In Afghanistan, divorces initiated by women are on the rise. While there are no official numbers, some estimate that the number might have grown fivefold over the past decade. Nevertheless, divorced women are still not seen as independently functioning adults and face persistent harassment, from both the government and other citizens. “We are optimistic because now women have come out from behind the house walls and ask their rights, and now they know how to ask their rights and from where,” Judge Rahima Rezaee, a senior family court judge said. However, many have not adapted to this new mindset yet, causing women to face continued social struggles after a divorce, including social stigma, not being helped or taken seriously in government offices, having trouble signing their own leases and having to deal with predatory behavior. “I did not tell anyone about my status — sometimes, I told them my husband is in Iran,” Zahra Yaganah, a 32-year-old activist and writer who has been divorced for about a decade said. “But when people find out that I am divorced — I feel like a divorced woman is up for grabs for the men around her.”
Read the full story at The New York Times.
After a series of electoral victories, nearly 40 percent of Nevada’s state politicians are now women — a ratio that ranks the Nevada legislature’s composition as more gender equal than in any other U.S. state apart from Vermont. Experts have long hoped that a greater number of women politicians could lead to women’s issues being given more weight in political discussions — in Nevada, at least, that already seems to be the case. Bills up for consideration in the Nevada State Senate and Assembly, designed and sponsored by female legislators, could lead to cheaper tampons, mandatory office breaks for pumping breast milk, and the elimination of birth control co-pays in the state.
According to a study from the Center for American Women and Politics, the root problem of gender disparity in politics isn’t that it’s impossible for women to win elections, but, rather, that far more men run for office than women do. A national group called Emerge America has been working to remedy the problem by training and recruiting Democratic women to run for office. Last November, nine graduates from Emerge Nevada put their names on state ballots — eight of whom went on to win.
According to Marla Turner, president of Emerge Nevada and secretary for the state Democratic Party, the number of women who have applied to the program over the past three years has nearly tripled.
“Women come to us and say, ‘I don’t know if I’m a good candidate. I don’t have any skill for this,’” Turner said. “We start breaking it down — they realize they can apply their skills from their work environments, from their involvement in their children’s schools, to the political process.”
While more Democratic women have been getting involved in politics over recent years, the numbers of Republican running for office continue to lag. Studies have shown that female politicians typically hold a wider range of positions than male candidates, and that women leaders tend to be more compassionate and better able to compromise than male counterparts.
Read the full story at The New York Times.
The first family took the spotlight at the 139th annual White House Easter Egg Roll on Monday, and some in the media were wowed by first lady Melania Trump’s dress — described by New York Times fashion critic Vanessa Friedman as a “spun-sugar pink mid-calf sleeveless layered organza confection by Hervé Pierre”– and by President Donald Trump, whose mind appeared to wander during an important part of the event. (Perhaps he was mentally drafting his next tweet.)
Friedman noted that Melania’s choice of a dress — crafted by the same designer who made her inaugural ball gown — marked a departure from the informal manner by which the Obama administrations had treated the Easter Egg Roll. During Obama’s tenure, the president often went for a “modern” look without jacket or tie while first lady Michelle Obama often opted for pants in combination with a T-shirt or sweater. In wearing a literally one-of-a-kind dress just for the occasion, Friedman suggested that Melania’s dress signified “neither work nor play, but rather a Great Gatsby garden party.”
Of course, the first lady’s dress was not the only aspect of the Trump family’s appearance that had people on social media talking. A widely circulated video clip of the event showed the first lady giving the president a nudge during the national anthem as he stared absently into space. After the wake-up call from his dutiful wife, the president jumped slightly and quickly brought his hand to the place where it’s traditionally held during the national anthem — adjacent to one’s heart.
First daughter Ivanka Trump officially took a job last month in her father’s administration after coming under scrutiny over ethics concerns when she was given an office in the West Wing to go with an informal role as an adviser. Just a few weeks later, Trump is once again walking a tightrope when it comes to conflicts of interest. According to a report by The Associated Press, the Chinese government approved three trademarks for Trump’s brand, giving her “monopoly rights” to sell jewelry, bags and spa services in the country. The decision was handed down on the very same night that Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump’s waterfront Florida resort, and dined with her and other members of the first family, including the president and Trump’s husband Jared Kushner, who is also a top White House adviser.
The new trademarks add to a growing collection owned by Ivanka Trump’s brand, CNN reported, and the Trump Organization, her father’s company, which is now being run by her brothers. Trump stepped down as CEO of her company to avoid conflicts of interest, and, in a statement to the AP, her lawyer said, “She has retained authority to direct the trustees to terminate agreements that she determines create a conflict of interest or the appearance of one.”
Still, some ethics experts say she needs to do more to untangle herself from her business ventures and possible conflicts of interests, particularly when it comes to China, a country her father has in the past described as a “currency manipulator” — though he’s backed off that assessment in recent days. China’s economy is the world’s second-largest, according to the AP.
“The danger is that with any discussion with the Chinese, one party or the other may try to bring up trade,” Richard Painter, the chief White House ethics attorney in the George W. Bush administration, told the AP. “That’s a slippery slope that may require her or Jared to step out of the room.”
Read the full story at The Associated Press.
“I used to always think, like in some murders (in movies and all) they show that the murderer stabbed the victim with a knife 45 times; how would someone do that. Killing someone even once is so difficult to accomplish. Then how can that person, man stab the knife in the victim’s body so many times? I now imagine and can relate now to doing that to you. And I am not kidding. If you can’t believe me I can swear on anyone’s life.”
Those are the chilling words spoken by Abhishek Gattani, the co-founder and CEO of Cuberon, a Silicon Valley startup, to his wife, Neha Rastogi, a former engineer at Apple, according to an audio recording she made during a scary domestic violence incident. The nearly six-minute clip, which goes on to include physical violence, was evidence in a domestic violence case brought against Gattani and has been obtained The Daily Beast.
The exchange was recorded by Rastogi with an iPhone almost a year ago. She said the couple’s 2-year-old daughter was present for Gattani’s outburst, in which he can be heard beating her and warning that he “would like to see [her] murdered.”
In other portions of the recording, Gattani threatens Rastogi in an attempt to make her quit her job and tells her that the beatings are her punishment for her inability to remain calm. She later told police that her husband would also humiliate her by forcing her to “stand at the foot of the bed for hours” and “hit her if she did not comply.”
“It’s always my fault according to him,” said Rastogi. Even after she had a baby, she said, he would hit her while she was breastfeeding because he felt she “wasn’t doing it right.”
Despite the apparent mountain of evidence against Gattani, lead prosecutor in the case, assistant district attorney Steve Fein, agreed to a plea deal that saw Gattani’s charges reduced from felony assault to felony accessory after the fact with a misdemeanor charge of “offensive touching.” Fein described the pleas as a fair outcome, noting that the charge would not put Gattani at risk of deportation back to his native India. Under the deal, Gattani would effectively serve 13 days in prison for what prosecutors argued amounted to years of domestic abuse.
Rastogi, however, says that Fein made the agreement without her consent, and alleges that the plea makes a mockery of her suffering. In a four-page victim impact statement she read aloud in court on Thursday — the day Gattani was scheduled to be sentenced — Rastogi questioned why the court had allowed her to speak at all.
“I feel fooled not just by a convicted criminal, aggressor, wife beater, batterer, that I unfortunately married – the worst mistake of my life but by this court as well. With all due respect to the system … I stand FOOLED, disgraced and ridiculed as a victim,” Rastogi said. “I get heard to be ignored? To be told that the system understands the abuse and the impact it has had on our child and me but sorry it is what it is. I was told no jail, no classes, no penalties can change Mr. Gattani. Is this the faith the DA’s office and the court have in the justice being provided in this court? Is that the reason for leniency in such cases? Have we given up on justice?”
The presiding judge in the case, Allison Marston Danner, was absent for the reading of the victim-impact statement because she had scheduled the sentencing for a day when she was out of court and on vacation — evidently it would appear that Rastogi’s testimony was not expected to greatly effect the ruling. After listening to Rastogi’s statement, however, pro-tem judge Rodney Stafford decided it would be best to delay the sentencing until May 18, after Danner had returned.
Read the full story and hear the audio at The Daily Beast.
In Armenia, a strong preference for having sons has led to a spike in sex-selective abortions and a disparity in the boy-girl birth ration. In 2013, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) reported that 114 boys were being born for every 100 girls (a normal ratio would be 104 to 106 boys for 100 girls), which would result in some 93,000 “missing girls” by 2060 if nothing changed. A new law passed in 2016 made sex-selective abortions illegal, but also requires women who seek an abortion to attend a counseling session and wait for a three-day “reflection period,” which has been highly controversial.
Women’s rights organizations point out that restrictions to abortion access might lead to women — and particularly women from rural areas or poor backgrounds, who can’t afford more than one visit — to seek highly dangerous “backstreet” procedures. That’s why a campaign called “Combating Gender-Based Sex Selection in Armenia” has been trying to address the underlying problem: Tackling the negative gender stereotypes that lead to these kind of abortions in the first place. Through public awareness campaigns, TV spots and town hall meetings they are asking parents to focus on the similarities between boys and girls, not the differences. The project has been a great success — in 2016, the birth ratio of boys to girls dropped to 112 boys per 100 girls. But activists warn that much remains to be done. “We need more work in overcoming the inequality between the values [placed on] girl and boy children. This would be key to defeating this bitter practice,” says Garik Hayrapetyan of UNFPA. “We still have a long way to go, but we are definitely on the right track.”
Read the full story at The Huffington Post.
Three years since the creation of Norway’s ‘Jegertroppen or “Hunter Troops” — the world’s first all-female military special forces unit — Norwegian military officials have hailed the experiment as a resounding success.
Initially created in 2014, the Jegertroppen were envisioned as a means of filling a growing need for female special operations soldiers — particularly in countries such as Afghanistan, where male soldiers are forbidden from speaking to local women. Not being able to speak or deal with women, explained Colonel Frode Kristofferson, commander of Norway’s special forces, had hurt the military’s ability to gather intelligence and build community relations. But by the end of the one-year program, he added, the women soldiers were just as capable as the men.
“We’re carrying the same weight in backpack as the boys,” said 22-year-old Tonje, one of the unit’s members. “We do the same tasks. I’m the smallest, so I carry as much weight as I myself weigh.”
Captain Ole Vidar, a training officer, said that one of female soldiers under his tutelage had managed to best male members of an elite platoon during a recent shooting exercise. The female soldiers, he added, had quickly learned how to gel — and excel — as a unit.
“The boys see that the girls help each other, so the boys are doing better on that as well,” he explained.
Barely more than a year ago, the U.S. military finally opened combat roles to women. Norway first opened combat roles to women in the 1980s — last year, they became the first NATO country to introduce female conscription.
Read the full story at NBC News.