From the November-December 2022 issue of News & Letters
In October, hundreds of Stanford University women students marched. They were protesting the university’s inadequate response to its extreme rape culture. A study showed 40% of women students experienced “nonconsensual sexual contact”. Recently, one rapist abducted a woman from her Stanford office, another grabbed a woman from a parking lot in daylight. Protesters demanded Stanford expel students guilty of sexual assault and fire faculty and staff with Title IX violations. They demanded a $1 million commitment towards trauma-informed training for all counselors and Vaden Health Center workers and hiring more Confidential Support Team counselors.
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In September, in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Wissam and Fatima al-Taweel, ages 21 and 20, posted Facebook videos describing jumping from their home’s balcony to escape their father’s violence and death threats. This inspired a social media campaign under an Arabic hashtag that translates to “Save_Wissam_Fatima.” Feminist organizations helping them received an unprecedented backlash of intimidation and defamation. Zainab al-Ghunaimi of the Center for Women’s Legal Researches and Consulting stated, “There are prominent and religious figures who threaten feminist organizations either through written statements on social media or in their Friday sermons. These threats incite the Palestinian street against women’s institutions, and prompt aggressive behavior by husbands, fathers or brothers against women who are defended by these organizations.” The Palestinian NGO Network called on human rights institutions and local authorities to protect women’s rights NGOs in Gaza.
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In October, Feminist Dynamism, a coalition of 12 feminist and civil rights groups in Tunisia, demonstrated in front of the Higher Electoral Authority, protesting President Kais Saied’s new commission to manage elections. They said the commission “is not representative of all segments of the Tunisian society as its structure is dominated by men, and seeks to exclude women from the entire electoral process.” They also protested a new law that people must pay to nominate candidates. Previously, parliamentary elections had a goal of 50% representation of women and 25% representation of youth. Feminist Dynamism has launched an online petition to amend the new law, and press and media unions threaten a media boycott of the election.
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In August, Sabah Al Alwani became the first woman appointed to Yemen’s Supreme Judicial Council. Politician Rasha Jarhum stated this “will enhance women’s access to justice in general, but women still face many challenges, including violence, discriminatory laws and institutions, and a society that perceives them as inferior.” In February, women activists holding vigils and meeting with officials won the right to be issued passports without a male guardian’s approval. Not having passports had prevented women from seeking education or medical care abroad. Lawyer and women’s rights supporter Yasser Al Maliky stated, “The war has delayed many political gains, which I believe are the first path to empowerment in other fields. The culture of society is still hostile to women and this stems from a distorted cultural, religious, and legal legacy towards them.” The war has killed over 230,000 since 2014. The UN uncovered a pattern of rape and detention of women activists in areas where Houthi rebels impose their fundamentalist ideology.