South Korea appoints female foreign minister
Last Sunday, South Korean President Moon Jae-In appointed Kang Kyung-wha as the nation’s first female foreign minister. Moon has already filled three other major cabinet positions with women, a step toward fulfilling his promise to achieve gender parity in his cabinet by the end of his term. Kang previously served in high-level roles in the South Korean government and at the United Nations positions, where she was recognized or her commitment to refugee protection and human rights. South Korea still has far to go to achieve gender parity in government, however, given that scrutiny of Kang’s appointment arguably has far outpaced that afforded to male cabinet nominees. In 2016, South Korea ranked 128 out of 144 countries with respect to female representation in ministerial positions.
Punjab offers free education for girls
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh announced that government-run educational institutions will offer free education to girls from kindergarten through the doctoral level. Singh, who was sworn into office in March, has championed investment in gender equality as a strategy to spur economic growth, trumpeting the education subsidy as a tool to narrow Punjab’s striking socio-economic gaps. Singh also announced plans to provide free textbooks to students and offer wifi in primary schools and all forty-eight government colleges, in a bid to prepare students for entry into an increasingly digital economy. Singh’s efforts could help reverse Punjab’s economic slowdown and diversify an economy that has been hampered by over-reliance on agriculture and a high concentration of workers in the informal sector.
Germany combats child marriage
Germany has passed a law to combat child marriage. The law, drafted in May and approved by parliament earlier this month, raises the federal age of consent for marriage from sixteen to eighteen and annuls underage marriages conducted abroad among residents in the country. It furthermore imposes fines on individuals who attempt to circumvent the law by marrying minors in traditional or religious ceremonies rather than state ceremonies. The debate over foreign child marriage has been percolating in Germany since last summer, when a national registry released findings that nearly 1,500 minors of foreign descent in Germany had been married in 2016. The largest group—44 percent—had come from Syria, where many parents fleeing violence view the harmful practice as a way in which to protect girls and provide economic relief during times of instability.