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, covering March 31 to April 7, was compiled with support from Anne Connell, Becky Allen, and Alexandra Eterno.
First female chief minister of Kashmir The first female chief minister of Kashmir took office on Monday, becoming the head of the Indian-administered region’s government. Mufti fills a vacancy that was left after the death of her father, the region’s previous chief minister, in January. She will take the reins of the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Party (PDP), ending a deadlock over the formation of a new state government and potentially moving toward a coalition with India’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Mufti’s history of working toward peace and stability in Kashmir, including visiting militants’ homes and families, has earned her a significant base of political support in a region where many communities—and particularly women—have been affected by decades of violence, including sexual abuses and extrajudicial punishments carried out by Indian security forces and militant groups.
Arab States aim to prevent sexual violence The United Nations and the League of Arab States signed an agreement to deter sexual violence in conflicts across the region, with a particular focus on armed conflict in Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Many of the region’s states have seen widespread reports of sexual violence against populations in extremist-controlled territories, as well as among those displaced by conflict. Signed in Cairo on March 29, the new agreement aims to combat sexual violence through increased cooperation between governments and security sectors, improved training programs for military and law enforcement personnel, and education to reduce the stigma of sexual violence for survivors. Recent research supports the notion that rape and other abuses carried out by armed actors are not inevitable, despite frequent upticks in sexual violence during wartime, and targeted policy interventions have the potential to reduce rates of abuse. At the signing ceremony, Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Hawa Bangura expressed hope that “the focused engagement of the Arab League will catalyze greater national leadership, ownership, and responsibility” among member countries to implement policies that protect vulnerable populations.
Gender gap at the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit Last week, President Obama convened world leaders for the final Nuclear Security Summit of his presidency, with a focus on responding to threats posed by nuclear terrorism and the proliferation of small nuclear devices or dirty bombs that are vulnerable to theft—dangers that transcend national boundaries and require coordinated efforts from a range of stakeholders. Notable at the summit, however, was the gender gap among participants: among the heads of state and foreign ministers in attendance, eight of fifty-five were women—a proportion that reflects the global gender gap in women’s representation in high-level political office. This gender disparity was also reflected among the summit’s “sherpas,” or senior experts from each country who lead consultations and develop work plans in the run-up to every summit: only seven of forty-nine were women. Some argue that the low representation of women contravened international commitments to include women in peace and security processes and ignored the growing body of evidence linking women’s participation to stability, calling for highly-qualified women around the world to contribute to the global nuclear security architecture.