May 23
Her eye on the news
No escape

Thousands of North Korean women and girls are being sold into sexual slavery in China, a new report has found, citing interviews with survivors. While some women are forced into marriage, others are forced into cybersex acts or prostitution. Some are as young as 12 years old.

The investigation, conducted by the London-based nonprofit Korean Future Initiative, estimated that as many as 200,000 North Koreans are living as refugees in China, having fled oppression and poverty in their homeland, with an estimated 60 percent of women and girls being trafficked into sexual slavery. A recent report from Human Rights Watch reached similar conclusions on the risks that women defectors face, according to CNN.

The one-child policy in China, which was eased in 2016, has led to a profound gender imbalance in which men outnumber women, reportedly increasing demand for brides.

The investigation took two years to complete, with researchers finding an “illicit industry that accrues vast profits from trafficked women and girls,” according to the report. Some of the victims are sold into slavery by the very smugglers who helped them escape across the Chinese border.

That’s what happened to Yeonmi Park.

She told Women in the World in an unforgettable summit appearance in 2015 about growing up in the brutal North Korean regime, describing how food and electricity were scarce, and the government told people how to dress, how to think. She was taught in school that Americans were to blame for the country’s problems. Her father was sent to a labor camp for starting his own business. When he got out, his bones protruding from hunger, her family decided to risk their lives to flee to China with the help of smugglers.

Those smugglers turned out to be sex traffickers.

They brought the family to China, and raped her mother in front of Yeonmi, who was 13 at the time. Then they sold Yeonmi and her mother as brides. Yeonmi initially tried to fight off the sexual advances of the man who had bought her, but eventually she gave into him, when he promised to help reunite her with her family. Astoundingly, he did so, and they later managed to escape to South Korea with the help of Christian missionaries. There, Yeonmi said, she was allowed to think freely and have her own opinions for the first time—something she had never learned to do in North Korea.

You can watch a video of her appearance at the 2015 Women in the World Summit below.

Read the full story at CNN.


Demand for foreign brides in China is causing a human trafficking crisis, report claims

Former North Korean soldiers describe sexual abuse, starvation and violence at the hands of male superiors

Former North Korean cheerleader spills the inside story of Kim Jong Un’s ‘Army of Beauties’

Fighting back

McDonald’s has been slapped with 23 new complaints of gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation for employees who speak out about it.

The complaints were announced Tuesday by the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the labor group Fight for $15. Twenty of the complaints were sent to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and three were filed as civil rights lawsuits, with two suits stemming from previous allegations, according to The New York Times.

The restaurant industry has one of the highest rates of sexual harassment, according to the Times, citing a survey in which 40 percent of female fast food workers said they had experienced it, and more than one in five said they had faced retaliation for reporting it.

Last September, hundreds of McDonald’s employees walked out during lunch to protest sexual harassment. Another protest took place on Tuesday in front of the company headquarters in Chicago.

Chief Executive Steve Easterbrook, responding on Monday to a letter from Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, said the company had improved and clarified its harassment policies, according to the Times. He said the company had sent posters outlining the policies to its restaurants and had put most franchise owners through new training. In the coming months, the company will be rolling out more training and a complaint hotline, he said.

Former employee Brittany Hoyos told the Times that in 2016, when she was 16, she started her first job at a McDonald’s in Tucson. A manager soon began harassing her, she said—touching her hair, texting her about her looks, attempting to kiss her. Her parents told her supervisors, spurring retaliation at work, Hoyos said, including a demotion. She said the retaliation also affected her mother, as she worked in the restaurant too. Both were eventually left unemployed.

“I was embarrassed,” recalled Hoyos, now 19, in her complaint. “I felt like I was at fault or that I had done something wrong.”

Read the full story at The New York Times.


McDonald’s workers rise up in nationwide protests against sexual harassment

Police officer says boss retaliated against her after she reported sexual assault by fellow officer

Rates of sexual assault against military women are surging, survey says

‘A bullying strategy’

For decades, Rebecca Gomperts has been helping women terminate their pregnancies in countries with abortion bans. She began in the nineties by launching Women on Waves, using a Dutch ship anchored in international waters to give abortions on board. Now she mails abortion pills to women who contact her, including in America—causing a stir with the FDA.

Gomperts, a medical doctor from the Netherlands, announced last year that she had created a new organization, Aid Access, to help women in places like the U.S., where abortion is becoming increasingly restricted. A few months later, in March, the Food and Drug Administration notified her that she is violating federal law by selling “misbranded and unapproved new drugs,” according to a report in Mother Jones.

Gomperts says she won’t back down, writing on the Aid Access website, “I will not be deterred. When women in the U.S. seeking to terminate their pregnancies prior to nine weeks consult me, I will not turn them away. I will continue to protect the human and constitutional rights of my patients to access safe abortion services.”

Shortly after the FDA letter was sent, 120 members of Congress wrote to FDA Commissioner Norman Sharpless to thank him for taking action, according to Mother Jones. Gomperts told the magazine that she thinks the congressional letter shows that there is political pressure on the FDA to act. “I’ve been doing this for 16 years. This is the first time we’ve ever gotten a letter like this,” she said. “It’s a bullying strategy.”

The abortion pills she distributes, mifepristone and misoprostol, are safe and effective, according to Mother Jones. “Whether law enforcement and the FDA can stop the flow of pills, and whether they have jurisdiction to do so,” the report said, “remains to be seen.”

Read the full story at Mother Jones.


Doctor behind abortion pills mail service launches new enterprise for American women

Experts warn science does not support ‘abortion reversal’ bills pushed by Ohio Republicans

Jameela Jamil says getting an abortion was the ‘best decision’ she ever made

‘Freedom to love’

Champion sprinter Dutee Chand, 23, has revealed that she is in a relationship with a woman from her rural village in eastern India, Gopalpur, making her the first openly gay professional athlete in the country’s history.

The recent announcement from Chand, a member of India’s national track and field team, comes less than a year after the Indian Supreme Court struck down a ban on consensual gay sex last September. Same-sex marriage remains illegal in the largely conservative country.

“I have always believed that everyone should have the freedom to love,” Chand told The Sunday Express newspaper in India, adding that she hopes to settle down and build a life with her partner following the coming track World Championships and Olympic Games in Tokyo. “There is no greater emotion than love, and it should not be denied,” she said.

Chand is famous not only for her accomplishments as a sprinter, but for her fight for the right to be allowed to compete against other women. In 2014, she was banned from competing by the sport’s governing body due to her hyperandrogenism, a condition that naturally produces high testosterone levels. Chand appealed the ruling, and the ban was overturned in 2015.

She went on to win silver medals at the Asian Games in the 100-meter and 200-meter events last year.

Read the full story at The New York Times.


‘I just want to run naturally’: Rule banning Caster Semenya from competition is upheld

After 157 years, India finally overturns colonial-era ban on gay sex

Hurdles on the track were not the only obstacles on runner’s path to Olympic gold

‘Literal perfection’

Ruby Rose plays TV’s first openly gay lead superhero in the coming CW Network series Batwoman, with a new trailer showing her preparing to combat crime in Gotham when Batman goes missing.

In the new teaser, she checks out Batman’s suit, hanging in the bat cave, and says to a cohort, “I need you to fix this suit.”

“The suit is literal perfection,” she is told.

“It will be—when it fits a woman,” she replies.

The gender-fluid actress has said she is “beyond thrilled and honored” for the opportunity to portray Batwoman as an openly gay superhero. While many viewers celebrated her casting in the role, others did not, with trolls attacking her online, spurring her to delete her Twitter account.

“It had long lost its place in my life,” she said of Twitter in an interview with Vogue. “It has changed over the years and I found it was breeding a lot more hate and dividing people more than other social media platforms.”

In the moody sneak-peek video, she tries to rescue a love interest and beats up villains in her path. When citizens begin wondering if a recent spate of vigilante crime-stopping efforts could signal the return of Batman, she makes it clear that she intends to stake her own claim on Gotham.

“I’m not about to let a man take credit for a woman’s work,” she says.

Watch the trailer for the series, which starts this fall, below.

Read the full story at CNN and NBC News.


Actor abandons Twitter amid harsh backlash over role she was cast to play in TV show

With blockbuster opening, ‘Captain Marvel’ defies myth that women superheroes don’t sell

AOC transformed to superhero in comic satire that will take no prisoners


Sign up to the bi-weekly newsletter for all the stories that you need to know, coming to you from global women on the front edge of change.