Police Assault Sparks Outcry in Iran
Footage of Iranian police assaulting a young woman for wearing a loose headscarf ignited public outcry in the Gulf nation. The video was posted by several high-profile women, including U.S.-based activist Masih Alinejad, drawing more than 20,000 comments within hours. The response garnered attention from government officials, prompting the Interior Minister and the Vice President for Women and Family Affairs to condemn the officers and call for an investigation. Iran has a long history of politicizing women’s attire: the hijab was banned by the Shah in 1936, and became mandatory for all Iranian women following the 1979 Revolution. Protests in February against compulsory hijab led to 29 arrests, and so far two women have been sentenced to a year in prison for their participation. Though President Rouhani expressed intent to lighten enforcement of the law, the recent video confirms that harsh consequences for women persist.
Global Gender Gap in Financial Inclusion
The gender gap in financial inclusion has remained unchanged over the last decade. According to the Global Findex Database, the gap between men’s and women’s bank accounts persists—standing at 7 percent—despite the growth in overall numbers of account holders. In developing countries, the gap is even higher: in Bangladesh, Turkey, and Pakistan, for example, the gender gap in account ownership approaches 30 percent. Gender disparities in financial inclusion exist in other areas as well: women are less likely than men to have access to digital technology and formal savings tools, and among the unbanked, women are more likely than men to be unemployed. These gaps impose significant costs: estimates suggest that women’s full economic participation could add trillions to the global economy.
Female Genital Mutilation Illegal in India
Last week the Indian government told the Supreme Court that the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) is a crime under existing law, asking the court to “step in and issue directions” to stop the practice. In December, Indian activists were outraged when the Ministry of Women and Child Development asserted that claims about FGM prevalence in the country were unsupported by data. Although FGM is well documented worldwide, in India the practice is veiled in secrecy. Yet research indicates that the practice is endemic in India’s minority Dawoodi Bohra community, a Shiite Muslim sect. As a practice, FGM harms girls’ health, limits access to education, and contributes to intergenerational poverty.