Women Around the World: This Week
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 August 22 to September 4, was compiled with support from Anne Connell.
Dilma Rousseff impeachment
Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff, suspended in May, was removed from office last week after an impeachment vote in the Senate. While only fifty-four votes for impeachment were required to officially eject her from power, two-thirds of Brazil’s eighty-one senators voted for impeachment. In a grueling session that ran through an entire night, nearly seventy senators took the floor of the Senate to interrogate Rousseff or deliver remarks. Rousseff faced questions about her alleged mishandling of Brazil’s budget, the scandal surrounding the state-run oil firm Petrobras, and corruption; a number of her accusers, as Rousseff pointed out, have themselves been accused or convicted of serious corruption charges. Reports suggest that Rousseff will likely appeal to Brazil’s highest court, but previous appeals during her impeachment process failed, suggesting that she has little hope of overturning the Senate’s ruling.
Egypt’s new anti-FGM bill
Last Sunday, Egypt’s cabinet approved a bill imposing imprisonment of up to seven years for people who perform female genital mutilation (FGM), and up to three years for anyone who escorts or compels a woman or girl to undergo the practice. The bill now heads to parliament, where it must be passed by a majority vote to become law. The new legislation would expand the jail terms and strengthen enforcement mechanisms set by a 2008 anti-FGM law, enacted following the death of an 11-year-old in Minya province. Earlier this summer, the high-profile death of a 17-year-old girl in a private hospital in Suez province renewed the push to define FGM as a felony. While Egyptian rights groups welcome the bill, many also express wariness about potential unintended consequences, suggesting that it could drive the practice underground and discourage reporting. According to the United Nations, more than nine in ten Egyptian women and girls aged 15 to 49 have undergone FGM, though the country has seen declining prevalence of the harmful practice among girls, with a 15 percent reduction over the past ten years.
Burkini ban in France
In a case that has garnered international attention, a so-called burkini ban issued in Cannes earlier this month was overturned by a French high court on the grounds that it violates fundamental liberties. The decision follows a similar ruling by France’s highest administrative court in the seaside town of Villeneuve-Loubet. A series of towns along the French Riviera issued bans this summer on the full-body swimsuits worn by some Muslim women. Photos of French police forcing a conservatively dressed woman to remove clothing on a Nice beach went viral, with many criticizing the ban as discriminatory. The garment has become a flashpoint in France’s long-running debate over its secular identity and rejection of visible symbols of religiosity. Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy called the burkini a “provocation for the service of a project of radicalized political Islam,” and one French mayor rejected the courts’ rulings with comments suggesting that women of all faiths “must accept” the French way of life. Others in France and around the world—including women entrepreneurs who have created successful Islamic sportswear lines—argue that the ban is a state violation of women’s rights and autonomy.