from Women Around the World

Women This Week: Violence Against Uighur Women

Uighur women participate in a protest against the Chinese government in Istanbul, Turkey. Murad Sezer/REUTERS

Welcome to “Women Around the World: This Week,” a series that highlights noteworthy news related to women and U.S. foreign policy. This week’s post covers February 2 to February 12.   

February 12, 2021, 7:00 am (EST)

Uighur women participate in a protest against the Chinese government in Istanbul, Turkey. Murad Sezer/REUTERS
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Current political and economic issues succinctly explained.

This week's post was compiled by Elena Ortiz, intern with the Women and Foreign Policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations. 

Sexual Violence against Uighurs in Xinjiang 

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First-hand reports of widespread sexual violence surfaced from inside detention camps in China’s Xinjiang province, where over one million Uighurs and members of other Muslim ethnic minorities are currently imprisoned. Uighur women described mass rape and torture perpetrated by Chinese guards, amounting to organized and systemic sexual violence inside the camps. Uighur and other minority women in China previously exposed the government's draconian methods of slashing birth rates, including forced sterilization and abortions, in an enduring campaign of oppression against minority women in the country. The Chinese government denied claims of sexual abuse in Xinjiang, as it has towards other instances of human rights abuses in the past. 

Female Genital Mutilation Rising Due to COVID-19

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On February 6, International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), UN statements predicted that approximately two million additional cases of female genital mutilation are likely to occur over the next decade due to rising instability and school closures tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. The harmful practice, affecting over two hundred million women and girls alive today, results in severe physical and mental health consequences, including severe pain, infections, and depression. These new estimates present a significant barrier to global efforts to end FGM by 2030, articulated in the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The increased risk of FGM due to the pandemic underscores how structural gender inequalities are often exacerbated in times of crisis.

Sexism in Sports Persists as Tokyo Olympics Approach

In response to a recent question about increasing gender diversity on the Olympic Committee Board, former Tokyo Olympic President and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori said, “Women talk too much...if we increase the number of female board members, we have to make sure their speaking time is restricted somewhat.” These sentiments echo persistent sexism and the underrepresentation of women in sports leadership in Japan. Currently, women comprise just 16 percent of Japanese Olympic governing bodies, falling far short of the 40 percent target set by the government. Mori apologized for his remarks, though noted that he felt obligated due to the swell of criticism he provoked domestically and internationally. Public backlash ultimately pressured Mori to resign from his post on February 12. It is currently unclear who will replace him.

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