U.S. women graduate from army infantry basic training
The U.S. Army graduated its first group of women from infantry training, a historic milestone on the road to women's full integration into the armed services following the Obama administration's 2013 decision to open all combat positions regardless of gender. All recruits have to pass the same tests, including hurling a grenade thirty-five meters, dragging a 268-pound dummy fifteen meters, running five miles in less than forty-five minutes, and completing a twelve-mile march carrying sixty-eight pounds. During the recruits' graduation ceremony this week, Lt. Col. Sam Edwards, the overseeing battalion commander, suggested that "[i]t's business as usual. I've tried to not change a thing." Experts and military officials suggest that the increased presence of women in core combat positions will improve gender equality at all levels of the armed services and create paths for women to assume more senior leadership positions in the future.
Indian Supreme Court addresses divorce law
India's Supreme Court is poised to rule on a case brought by five Muslim women who argue that instant divorce—a practice known as talaq-e-Biddat, which permits husbands to legally banish wives from their homes without any alimony or other financial support—violates fundamental rights. Three women's organizations that have filed petitions in support of plaintiffs divorced in this manner assert that the practice is unconstitutional and discriminatory against Muslim women. While India's Constitution guarantees equal rights to all citizens regardless of religion, the nation has no uniform set of family laws that applies to all citizens; in practice, this means that matters of marriage, divorce, alimony, custody, and inheritance are handled differently among different religious populations. The practice has left thousands of Muslim women in precarious situations with few resources or prospects, exacerbating already difficult circumstances: according to a 2014 study, half of Muslim Indian women are illiterate and only 14 percent have ever worked outside the home.
IFC makes business case for gender equality
A recently released report from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) offers new evidence proving the business case for gender equality. Using nine case studies of private sector organizations in low- and-middle-income countries, the IFC illustrates how closing gender gaps throughout the value chain boosts a company's profits, productivity, and innovation. The study reinforces findings in a new World Bank study focused on India—where female labor force participation is actually declining in many regions—that concludes that economic growth and stability are inhibited where women's economic participation remains low. Both reports suggest that Indian companies stand to gain by investing in women throughout value chains—as entrepreneurs, customers, employers, and executives. The IFC report cites as a best practice an off-grid solar lighting company in India that increased sales by 30 percent through collaboration with a network of women entrepreneurs to reach remote markets.