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 November 25 to December 2, was compiled with support from Becky Allen, Anne Connell, and Lauren Hoffman.
Upheaval in South Korea
Public protests in South Korea grew this week as the parliament delayed discussions of the potential impeachment of President Park Guen-Hye, the first woman ever elected president of that country and the first female president of any northeast Asian nation. Thousands of protesters demanded that Park step down due to her role in a corruption scandal involving the daughter of a controversial spiritual leader who reportedly received access to state documents and extorted money from major companies. While Park Geun-Hye cannot be indicted while holding the office of the presidency, she was officially identified as a criminal suspect in the case. She apologized publicly for her role in the alleged misdeeds, suggesting this week that she was willing to tender her resignation before her term ends in February 2018. Park gave no possible date for her resignation, and members of her party have suggested that any impeachment vote be delayed until December 9. The Constitutional Court may take up to six months to decide whether or not to ratify the vote.
Women’s political leadership in Kuwait
Only one woman out of fifteen female candidates running for office was elected to Kuwait’s sixty-five member parliament last weekend. Safa Al Hashem, the founder of a Kuwait-based consulting company—who won Female CEO of the Year in 2007 at the CEO Middle East Awards in Dubai—was re-elected for the third time to the nation’s legislature. Despite Al Hashem’s political success, women continue to be sidelined in Kuwaiti politics and relatively few women exercise the right to vote. While women obtained the right to run in national elections in 2005, not a single woman was elected to the country’s parliament until four women won seats in a landmark 2009 election. Subsequently, women held three seats in 2012 and one seat in 2013. With Al Hashem again serving as Kuwait’s only female parliamentarian, women compose just 1.5 percent of Kuwait’s parliament, landing the oil-rich constitutional monarchy in the bottom ten ranking countries in the world in terms of women’s parliamentary participation.
UK efforts to combat violence against women
To mark the internationally-recognized Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) announced a new package of financial support to protect up to 500,000 women and girls in the world’s poorest countries from violence and harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage. One in three women around the world experiences violence in her lifetime, which is not only a gross human rights violation, but incurs high economic costs: recent studies estimate that the cost of such violence could amount to 5 percent of the global economy. Members of the Labour Party also drew attention to the prevalence of violence against women within their own country, where an average of two women are killed by a current or former partner each week. Labour politicians called on the government to introduce relevant anti-violence education in schools and requested that DFID further increase the proportion of aid that goes directly to women’s groups abroad. Despite these efforts, the UK government—like the U.S.—has yet to ratify the Istanbul Convention on combating violence against women and girls.