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Welcome to “Women Around the World: This Week,” a new series that highlights noteworthy news related to women and U.S. foreign policy. This week’s post, from August 5 to August 11, was compiled by Valerie Wirtschafter, research associate, Women and Foreign Policy program, Dara Jackson-Garrett, program associate, Studies Administration, and Ariella Rotenberg, research associate, U.S. Foreign Policy.
Two women poised to be the first-ever to complete challenging Army Ranger School
This week, 125 men and two women will attempt to complete the final stretch of the notorious Army Ranger Course that requires crossing the poisonous-snake filled Yellow River near Eglin Air Force Base. While the U.S. Army has used the Florida Panhandle to train its Army Rangers for over sixty years, this is the first time the trainee class has included women. Nineteen women began the Ranger School in April, the first coed class in U.S. history, and two have made it to this final stage. Col. David Fivecoat, who has been integral in launching this first-ever coed Ranger School Course, noted that “[a]ll the women did the exact same thing as their male counterparts.” This Ranger class raises important questions about which—if any—combat positions will remain off-limits to women in the military as the Pentagon determines how to lift its formal ban on women in combat by the end of this year.
Inadequate justice for victims of violence in Thailand and Egypt
Despite legal protections in both Thailand and Egypt, women and girls continue to face brutal sexual exploitation in both countries. This past July, the U.S. State Department ranked Thailand in the lowest tier of its annual Trafficking in Persons Report because of the government’s failure to address sex trafficking. In a push to demonstrate Thailand’s commitment to addressing this issue, officials sought to press charges against more than 100 people involved in a widespread human trafficking network and arrested five for trafficking women into sex slavery in China, though it is still unclear how far legal action will go in either case. Egypt also made headlines by dropping to the State Department’s Watch List (“Tier 2”) in the Trafficking in Persons Report for inadequately addressing sexual exploitation of women and children. Since this demotion, authorities have so far failed to investigate the gang rape and subsequent death of a 23-year-old girl in Cairo, a crime punishable by the death penalty.
Child marriage in Myanmar
Since the beginning of the year, hundreds of Rohingya women and girls have been forced into marriages as they flee violence in Myanmar. Many of the women hope to reach safety in Malaysia but end up trapped by traffickers and forced or sold into marriage. The Rohingya, a Muslim minority group, have fled prosecution in majority Buddhist Myanmar in hopes of reaching Indonesia, Malaysia, or Thailand. Last Friday, the Myanmar government prevented United Nations Special Rapporteur on Myanmar Yanghee Lee from meeting with the Rohingya. Myanmar’s government denies that its treatment of the Rohingya is the cause of the group’s mass exodus. Earlier this year, thousands of Rohingya fleeing by boat were abandoned by their smugglers and left adrift at sea, drawing international attention.