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40 Economies Make 62 Legal Reforms To Advance Women’s Economic Participation

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The regulatory environment for women’s economic participation has improved over the past two years, with 40 economies enacting 62 reforms that will help women – half the world’s population – realize their potential and contribute to economic growth and development, says a new World Bank study. Still, the results are uneven — women in many countries have only a fraction of the legal rights of men, holding back their economic and social development.

The study, Women Business and the Law 2020, measures 190 economies, tracking how laws affect women at different stages in their working lives and focusing on those laws applicable in the main business city. It covers reforms in eight areas that are associated with women’s economic empowerment, conducted from June 2017 to September 2019.

“Legal rights for women are both the right thing to do and good from an economic perspective. When women can move more freely, work outside the home and manage assets, they are more likely to join the workforce and help strengthen their country’s economies,” said World Bank Group President David Malpass. “We stand ready to help until every woman can move through her life without facing legal barriers to her success.”

The areas of Workplace and Marriage saw many reforms, especially in the enactment of laws that protect women from violence. In the last two years, eight economies enacted legislation on domestic violence for the first time. Seven economies now have new legal protections against sexual harassment in employment.

Twelve economies improved their laws in the area of Pay, removing restrictions on the industries, jobs and hours that women can work. Globally, the most frequent reforms were in areas related to Parenthood, with 16 economies enacting positive changes. Reforms included expansion of the amount of paid maternity leave available to mothers, introduction of paid paternity leave and prohibition of dismissal of pregnant employees.

Achieving legal gender equality requires strong political will and a concerted effort by governments, civil society, and international organizations, among others. But legal and regulatory reforms can serve as an important catalyst to improve the lives of women as well as their families and communities.

“This study helps us understand where laws facilitate or hinder women’s economic participation. It has incentivized countries to undertake reforms that can eliminate gender imbalances,” said World Bank Group Chief Economist Pinelopi Koujianou Goldberg. “Achieving equality will take time, but it is encouraging that all regions have improved. We hope that this research will continue to serve as an important tool to inform policy making and level the playing field for women.”

The WBL index measures only formal laws and the regulations which govern a woman’s ability to work or own businesses– a country’s actual norms and practices are not captured. The global average score was 75.2, which improved slightly from 73.9 two years ago. Clearly, much more work remains as women in many countries have only a fraction of the legal rights of men, holding them back from opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship.

The eight areas covered by the index are structured around women’s interactions with the law through their careers: Mobility, Workplace, Pay, Marriage, Parenthood, Entrepreneurship, Assets, and Pension.

Reforms are urgently needed in the area of Parenthood, which scored just 53.9 on average. In almost half of economies that provide any form of paid maternity leave, the burden falls on the employer, making it more costly to hire women. But paid maternity leave can help to retain female employees, reducing turnover cost and improving productivity.  These longer-term benefits often outweigh the short-term costs to employers, according to the study.

Of the ten economies that improved the most, six are in the Middle East and North Africa, three are in Sub-Saharan Africa and one is in South Asia. While there was considerable progress, the Middle East and North Africa remains the region with the most room for improvement.  Eight countries now have a score of 100, with Canada joining Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden due to a recent reform in parental leave.

Regional Highlights

Advanced Economies: Advanced economies continue to make progress on the indicators. Of the 40 economies with scores above 90, 27 are OECD high-income economies. The Czech Republic and the United States reformed laws related to paternity and parental leave, giving parents more opportunity to share childcare responsibilities, while Italy and Slovenia equalized pension benefits between men and women.

East Asia and the Pacific: Four economies conducted four reforms in three areas. Thailand introduced a reform in the area of getting paid, and Timor-Leste in the area of getting a pension. Fiji increased the duration of paid maternity leave and introduced paid leave for fathers for the first time.

Europe and Central Asia: Four economies enacted five reforms in five areas, and two economies changed laws to reduce opportunities. Armenia enacted legislation protecting women from domestic violence. Cyprus introduced paid paternity leave. Georgia adopted legislation to provide for civil remedies in the case of the unfair dismissal of a victim of sexual harassment.  Moldova lifted some restrictions on women’s employment by limiting them to pregnant, nursing, and postpartum women.

Latin America and the Caribbean: Four economies made four reforms in four areasBarbados enacted legislation on sexual harassment in the workplace. Peru and Paraguay received high scores in the 90s. Economies in this region made important strides toward lifting restrictions placed on women in the 1980s and 1990s, but the pace of reforms slowed over the past decade.

Middle East and North Africa: Seven economies enacted 20 reforms in seven areas, although one economy implemented a negative reform. Saudi Arabia made the biggest improvement globally, enacting reforms in six out of eight areas measured including in women’s mobility, sexual harassment, retirement age and economic activity. The United Arab Emirates also reformed in five areas. Djibouti, Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia implemented an additional nine reforms.

South Asia: Four economies enacted seven reforms in four areas. Nepal introduced a new labor law that prohibits discrimination in employment, paternity leave and new pensions regulation. Three other countries also enacted reforms: Pakistan and Sri Lanka made progress in the area of Parenthood. In India, the state of Maharashtra eliminated restrictions on women’s jobs.

 

Sub-Saharan Africa: Eleven economies implemented 16 reforms in seven areas. The Democratic Republic of Congo introduced social insurance maternity benefits and equalized retirement ages. In Côte d’Ivoire, spouses now have equal rights to own and manage property. Mali enacted reforms on non-discrimination in employment. São Tomé and Príncipe adopted a new labor code to meet job market demands and bring laws in compliance with international standards. South Sudan adopted its first labor law since independence.

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Culture

Law Forces Couples in Japan To Share Surname

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In Japan Couples Forced To Share Surname

Married couples in Japan are obliged to share Surname subject to provisions of the law.

A Japenese top court on Wednesday ruled that legal provisions forcing married couples to use the same surname are constitutional, upholding a Supreme Court judgment from 2015.

The latest decision on a more than century-old provision based on the Civil Code and the family register law dismissed requests filed by three couples in 2018 to keep their separate surnames after local governments refused to accept their marriage registrations.

The decision handed down by presiding Justice Naoto Otani at the Supreme Court’s Grand Bench, populated by all 15 justices, came at a time when families have become more diverse and public opinion on surname sharing has shifted in Japan.

Under Japanese law, married couples are not allowed separate surnames and have to choose one or the other. About 96 percent choose the man’s surname. (Same-sex marriage is not legal in Japan.)

Japanese politicians have historically opposed couples having separate surnames, reasoning that it would “damage the unity of a family.”

However, an online opinion poll in November showed that 70% of people supported the right of married couples to have separate surnames, even if most would still choose to adopt the same name.

Ayano Sakurai, a gender equality activist, organized a petition in December asking for a selective surname system that garnered more than 30,000 signatures in just five days.

Married three years ago, Sakurai said changing her legal surname left her “feeling like zero and having to start afresh to build an entirely new identity.”

Japan’s Enforcing of Same Surnames for Couples Has Only a Short History. It was not until the early Meiji era (1868–1912), that the general public could even use surnames.

They are said to have been introduced to improve the family registration system for the purpose of collecting taxes and managing military enlistment.

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Tanzanian Woman MP In Tight Pants Kicked Out Of Parliament

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Defiant Condester Michael Sichlwe has hit local and regional media headlines for doing the unthinkable in Tanzania – she arrived at parliament wearing a very tight fitting trouser that forced the entire house to gaze wondering what had become of her.

In quick reaction to Sichlwe’s wardrobe, the Speaker of Parliament Job Ndugai threw her out for wearing ‘non-parliamentary attire’.

They called it “indecent attire” claiming parliamentarians (especially women) should uphold highest moral standards in their clothing. In specific, they said her trouser is “too tight” hence asked to leave the chamber and change.

Tanzania, including the island of Zanzibar, is a deeply conservative country. Wearing revealing clothing is disrespectful and it’s always best to dress modestly.

Traditionally, women wear long skirts, but it’s fine for visitors to wear trousers or jeans that aren’t too form-fitting. Both men and women should cover their knees and shoulders in public.

Tanzanians are a polite people and probably won’t point out when you make a cultural misstep, but that doesn’t stop them silently tsk-tsking when they see mzungu (foreign visitors) wearing inappropriate clothes, kissing in public, or committing other etiquette blunders.

In Zanzibar, you might be tempted to stroll around in shorts and swimwear, but remember the island is predominantly Muslim. On the beach, you can get away with skimpy attire, but as soon as you set foot in a village, be sure to cover up.

Make it simple and buy yourself a kanga – a colorfully printed wrap that local women use as skirts, headwraps, and baby slings. When wearing one, keep modesty in mind and don’t tie it so tightly around your waist; it’s better if your curves aren’t clearly outlined.

Touching other people, or food, with your left hand, is a no-no. Don’t shake hands, eat, or give money and gifts with this hand as it’s reserved for toilet business.

Use the right hand instead. If you’re invited to eat with a local family, don’t sniff your food or decline to taste a dish, or you risk insulting the chef.

You should also remember that Tanzania is a conservative country, so resist kissing or touching your significant other in public – even if you’re on your honeymoon in Zanzibar!

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EMMY® AWARDS Nominated Haitian Artist Donavon Brutus joins Artnoise Culture Trip To Africa

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Donavon Brutus is a Black Motion Design and illustration artist based in San Francisco.

With his experience in Fine Arts, and professional experience as an Animator, Illustrator, and Designer, he creates eye-catching, award-winning Motion Graphics.

He is a lead artist for ABC and one of the projects he developed on the team “Allies in Action” is currently nominated for an EMMY.

Donavon Brutus ongoing journey is one filled with travels as he fine-tunes and experiments on his art form and tells leading stories about Black culture within and outside of his environment. 

Donavon is an African/Haitian American professional animator and illustrator that has worked in the entertainment, education, and marketing fields for over 12 years. He was born to Haitian Parents and raised in Arkansas. 

He does a lot of personal illustration work that is inspired by animals, the human form, his travels, mindfulness, diversity, music, and popular culture. He enjoys seeing the ways in which the stories and forms conveyed through it can impact others.

His work has been shown in over 70 art exhibitions, competitions, and festivals. Some career highlights for Donavon have been Time Square Billboards, San Francisco City Buses, a mural, a Nor Cal Emmy®, and various other awards in both juried competitions and animation festivals.

In 2022, he will continue his independent creative work with Artnoise open program by traveling to Africa. The project will incorporate illustration, 2d/3d animation, video editing, and storytelling. It will incorporate African culture into the artwork. 

Donavon is one of a select few people who will be part of exploring Africa’s Historic and contemporary Arts and cultural Destinations with Artnoise Open Arts Residency Program. 

Artnoise Open Arts Residency Program offers short arts residencies in Morocco, Togo, South Africa and Canada. Each destination is curated to ensure participants complete ongoing projects, explore both historic and contemporary African art and participate in exhibitions and fairs that center their work on an international platform. Book a space at https://artnoiseng.com/openresidency/ to participate.

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