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Apr 15
Her eye on the news
Religious freedom

India’s Supreme Court will hear a petition Tuesday asking that Islamic mosques be legally mandated to allow women inside to offer prayers.

The plaintiffs in the case, Yasmeej Zuber Ahmad Peerzade and Zuber Ahmed Peerzade, have argued that prohibiting women from entering mosques is unconstitutional. Currently, women are only allowed into mosques of the Jamaat-e-Islami and Mujahid denominations, and even then, they are required to enter through different doors than men and worship in separate enclosures. Sunnis, the predominant Muslim denomination in India, bar women from mosques altogether.

In a similar case in September, the Supreme Court forced Hindu hardliners to allow women into the ancient Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala, despite devotees’ beliefs that menstruating women would spiritually defile the site. Before the ruling, women had been barred from the 12th century temple since 1991. That same month, the Supreme Court also officially decriminalized both adultery and homosexuality nationwide.

According to the petition, the prohibition on women in mosques is not only discriminatory, but runs contrary to Islamic scripture. “The Quran does not differentiate between man and woman,” the petition claims. “It speaks only about the faithful. But Islam has instead become a religion in which women are being oppressed.”

Read the full story at NDTV.

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Strange bedfellows

Ivanka Trump arrived in Ethiopia on Sunday to promote a White House global economic program aimed at empowering women in developing countries with job training, financial support, and legal reforms to remove barriers to women’s participation in the workforce. Kicking off a four-day trip through the country and the Ivory Coast, Trump took part in a traditional coffee ceremony and visited weavers in the capital city Addis Ababa.

“Investing in women is smart development policy and it’s smart business,” said Trump while sitting with women workers at Dumerso Coffee. “It’s also in our security interest, because women, when we’re empowered, foster peace and stability.”

During her appearance at Dumerso, she announced that USAID would back a loan from a women-focused bank for a women-owned coffee business. Later, while visiting a textile and craft manufacturing company, the first daughter also announced new funding from the Overseas Private Investment Corp., an international loan-provider that last year announced they would work with Trump on projects aimed at empowering women.

Trump’s visit reportedly brought a mixed reaction from locals, as activists simultaneously hailed the influx of capital and support for women’s businesses brought by the trip while expressing frustration with President Trump’s past derogatory comments about people on the African continent — including referring to African nations as “shithole countries.”

According to Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, the White House’s goal of reforming laws that block women from working had the potential to make positive change. But the Trump administration’s decision to defund any group that provides — or even advocates for — abortion services, he noted, was undermining efforts to support women’s empowerment.

“I think one of the most powerful tools for women’s economic empowerment is the ability to choose when and how many children they have,” Kenny told CBS News.

Read the full story at CBS News.

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Flashback

A play set during the 2008 New Hampshire primary — with Hillary and Bill Clinton at its center — officially opens on Broadway this week.

According to Jezebel, Hillary and Clinton takes place over the course of one evening when Hillary, played by Laurie Metcalf, seeks help from her husband Bill, played by John Lithgow. Barack Obama and Mark Penn, who was the chief strategist for Clinton’s ‘08 campaign, are the only other two characters featured in the show.

Created by Lucas Hnath, Hillary and Clinton premiered in Chicago in 2016, and has been in previews on Broadway since March — its official premiere there is April 18. The play avoids overt references to Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, but Lithgow told Variety that the production has “a tremendous undertow of melancholy — certainly if you were a fan of Hillary Clinton’s and voted for her — that we don’t address directly, but it hangs in the air.”

And while dismay over the upcoming presidential election — still a year and a half away — has already set in, that hasn’t stopped theater-goers from clamoring to get tickets to Hillary and ClintonPage Six reports that opening night for the show is standing room only.

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Invasion of privacy

Pregnant women already face a number of obstacles in society and the workplace. But as companies and health insurers increasingly track data gathered from family-planning apps, activists are warning about the consequences of companies being able to predict whether their women employees are trying to get pregnant.

More and more women are using family-planning apps to track their ovulation cycles. But the data from such applications, experts say, is liable to being shared with companies and health insurers who might seek to penalize women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, or who face the possibility of a high-risk pregnancy.

Video game company Activision Blizzard, for example, is offering women employees financial incentives to use family-planning apps from Ovia Health that gather information on women’s fertility, menstrual cycles, and the progress of their pregnancies. Employee data gathered by the app is automatically shared with Activision Blizzard — raising the possibility that the company could potentially use the information to discriminate against employees who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant.

This dystopian trend, known as “menstrual surveillance,” could have even more disturbing applications. As anti-abortion movements continue to sweep across the world and the U.S., feminist technology scholar Rachel Dubrofsky told the Guardian that family-planning applications might potentially be weaponized by governments to target women who seek to obtain abortions.

“Apps such as Ovia are particularly concerning for their potential to further restrict the rights of women to have control over their bodies, make women’s access to affordable healthcare increasingly precarious, and put women’s jobs at risk,” said Dubrofsky.

Read the full story at the Guardian.

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Terrorized

An in-depth report in the New York Times takes a close look at the violence in Central America that is driving women from that region into the United States.

The report focuses on Honduras, one of the five deadliest countries in which to be a woman. Official statistics show that 380 Honduran women were murdered last year, in a country with a population roughly equivalent to New York City’s. But the actual number is believed to be far higher.

Many of these homicides suggest a particular kind of terror aimed at women specifically. In much of the world, most murdered women are killed by husbands, partners, or family members. But in Honduras, many women are killed in a gruesome fashion — shot in the vagina, skinned alive, strangled in front of their children — that appears intended to send a grim message. In 2017, 41 percent of women and girls killed in Honduras showed signs of mutilation or cruelty beyond what was actually needed to kill them.

Part of the wanton cruelty stems from the violent narco economy, in which gangsters spread terror by murdering women associated with the members of rival gangs. Another factor appears to be a culture of machismo that tolerates domestic abuse. In 2013, the government passed a law imposing harsher sentences for femicide, but it is rarely applied. Domestic violence laws didn’t even exist in Honduras until 1997.

The fact is that the police are rarely interested in investigating murders of women, and 9 out of 10 cases involving a femicide never go to court. These forces are pushing more and more women in Central America to attempt to enter the U.S. illegally. Not surprisingly, the Trump administration is cracking down on such attempts harder than ever. In June, Jeff Sessions, the attorney general at the time, sought to reverse a 2014 decision that allowed domestic violence survivors to claim asylum in the U.S. (He was blocked by a federal court.)

Meanwhile, women in Honduras continue to fear for their lives in a country where death could come at any moment, in a form of violence meant to keep them in a constant state of terror.

Read more at the New York Times.

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04.15.19

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