Global Good News

BY GAYLE JO CARTER January 21, 2019

There was a lot to be angry about in 2018 for women but amidst all that noise, there was some GOOD:


In the last two decades, female genital mutilation has fallen from 57.7% to 14.1% in north Africa, from 73.6% to 25.4% in west Africa, and from 71.4% to 8% in east Africa, according to a study published in BMJ Global Health.


Costa Rica’s Supreme Court ruled in August that the country’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional and discriminatory. The court ruling gives the country’s legislators a time limit of 18 months to change the current law.


Sahle-Work Zewde was elected the country’s first female president in October, and appointed Meaza Ashenafi to be its first female Supreme Court president a month later. Ethiopia became the third country in Africa – after Rwanda and The Seychelles – to have its cabinet split equally between men and women.


Became the first country to make it illegal to pay men more than women, introducing fines on any company or government agency with over 25 employees without a government certificate demonstrating pay equality.


After months of campaigning by activists, India scrapped the 12% tax on all sanitary products.


Women in Iran were allowed in a sports stadium for the first time in 37 years to watch the televised 2018 Iran vs. Spain World Cup match. Thousands of women wearing face paint and waving flags cheered on their national team in what, for many, was likely their first time inside a sports stadium. There is no law banning women from sports stadiums, but in practice the religious establishment forbids them from entry.


Legalised abortion services began at the start of January, a monumental shift in a country that for decades has held onto some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe. In a referendum last year, voters repealed a clause in Ireland’s Constitution that effectively outlawed abortion and legislation passed permitting unrestricted terminations of pregnancies up to 12 weeks.


Morocco passed a law that criminalises violence against women, in what for Moroccans is a major step forward in gender equality.  The law imposes penalties that range from one month to five years in prison in addition to fines from $200 to $1,000 on a multitude of types of sexual violence and harassment against women; including rape, sexual harassment and domestic abuse.


In September, Nepal became the 54th country in the world, and the first country in South Asia, to pass a law banning corporal punishment for children.


    • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern became the second elected head of state to give birth while in office and the first elected leader ever to take maternity leave.


  • New Zealand became the second country in the world — after the Philippines — to pass legislation granting victims of domestic violence, as well as those caring for young victims, 10 days paid leave.  The measure, known as The Domestic Violence – Victims Protection Bill, takes effect in April.


Pakistan’s parliament passed a historic law that both guarantees basic rights for transgender citizens and prohibits discrimination against transgender individuals under a range of circumstances and requires the government to establish “Protection Centres and Safe Houses.” The legislation gives citizens the right to choose their gender identity and to have it recognised on official documents such as passports. The bill guarantees a transgender person the right to be recognised as their “self-perceived gender” as well as the right to freely express their gender identity.


    • In a royal decree, women were giving the right to drive, a symbolic move in a country where the guardianship system still means that most decisions in a woman’s life are made for her by her father, husband or son. This should, crucially, steer more women into the workforce.


  • The Saudi Ministry of Justice announced that women in Saudi Arabia divorced by their husbands will now receive a text message alerting them of the divorce. Before this, men would often end their marriages without informing their wives.  The text will include the divorce certificate number and the name of the relevant court where the women can pick up the documentation. Women can also inquire about their marital status through a website and view details of any probate certificates.


Became both the first nation in the world to guarantee free sanitary products to all students and the first to require the teaching of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex issues in its state schools curriculum, after the government accepted in full the recommendations made by a leading campaign group. This will include LGBTI history, terminology and identities and ways of tackling homophobia and prejudice.


Rebecca Nyandier Chatim became the head chief of the Nuer ethnic group in the United Nations Protection of Civilians site (PoC) in Juba, where more than 38,000 people have sought sanctuary with United Nations Mission in South Sudan (Unmiss) peacekeepers. This victory is both symbolic and of practical importance as South Sudan’s chiefs administer customary laws that can resolve local disputes but also reinforce gender differences and inequality. Her appointment as a female chief will hopefully lift women’s empowerment and give hope to the generally-felt despair and frustration with the country’s militarised, masculine leaders.


In June, Spain’s new Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez made history by appointing a majority-female cabinet, choosing 11 out of 17 women for cabinet-level appointments. Sworn in on June 2, Sanchez told reporters his cabinet appointees were “pro-gender equality, cross-generational, open to the world but anchored in the European Union.” Just a few decades ago, Spain had no female cabinet members.


Tunisia became the first Arab nation to pass a law giving women and men equal inheritance, overturning an old provision of Sharia Islamic law.


Ealing councillors voted unanimously to approve a “safe zone” to shield women from demonstrators at a clinic that provides abortion services.  Women using the west London centre, run by the charity Marie Stopes, faced harassment and intimidation by anti-abortion protesters. The British Pregnancy Advice Service urged the government to further introduce legislation “as a matter of urgency” to create safe zones around all abortion clinics.


In a new record, more than 100 women were sworn into the House of Representatives and House Democrats voted in Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as speaker, the only woman to have ever held the role. In the Senate, Kyrsten Sinema became the first openly bisexual senator in U.S. history.

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