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Qatar is the only Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) country still implementing male guardianship laws for female travel after Saudi Arabia lifted its restrictions on Friday. Saudi Arabia announced it would now allow both male and female citizens over the age of 21 to travel without a parent or guardian’s permission. While the rest of the GCC countries are working to protect and empower women’s rights, Qatar seems to lag behind.

According to the Qatari Interior Ministry’s website, guardianship laws require females under the age of 25 to travel abroad with a male parent’s consent. These measures restrict women who may need to travel abroad out of necessity, for education, visiting a relative or for medical needs.

According to the Saudi news agency Al Arabiya, Qatari men can – and do – apply to the courts in order to prevent their wives from traveling.

“Married women are entitled to travel without permission irrespective of their age,” it states on the Qatari Interior Ministry’s website. “In case the husband doesn’t want her to travel, he has to approach the competent court to prevent her journey.”

The same rules, however, do not apply to the men. According to the ministry’s website, men are allowed to travel freely once they reach the legal age of 18: “No permission is required for those who are 18 years old or more as they have reached the legal age of puberty.”

Furthermore, the Qatar official e-government portal Hukoomi’s instructions for citizens’ passport renewal specify that only Qatari males over the age of 18 can apply for a passport on their own. It also states that those same people may apply for renewal on account of unmarried daughters, sisters and nieces.

Saudi Arabia’s new decree, as of Friday, grants women who are of age the right to apply for and renew their passports themselves. Their recent changes also allow women to register independently for marriage, divorce or a child’s birth, and to receive family documents. The new decree also establishes that either the mother or father can act as a child’s legal guardian.

According to NPR, it was not too long ago that Saudi Arabia attempted to silence women’s rights activists and punish those who had political dissent, thus increasing the amount of female asylum seekers such as Rahaf Mohammad Alqunum and Samah Damanhoori, who actually succeeded in finding asylum abroad. In 2017, both Saudi men and women made a total of 817 asylum claims.

Neither Bahrain nor the United Arab Emirates implement guardian systems for female travelers, and Kuwaiti women gained the right to travel without a guardian’s approval back in 2009.

According to Amnesty International, Qatar acceded to international human rights treaties concerning migrants and women, but included reservations that limit their effect. Thus, their legal developments for women’s rights in general are slow.

The Qatari government, according to Amnesty, recently rejected Article 3 of their International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) on “the equal right of men and women in the enjoyment of all economic, social and cultural rights.”

Source: Jpost

EY has appointed Nancy Muhoya Nganga as managing partner of its Kenyan practice and leader of the East Africa cluster, the first time a woman has held the roles

She takes over from Gitahi Gachahi who has managed the firm since 2010 and is due to retire later this year.

Muhoya, a Kenyan certified public accountant, has been with the firm for 16 years and has served in a number of senior roles. Most recently, she led assurance services in EY East Africa and was responsible for an unprecedented expansion in its business.

Welcoming her appointment, Gachahi described the growth on her watch as “phenomenal”. “With her experience, business acumen, exposure and global mind set, our business is poised for a take-off to the next level,” he added.

Muhoya’s rapid rise to the top has not gone unobserved. In 2016, she was picked as one of Business Daily’s Top 40 Under 40 Women, an annual award that recognises exceptional young businesswomen both as game changers and inspirational role models for future generations.

“It’s truly an honour to be appointed EY East Africa cluster leader,” she told economia. “I look forward to engaging with our highly talented teams across East Africa and continuing to inspire trust and confidence in how we serve our clients in this digital age.”

In 2019 in South Africa, adult women need their husbands’ permission to keep their birth names. In some instances, they even need evidence of their father’s consent. This is according to home affairs officials. 

It is a common lament among married women that the Department of Home Affairs changes their name to that of their husband – unasked. It is usually working women who have professional personas, but often it is women who simply want to keep their birth name. For government, though, the reason should be irrelevant. By ticking the box on the marriage form that a woman wants to retain their birth name, she is giving the Department of Home Affairs a legal instruction.

However, many home affairs officials around the country do not believe that women have the right to make this decision – or if women do decide to keep their name, they do not know their own minds.

When I went to vote in the 2016 local elections, I found that I didn’t exist on the voters’ role. A strange woman with my ID number and my husband’s surname did, though. When I contacted the Eastern Cape home affairs branch which processed my marriage, the official asked whether I loved my husband. Obviously, I didn’t love him if I wanted to keep my name.

What followed was a lengthy process to try and change the system. I found more than 200 women who had also had their names changed, despite ticking the box stating that they wanted to keep their birth name.

For me, it almost cost me the chance to vote. Others pay in work days lost as they have to go and fight (yes, fight) with home affairs officials to change it back. Sometimes they have to pay a fee. Sometimes, women discover their new name when they have a child, whose unabridged birth certificate lists her as having a different name. One woman found out when she was about to board a plane overseas. She was barred from boarding.

In 2016, with the help of the Legal Resources Centre, about two dozen women and I approached the Department of Home Affairs about the matter. They changed our names back, and we had assurances that the system would change. (I knew of another action against them by Raisa Cachalia a few years prior, but I thought that this time would be different.)

Since then, more than 30 women have contacted me asking for assistance to get their names changed back to their pre-marriage names. In the last few weeks, the messages have been concerning:

“A Home Affairs official I spoke to just now said they would change it back if I bring an affidavit explaining my reason for wanting to keep it. And my husband must submit one too, stating he ‘gives consent’ for me to retain my maiden surname. This is ridiculous but I have to do it as it affects my UIF/maternity leave claims,” one woman wrote to me.

Another said: “I wanted to change my name back to my birth surname and I require both my father and stepfather’s written permission. It’s literally the name on my birth certificate and first passport. Still need the men to allow me to do it!”

Yet another said on Twitter: “This happened to me too, and when I went to @homeaffairsZA to get it changed back, they first asked if my husband was OK with it and then wanted to phone my father to check. So… that was fun.”

This archaic conservative throwback that appears to be infiltrating the corridors of home affairs isn’t just a bureaucratic bungle, or something to be sniggered at. It is in contravention of the Constitution and infringing on these women’s rights.

Section 9(3) of the Bill of Rights notes that: “The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.”

But this group of women (married women who choose to retain their names) are being discriminated against on the basis of their marital status, sex, and choice to keep their name. The Department of Home Affairs ignores their legal instruction. 

Everyone also has a right to administrative action that is lawful, reasonable and procedurally fair (S33(1)). The actions of these officials are not legal.

This new development of requiring male consent strips women of their dignity. The state requires that children and those who are mentally disabled have others give legal consent for them. This is the category into which the Department of Home Affairs is putting mentally competent, adult women.

– Sarah Wild is a freelance science journalist based in Johannesburg.

Source: News24

Her nomination was approved by 383 votes in a secret ballot on Tuesday evening at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

There were 327 votes against her and 22 abstentions. After being elected by a narrow margin of just nine votes over the required 374, von der Leyen called for a “united and strong Europe.”

The 60-year-old outgoing German defense minister and multilingual mother of seven will succeed Jean-Claude Juncker, who has served as president since 2014 and will step down on October 31.

She will be tasked with leading the EU’s executive body and providing political guidance to the Commission, which proposes new laws, manages the EU budget and is responsible for enforcing EU law.

Prior to the vote, von der Leyen made a series of promises to attract the support of parliament members from across the political spectrum.

Speaking in parliament on Tuesday, she said that she wanted Europe to be the first “climate-neutral continent” in the world, proposing a new “green deal” to make the EU carbon neutral by 2050.

Von der Leyen also spoke on gender equality, and said that she would propose to add violence against women to the list of EU crimes.

In a letter on Monday addressed to the parliament’s Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, von der Leyen had also said that she would propose a “new pact on migration and asylum,” that would establish a “new way of burden sharing,” and would plan to bring the EU’s border force Frontex to 10,000 staff by 2024.

‘A huge challenge’

Von der Leyen was congratulated by leaders across the 28-country bloc.

In a message posted to Twitter, Junker congratulated von der Leyen for being the first woman to lead the commission and said: “This job is a huge responsibility and a challenge. I am sure you will make a great president. Welcome home!”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a Twitter post: “Congratulations to @vonderleyen. She campaigned for a united and strong EU, now we want to work on this together. The world doesn’t wait for Europe.”

Von der Leyen will assume her position on November 1, one day after Britain’s current scheduled withdrawal from the EU.

In a press conference after her election, Ursula von der Leyen spoke on Brexit, saying she will work in a “constructive way” with any new UK leader ahead of the October 31 deadline.

She declined to say if she would rather see Boris Johnson or UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, the frontrunners for the Conservative leadership contest to become Britain’s new Prime Minister.

Asked about winning the vote in a slim majority, von der Leyen said she will work with pro-European parties for “stable majorities.”

“I don’t know who voted for me, I know it was very difficult to achieve a majority,” she said.

A controversial nomination

Some German media outlets say it’s “good news” for the military that von der Leyen is leaving her position as defense minister.

Von der Leyen is a long-time ally to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and is the only minister to have served in Merkel’s cabinet since she came to power back in 2005.

In a statement, Merkel congratulated her, saying she looked forward to “good cooperation” with von der Leyen as “a new partner” in Brussels. “After over 50 years, a German will be at the top of the European executive,” she noted.

Von der Leyen’s nomination to replace Juncker was unexpected since von der Leyen wasn’t even a candidate. Some have described her nomination as a backroom deal in Brussels.

Ahead of the vote, von der Leyen faced a lot of criticism, particularly from Merkel’s coalition partners — the Social Democrats (SPD) — who were upset that EU leaders ignored the top candidates after days of horse-trading.

European leaders nominated von der Leyen to lead the Commission after they failed to agree on any of the nominees put forward by European political parties ahead of the EU elections. Von der Leyen beat the original frontrunner for the role, Dutch socialist Frans Timmermans.

Domestically von der Leyen has been a divisive figure, with some German media outlets recently reporting that it’s “good news” for the military that von der Leyen is leaving her position as defense minister.

Source: CNN

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s aim of bridging the gender-equality gap is beginning to take shape in Parliament, although it is largely thanks to women from opposition parties.

Twenty-eight women were elected to the upper house of Parliament recently, tying the record set in the previous upper-house election three years ago. That represented 23% of the 124 seats at stake. Sixteen of the 28 new women came from outside Mr. Abe’s ruling coalition, which retained its majority in the election, putting Mr. Abe on track to become the nation’s longest-serving leader.

In elections that focused on diversity to an extent that is rare for Japan, opposition parties hoped that fielding a large number of female candidates would loosen Mr. Abe’s grip on power.

A record 28% of candidates were women, in the first national election held since a gender-parity law was implemented last year saying that political parties must aim to put forth an equal number of male and female candidates. There is no penalty for parties that don’t meet the target, and 15% of the candidates from Mr. Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party were women.

While many opposition women fell short, a few upset incumbents from the ruling party. Shizuka Terata, an independent backed by several opposition parties, won a seat in northern Akita prefecture over an LDP incumbent.

Ms. Terata campaigned against Mr. Abe’s plan to deploy a missile-defense system in the prefecture, and prevailed despite a visit by Mr. Abe to Akita on the day before the election to stump for the LDP incumbent, Matsuji Nakaizumi.

“In the latter part of the campaign, I felt as if I was battling the entire government,” Ms. Terata said after her victory.

In Miyagi prefecture, Noriko Ishigaki, a newcomer from the Constitutional Democratic Party, upset incumbent Jiro Aichi from the LDP, who had been elected by the prefecture three times in the past.

Mr. Abe’s party will not feel immediate pressure to field more women, but “the gradual trend toward more female candidates will continue into the next election,” said Kentaro Maeda, who teaches politics at the University of Tokyo’s graduate school of law and politics.

Elections for Parliament’s lower house must be held by the fall of 2021. Only 47 of 463 lawmakers in that chamber are women.

Diversity in general was a theme of Sunday’s election. Two candidates with severe disabilities were elected from a small opposition party, including one who is largely paralyzed owing to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Taiga Ishikawa, one of the first openly gay politicians in Japan, also won a seat, running on the ticket of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party. His party plans to introduce a bill to recognize same-sex marriage.

As of June 1, the Inter-Parliamentary Union ranked Japan 163rd in the world in terms of women’s representation in the legislature. The U.S. tied for 77th, with women making up 23% of the House and 25% of the Senate.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

The Assembly of the Republic of Mozambique approved here on Monday a law on the prevention of early marriages.

The head of the Commission of Human Rights, Constitutional Affairs and Legality, Edson Macuacua told the parliamentary members that with the law, there will be fewer girls dropping out of school and fewer girls forced to marry at an early age.

“It will ensure a full growth and development of the girls’ personality, which contributes to a more just society, where boys and girls enjoy equal opportunities,” said Macuacua.

Mozambique is among the top ten countries with the highest rate of early marriage where 48 percent of women got married before they were 18 years. Poverty is pointed out as one of the main determining factors of the phenomenon.

Source: Xinhuanet

The four US congresswomen attacked by US President Donald Trump in tweets widely called racist have dismissed his remarks as a distraction.

Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib urged the US people “not to take the bait” at a Monday news conference.

President Trump had suggested the four women – all US citizens – “can leave”.

He has defended his comments and denied allegations of racism.

The president did not explicitly name the women in his initial Twitter tirade on Sunday, but the context made a clear link to the four Democrat women, who are known as The Squad.

He sparked a furore after saying the women “originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe” and they should go home.

Three of the women were born in the US and one, Ms Omar, was born in Somalia but came to the US as a child.

  • Amid the uproar, Republicans stay quiet
  • Times when Americans were told to ‘go home’
  • The women tangled in Trump’s racially charged row
  • PM candidates condemn Trump ‘go back’ tweets

Following the outcry, the four women told reporters they wanted to re-focus attention on to the president’s policies.

“This is simply a disruption and a distraction from the callous chaos and corrupt culture of this administration, all the way down,” Ms Pressley said.

Both Ms Omar and Ms Tlaib repeated their calls for President Trump to be impeached.

What did the congresswomen say?

Ms Pressley dismissed the president’s efforts “to marginalise us and to silence us”.

She added: “Our squad includes any person committed to building a more equitable and just world.”

All four women insisted that health care, gun violence and, in particular, detentions of migrants on the US border with Mexico should be in focus.

“The eyes of history are watching us,” said Ms Omar, decrying the “mass deportation raids” and “human rights abuses at the border”.

Ms Omar says President Trump’s “blatantly racist attack” on four women of colour was “the agenda of white nationalists”, adding that the president would like “nothing more than to divide our country”.

Ms Tlaib called it “simply a continuation of his racist, xenophobic playbook”.

“We remain focused on holding him accountable to the laws of this land,” she said.

President Trump doubled down at the White House, verbally attacking these non-white congresswomen, and he tripled down on Twitter later on.

He is using language that is well outside of the usual parameters of presidential discourse.

The fact that he is escalating the issue shows he seems to be enjoying it and, for him, it serves a political purpose. He sees it as revving up the base.

However, he risks alienating the moderate Republicans – some of whom already failed to back him in last year’s mid-term elections.

What the row is about

On Friday, Ms Ocasio-Cortez, Ms Tlaib and Ms Pressley testified to a House committee about conditions in a migrant detention centre they had visited.

Democrats have widely criticised the Trump administration’s approach to border control, saying they are holding migrants in inhumane conditions.

President Trump insists the border is facing a crisis and has defended the actions of his border agents. His administration announced a new rule to take effect on 16 July, which denies asylum to anyone who crosses the southern border without having applied for protection in “at least one third country” on their way to the US.

After their testimony, President Trump said conditions at the centre had had “great reviews”. He then posted his series of tweets about the women and Ms Omar, attacks he redoubled on Monday.

“If you are not happy, if you are complaining all the time, you can leave,” he told a heated news conference outside the White House.

As the women spoke to reporters on Monday evening, he tweeted again.

“If you are not happy here, you can leave! It is your choice, and your choice alone. This is about love for America,” he wrote.

How have Democrats and Republicans responded?

Democrats have roundly condemned the president, and many were quick to say it was a racist attack.

However, top Republicans have been less outspoken. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would answer questions Tuesday.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said: “I don’t find them racist, the president just went on and clarified his comments.” He then changed the subject.

Some, including Senator Lindsey Graham, turned the topic back on to the politics of the four women, who are seen to be progressive. He told Fox News they are communists and anti-America.

US Senator and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney called President Trump’s remarks “destructive, demeaning, and disunifying”. But when a reporter asked him if they were racist, he walked away.

Lower-ranking members of the Republican Party were, however, more direct.

Tim Scott, the only African-American Republican in the Senate, called the president’s words “racially offensive”. Republican Congressman Will Hurd, who is also African American, described the comments as “racist and xenophobic”.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has, meanwhile, announced a resolution in the House to condemn the attack. She has urged Republicans to back it.

Her colleague Chuck Schumer said he would introduce a similar motion in the Senate. “We’ll see how many Republicans sign on,” he tweeted.

How have world leaders reacted?

The leaders of several US allies have come out against the president.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she “completely and utterly” disagreed with President Trump, while Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau similarly denounced the comments.

“That is not how we do things in Canada. A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian,” he said at a press conference.

Both candidates for the British premiership condemned the attacks. Jeremy Hunt said he was “utterly appalled” by President Trump’s tweets, and Boris Johnson said “you simply cannot use that kind of language about sending people back to where they came from”.

Prime Minister Theresa May had earlier said the remarks were “completely unacceptable”.

Source: BBC