance," Ms Frederiksen told reporters. "For too many years we have done a disservice to a lot of people by not demanding anything of them," she said. The prime minister said that the rules were aimed at migrant women. The government says six out of 10 women from the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey are not in work. "It is basically a problem when we have such a strong economy, where the business community demands labour, that we then have a large group, primarily women with non-Western backgrounds, who are not part of the labour market," she said. Employment Minister Peter Hummelgaard said the jobs could range from picking up cigarette butts on the beach to working in companies. But Mai Villadsen, spokeswoman of the left-wing Unity List, criticised the plan, which needs to be approved by lawmakers. "I'm afraid this will end up as state-supported social dumping, sending people into crazy jobs," she told broadcaster TV2. Nejat Chafehi, a 51-year-old migrant living in Copenhagen, said the rules were "not the solution". "She has no idea what she is talking about," she told TV2 outside a job centre, in reference to the prime minister. Ms Chafehi added that she and many other migrant women are actively looking for work. "How do you work when you get so many rejections?" she added.
9-8-21 India paves way for more women in armed forces
India's top court has cleared the way for more women to join the armed forces. On Wednesday, the government told the Supreme Court that women can join military colleges and be eligible for permanent commissions. The decision comes less than a month after the top court allowed women to sit for examinations to India's National Defence Academy (NDA). Women make up a miniscule 0.56% of India's 1.4 million army personnel. Their representation is somewhat better in the air force (1.08%) and navy (6.5%). On Wednesday, the government sought time to frame guidelines for women candidates to take courses in the NDA, a joint defence service training institute of India's armed forces. "The armed forces play an important role... but need to do more for gender equality in the forces. We want them to take a proactive approach themselves in ensuring gender equality rather than waiting for courts to intervene," the Supreme Court said. In August, the court had criticised the government of having a "regressive mindset" for not allowing women to sit for NDA examinations. "It is a policy decision which is based in gender discrimination," the court had said. Women at the moment are inducted into the army through the Short Service Commission (SSC) and don't qualify for a permanent commission - which allows an officer to serve a full tenure. So women are initially meant to serve for five years, but have the option of extending their tenure. However, they don't get the same benefits as their male counterparts. The only exceptions are the army's legal and education wings, where women officers have been eligible for permanent commissions since 2008. So women have worked in the armed forces as doctors, nurses, engineers, signallers, administrators and lawyers. They have treated soldiers on battlefields, handled explosives, detected and removed mines, and laid communication lines. Experts say women have ended up doing almost everything except combat roles: they are still not allowed to serve in infantry and the armoured corps. In 2019 the government agreed to give permanent commissions to women but said this would only apply to those officers who had served less than 14 years, citing physical limitations of older women officers.
9-7-21 LGBTQ group Human Rights Campaign fires president Alphonso David for ties to Andrew Cuomo scandal
The Human Rights Campaign, the largest U.S. LGBTQ advocacy group, fired its president, Alphonso David, "for cause" on Monday night, saying his role in former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's (D) effort to smear a sexual harassment accuser violated his contract. A bombshell report by state Attorney General Letitia James identified David, a lawyer in Cuomo's office before becoming HRC's president, as part of an effort to undermine Lindsey Boylan, the first woman to publicly accuse Cuomo of harassment. The boards of the HRC and its foundation both voted to fire David after a joint meeting Monday night, The New York Times reports, and the vote was unanimous save for two abstentions at the HRC Foundation. David said he will fight his termination. "As a Black, gay man who has spent his whole life fighting for civil and human rights, they cannot shut me up," he tweeted late Monday. "Expect a legal challenge." The co-chairs of HRC's board, Morgan Cox and Jodie Patterson, said in a statement they had decided to fire David because "his actions have put us in an untenable position by violating HRC's core values, policies, and mission." They added: "At HRC, we are fighting to bring full equality and liberation to LGBTQ+ people everywhere. That includes fighting on behalf of all victims of sexual harassment and assault." HRC chief operating officer Jodi Madison will serve as interim president while the board searches for a new president. David's tweeted statements over the weekend, contained "significant untruths" about an investigation into his actions, Cox and Patterson said. On Sunday, David said he would not resign and maintained was told the investigation had found no wrongdoing on his part. In an email to staff on Sunday, Cox and Patterson said the review was not completed. A personal familiar with the HRC board's decision told the Times will never be a written report but the investigation, recounted orally to the boards, had determined that David's actions created reputational damage for the organization. David, the HRC's first Black president, is the latest Cuomo ally ousted in the wake of James' report. Time's Up Legal Defense Fund co-founder Robert Kaplan and Time's Up CEO Tina Tchen both resigned from the sexual harassment victims' organization for their connection to the Boylan incident. Cuomo himself stepped down in late August
9-4-21 Life in Kabul under Taliban: Where is your male escort?
"Why are you travelling without a mahram?" the Taliban guard asks a young Afghan woman about her missing male escort. She sits on her own in the back of a beat-up Kabul yellow taxi as it pulls up to the checkpoint marked, like all the others, by the white Taliban flag with black script. What is allowed now in Kabul, and what is not? The turbaned Talib, rifle slung over shoulder, tells her to call her husband. When she explains she doesn't have a phone, he instructs another taxi driver to take her home to get her husband and bring them back. Once completed, all is resolved. Kabul is still a city of a grinding traffic gridlock, wooden market carts groaning with Afghan green grapes and deep purple plums, and street kids in tattered tunics threading through the melee. On the surface, the city seems much the same. It's not. It's a capital governed by Taliban statements, and some Taliban on the streets. "Be careful in how you deal with your people. This nation has suffered a lot. Be gentle," urged spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in an impromptu press conference, flanked by fighters in full combat gear, the first day after the last US soldier flew home. Some things don't need saying. As soon as the Taliban swept, with surprising speed, into Kabul last month, Afghans knew what to do during Taliban rule 2.0. Men stopped shaving to allow beards to grow; women switched bright scarves to black ones and checked the length of their dresses and cloaks. So much else is uncertain, unnerving. "What should I do?" many Afghans ask in urgent cries for advice, and assistance to escape, tumbling by the hour onto my phone and computer, and those of countless others around the world. Maryam Rajaee knew what to do when Kabul collapsed. On 15 August, as Taliban fighters surged into the streets, she was conducting a long- awaited workshop for female prosecutors in the attorney general's office. "We must continue," her eager students implored her when she flagged the looming threat. But her class soon resigned itself to this sudden reversal. Since then, Rajaee has been moving from one safe house to the next with her family including two young children.
8-27-21 Gender-affirming care improves mental health for transgender youth
Laws restricting this treatment may harm an already vulnerable community, researchers say. Daniel’s birth certificate is marked “female,” but Daniel is nonbinary — not exclusively male nor female. “I’m masculine leaning,” says the 18-year-old. The disconnect between Daniel’s gender identity and physical appearance, which was apparent to them around age 4, became unbearable during puberty. “I hated showers because I didn’t like looking at my body,” Daniel says. “I just felt really uncomfortable with the idea of being female.” At 13, Daniel came out to their mother as transgender, someone whose gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. About a month after coming out, Daniel started seeing a therapist who specialized in gender identity. A year later they were referred to an endocrinologist, who prescribed the sex hormone testosterone. For Daniel, the most important effect was a deeper voice. “My biggest problem with getting misgendered was that my voice was really high,” Daniel says. Before starting hormone therapy, Daniel considered suicide. With masculinizing hormones, they say they’re happier with life. “I definitely feel more like myself. Like I was just existing before, but now I’m living, now that I’m open to everyone about who I am, and most importantly I’m open to myself,” says Daniel, whose last name is being withheld for medical privacy. “Starting testosterone, for me, saved my life.” Daniel’s hormone therapy is just one method that doctors use to bring a person’s body into alignment with their gender identity, an approach known as gender-affirming health care. This kind of care looks different for people of different ages. For young children, it is limited to allowing them to socially express their gender, with perhaps a name and pronoun change. Adolescents may take medications to delay puberty, followed by gender-affirming hormones and possibly surgery. While researchers are still investigating potential risks, existing evidence suggests that these treatments could have life-saving mental health benefits.
8-23-21 Afghan activist: Either we let them kill us or keep working
A leading campaigner for women's rights in Afghanistan was evacuated from Kabul last week after going into hiding. Gaisu Yari, who worked in the civil service told the BBC that it is important for women to "fight for the right to work".
8-18-21 The U.S. and Afghan women are skeptical of the Taliban's newly professed tolerance
The Taliban's longtime spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, in his first-ever public appearance, told reporters in Kabul on Tuesday that the Taliban has declared an "amnesty" for officials of the U.S.-backed government it just toppled, "pardoned all those who have fought against us," and is "committed to the rights of women under the system of Islamic law," including working and attending school "within our frameworks." He also endorsed an "independent" media so long as journalists don't "work against national values," and assured the world that Afghanistan won't be used as a base to attack other countries this time around. These assurances represent a very different Taliban than the brutal pariah regime that ran Afghanistan as a "draconian fundamentalist state" from 1996 to 2001, The Washington Post's Ishaan Tharoor explains. The Taliban's more tolerant and moderate public face was met with skepticism at home and abroad. "This is not about trust, this is about verify," National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said at a White House briefing Tuesday. "It's going to be up to the Taliban to show the rest of the world who they are and how they intend to proceed. The track record has not been good." United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warned of "chilling reports of severe restrictions on human rights" across Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. But the reports are mixed, with some Taliban commanders closing schools for girls and banning women from work and others reopening schools for both sexes and encouraging women to return to the office, The New York Times reports. "We are cautiously optimistic on moving forward," said UNICEF's Kabul operations chief Mustapha Ben Messaoud. One female Afghan TV journalist broadcast live from Kabul Tuesday and interviewed a Taliban official, and women were among the reporters asking Mujahid questions Tuesday afternoon. But Afghan women are "are worried that they will be pushed back at least a century," Roya Rahmani, who became Afghanistan's first female envoy to Washington in 2018, told The Washington Post. Hosna Jalil, a senior Interior Ministry official in the toppled government, warned the world not to trust the Taliban's new "reassuring messages" about women's rights. "Once Afghanistan becomes irrelevant and it's dropped from the headlines," as "it was before 2001," she told the Post, the Taliban "will start targeting every single individual who has been a vocal voice in the past or whoever has the intention to raise a voice on behalf of herself."
8-17-21 Uncertain times ahead for Afghan women
Two days after the Taliban took control of the Afghan capital, Kabul, female presenters have returned to at least some TV channels, after briefly going off air as the militants took over the country. Tolo TV, the private channel which previously broadcast a mix of Western-style game shows, soap operas and talent contests, said there was a little bit of uncertainty at the time about what would unfold next and temporarily removed their female presenters. Tolo News' Siyar Sirat said on Tuesday things looked like they were returning to normal, with "normal resources at the office, we have women on screen and we are reporting from around the city". One of the big questions now is what will happen to Afghan women - they are still visible on TV screens so far, and the Taliban have given assurances that their rights will be respected. Not many women could be seen at Kabul airport on Monday where crowds thronged the tarmac of the runway in a desperate bid to get out of the country. On Monday, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai - who was shot aged 15 by the Taliban for campaigning for girls' education in Pakistan - expressed concern about the situation for and the safety of women and girls in the country. "I had the opportunity to talk to a few activists in Afghanistan, including women's rights activists and they are sharing their concern that they are not sure what their life is going to be like," she told the BBC. "A lot of them remember what was happening in 1996-2001 time and they are deeply worried about their safety, their rights their protection, they are worried about their access to school. "And we have already seen news reports that many girls have been sent back from university. A lot of them have been asked to get married at age 15, 12." Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen says the group will respect the rights of women and minorities "as per Afghan norms and Islamic values". On Tuesday, the group declared an amnesty across Afghanistan and said it wanted women to join its government.
8-17-21 Uganda anti-pornography law dropped after backlash
A controversial anti-pornography law has been quashed in Uganda following pressure from women's rights groups. The government introduced the legislation in 2014 to prohibit the spread of pornography, which it said would help protect women and children. But critics say the law was misused, leading to women being attacked in the streets for wearing certain types of clothing, such as miniskirts. The legislation has now been annulled by Uganda's Constitutional Court. A panel of five judges unanimously ruled that sections of the law that defined pornographic offences, including a ban on "indecent" clothing, were unconstitutional. They said that no harm would occur to society if certain bans on acts or material that elicit sexual excitement were lifted. The introduction of the legislation in 2014 - initially branded the "anti-miniskirt" law - led to street protests in the capital, Kampala, after women dressed in short skirts were publicly harassed and assaulted. Several women's rights organisations and human rights lawyers urged the government to review the law and later presented a petition to the constitutional court. The organisation Uganda Women's Network said at the time that the legislation was in conflict with the country's constitution, which guarantees equal rights for both sexes. Under the law, song lyrics and music videos could also be categorised as pornographic, with artists facing arrest and jail. In 2015, female musician Jemimah Kansiime - also known as Panadol Wa'basajja (medicine for men) - became the first person to be prosecuted under the law. She faced up to 10 years in prison for a song which euphemistically referred to men's sexual prowess. The BBC's Patience Atuhaire in Kampala says the singer's case was paused pending the outcome of the petition to the constitutional court.
8-16-21 Malala Yousafzai urges world leaders to ensure the futures of Afghan girls 'are not lost'
With the Taliban now in control of Afghanistan, Malala Yousafzai is urging world leaders to "take bold stances for the protection of women and girls, for the protection of minority groups, and for peace and stability in that region." During an interview Monday with BBC News, Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist and Nobel peace laureate, called the images showing people trying to flee from Afghanistan by holding onto military planes "shocking" and proof that "this is actually an urgent humanitarian crisis right now." Every country has a "role and responsibility" to open their borders to Afghan refugees, Yousafzai said, and she has sent a letter to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, asking him to welcome displaced people. When the Taliban previously ruled Afghanistan, women were banned from attending schools, could not go out unless covered by a burqa and accompanied by a male relative, and were not allowed to hold most jobs. In 2012, a Taliban gunman shot Yousafzai, then 15, in the head because of her campaign to educate girls in Pakistan's Swat Valley. She told BBC News the world cannot move backwards, and it's important the countries that let in Afghan refugees ensure children have access to education and "that their futures are not lost."
8-16-21 Afghanistan: 'Women won't be silenced by the Taliban'
What the Taliban say on women's rights and what they're doing in practice are two different things, according to Afghan teacher and humans rights activist Pashtana Durrani. Speaking to BBC News, she called for clarity on which women's rights were acceptable to the Islamist group. Ms Durrani said she had to speak out despite fearing for her life. "I have to put up a fight today, so the next generation doesn't have to face all this conflict."
8-14-21 Afghanistan: Journalist Anisa Shaheed refuses to give in to Taliban
Afghan journalist Anisa Shaheed is one of many women who fear their freedom to work and study will be curbed again if the Taliban come to power. Anisa was named journalist of the year by Afghanistan's Free Speech Hub network in April. She tells BBC Monitoring what it’s like working in a field and country dominated by men, and what she hopes for Afghanistan's future. (Webmasters Comment: She is doomed!)
8-14-21 Afghans living under Taliban lament loss of freedoms
Work days for midwife Nooria Haya regularly included meetings and discussions with male doctors. They decided on treatments for locals and the priorities for the public clinic she works in. It's in Ishkamish, a rural district with sparse amenities, in Takhar province on Afghanistan's north-eastern border with Tajikistan. But recently, the 29-year-old found out that meetings between male and female staff were prohibited. It was the first order the Taliban gave them when the group took control of the region, she says. She could only ask herself how else her life would change. Ishkamishsits in the Hindu Kush mountain range. It's a key border area that the Taliban, emboldened by Nato's withdrawal of nearly 10,000 troops at the start of May, has taken. Igniting intense fighting with seemingly unprepared government forces in southern Helmand by the middle of the month, the fundamentalist Islamist group then took the northern Burka district at the mountains' foothills. Around the same time, US forces left Kandahar airbase - one of the largest in the nation, in a province containing the country's second largest city, Kandahar. Locals were acutely aware of the Taliban's progress. "Every individual was frightened," says Jan Agha, 54, in Arghistan district, on the border with Pakistan, and a windy two-hour drive east of Kandahar city. People locked themselves in their homes. But the Taliban took up positions in almost every village. Locals can't escape them. Armed fighters walk through the streets. In the morning and evening, they knock on people's doors to collect food, which they're given for fear of worse consequences. "Each house now keeps three or four breads or dishes for them," Jan, a fruit seller, says, no matter how poor the residents, in a chronically poor country. If the fighters want to stay in their homes too, they do.
8-14-21 Afghan war: Kabul's young women plead for help as Taliban advance
Every night terrified young men and women across the city send me desperate messages begging for help. "Pray for us," says one. "The situation is critical, we are very worried," says another. Kabul is in a state of shock and disbelief. In the past week the Taliban has swept across the country and seized more than a dozen provincial capitals. With the fall of Kandahar and Herat, the insurgents now have their sights set on the greatest prize of all - the capital. I've been reporting from Afghanistan for more than a decade. Over the years, I've spent time with journalists, female judges, female members of parliament, human rights activists and university students. Many have become good friends. They all say the same thing - we stepped out on a limb because we were encouraged by the Americans and their allies to do so. For 20 years the West has inspired, financed and sheltered this new generation of Afghans. They have grown up with freedoms and opportunities that they fully embraced. Now they tell me they feel completely abandoned by the democratic world they thought they were part of. In my most recent trip to Kabul, I spoke to Taliban frontline commanders and foot soldiers. They told me they are determined to re-impose their version of Sharia law, which would include stoning for adultery, amputation of limbs for theft and preventing girls from going to school beyond the age of 12. This is not the Afghanistan and the Kabul that these young women know or want. But as the Taliban prepare to march towards the capital, there doesn't seem to be anywhere to run or hide. "There are rumours circulating that the Taliban will take over and they will kill everyone affiliated with the government and the US. We are very scared," one told me. The only response from the Americans and their Western allies to these pleas for help, for the moment, has been silence.
8-12-21 Women in Taliban-held areas are reportedly not allowed to leave home 'without a male escort'
As the Taliban continues to quickly conquer swaths of Afghanistan, reports of "harsh" restrictions on the movement of women in recently captured regions have surfaced, including accounts of forced marriage between unmarried women and fighters, writes The Wall Street Journal. According to local residents, women in many Taliban-held areas are not allowed to leave the house without male relatives or without wearing burqas, reports the Journal. "Hampering a woman's ability to leave home without a male escort also inevitably leads to a cascade of other violations of the woman," added Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. In late June, in the Rustaq district of the northern province of Takhar, a senior Taliban figure notified residents that "all girls over the age of 15 and widows younger than 40 should be married to the insurgent fighters," a local man told the Journal. The same man was "later summoned and ordered to hand over his 15-year-old daughter." Experts note such a conspicuous demand for women illustrates how the militant group has been influenced by the Islamic State — who "enforced sexual slavery on women on a massive scale" — and has thus grown "even more extreme" since their reign in the 1990s. A Taliban spokesman denied the allegations of forced marriages, per the Journal. On Thursday, Herat, Afghanistan's third-largest city, fell to the Taliban, bringing the total number of provincial capitals seized by the militant group to 11 out of 34, reports The Associated Press. With security quickly deteriorating, the U.S. will send in troops to help evacuate the U.S. Embassy, which has urged American citizens to leave the country "immediately." Earlier this week, in response to the escalating Taliban offensive, the U.S. government lowered its estimates as to how long Kabul, the country's capital, might hold on.
8-6-21 Both boys and girls tend to write stories about boys
Stories written by children are far more likely to feature male characters – regardless of whether the writer is a boy or a girl. Yaling Hsiao at the University of Oxford and her colleagues analysed more than 100,000 short stories written by British children, aged 5 to 13, for a national writing competition organised by the BBC in 2019. The researchers wanted to find out how a child’s gender influenced the gender of the characters they wrote about. They also wanted to determine if this changed with the child’s age. The team used the England and Wales birth register from 2017 to categorise every character named in the children’s stories. A name was considered traditionally male if over 60 per cent of the babies given that name that year were recorded as male at birth, while a name was considered traditionally female if over 60 per cent of babies with the name were recorded as female at birth. The researchers found that – regardless of age – boys typically wrote about male characters. More that 75 per cent of the characters in the stories written by boys were male. In contrast, while about 70 per cent of the youngest girls wrote about female characters, only about 50 per cent of 13-year-old girls did so. In other words, boys continue to write predominantly from the perspective of their own gender as they grow up whereas girls don’t. The researchers suspected that this is because the books children read often have central male characters. So they used the same methods to analyse the gender of characters in the Oxford Children’s Corpus – a large sample of children’s literature from 1813 to the modern day. The researchers found that male names were overrepresented in the sample. Just 38 per cent of characters in the books were female. This lack of balance was largely due to male writers writing more about male characters, says Hsaio.
7-26-21 Pink offers to pay bikini bottoms fine for Norway women's handball team
US pop star Pink has offered to pay the fines handed out to the Norwegian women's beach handball team, after they wore shorts like their male counterparts instead of bikini bottoms. The team was fined 1,500 euros (£1,295) for "improper clothing" at the European Beach Handball Championships last week. "I'm very proud of the Norwegian female beach handball team for protesting sexist rules about their uniform," tweeted the singer on Sunday. "Good on ya, ladies," she added. "I'll be happy to pay your fines for you. Keep it up." The Norwegian Handball Federation announced last week that it was prepared to pay the fines. But the team expressed their gratitude towards the Cover Me In Sunshine and Get the Party Started singer via their Instagram story. "Wow! Thank you so much for the support," they wrote. The European Handball Federation said it fined the team for its choice of kit during their recent bronze medal match against Spain in Bulgaria because the players' shorts were "not according to the athlete uniform regulations". However, the country's minister for culture and sport, Abid Raja, described it as being "completely ridiculous". Former tennis champion Billie Jean King was among those noting how the men's teams wear shorts. "The sexualization of women athletes must stop," she tweeted last week. Bath University handball club said the fines were "absolutely outrageous", noting how the rules around bikinis could be putting women off taking up the sport. Co-captain Emma Steggles said: "I would feel extremely uncomfortable being made to wear a bikini to play a sport I love."
7-24-21 Gender disparities still vex Tokyo Olympic Games
At the first Olympic Games of the modern era, Athens 1896, International Olympic Committee (IOC) founder Baron Pierre de Coubertin barred women from competing. In Paris four years later, 22 female athletes were invited in five ladies sports, while nearly 1,000 men took on the rest of the events. This year, the Games have nearly reached gender parity. Of the almost 11,000 Olympic athletes in Tokyo almost 49% are women, according to the IOC, marking the first "gender-balanced" games in its history. At the Paralympics, at least 40.5% of athletes will be women, the IOC said, with about 100 more female athletes than in Rio de Janiero in 2016. But 125 years after the first Olympics, the games are still clouded by missteps and hasty corrections relating to gender, underscoring the distance left to go. Here's a look at some of the challenges faced by female Olympians, before they can even go for the gold. Representatives of the IOC did not respond to a request for comment. Mandy Bujold, 33, is one of the best female flyweight boxers in the world. An 11-time Canadian national champion with two Pan-American Games titles, she was ranked eighth in the world in 2018 when she took a break from boxing to give birth to her daughter, Kate Olympia - or KO. She planned her comeback for Tokyo - a plan that was derailed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Boxing's qualifying events were cancelled and the IOC's boxing task force turned instead to three tournaments in 2018 and 2019, when Ms Bujold was pregnant or postpartum and not competing. Ms Bujold was forced to fight for her spot outside the ring, taking on boxing's international body in court. Weeks before the games began, Ms Bujold won with a ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sport, an international body in Switzerland, that said accommodation must be made for women who are pregnant or postpartum during the qualifying period.
7-20-21 European Beach Handball Championships: Norway hit with 1,500 euros bikini fine
Norway have been fined 1,500 euros (£1,295) for wearing shorts instead of bikini bottoms at the European Beach Handball Championships. The European Handball Federation (EHF) said it had imposed the fine because of a case of "improper clothing". Norway's players wore shorts instead of bikini bottoms during a bronze medal match against Spain in Varna, Bulgaria. Norway's Handball Federation (NHF) had already stated it would pay if their players were fined. An EHF statement said a disciplinary commission had imposed a fine of "150 euros per player, for a total of 1,500 euros". It added that Norway had played with shorts that are "not according to the athlete uniform regulations defined in the IHF [International Handball Federation] beach handball rules of the game." Kare Geir Lio, the head of NHF, had told news agency AFP any penalty would be paid but added: "It should be a free choice within a standardised framework. "The most important thing is to have equipment that athletes are comfortable with." And following the decision to fine the players, the NHF said: "We are very proud of these girls who during the European Championships raised their voices and announced that enough is enough! "We at NHF stand behind you and support you. Together we will continue to fight to change the rules for clothing, so that players can play in the clothes they are comfortable with." Before the Championships, Norway approached the EHF to ask for permission to play in shorts but were told that breaches of the rules were punishable by fines. A Norwegian motion to amend the current rules will be discussed by the bodies in the coming months. "The EHF is committed to bring this topic forward in the interest of its member federations - however, it must also be said that a change of the rules can only happen at IHF level," said EHF spokesman Andrew Barringer.
7-3-21 Ukraine plans for women to march in high heels spark outrage
Plans by Ukraine's defence ministry to have female soldiers march in high heels instead of army boots in a parade next month have caused angry reactions. Iryna Gerashchenko, an opposition member of parliament, said it was sexism, not equality. Ukraine is preparing to stage a military parade on 24 August to mark 30 years of independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The defence ministry say the shoes are part of regulation-dress uniform. Many in Ukraine expressed shock at the plan, with a group of lawmakers calling on Defence Minister Andriy Taran to offer an apology. "The story of a parade in heels is a real disgrace," commentator Vitaly Portnikov said on Facebook, arguing that some officials had a "medieval" mindset. Ms Gerashchenko said she initially thought the pictures of women soldiers rehearsing in combat trousers and black pumps with block heels was a hoax. She said it was sexism, not equality, and wondered why the ministry thought heels were more important than designing body armour tailored to women. Maria Berlinska, an army veteran, said a parade should demonstrate military prowess, but this one was to titillate senior officers in the grandstands. Olena Kondratyuk, the deputy parliamentary speaker, pointed out that more than 13,500 women had fought in the current conflict pitting Ukraine against Russian-backed separatists in the east. More than 31,000 women now serve in the country's armed forces, including more than 4,000 who are officers. (Webmaster's comment: Absolutely Nuts!)
6-29-21 French lesbians and single women to get IVF rights
France is poised to pass a law allowing single women and lesbian couples to get fertility treatment, currently reserved for heterosexual couples. The National Assembly (lower house) vote follows two years of heated debate and demonstrations by groups opposed to this expansion of reproductive rights. Many French women have gone to Belgium and Spain for fertility treatment, which can be very expensive. The new law brings France into line with 10 other EU countries and the UK. Besides Belgium and Spain, the 10 are: Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden. Outside the EU, Iceland and Norway have similar legal provisions. A recent Ifop opinion poll found 67% of French respondents favour the new law. There was resistance to it in the French Senate (upper house), and the draft acquired more than 1,500 amendments, but the National Assembly has the final say. It is expected to pass, as President Emmanuel Macron's party - La République en Marche (LREM) - has a lower house majority with its allies. The law will provide access to various fertility procedures, notably in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and artificial insemination, for all women under 43, with costs covered by the French health service. Children conceived with donor sperm will also be able to learn the donor's identity when they become adults, removing the current French anonymity for donors. In 2018, there were 25,120 babies conceived through medically-assisted procreation (MAP) in France, after nearly 150,000 attempts, according to l'Assurance-maladie, the country's national health insurance body. That was 3.3% of births. The new law specifies that both the birth mother and her partner are to be named as the child's parents on the birth certificate. Magali Champetier, a lesbian mother quoted by La Dépêche newspaper, said "this law comes as a relief - we've been waiting a long time for it, and it's already too late for many women because of the biological clock".
6-20-21 Thelma & Louise stars recall male backlash to film 30 years on
Some 30 years ago, Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon were propelled to new heights of stardom for their leading roles in crime drama Thelma & Louise. In the 1991 film, the American actors played two women whose characters' journey challenged traditional notions of femininity. Now Hollywood royalty, the pair attended a special screening to mark the film's 30th anniversary on Friday. At the event in Los Angeles, Davis and Sarandon considered the film's impact. When the film was released, the media predicted there were "going to be so many movies starring women, about women, female road pictures, whatever", Davis said in a Q&A session, according to the Hollywood Reporter. "I'm thinking, hot dog, let's sit back and wait for all this magic change to happen. We're still waiting. It really did not happen. It seems like every five years or so, there's another movie starring women that's a huge hit and people say, 'Well now certainly everything is going to change,' and it really hasn't." The film did change the lives of Davis, 65, and Sarandon, 74, though. Directed by Ridley Scott, the film was a critical and commercial success, winning Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards, where it received six nominations. Davis and Sarandon went on to continue their illustrious careers, each collecting numerous accolades, including Oscars, for their acting. Seen as a feminist trailblazer by many, Thelma & Louise only burnished their credentials. For those who have not seen it, the film casts Davis as Thelma, a meek housewife whose friend Louise - who is played by Sarandon - convinces her to come on an impulsive road trip. But on the road, a series of unfortunate circumstances soon get them in trouble with the law. When Louise fatally shoots a man who tries to rape Thelma at a bar, the pair decide to flee to Mexico, leaving their old humdrum lives behind. Spoiler alert: the film ends in dramatic fashion, culminating in a police chase that sees Thelma and Louise kiss before driving off a cliff at the Grand Canyon.
6-18-21 The Victoria's Secret fantasy I grew up with is gone. Is the new one any better?
Why the company's pivot to feminism rings hollow. My hometown mall's Victoria's Secret was located on the second floor, across the atrium from the Claire's where I got my ears pierced. As a preteen, it stood out during family shopping trips as the forbidden pink-and-black temple to my idea of womanhood — the place where my older friends secretly shopped for their push-up bras and thongs, and where posters of half-nude Angels winkingly invited customers to browse The Semi Annual Sale. Later, I'd graduate to being a devoted customer myself, pawing through underwear in the buy-two-get-one-free drawers, while an ill-fated fitting before prom placed me in the wrong bra size for years. I tell you all this because I wholeheartedly bought the pitch. Not quite enough to ever sign up for the VS Credit Card the clerks were always trying to push on customers or to purchase any of the cloying body mists with names like "Love Spell" and "Pure Seduction" that hung in a fog over the check-out line, but certainly to the point that I thought if I could just find the right Bombshell Add-2-Cups, then I might look as good as the winged models with the "perfect bodies" on the TVs behind the counter. I eventually grew up (and blessedly got re-fitted along the way), but Victoria's Secret has stubbornly stayed the same. And though the company this week announced a major pivot away from some of its most iconic and retrograde marketing, don't be fooled. The company is still selling a fantasy — just one belatedly updated for the times. Victoria's Secret has had its chances to catch up before, like in the early 2010s, when "empowering" feminist messaging started to take over in fashion and beauty marketing. The company, though, seemed almost to relish its antiquated, male gaze-y approach to selling women's undergarments (after all, as Justin Timberlake famously informed audiences in The Social Network, the store was started by a man who was too embarrassed to shop for lingerie for his wife in a regular department store). But the writing was on the wall even then: "American women make most household purchasing decisions, control trillions in consumer spending, and they don't like it when a company defines beauty narrowly for them," Mashable warned in 2017, noting that "now is the worst time for companies to patronize women or produce tone-deaf ads that reinforce cliches or stereotypes about gender roles and identity." Other underwear brands began to realize they could sell their bras to women by promoting themselves as specifically not being Victoria's Secret. By 2018, Victoria's Secret — "still banking on bombshells" — was openly struggling. "Things are going from bad to worse at Victoria's Secret," Business Insider reported, citing months of declining sales. That year, the company announced it would be closing 30 stores across the country; in 2019, the number rose to 53. Last year, Victoria's Secret closed 241 stores mid-pandemic, and it's expected to shutter another 50 this year.
6-17-21 Female inventors hold just a quarter of US biomedical patents
There are well-known biases that limit the number of women in science and technology. Now evidence has shown that fewer women are named on biomedical patents, which appears to have led to a reduced number of patented technologies designed to address problems specifically or disproportionately affecting women. Rembrand Koning at Harvard Business School and his colleagues used machine learning to analyse more than 444,000 biomedical patents filed in the US between 1976 and 2010. Algorithms analysed the text of drug and medical patents, attributing each with a male or female tag depending on what the text contained. For instance, texts mentioning “female organs” or “female genetics” were tagged as female. The researchers also cross-checked the gender of named inventors whenever possible. The proportion of patents awarded to inventor teams containing at least as many women as men has increased over the years, but not by much. Some 6.3 per cent of all patents awarded in 1976 fell within this category; in 2010, the equivalent figure was 16.2 per cent. In total, women were listed as co-inventors in just a quarter of all patents filed during the period analysed. “We know there’s just a lot of sexism in society,” says Koning. “And we know that women face barriers just becoming scientists, and they face barriers when commercialising their ideas.” Koning and his colleagues also analysed what the patents in the study were intended to achieve. Patents filed by all-female teams were a third more likely to focus on issues concerned with women’s health than those filed by all-male groups. Teams in which most of the co-inventors were women were 18 per cent more likely to have filed patents for technologies that would help women. Had there been equality in the number of men and women applying for patents, Koning and his colleagues estimate that there would have been roughly 6500 more female-focused inventions successfully patented between 1976 and 2010.
6-17-21 Girls to break centuries-old German male choir school tradition
Girls will be accepted for the first time at a church music school attached to one of Germany's most famous boys' choirs - the Regensburger Domspatzen. The Bavarian city of Regensburg has had a boys' choir at its Roman Catholic cathedral since 975. "Domspatzen" means "cathedral sparrows". Girls trained at the school from next year will join a new girls' choir. The boys' one, which includes men for bass and tenor parts, will remain male-only. Girls will sing at church services too. The decision to open the Domspatzen high school (Gymnasium) to girls in 2022 was taken unanimously by the governors running it, the cathedral's website reports. "The choir for girls and women will be a new, additional musical pillar in Regensburg Cathedral's music," the statement in German said. Regensburg lies north of Munich in south-eastern Germany. Boys cannot sing in the choir unless they attend the cathedral school. The statement, quoting the governors, says "increasingly in recent times good singers have not been enrolling at the high school because they prefer to attend a co-educational school". The Regensburger Domspatzen choir has a female high school head - Christine Lohse - and the musical director is Christian Heiss, both of whom were appointed 18 months ago. The leadership change followed a child sexual abuse scandal which rocked the choir with the publication of an official report in 2017, and two further reports in 2019. However, the first allegations of widespread abuse in the choir surfaced in 2010. The local website Regensburg-digital says the numbers enrolling at the cathedral school have declined continuously since 2010. The abuse inquiry found that 547 choirboys had been abused at the Domspatzen pre-school and high school between 1945 and 1992. Headmasters, prefects and teachers were among the 49 alleged perpetrators.
6-8-21 Kate Winslet: Huge increase in terrific roles for women in my age group
Kate Winslet, the star of hit US TV show Mare of Easttown, says Hollywood has turned a corner for women. Winslet, who plays a detective in the critically-acclaimed crime drama, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Things are changing in terms of equal pay. "And there's a huge increase in terrific roles for women... especially in my age group," the 45-year-old said. She added that she had been "in complete control" of how she wanted to present herself in a sex scene. "Craig Zobel, our director... asked me to watch that particular scene in question to make sure I was comfortable with it. "That was an honourable thing to do as I don't recall that happening to me when I was younger - it just tells you that things are changing a bit. People are paying attention to how women feel and how they want to be presented." Winslet, who was also executive producer on the HBO drama, has previously said she twice sent back the promotional poster because she felt it had been altered too much. Today co-host Nick Robinson asked why it mattered "that the lines on her face were not airbrushed out", and why "as you put it in an interview did it matter that the bulging belly was shown" in the sex scene. Winslet replied that she and Zobel were "adamant about not touching the scene or digitally altering my body". She said they "both felt it was appropriate for the role" and "were always ruthless about keeping her as real as possible". She added: "Craig also assured me respectfully that if I had wanted to be specific about how I looked without my clothes on that he understood that too, that it was my body on the screen for millions of people to see and not his, and I should be in complete control of how I wanted to present myself physically. "I do feel proud that as a woman in the film industry in her mid-40s, having been doing this job since I was 17, that I'm being given this space to fully embrace all of these changes that life's years have left my face and body with.
5-25-21 Florida high school alters 80 'immodest' yearbook photos of students
A Florida high school is facing backlash for altering the yearbook photos of 80 female students to add clothing to their chests and shoulders. The school district told local media the changes were made to ensure the photos met the dress code, which says girls' shirts must be "modest". But critics pointed to yearbook photos of male students left unedited despite violating the same standards. The digital alterations were made without permission, the students say. Bartram Trail High School's yearbook co-ordinator - a female teacher - made the decision to edit the photos after determining they had violated the dress code, the St Johns County school district said. A disclaimer on Bartram Trail's website warns students that their yearbook photos may be digitally edited to be consistent with the dress code. But some students have called the alterations distressing and accused the school of sexism. "The double standard in the yearbook is more so that they looked at our body and thought just a little bit of skin showing was sexual," Bartram Trail student Riley O'Keefe, 15, told CBS affiliate WJAX News. "But then they looked at the boys, for the swim team photos and other sports photos and thought that was fine, and that's really upsetting and uncomfortable." In a statement to WJAX, the district said the school's previous policy was to remove all photos that violated the dress code, and this year's edits were to make sure all students were included. Following the criticism, Bartram Trail, a government-run high school near Jacksonville with about 2,500 students, has said they will issue refunds for the $100 (£70) yearbook to parents upset by the changes. The district's dress code for the 2020-2021 school year says that girls' tops and shirts "must cover the entire shoulder" and must be "modest and not revealing or distracting". "Excessive make-up" is not permitted and all students are prohibited from donning "extreme hairstyles". Enforcement of the dress code differs between schools, according to the district.
4-23-21 Sarah Voss: German gymnast's outfit takes on sexualisation in sport
She did not break any rules, but Sarah Voss's full-body suit at the European Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Switzerland defied convention. Until now women and girls have only covered their legs in international competition for religious reasons. Voss - from Germany - was supported by her country's gymnastics federation and said she was proud of her decision. "We hope gymnasts uncomfortable in the usual outfits will feel emboldened to follow our example," she said. The German federation (DTB) said its gymnasts were taking a stand against "sexualisation in gymnastics", adding that the issue had become all the more important to prevent sexual abuse. Voss explained her decision in an interview with public broadcaster ZDF: "We women all want to feel good in our skin. In the sport of gymnastics it gets harder and harder as you grow out of your child's body. As a little girl I didn't see the tight gym outfits as such a big deal. But when puberty began, when my period came, I began feeling increasingly uncomfortable." The German federation said her team-mates, Elisabeth Seitz and Kim Bui, would also later be competing in what was until now an unusual outfit. In a message posted on Instagram on Thursday, Voss described the decision as a project "close to the hearts of our team". Her performance on the beam had not gone as well as she had hoped, she said, but her message won widespread praise. "Feeling good and still looking elegant? Why not?" she wrote. Under the rules of the international gymnastics federation (FIG) competitors are allowed to wear a "one-piece leotard with full-length legs - hip to ankle" provided it is of elegant design. Elisabeth Seitz said everyone trained in full-body outfits and at one point they asked themselves why they should not do the same in competition. Dutch Gymnastics has also praised the move. A spokesman told public broadcaster NOS that judges had often deducted points when a competitor had tried to make her leotard more comfortable during their performance.
4-14-21 STEM’s racial, ethnic and gender gaps are still strikingly large
Black and Hispanic workers remain underrepresented while it varies widely by field for women. Efforts to promote equity and inclusion in science, technology, engineering and math have a long way to go, a new report suggests. Over the last year, widespread protests in response to the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other unarmed Black people have sparked calls for racial justice in STEM. Social media movements such as #BlackinSTEM have drawn attention to discrimination faced by Black students and professionals, and the Strike for Black Lives challenged the scientific community to build a more just, antiracist research environment (SN: 12/16/20). An analysis released in early April of federal education and employment data from recent years highlights how wide the racial, ethnic and gender gaps in STEM representation are. “This has been an ongoing conversation in the science community” for decades, says Cary Funk, the director of science and society research at the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C. Because the most recent data come from 2019, Pew’s snapshot of STEM cannot reveal how recent calls for diversity, equity and inclusion may have moved the needle. But here are four big takeaways from existing STEM representation data: From 2017 to 2019, Black professionals made up only 9 percent of STEM workers in the United States — lower than their 11 percent share of the overall U.S. workforce. The representation gap was even larger for Hispanic professionals, who made up only 8 percent of people working in STEM, while they made up 17 percent of the total U.S. workforce. White and Asian professionals, meanwhile, remain overrepresented in STEM. Some STEM occupations, such as engineers and architects, skew particularly white. But even fields that include more professionals from marginalized backgrounds do not necessarily boast more supportive environments, notes Jessica Esquivel, a particle physicist at Fermilab in Batavia, Ill., not involved in the research.
3-25-21 Equal pay: Megan Rapinoe was 'devalued, disrespected and dismissed'
Soccer star Megan Rapinoe said despite her success she is still paid less than men. Speaking at an event at the White House, to mark Equal Pay Day she said: "I've been devalued, disrespected, dismissed because I am a woman."
3-20-21 Viral video exposes inequality in NCAA college basketball
A video from a US college basketball player has gone viral for showing the inequalities between the equipment given to male and female players. University of Oregon forward Sedona Prince showed the fully-stocked weight room given to men's teams for the annual National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament. But women were only given one small rack of exercise weights. The contrast shown in Ms Prince's TikTok brought widespread criticism. "Wow - come on now!" tweeted NBA superstar Steph Curry, copying in the March Madness and NCAA Twitter accounts. "Yall trippin trippin." The championship tournaments are known as March Madness and began this week. Women are playing their tournament in San Antonio, Texas, while the men's games are taking place in Indianapolis, Indiana. "This is outrageous, @NCAA It needs to be fixed. Now," tweeted top Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer. "I think there's this big misconception that women don't need weights as much as men," Ms Prince, 20, told BBC World Service on Friday. "And this is so false because our bodies are just important as theirs." 'We need recovery. We need to be strong. The sport we play is extremely physical," she said adding, that the lack of workout equipment made it "apparent how little care there was" for women athletes. In a conference call with coaches and team administrators ," NCAA VP of women's basketball Lynn Holzman acknowledge "we fell short". She also pledged that the women's facilities would be upgraded by the weekend. Ms Prince said that she is grateful for the league's apology. "It does mean a lot that they are acknowledging it and talking about it and then realising that they made a mistake," she said. "It means a lot that they're recognising that now."
3-17-21 Women with senior jobs sleep better in countries with gender equality
Women in managerial roles seem to sleep better if they live in a country with greater gender equality. The same isn’t true for male managers, who sleep better in countries with higher GDP. Leah Ruppanner and her colleagues at the University of Melbourne used data from the 2012 European Social Survey to study the sleep of 18,116 people, aged 25 to 64, from 29 European countries. Although it is an annual survey that is circulated across Europe every year, 2012 was the most recent year the participants were asked about their sleep patterns. The survey asked people whether they had experienced restless sleep in the past week, along with which country they live in and their occupation. Ruppanner and her team then combined these answers with data on each country’s gender gap, as quantified by the United Nations gender development index. “The UN quantify how women are situated across a whole range of measures within a country, in terms of access to education, healthcare and even employment opportunities,” says Ruppanner. The team found that, in general, both men and women in managerial roles report restless sleep more often than people in less senior positions, but that female managers living in countries with a higher gender development index reported better sleep than women with similar jobs living in less equal countries. “The Nordic countries tended to do really well here, because they have a whole range of policies that work to empower women and close the gender gap,” says Ruppanner. The same correlation wasn’t true for men in managerial roles, however. “Men’s sleep appears to be tied to economic productivity – male managers sleep better when there’s a higher GDP,” says Ruppanner. “But everyone, men and women, sleep better in more gender equal countries.”
3-14-21 Afghanistan investigates ban on girls' singing
The Afghan education ministry says it is investigating a recent statement from the director of education in the capital, Kabul, which banned girls older than 12 from singing in public. The ban was widely criticised on social media. Girls shared clips of themselves singing using the hashtag #IAmMySong. The row comes amid concerns about consequences of a possible peace deal with the Taliban. Under the Taliban, girls were denied an education and most music was banned. The Kabul statement banned girls 12 years and older from singing at school functions, and also banned older girls from having male music teachers. The education ministry says it does not reflect its own position. It says it will assess it and may take disciplinary action. The ban, announced several days ago, sparked criticism on social media, with literary figures and campaigners saying it was a backward step in educational rights. "Forgive us God, human beings can be so cruel that they see even a child from a gender-based perspective," tweeted author and poet Shafiqa Khpalwak, one of the country's best known female writers. Some women compared it to life under the Taliban - who were ousted in 2001 - when girls were banned from going to school and most music was forbidden. "This is Talibanisation from inside the republic," Sima Samar, an Afghan human rights activist of nearly 40 years, is quoted as saying by the Associated Press (AP) news agency. The Afghan government is currently under pressure to forge a peace deal with the Taliban, and although many Afghan women want an end to the violence, they are worried about their future rights, correspondents say.
3-13-21 Mississippi bans trans girls from school sports
Mississippi's governor has signed a law banning transgender athletes from competing in girls' sports at school. Activists say the "Mississippi Fairness Act" is the first law targeting transgender people to pass in 2021. The bill argues that boys and girls have "inherently different athletic capabilities". It is expected to face legal challenges. It comes as a swath of Republican states push back against pro-LGBT measures from the Biden administration. The law requires public high schools and institutions of higher education to "designate its athletic teams or sports according to biological sex". Coming into effect in July, it also calls for protecting schools that maintain separate sports teams from complaint or investigation. Supporters of the bill had argued that transgender women have an unfair advantage over those born female, because they have "categorically different strength, speed and endurance". It cites an article written by a trio of women's sports stars - including tennis champion Martina Navratilova - that said it would be "a denial of science" to ignore that those born male can "beat the best girls and women in head-to-head competition". Ms Navratilova has since established a group that she says will seek a "science-based, ethical approach" to "establish a middle ground that both protects girls' and women's sport and accommodates transgender athletes". She has also proposed a special provision for elite sports. The bill passed through both chambers of the state legislature by overwhelming majorities, the House by 81-28 and the Senate 34-9. Its sponsor, Republican senator Angela Burks Hill, said she introduced the legislation after seeing issues arise in other parts of the country. Opponents of transgender women athletes competing in accordance with their gender identity frequently cite a lawsuit filed against two trans females who were champion sprinters in Connecticut. Ms Hill did not identify any similar local concerns but said "numerous coaches across the state" called to say pre-emptive action was needed. Critics say that examples of transgender girls outcompeting other girls are rare, which is why the Connecticut case is so frequently cited. (Webmaster's comment: Those who oppose LGBQs are full of fear! You can see it their face!)
3-13-21 Sri Lanka to ban burka and other face coverings
Sri Lanka has taken a significant step towards banning the burka and other face coverings in public, on grounds of national security. Public Security Minister Sarath Weerasekara told the BBC that he had signed a cabinet order which now needs parliamentary approval. Officials say they expect the ban to be implemented very soon. The move comes nearly two years after a wave of co-ordinated attacks on hotels and churches on Easter Sunday. Suicide bombers targeted Catholic churches and tourist hotels, killing more than 250 people in April 2019. The Islamic State militant group said it had carried out the attacks. As the authorities tracked down the militants, an emergency short-term ban on face coverings was implemented in the majority-Buddhist nation. Now the government is moving to re-introduce it on a permanent basis. Mr Weerasekara told reporters that the burka was "a sign of religious extremism that came about recently". He added that it was "affecting national security" and that a permanent ban was overdue. "So I have signed that and it will be implemented very soon," he said. Mr Weerasekara also said the government planned to ban more than 1,000 madrassa Islamic schools which he said were flouting national education policy. "Nobody can open a school and teach whatever you want to the children. It must be as per the government laid down education policy. Most of unregistered schools "teach only the Arabic language and the Koran, so that is bad", he said. Hilmi Ahmed, vice-president of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, told the BBC that if officials have problems identifying people in burkas "there would not be any objection from anyone to remove the face cover for identity purposes". He said everyone had a right to wear a face covering regardless of their faith:"That has to be seen from a rights point of view, and not just a religious point of view."
3-2-21 Twitch backtracks after outcry for using 'gender neutral' term 'womxn'
Streaming platform Twitch has backtracked on a new policy to change its spelling of "women" after criticism from transgender communities. The company had said it would use the term "womxn" in order to be more gender neutral in its language. But LGBT communities online called the change transphobic because it suggested trans women were not women. "We're committed to growing from these experiences... and ensuring we're inclusive to all," the company tweeted. "Womxn" has become a popular alternative word for people who say that the term "women" has patriarchal roots. Some believe the term is inclusive of trans women and some non-binary people, but that is contested. The spelling "stems from a longstanding objection to the word woman as it comes from man, and the linguistic roots of the word mean that it really does come from the word man," Dr Clara Bradbury-Rance, fellow at King's College London, told the BBC in 2018. It echoes the use of the word "Latinx" in some Spanish-speaking communities in an attempt to move away from the traditional use of genders in the language. Twitch, a platform that is especially popular with gamers, announced its decision to swap "women" for "womxn" as part of its celebration of Women's History Month. "Join us in celebrating and supporting all the Womxn creating their own worlds, building their communities, and leading the way on Twitch," it said in a now-deleted tweet. But the company faced a fierce backlash online as some suggested the company was making an explicit distinction between women and trans women. "With womxn you're just separating them more, you're not being inclusive, you're excluding them from women," wrote one Twitter user. "This is in fact transphobic and really outdated," another wrote. On Tuesday Twitch apologised, writing "we want to assure you that we have, and will continue to, work with the LGBTQIA+ community. We're still learning." "Our good intentions don't always equate to positive impact, but we're committed to growing from these experiences, doing better, and ensuring we're inclusive to all," the company said.
2-24-21 China court orders man to pay wife for housework in landmark case
A Beijing divorce court has ordered a man to compensate his wife for the housework she did during their marriage, in a landmark ruling. The woman will receive 50,000 yuan ($7,700; £5,460) for five years of unpaid labour. The case has generated a huge debate online over the value of domestic work, with some saying the compensation amount was too little. The ruling comes after China's introduction of a new civil code. According to court records, the man identified by his surname Chen had filed for divorce last year from his wife, surnamed Wang, after getting married in 2015. She was reluctant to divorce at first, but later requested financial compensation, arguing that Chen had not shouldered any housework or childcare responsibilities for their son. Beijing's Fangshan District Court ruled in her favour, ordering him to pay her monthly alimony of 2,000 yuan, as well as the one-off payment of 50,000 yuan for the housework she has done. The presiding judge told reporters on Monday that the division of a couple's joint property after marriage usually entails splitting tangible property. "But housework constitutes intangible property value," said the judge. The ruling was made according to the new civil code in the country, which came into effect this year. Under the new law, a spouse is entitled to seek compensation in a divorce if he or she bears more responsibility in child raising, caring for elderly relatives, and assisting partners in their work. Previously, divorcing spouses could only request such compensation if a prenuptial agreement had been signed - an uncommon practice in China. On social media, the case sparked heated debate, with a related hashtag on microblogging platform Weibo viewed more than 570 million times. Some social media users pointed out that 50,000 yuan for five years' of work was too little. "I'm a bit speechless, the work of a full-time housewife is being underestimated. In Beijing, hiring a nanny for a year costs more than 50,000 yuan," said one commenter.
2-12-21 Britney Spears: Judge rules singer's father must share conservatorship
A judge has denied a request by Britney Spears' father to exert greater control over her finances. Jamie Spears has controlled his daughter's financial affairs since 2008, but the singer has recently indicated she wants him removed. On Thursday, a judge upheld a previous ruling that made a financial company a co-conservator for the singer. The judge rejected Mr Spears' request to keep his previous level of power over his daughter's investments. The ruling means Mr Spears and the private trust company, Bessemer Trust, will now have equal power to manage her finances. As a result, he is now expected to work with the company to create a budget and investment proposal for the singer's estate. The conservatorship is a legal arrangement that was put in place because of concerns about her mental health. Los Angeles Judge Brenda Penny appointed Bessemer Trust as co-conservators in November, but rejected the star's effort to remove her father entirely. Jamie Spears had objected to Bessemer's involvement, arguing that it reduced the power he has held for years. Judge Perry threw out his objection on Thursday. Another hearing is scheduled for 17 March. Britney Spears' lawyer Samuel D Ingham III has previously said the singer is "afraid" of her father and does not want him to control her finances and career. On Thursday, Mr Ingham reiterated the pop star's wish, adding that it was "no secret" she didn't want her father to be a co-conservator, but acknowledged that removing him altogether would be a "separate issue". Interest in the case has been renewed after the recent release of a documentary that focuses on the conflict over the singer's guardianship. Framing Britney Spears, which was produced by The New York Times, examined the conservatorship in depth, as well as how the singer has been treated by the media throughout her career. It also explored the #FreeBritney movement, a campaign by some of the star's fans who believe her life and career are being controlled against her will. Campaigners from the group were outside the hearing on Thursday.(Webmaster's comment: Britney Spears is 39 nine years old! She doesn't need a father any longer!)
2-6-21 Swiss women only got the right to vote 50 years ago. Why?
Women in Switzerland are remembering a key moment in history this weekend - the 50th anniversary of finally being granted the right to vote. Switzerland lagged far behind its neighbours Italy, France, and Germany, becoming one of the last countries in Europe to offer women equal political rights.
2-3-21 Golden Globes 2021: Three female directors make history in nominations
Three women have been nominated for best director at the Golden Globe awards - the first time more than one has been shortlisted in a single year. Regina King, Chloe Zhao and Britain's Emerald Fennell are nominated alongside David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin. Fincher's Mank is the most nominated film with six nominations - the same number as The Crown, which leads the way in the TV awards. Sacha Baron Cohen and Olivia Colman are among the Britons up for acting awards. The winners will be announced in a ceremony on 28 February. The awards are taking place two months later than usual due to the coronavirus pandemic. Mank, David Fincher's film about Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, leads the film nominations. The Crown is the most nominated TV show despite a row over how it portrays the Royal Family. Sorkin's film The Trial of the Chicago 7 and TV comedy Schitt's Creek follow with five nominations each. Baron Cohen and Colman have received two nominations each, with the former recognised for his roles in the films Borat Subsequent Moviefilm and The Trial of the Chicago 7. Colman is up for best actress in a TV drama, an award she won last year, for playing the Queen in The Crown, and is shortlisted again for her forthcoming film The Father. Emma Corrin and Josh O'Connor are also nominated for The Crown for their roles as Princess Diana and Prince Charles respectively. Anya Taylor-Joy is another actress who is up for two awards - for the Jane Austen adaptation Emma and chess drama The Queen's Gambit. The presence of three women in the best director category comes after only five female directors were nominated in the past 77 years, the last being Ava DuVernay for Selma in 2014. Fennell, King and Zhao are recognised for their films Promising Young Woman, One Night in Miami and Nomadland respectively.
1-19-21 Egyptian woman arrested for baking 'indecent' cakes
A woman in Egypt was briefly detained after being accused of baking "indecent" cakes, local media say. The cakes, topped with genitalia and underwear fashioned out of fondant icing, were eaten at a birthday party at an exclusive Cairo sports club. After photographs went viral, the baker was arrested and later released on $319 (£234) bail. There are reports that the partygoers may face legal action too. A top religious body warned that such baked goods were forbidden by Islam. Dar al-Ifta wrote on Facebook that products featuring sexual representations were "an assault on the value system and a crude abuse of society". The ministry of youth and sports is reportedly looking into the involvement of the club that hosted the private gathering. Human rights lawyer Negad El Borai tweeted that the incident confirmed "there is a segment of society, with support of the state, that wants to eliminate any space for personal freedom in Egypt under the pretext of safeguarding Egyptian family values". He drew parallels with the cases of several young Egyptian women accused of morality-related offences in connection with videos posted on TikTok and other social media platforms. Last Tuesday, an appeals court overturned the two-year prison sentences handed to two influencers - Haneen Hossam, 20, and Mawada al-Adham, 22 - who were convicted in July of "undermining family values and principles" and publishing "indecent" photos and videos. But days later it emerged that the public prosecutor had ordered the women's continued detention pending an investigation on human trafficking charges. The prosecutor alleged that they had exploited teenage girls by encouraging them to post similar videos to theirs. A lawyer for the women said they would appeal against the move.
1-11-21 Pope Francis backs women's roles in Catholic services
Pope Francis has formally changed the law in the Roman Catholic Church, allowing women to administer communion and serve at the altar. But the ordained priesthood will still be the preserve of men, he stressed in the decree. It is official recognition of roles already performed by women in some Catholic services, especially in Western countries. The Pope said women were making a "precious contribution" to the Church. The announcement is expected to force conservative Church leaders to accept greater involvement of women in the liturgy. On the more reformist wing of the Church, Pope Francis has tried to present a more welcoming image through his rhetoric, the BBC's Mark Lowen reports from Rome. But last year, after a synod to decide whether to allow women to become deacons able to preside over some Church services, the Pope refused to make the change, frustrating some who had hoped for more fundamental reform during his pontificate. The Pope changed a clause in canon law from "lay men" to "lay persons", specifying that they can perform "the ministries of lector and acolyte" in Catholic services. His decree, called a Spiritus Domini, was accompanied by a letter explaining "the urgency... to rediscover the co-responsibility of all of the baptised in the Church, and the mission of the laity in a particular way".
1-3-21 Racism in ballet: Black dancer's 'humiliation' at racist comments
Chloé Lopes Gomes says she has faced racial harassment while being a ballet dancer. The French performer is the first black female dancer at Berlin's principal ballet company Staatsballett. Ms Gomes claims she was told she did not fit in because of her skin colour, and was asked to wear white make up so she would 'blend in' with the other dancers. The company has responded by saying her allegation "deeply moves us" and an internal investigation is underway into racism and discrimination at Staatsballett.