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First Woman President Elected in Slovakia
In March elections, the Slovak Republic elected its first female president, Zuzana Caputova. A political newcomer, the 45-year-old lawyer and anti-corruption campaigner won 58.4 percent of the vote in a run-off, defeating the European Commissioner Vice President Maros Sefcovic. Caputova decided to run for office following the murder of journalist Jan Kuciak, who had been investigating corruption in Slovak politics. Her campaign focused on transparency, institutional reform, and standing up to growing far-right extremism. As president, Caputova will yield little day-to-day power because the role is ceremonial in nature, but when she takes office in June, she will have important veto and appointing powers, and will be the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
Women Take Center Stage in Protests in Sudan
Last week, women-led protests in Sudan toppled President Omar al-Bashir—who had been in power since 1989. The demonstrations were first sparked by emergency austerity measures, including cuts to bread and fuel subsidies, implemented by the Sudanese government in December 2018. From the start, Sudanese women have taken a central role in the protests and account for up to 70 percent of the protestors. Al-Bashir's repressive policies specifically targeted women: morality laws regulate women’s dress, work, study, and freedom of movement, and the government systematically intimidated women’s rights activists. Despite harsh response from security forces, thousands of women have remained at the forefront of the demonstrations, demanding equality and an end to oppression.
Jailed Activists Stand Trial in Saudi Arabia
The trial of Saudi Arabia’s high-profile women activists continues in Riyadh, though a judge postponed a hearing meant to take place this week. Most of the eleven defendants have been detained since May of 2018, when a wave of arrests targeted some of Saudi Arabia’s most vocal activists. Western diplomats and journalists are banned from the proceedings, and the government has not made its charges public. Those on trial include Aziza al-Yousef, one of the first women to call for the right to drive, and Loujain al-Hathloul, a prominent human rights campaigner. Despite international pressure, it remains unclear whether the women will be released, and the Kingdom continues to target supporters of women’s rights. Just this month, up to fourteen Saudi writers and academics who endorsed reforms have been detained.