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 April 1 to April 8, was compiled with support from Anne Connell, and Alyssa Dougherty.
UK addresses the gender pay gap
Beginning this week, UK companies with more than 250 employees will be compelled by law to review gender pay gaps and make findings public. The new statute—which reaches an estimated 9,000 employers and 15 million employees—requires public, private, and non-governmental sector organizations to disclose average pay for men and women in all positions, as well as the proportion of men and women holding positions within each quartile of the organization’s pay structure. The law is part of a broader government move to address pay equity and advance women’s economic inclusion: the government is also investing £5 million in efforts to encourage women’s return to work after the birth of a child, supporting initiatives to provide 30 hours of free childcare, and promoting flexible leave policies. Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities, stressed that “helping women to reach their full potential isn’t only the right thing to do, it makes good economic sense and is good for British business.”
Boko Haram kidnaps girls in Nigeria
Over the past two weeks, Boko Haram has kidnapped twenty-two girls--all aged seventeen or younger—in two separate raids in northern Nigeria. The girls will likely join the thousands of girls and young women who have been forced into slavery, compelled to become brides or fighters, and even carry out suicide attacks, since the insurgency began in 2009. The attackers allegedly belong to a Boko Haram faction led by Abu Musab Al-Barnawi, who replaced former leader Abubakar Shekau. The recent attack follows the abduction of more than 270 schoolgirls in 2014, which captured international attention and sparked the Bring Back Our Girls campaign. While many girls remain missing, those who have been released or escaped reportedly face significant stigma in their communities upon return, especially if they had children in captivity.
Lebanon and Jordan strengthen anti-rape legislation
Two Middle Eastern nations have taken steps to toughen laws against rape: in Jordan, following months of deliberation, the Royal Committee for Developing the Judiciary and Enhancing the Rule of Law recommended the elimination of a law allowing perpetrators to escape punishment for rape if they marry their victims. With the approval of Jordanian King Abdullah, the recommendations will move to a vote in parliament in 2017. In neighboring Lebanon, officials moved to abolish a similar loophole in its penal code, following a public campaign launched by Lebanese organization Abaad MENA, to eliminate laws that permit pardons for rape perpetrators who provide a valid marriage contract.