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Dec 03
Her eye on the news
Sobering stats

U.K. social workers say they are alarmed by a sharp increase in the number of girls who have been subjected to or are at risk of female genital mutilation, with the number of reported cases doubling in a year.

According to The Guardian, an analysis by the Local Government Association (LGA) found that female genital mutilation (or FGM) was reported in 1,960 social work assessments between 2017 and 2018, up from 970 cases the year before. The spike is thought to stem from better detection by social workers, but the number of girls who have been subjected to the practice is likely higher. FGM, which is often performed for social and cultural reasons, is typically carried out in secret and is difficult for authorities to track.

Additionally, the new analysis found that reports of child abuse linked to faith or belief is also on the rise, increasing by 12 percent since last year.

The LGA says that these figures testify to “pressure on children’s services,” stemming from a “£3 billion funding gap facing children’s services by 2025.” The association has called for more funding for children’s services and the National FGM Center, a U.K. organization that works with police, health and education officials to support women and girls who have experienced FGM, and to prevent new cases from occurring.

“[The new report shows] the worrying prevalence of FGM which is ruining lives and destroying communities,” said Anita Lower, the LGA’s lead on FGM. “At a time when they should be preparing for adult life and enjoying being young, no girl or young woman should be subject to the horrors of genital mutilation which is child abuse and cannot be justified for any reason.”

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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Reproductive wrong

A survey by the Illinois Department of Public Health has found that 5,528 women traveled to the state from other locations to seek out abortions — a statistic that reflects a worrying clamp down on reproductive rights in surrounding Midwest states, according to experts.

According to The Chicago Tribune, the number of out-of-state women who came to Illinois to terminate their pregnancies increased by nearly 1,000 in 2017, up from 4,543 women in 2016 to 5,528 last year. The spike may in fact be even higher; an additional 1,000 abortions were provided to women whose home states were not known.

The data does not reveal why these women traveled to terminate their pregnancies, but experts believe many of them were left with little choice due to restrictive abortion policies in other Midwest states.

Though southern states are often the focus of discussions about recent rollbacks on reproductive rights, the Midwest actually has the fewest abortion clinics per woman than any other region in the United States. Illinois is an exception to the rule; it has approximately one abortion clinic for every 120,135 women of child-bearing age. Wisconsin, by way of comparison, has just one clinic for every 423,590 women.

Iowa is another nearby state known for its efforts to roll back on abortion access. It unsuccessfully attempted to impose a 72-hour waiting period on women seeking abortions, and a judge recently blocked lawmakers’ efforts to implement a “fetal heart beat law,” which would have banned abortions from about six weeks of pregnancy. As of 2014, 89 percent of Iowa counties did not have any clinics that provided abortions.

“When access to abortion is politically restricted, those who have the means to travel will do so, and those without means are left most vulnerable,” Becca Lee, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, told the Tribune. “If someone can travel, they may be forced to take time from work, incur additional expenses, take time from family and make other sacrifices in order to access a safe, legal abortion procedure — and they shouldn’t have to.”

Read the full story at The Chicago Tribune.

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And that’s that

Michelle Obama paid a surprise visit to the Lower Eastside Girls Club in Manhattan on Saturday, and revealed to her young audience that she did not make her own bid for the Oval Office because her “path has never been politics.”

After Obama told the small group of 30 girls that they could pose any question that struck their fancy, one child asked why she did not run for president, reports The New York Post. Obama said that, for one thing, she wanted to give her daughters some respite from living under heavy security. But perhaps more crucially, she does not share the same aspirations as her husband.

“I don’t wanna be president!” she said. “I just happened to marry somebody whose passion was politics. Just because he likes it doesn’t mean that I like it!”

Later on Saturday evening, Obama’s book tour for her memoir Becoming took her to a sold out Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, New York. The former first lady made waves when, in an unguarded moment, she dropped an expletive to accentuate a point she was making.“It’s not always enough to lean in because that shit doesn’t work all the time,” Obama reportedly told the audience, referencing the title of a 2013 book by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, which has in the years since its publication morphed into a mantra for women managing their careers and family lives. Obama’s remark reportedly sent social media users who were following along into a tizzy Saturday evening.

Obama was discussing the idea of women “having it all” and unleashed some searing criticism of the idea that women today can have it all. “Marriage still ain’t equal, y’all,” Obama said, reportedly adding, “It ain’t equal. I tell women that whole ‘you can have it all’ — mmm, nope, not at the same time. That’s a lie.”

Read the full story The New York Post and The Washington Post.

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Outrageous

The Egyptian actress Rania Youssef is facing five years in prison over accusations that she “incited debauchery” by wearing a revealing dress on the red carpet at the Cairo Film Festival last week.

According to the BBC, Youssef, 44, is due to appear in court after a case was filed against her by two lawyers, Amro Abdelsalam and Samir Sabri. The dress at the heart of the controversy was sheer and revealed most of Youssef’s legs. Sabri claimed the outfit “did not meet societal values, traditions and morals and therefore undermined the reputation of the festival and the reputation of Egyptian women in particular.” A video of Youssef posing for cameras on the red carpet and twirling to show all sides of the controversial dress has gone viral on Twitter, racking up more than 1 million views and counting and sparking a fierce debate. Some called for the actress to be put on trial.

By Western standards, the gown seems rather tame.

Writing on Twitter, Youssef apologized, saying that she had “probably miscalculated” in her choice of wardrobe for the event.

“It was the first time that I wore it and I did not realize it would spark so much anger,” she said in the statement, according to the BBC. “I reaffirm my commitment to the values upon which we were raised in Egyptian society.”

Youssef’s trial is scheduled to begin on January 12. She is the most recent female pop culture figure to be put on trial for a perceived crime against morality in Egypt. Almost exactly one year ago, pop singer Sherine Abdel-Wahab was put on trial and faced as much as three years in prison for a joke she told onstage about the Nile River. She ended up being sentenced to six months in prison, but, as The New York Times notes, the conviction was thrown out after she appealed the decision.

Read the full story at the BBC.

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‘Ikumen Project’

An unusual Japanese policy aimed at encouraging men to engage in greater parenting and domestic duties by portraying such fathers as manly and attractive “hunks” is receiving both praise and criticism, as some credit the program with changing cultural attitudes while others decry it as a P.R. stunt that fails to address the country’s towering issues with gender equality.

The so-called Ikumen Project — a play on words that combines the words ikuji (childcare) with ikemen (hunk) — was launched in 2010 by Japan’s Minister of Health, Labor, and Welfare to combat longstanding cultural attitudes that equated masculinity with “utter commitment to one’s work,” according to Hannah Vassallo, a researcher whose anthropological study of Japanese fathers underlies a new book on the topic: Cool Japanese Men. Research has shown that as recently as the 1980s, the average Japanese man spent fewer than 40 minutes interacting with their children each day.

As part of the Ikumen project, the government produced a “Work-life Balance Handbook” and offered workshops that were meant to encourage working fathers to spend more time with their children and helping out at home. The campaign has had at least some cultural success — the trope of the ikumen can be now found in Japanese TV, magazines, and movies. But according to Vassalo, many women question why men were being glorified for simply performing their fair share of household chores even as women continue to handle the vast bulk of such work without recognition.

Working women, critics allege, still routinely face discrimination and harassment from employers. A third of Japanese working women faced sexual harassment on the job, a 2016 study found, and the country’s most prestigious medical school, Tokyo University, was also recently discovered artificially lowering women’s entrance exam scores — apparently because officials believed that graduating women were more likely to get pregnant and become full-time mothers instead of finding jobs as doctors at the school’s understaffed hospital.

Still, advocates of the project say that there are some small signs of progress. The percentage of men taking available parental leave rose from 1.9 percent in 2012 to 7 percent in 2017. Since 1992, the percentage of Japanese residents who said they supported the notion that “men should work and women should stay at home” has dropped from 60 percent to below 45 percent.

Read the full story at BBC News.

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12.03.18

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