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 22 to July 29, was compiled with support from Becky Allen, Anne Connell, and Lucy Leban.
FGM in the United Kingdom Official data released by the UK last week revealed that 5,700 cases of FGM (female genital mutilation) were recorded in England during the last year. The survey marks the first time that the UK government has collected and published data on this harmful traditional practice. Some experts suggest that this figure under reports the prevalence of the practice, highlighting a study from Equality Now and the City University London finding that an estimated 137,000 girls underwent FGM in England and Wales in 2011. FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985, but the practice remains widespread in many immigrant and ethnic minority communities. The British government committed to eradicating FGM at its first annual Girl Summit in July 2014 and has taken measures to reduce the practice: most recently, the UK government made reporting suspected cases of FGM to local police compulsory for doctors, nurses, midwives, and teachers.
Gambia outlaws child marriage Last week, Gambia outlawed child marriage with the unanimous passage of the Children Act Amendment Bill. The new law seeks to curb the practice in a country where prevalence rates have historically ranked among the world’s highest: according to UNICEF, 41 percent of girls married under the age of eighteen in 2013. The law introduces prison sentences for men who marry underage girls, the parents of girls married as children, and officials who preside over underage marriages. Child marriage, which disproportionately affects girls, can lead to emotional, physical, and psychological damage, and is correlated with higher rates of domestic violence as well as significant health risks associated with teenage pregnancy. Child brides are often forced to forgo education, perpetuating the intergenerational poverty and even state fragility. Gambia’s recent decision was welcomed by rights groups and comes on the heels of a similar ruling in Tanzania earlier this month.
Argentina seeks to eliminate violence against women Argentina’s government announced a new National Plan for the Eradication of Violence Against Women to enforce a 2009 law and address widespread violence and detrimental cultural attitudes toward women. The plan sets out sixty-nine measures and 137 actions to be implemented over two years, including the creation of new shelters for victims of violence, increased personnel for telephone help lines, introduction of a school-based awareness curriculum, electronic targeting of perpetrators, and microcredit programs to improve women’s economic participation. According to Casa del Encuentro, a women’s rights group and shelter in Argentina, a woman is attacked every thirty-seven hours in Argentina, resulting in 275 deaths from gender-based violence during the past year alone. In recent months, demonstrations have erupted across the country to protest violence against women, thereby elevating awareness of the issue on the national agenda.