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 from July 15 to July 22, was compiled with support from Becky Allen, Anne Connell, and Lucy Leban.
Violence against women in India
Protests erupted in Rohtak, India, this week after several men allegedly tracked down and brutally assaulted a young woman who had reported a previous gang-rape to authorities. The woman and her family belong to the Dalit, or “untouchable,” lowest caste of Indian society, who face particularly high rates of unprosecuted violence due to their social marginalization. In 2013, when the woman filed a rape report with local police, the assailants publicly pressured her to drop the charges—the harassment and threats grew to be so severe that the woman’s family ultimately moved to Rohtak. This week, several assailants released on bail for the initial charge found, gang-raped, and attempted to strangle the woman, who was returning home from college, where she is studying to become a government worker and women’s rights advocate. Three perpetrators have been arrested. Outraged protesters questioned why the men were free to conduct a second attack and demanded that the government improve implementation of the anti-rape legislation that was introduced after the deadly 2012 rape of a student on a Delhi bus.
Women’s rights and security in Turkey
Shortly before an attempted military coup rattled Turkey, a United Nations committee reviewed the status of women in the country. The committee highlighted significant gains in Turkey’s legal framework, which has expanded in recent years to include language about gender equality, improve labor protections for women, and increase the budget for the Family and Social Planning Ministry. However, the committee--echoing Turkish civil society organization reports from 2015 and 2016--also cited inadequate protections and services for victims of violence, increasing rates of child marriage among displaced communities, discrimination against women in asylum procedures, and threats to women’s participation in political and public life. Turkey’s federal government is nearly 90 percent men, with only one female minister, and over forty cities have no female representatives in local government. Some rights groups suggest that the unrest following the attempted coup will further limit women’s civic participation: at least one religious group issued a decree that women should not be allowed to join street protests, and reports suggest that public harassment and violence against women have increased since Friday.
Restrictions on women’s employment in Iran
Last week, Iran’s parliament ratified a law that restricts employment possibilities and reduces working hours permitted for millions of women in the labor force. Under the new legislation, women with certain family obligations—those who have children with disabilities, dependents under age six, or family members with medical needs—will be barred from working more than thirty-six hours per week. Because employers still will be required to pay qualifying women for a full forty-four hour work week, experts suggest that this law will discourage the employment of women, limit their job prospects, and make them the first to be fired during economic instability. Women’s labor force participation is already strikingly low in Iran, at just 17 percent--a full thirty-three percentage points behind the world average, and seven percentage points behind the regional average. The new law will affect an estimated 4.3 million women, and suggests that the record number of women elected to Iran’s parliament last February may do little to eliminate legal barriers to women’s participation in the economy.