Welcome to “Women Around the World: This Week,” a series that highlights noteworthy news related to women and U.S. foreign policy. This week’s post, covering from January 26 to February 6, was compiled with support from Becky Allen, Anne Connell, and Alyssa Dougherty.
Trump administration order affects women and children refugees
The U.S. State Department revealed last week that over 60,000 visas were revoked as a result of President Trump’s executive order banning travel to the U.S. from seven predominantly Muslim countries and barring refugee admissions for 120 days. Those affected include tens of thousands of women and children, who comprise 72 percent of all refugees and over 78 percent of Syrian refugees resettled in the U.S. in 2016. Studies confirm that refugee women and children are at significant risk and experience high incidence of rape, forced prostitution, child marriage, and trafficking. Refugee admissions to the U.S. have temporarily resumed, following a stay of the administration’s executive order issued in federal district court; however, a pending government appeal has left the future of the U.S. refugee resettlement program uncertain.
Turks and Caicos elects first female premier
The island territory of Turks and Caicos has set a regional precedent for women’s political leadership by electing the first female premier in its history, Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson of the People’s Democratic Movement party. Campaigning on issues of open, transparent governance and social justice, she beat out an initial pool of fifty-two other candidates to reach the post. Women in Turks and Caicos also hold several other top government positions, including deputy governor, attorney general, chief justice, chief magistrate, director of public prosecutions, and five of seven permanent secretaries. Turks and Caicos now leads the region in representation of women in executive and cabinet-level government positions, though a number of Caribbean nations—including Bermuda, Dominica, and Guyana—have also strengthened policies to promote women’s leadership in recent years.
Austria bans face-covering veils
Austria is the latest European country to propose a ban on full face-covering veils in public spaces, a move by the ruling coalition responsive to the anti-immigrant far-right populist parties that nearly claimed the presidency in 2016. The ban is largely symbolic in nature, with reports suggesting that as few as 150 women would be affected, given that most practicing Muslims in Austria have Turkish or Balkan roots where full veils are less prevalent. Austria’s new policy is similar to bans on the niqab and burqa introduced by France and Belgium in 2011, and a partial ban introduced in the Netherlands in 2015. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also voiced support for a similar policy in recent months, asserting that “the full veil is not appropriate here, [and] should be forbidden wherever legally possible.” Following Austria’s announcement this week, Ibrahim Olgun, president of Austria’s Islamic Faith Community, openly criticized the policy, stressing that it undermines women’s freedom and injures the relationship between the Austrian government and Muslim communities. Thousands of people took to Vienna’s streets this week to protest the new legislation.