Saudi Arabia and the Olympics: A Hesitant Step Forward

The 2012 Olympics are finally making sex equality a priority. For the first time in the history of the games, the International Olympic Council put pressure on every country to bring female delegates to compete. And it worked! The last three holdouts from the Beijing games in 2008–Brunei, Qatar and Saudi Arabia–succumbed to international leaning and submitted female athletes. Saudi Arabia was the last holdout. It took being threatened to be ousted from the Olympics for them to finally agree to send women–two women, in fact. Sarah Attah will be running the 800-meter, and Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani will be competing in Judo. Or, at least, she may be. Continue reading

Parliament Roundly Denounces Motion to Examine When Life Begins

Private members’ bills are a bit of a mixed bag in Canadian Parliament. Most of them are sensible business from the opposition parties, like calling for a national transit strategy (which is sorely needed), but it’s also the airing ground for bills from the fringes of the governing party. Last Thursday, Conservative MP for Kitchener-Centre Stephen Woodsworth’s bill calling on Parliament to form a committee to talk to experts about when, exactly, life begins.


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Female Genital Cutting/Mutilation: A Health and Human Rights Issue

[TRIGGER WARNING: Discussion of surgical procedures, social, and cultural practices pertaining to female genitalia]

Female genital cutting/circumcision/mutilation (depending on your politics) is something I learned about in any women’s studies or public health class I took in college. What is it and does it harm women? Is it different from male circumcision, and how? Continue reading

International Women’s Issues: The Potential Challenge to Women’s Rights in Tunisia

Before we get in to this week’s column, I’d like to congratulate Saving Face, a documentary about acid attacks in Pakistan, for winning an Oscar last night. I strongly hope the success of this film brings attention (and, you know, funding) to the prevention of acid attacks and support to people who are survivors of this horrific phenomenon.

This week, I’m going to look at women’s rights over the past year in Tunisia. It’s been over a year since Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in protest of government corruption and oppression, sparking revolutions throughout North Africa and the Middle East, and causing the ousting of, at current count, four dictators. As the Arab Spring started in Tunisia, that’s where we’ll be examining today, especially because of both the role women played in the revolution, and the promises that were made in terms of women’s rights in that country a year ago. How many have been kept? Are women better off in Tunisia now than they were eighteen months ago? Continue reading

International Women’s Issues: The Worst Country in the World for Women

This week in International Women’s Issues, I’m focusing on Yemen. Why? Because, time and time again, Yemen holds the title of The Worst Place in the World To Live if You are a Woman. There are a variety of factors that contribute to this ignoble distinction, which I will examine. There are also, happily, a number of women working incredibly hard, risking their lives to improve the living situations of their fellow countrywomen. Most notable, perhaps, is recent Nobel Peace Prize winner, Tawakkol Karman, whose work in Yemen’s Arab Spring movement earned her the nickname “Mother of the Revolution.” Later in this piece, we’ll look at her work, and the work of women like her. Continue reading

Badass Ladies of History: Luisa Capetillo

Luisa Capetillo was one of Puerto Rico’s most recognized labor organizers and women’s rights activists.  A woman beyond her time, she was a writer, a feminist, a labor leader and an anarchist, who struggled not only to bring change to the emrging labor movement in Puerto Rico, but also as a woman who worked to provide more room in a heavily male-dominated society. Continue reading