went further with the riff at the next year’s ceremony.

“At work, we emphasize the 996 spirit,” he said, referring to the practice, common at Chinese internet companies, of working 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week.

“In life, we need 669,” Mr. Ma said. “Six days, six times.” The Mandarin word for “nine” sounds the same as the word for “long-lasting.” The crowd hooted and clapped.

Alibaba shared the remarks, with a winking emoji, on its official account on Weibo, the Chinese social media platform. Wang Shuai, the company’s public relations chief, wrote on Weibo that Mr. Ma’s comments had reminded him of how good it was to be young. His post included vulgar references to his anatomy.

Alibaba also gives employees a handbook of morale-boosting “Alibaba slang.” Several entries are laced with sexual innuendo. One urges employees to be “fierce and able to last a long time.”

Feng Yuan, a prominent feminist in China, said the kind of behavior described at Alibaba could create the conditions under which bullying and harassment were quietly tolerated and promoted.

“In companies where men dominate, hierarchical power structures and toxic masculinity become strengthened over time,” Ms. Feng said. “They become hotbeds for sexual harassment and violence.”

Last month, Ms. Zhou shared her rape accusation on Alibaba’s internal website. According to her account of the events, her boss told a male client who was also at the alcohol-fueled business dinner, “Look how good I am to you; I brought you a beauty,” referring to Ms. Zhou.

Boozy meals have long been widespread in corporate China, where it can be seen as offensive to refuse to drink with a superior. Three days after Ms. Zhou reported the assault to Alibaba, her boss still had not been fired, she wrote in her account. She was told that this was out of consideration for her reputation.

“This ridiculous logic,” she wrote. “Just who are they protecting?”

Elsie Chen contributed reporting. Albee Zhang and Claire Fu contributed research.

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Taliban Promise Peace, but Doubt and Fear Persist

KABUL, Afghanistan — For the first time since retaking power in Afghanistan, the Taliban’s leaders on Tuesday sketched out what their control of the country could look like, promising peace at home and urging the world to look past their history of violence and repression.

“We don’t want Afghanistan to be a battlefield anymore — from today onward, war is over,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s longtime chief spokesman, in a news conference in Kabul, the capital.

Mr. Mujahid, a high-ranking leader, said the Taliban had declared a blanket amnesty, vowing no reprisals against former enemies. And the group has in some places appealed to civil servants — including women — to continue to go to work.

After days of uncertainty around the world over Afghanistan’s swift fall to a group notorious for its brutality, Mr. Mujahid’s words, delivered in a restrained tone, were a glimpse into a Taliban desire to portray themselves as ready to join the international mainstream.

frenzied rush to Kabul’s airport, which continued to be a scene of mass desperation and chaos two days after the Taliban entered the city. The group said its fighters were acting to restore order, but in some corners, they were also inflicting fear.

target of violence by the Taliban and other militants. Despite rampant fear about the Taliban’s intentions, the reporters directly challenged Mr. Mujahid’s promises.

“Do you think the people of Afghanistan will forgive you?” one reporter asked, noting the long campaign of Taliban bombings and attacks that claimed tens of thousands of civilian lives. Another noted that Mr. Mujahid sat in the same spot occupied until last week by a government spokesman who was assassinated by the Taliban.

Mr. Mujahid, responding patiently, allowed that civilian deaths had been “unfortunate,” but said such were the fortunes of war. “Our families also suffered,” he added.

chaos at the airport, where U.S. troops shot and killed at least two people on Monday and others fell to their deaths trying to cling to a U.S. military transport as it took off, there were reports of several more deaths on Tuesday. Tens of thousands of people have flooded the airport in waves, trying their luck for a flight to anywhere.

While American troops controlled a large part of the airport, the Taliban took control of the approaches to it, and at times beat people with rifle butts and clubs to force back the crowds trying to get in. It was not always clear whether they were attempting to prevent people from reaching the airport, or simply prevent another lethal crush.

President Biden faced mounting criticism in Washington, including from fellow Democrats, over the stunning lack of preparation for the lightning advance of the Taliban and the collapse of government resistance, leading to confused and halting efforts to get Americans and their Afghan allies out of the country. Republicans said Mr. Biden was in too much of a hurry to withdraw U.S. forces, although he had postponed the date set by President Trump, who struck a deal with the Taliban.

“We didn’t need to be in this position; we didn’t need to be seeing these scenes at Kabul airport with our Afghan friends climbing a C-17,” said Representative Jason Crow, a Democrat of Colorado and a former Army Ranger who served in Afghanistan.

declared on Twitter.

The Taliban attempted on Tuesday to project an image of being a force for stability, while tapping into the feared reputation their law enforcement and intelligence services acquired before the group was driven from power in 2001 by a U.S.-led invasion. The Taliban intelligence chief for Kabul made a statement telling looters that his group was watching and making arrests.

treatment of women and girls under a resurgent Taliban has been one of the most acute concerns raised by their opponents in Afghanistan and by international rights groups.

“There will be no violence against women, no prejudice against woman,” Mr. Mujahid said Tuesday. But his assurances were vague. Women, he said, would be allowed to work and study and study “within the bounds of Islamic law.”

Similarly, he said the new Taliban needs and wants a free and independent press, which the old Taliban never tolerated — as long as it upholds Islamic and national values.

Mujib Mashal reported from Kabul, and Richard Perez-Peña from New York. Carlotta Gall and Ruhallah Khapalwak contributed reporting.

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With More Freedom, Young Women in Albania Shun Tradition of ‘Sworn Virgins’

A centuries-old tradition in which women declared themselves men so they could enjoy male privilege is dying out as young women have more options available to them to live their own lives.


LEPUSHE, Albania — As a teenager locked in a patriarchal and tradition-bound mountain village in the far north of Albania, Gjystina Grishaj made a drastic decision: She would live the rest of her life as a man.

She did not want to be married off at a young age, nor did she like cooking, ironing clothes or “doing any of the things that women do,” so she joined a gender-bending Albanian fraternity of what are known as “burrneshat,” or “female-men.” She adopted a male nickname — Duni.

“I took a personal decision and told them: I am a man and don’t want to get married,” Duni recalled telling her family.

Few women today want to become what anthropologists call Albania’s “sworn virgins,” a tradition that goes back centuries. They take an oath of lifelong celibacy and enjoy male privileges, like the right to make family decisions, smoke, drink and go out alone.

Enver Hoxha.

Ms. Rakipi snorted with contempt when asked about people who undergo transition surgery. “It is not normal,” she said. “If God made you a woman, you are a woman.”

Duni, from Lepushe village, also has strong views on the subject, saying that altering the body goes “against God’s will,” and that people “should be put in jail” for doing so.

“I have not lived as a burrnesha because I want to be a man in any physical way. I have done this because I want to take on the role played by men and to get the respect of a man,” she said. “I am a man in my spirit, but having male genitals is not what makes you a man.”

Locals in Lepushe, including Manushaqe Shkoza, a server at a cafe in the village, said Duni’s decision to become a man initially came as a surprise, but it was accepted long ago. “Everyone sees it as normal,” Ms. Shkoza said.

Duni said she was sad that the tradition of sworn virgins would soon die out, but noted that her niece in Tirana had shown that there were now less drastic ways for a woman to live a full and respected life.

“Society is changing, but I think I made the right decision for my time,” Duni said. “I can’t resign from the role I have chosen. I took an oath to my family. This is a path you cannot go back on.”

Fatjona Mejdini contributed reporting.

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How New Laws Across India Are Seeking to Ban All Interfaith Marriages

SRINAGAR, Kashmir — Manmeet Kour Bali had to defend her marriage in court.

A Sikh by birth, Ms. Bali converted to Islam to marry a Muslim man. Her parents objected to a marriage outside their community and filed a police complaint against her new husband.

In court last month, she testified that she had married for love, not because she was coerced, according to a copy of her statement reviewed by The New York Times. Days later, she ended up in India’s capital of New Delhi, married to a Sikh man.

Religious diversity has defined India for centuries, recognized and protected in the country’s Constitution. But interfaith unions remain rare, taboo and increasingly illegal.

A spate of new laws across India, in states ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P., are seeking to banish such unions altogether.

the idea that Muslim men marry women of other faiths to spread Islam. Critics contend that such laws fan anti-Muslim sentiment under a government promoting a Hindu nationalist agenda.

Last year, lawmakers in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh passed legislation that makes religious conversion by marriage an offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison. So far, 162 people there have been arrested under the new law, although few have been convicted.

Yogi Adityanath, a Hindu monk and the top elected official of Uttar Pradesh, said shortly before that state’s Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance was passed.

Four other states ruled by the B.J.P. have either passed or introduced similar legislation.

In Kashmir, where Ms. Bali and Mr. Bhat lived, members of the Sikh community have disputed the legitimacy of the marriage, calling it “love jihad.” They are pushing for similar anti-conversion rules.

interrupted a wedding ceremony in December. The couple were taken into custody, and released the following day when both proved they were Muslim, according to regional police, who blamed “antisocial elements” for spreading false rumors.

A Pew Research Center study found that most Indians are opposed to anyone, but particularly women, marrying outside their religion. The majority of Indian marriages — four out of five — are arranged.

The backlash against interfaith marriages is so widespread that in 2018, India’s Supreme Court ordered state authorities to provide security and safe houses to those who wed against the will of their communities.

In its ruling, the court said outsiders “cannot create a situation whereby such couples are placed in a hostile environment.”

The country’s constitutional right to privacy has also been interpreted to protect couples from pressure, harassment and violence from families and religious communities.

Muhabit Khan, a Muslim, and Reema Singh, a Hindu, kept their courtship secret from their families, meeting for years in dark alleyways, abandoned houses and desolate graveyards. Ms. Singh said her father threatened to burn her alive if she stayed with Mr. Khan.

In 2019, they married in a small ceremony with four guests, thinking their families would eventually accept their decision. They never did, and the couple left the central Indian city of Bhopal to start a new life together in a new city.

“The hate has triumphed over love in India,” Mr. Khan said, “And it doesn’t seem it will go anywhere soon.”

In Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh state, the B.J.P.-led government passed a bill in March modeled after the Uttar Pradesh law, stiffening penalties for religious conversion through marriage and making annulments easier to obtain.

The government is not “averse to love,” said the state’s home minister, Narottam Mishra, “but is against jihad.”

Members of Kashmir’s Sikh community are using Ms. Bali’s marriage to a Muslim man, Shahid Nazir Bhat, to press for a similar law in Jammu and Kashmir.

“We immediately need a law banning interfaith marriage here,” said Jagmohan Singh Raina, a Sikh activist based in Srinagar. “It will help save our daughters, both Muslims and Sikhs.”

At a mosque in northern Kashmir in early June, Ms. Bali, 19, and Mr. Bhat, 29, performed Nikah, a commitment to follow Islamic law during their marriage, according to their notarized marriage agreement.

Afterward, Ms. Bali returned to her parents’ home, where she said she was repeatedly beaten over the relationship.

“Now my family is torturing me. If anything happens to me or to my husband, I will kill myself,” she said in a video posted to social media.

The day after she recorded the video, Ms. Bali left home and reunited with Mr. Bhat.

Even though a religious ceremony between people of the same faith — as Mr. Bhat and Ms. Bali were after her conversion — is recognized as legally valid, the couple had a civil ceremony and got a marriage license to bolster their legal protections. The marriage agreement noted that the union “has been contracted by the parties against the wish, will and consent of their respective parents.

“Like thousands of other couples who don’t share same the religious belief but respect each other’s faith, we thought we will create a small world of our own where love will triumph over everything else,” Mr. Bhat said. “But that very religion became the reason of our separation.”

Ms. Bali’s father filed a police complaint against Mr. Bhat, accusing him of kidnapping his daughter and forcing her to convert.

On June 24, the couple turned themselves into the police in Srinagar, where both were detained.

At the court, Ms. Bali recorded her testimony before a judicial magistrate, attesting that it was her will to convert to Islam and marry Mr. Bhat, according to her statement. Outside, her parents and dozens of Sikh protesters protested, demanding that she be returned to them.

It is unclear how the court ruled. The judicial magistrate declined requests for a transcript or an interview. Her parents declined an interview request.

The day after the hearing, Manjinder Singh Sirsa, the head of the largest Sikh gurudwara in New Delhi, flew to Srinagar. He picked up Ms. Bali, with her parents, and helped organize her marriage to another man, a Sikh. Following the ceremony, Mr. Sirsa flew with the couple to Delhi.

“It would be wrong to say that I convinced her,” Mr. Sirsa said in an interview. “If anything adverse was happening, she should have said.”

A written request for an interview with Ms. Bali was sent via Mr. Sirsa. He said she did not want to talk.

“She had a real breakdown,” he said, repeating Ms. Bali’s parents’ claims that their daughter was kidnapped and forced to marry Mr. Bhat.

Mr. Bhat was released from police custody four days after Ms. Bali left for Delhi.

At his home in Srinagar, he is fighting the kidnapping charges. He said he was preparing a legal battle to win her back, but he feared the Sikh community’s disapproval would make their separation permanent.

“If she comes back and tells a judge she is happy with that man, I will accept my fate,” he said.

Sameer Yasir and Iqbal Kirmani reported from Srinagar, Kashmir, and Emily Schmall reported from New Delhi.

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Taliban Try to Polish Their Image as They Push for Victory

KABUL, Afghanistan — In June, when the Taliban took the district of Imam Sahib in Afghanistan’s north, the insurgent commander who now ruled the area had a message for his new constituents, including some government employees: Keep working, open your shops and keep the city clean.

The water was turned back on, the power grid was repaired, garbage trucks collected trash and a government vehicle’s flat tire was mended — all under the Taliban’s direction.

Imam Sahib is one of dozens of districts caught up in a Taliban military offensive that has swiftly captured more than a quarter of Afghanistan’s districts, many in the north, since the U.S. withdrawal began in May.

It is all part of the Taliban’s broader strategy of trying to rebrand themselves as capable governors while they press a ruthless, land-grabbing offensive across the country. The combination is a stark signal that the insurgents fully intend to try for all-out dominance of Afghanistan once the American pullout is finished.

have begun to muster militias to defend their home turf, skeptical that the Afghan security forces can hold out in the absence of their American backers, in a painful echo of the country’s devastating civil war breakdown in the 1990s.

report. Some homes there were burned down by the Taliban, residents said.

“The Taliban burned my house while my family was in the house,” said Sirajuddin Jamali, a tribal elder. “In 2015, a military base was under siege and we provided food and water for them, but now the Taliban are taking revenge,” Mr. Jamali sobbed. “Do they do the same in any area the Taliban take?”

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, said the accusations of burning down homes was under investigation.

The group’s public responses, though rarely sincere, play directly into a strategy meant to portray the insurgents as a comparable option to the Afghan government. And they ignore the fact that local feuds drive large amounts of the war’s violence, outweighing any official orders from the Taliban leadership.

On the battlefield, things are shifting quickly. Thousands of Afghan soldiers and militia members have surrendered in past weeks, forfeiting weapons, ammunition and armored vehicles as the Taliban take district after district. Government forces have counterattacked, recapturing several districts, though not on the scale of the insurgents’ recent victories.

But little reported are Taliban losses, aside from the inflated body counts announced by the Afghan government’s Ministry of Defense. The Taliban, with their base strength long estimated to be between 50,000 and 100,000 fighters, depending on the time of year, have taken serious casualties in recent months, especially in the country’s south.

The casualties are primarily from the Afghan and U.S. air forces, and sometimes from Afghan commando units.

Mullah Basir Akhund, a former commander and member of the Taliban since 1994, said that cemeteries along the Pakistani border, where Taliban fighters have long been buried, are filling up faster than in years past. Pakistani hospitals, part of the country’s unwavering line of support for the insurgents, are running out of bed space. During a recent visit to a hospital in Quetta, a hub for the Taliban in Pakistan, Mr. Akhund said he saw more than 100 people, most of them Taliban fighters, waiting to be treated.

But despite tough battles, the weight of a nearly withdrawn superpower, and the Taliban’s own leadership issues, the insurgents continue to adapt.

Even as they seek to conquer the country, the Taliban are aware of their legacy of harsh rule, and do not want to “become the same pariah and isolated state” that Afghanistan was in the 1990s, said Ibraheem Bahiss, an International Crisis Group consultant and an independent research analyst.

“They’re playing the long game,” Mr. Bahiss said.

Reporting was contributed by Asadullah Timory in Herat, Taimoor Shah in Kandahar, Ruhullah Khapalwak, Farooq Jan Mangal in Khost and Zabihullah Ghazi in Jalalabad.

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From the Heart to Higher Education: The 2021 College Essays on Money

Despite the loud busking music, arcade lights and swarms of people, it was hard to be distracted from the corner street stall serving steaming cupfuls of tteokbokki — a medley of rice cake and fish cake covered in a concoction of hot sweet sauce. I gulped when I felt my friend tugging on the sleeve of my jacket, anticipating that he wanted to try it. After all, I promised to treat him out if he visited me in Korea over winter break.

The cups of tteokbokki, garnished with sesame leaves and tempura, was a high-end variant of the street food, nothing like the kind from my childhood. Its price of 3,500 Korean won was also nothing like I recalled, either, simply charged more for being sold on a busy street. If I denied the purchase, I could console my friend and brother by purchasing more substantial meals elsewhere. Or we could spend on overpriced food now to indulge in the immediate gratification of a convenient but ephemeral snack.

At every seemingly inconsequential expenditure, I weigh the pros and cons of possible purchases as if I held my entire fate in my hands. To be generously hospitable, but recklessly drain the travel allowance we needed to stretch across two weeks? Or to be budgetarily shrewd, but possibly risk being classified as stingy? That is the question, and a calculus I so dearly detest.

Unable to secure subsequent employment and saddled by alimony complications, there was no room in my dad’s household to be embarrassed by austerity or scraping for crumbs. Ever since I was taught to dilute shampoo with water, I’ve revised my formula to reduce irritation to the eye. Every visit to a fast-food chain included asking for a sheet of discount coupons — the parameters of all future menu choice — and a past receipt containing the code of a completed survey to redeem for a free cheeseburger. Exploiting combinations of multiple promotions to maximize savings at such establishments felt as thrilling as cracking war cryptography, critical for minimizing cash casualties.

However, while disciplined restriction of expenses may be virtuous in private, at outings, even those amongst friends, spending less — when it comes to status — paradoxically costs more. In Asian family-style eating customs, a dish ordered is typically available to everyone, and the total bill, regardless of what you did or did not consume, is divided evenly. Too ashamed to ask for myself to be excluded from paying for dishes I did not order or partake in, I’ve opted out of invitations to meals altogether. I am wary even of meals where the inviting host has offered to treat everyone, fearful that if I only attended “free meals” I would be pinned as a parasite.

Although I can now conduct t-tests to extract correlations between multiple variables, calculate marginal propensities to import and assess whether a developing country elsewhere in the world is at risk of becoming stuck in the middle-income trap, my day-to-day decisions still revolve around elementary arithmetic. I feel haunted, cursed by the compulsion to diligently subtract pennies from purchases hoping it will eventually pile up into a mere dollar, as if the slightest misjudgment in a single buy would tip my family’s balance sheet into irrecoverable poverty.

Will I ever stop stressing over overspending?

I’m not sure I ever will.

But I do know this. As I handed over 7,000 won in exchange for two cups of tteokbokki to share amongst the three of us — my friend, my brother and myself — I am reminded that even if we are not swimming in splendor, we can still uphold our dignity through the generosity of sharing. Restricting one’s conscience only around ruminating which roads will lead to riches risks blindness toward rarer wealth: friends and family who do not measure one’s worth based on their net worth. Maybe one day, such rigorous monitoring of financial activity won’t be necessary, but even if not, this is still enough.

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China’s Three-Child Policy Sparks Indignation and Concern

After China said it would allow couples to have three children, the state news media trumpeted the move as a major change that would help stimulate growth. But across much of the country, the announcement was met with indignation.

Women worried that the move would only exacerbate discrimination from employers reluctant to pay maternity leave. Young people fumed that they were already hard-pressed to find jobs and take care of themselves, let alone a child (or three). Working-class parents said the financial burden of more children would be unbearable.

“I definitely will not have another child,” said Hu Daifang, a former migrant worker in Sichuan Province. Mr. Hu, 35, said he was already struggling, especially after his mother fell ill and could no longer help care for his two children. “It feels like we are just surviving, not living.”

For many ordinary Chinese, the news about the policy change on Monday was only a reminder of a problem they’d long recognized: the drastic inadequacy of China’s social safety net and legal protections that would enable them to have more children.

Pregnancy discrimination is widespread in China, with women reporting being fired or demoted after telling their bosses they were expecting a child. Some women have even reported being forced to sign contracts promising not to get pregnant within a certain period at new jobs.

“As a woman, you’re inherently at a disadvantage in the workplace,” Ms. Li said.

Ms. Li said she was sympathetic to her boss’s concerns. She did believe that as a manager, her absence would be inconvenient for the company. She acknowledged that she herself, when interviewing candidates, would sometimes wonder whether a new hire would soon leave to give birth.

as some other countries do, and mandate paternity leave, so women would not be singled out for being parents.

had already barred employers from asking women about their marital or childbearing status in 2019, and the problem was weak enforcement. The government has often encouraged women to retreat to more traditional gender roles, in an effort to increase the birthrate.

“Our government is very good at empty talk,” said Lu Pin, a Chinese feminist activist. “It’s meaningless to just look at a few things they said.”

Ms. Lu expected workplace discrimination against women to get worse. Employers might fear that women would want to have a third child — even if, she added, that was unlikely to be the case, given broader trends.

The lack of social support may discourage those who would otherwise want more children, but a more fundamental issue may be a lack of interest among younger, better educated women who have declared a preference for small families. Even if the government did offer more benefits, Ms. Li said, she would not want to have a third child.

“Two is pretty good,” she said. “There’s no point to having too many.”

Joy Dong contributed research.

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Tarun J. Tejpal, Journalist in India, is Acquitted of Rape

A court in India on Friday acquitted a prominent journalist of charges that he raped a junior colleague, bringing an end to a politically charged case that had been closely watched as a test of a new sexual assault law.

The journalist, Tarun J. Tejpal, was accused of sexually assaulting a staff reporter for Tehelka, a well-known investigative magazine that he edited, in 2013.

Mr. Tejpal, 58, who pleaded not guilty to the charges, initially apologized to the reporter but later said the encounter had been consensual. “The truth will come out,” he told an Indian news channel in 2019.

In a statement on Friday, Mr. Tejpal thanked the judge in the court in the coastal state of Goa and repeated his assertion that he had been targeted for prosecution as part of a political vendetta against him.

has been slow to take hold in India, where public discussions of sex are frowned upon and traditional ideas of gender roles predominate in homes and workplaces.

Still, some women have gone public about sexual harassment and assault, and some have won victories in court. In February, a journalist successfully fought off a defamation suit brought by a former public official whom she had accused of sexually harassing her.

Mr. Tejpal was one of India’s best-known editors when he was arrested and charged. Tehelka, the liberal-minded magazine he led, is known for crusading public-interest journalism and has broken major stories over the years. Two decades ago, Tehelka reporters posed as arms dealers and caught Indian Army officers and members of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party — then, as now, India’s governing party — accepting bribes.

said in a statement after the accusation became public.

Mr. Tejpal initially expressed remorse about the incident, saying it had resulted from “an awful misreading of the situation.” But after the charges were filed, he said he was the victim of a right-wing “political vendetta,” and that security camera footage taken outside the elevator supported his version of events.

Mr. Tejpal, who resigned as editor of Tehelka, spent six months in jail before India’s top court released him on bail in 2014.

Since then, as the case made its way through India’s justice system at a typically glacial pace, Mr. Tejpal has largely disappeared from public life. A recent streaming series on Amazon based on a novel wrote did not include his name in the credits.

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These Three Feminists Are Changing Argentina From the Inside

— Vilma Ibarra, the top legal adviser to the president of Argentina


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In his annual speech before Congress in March, President Alberto Fernández of Argentina did something few, if any, of his predecessors had done before: He dedicated a large chunk of the 90-minute speech to the “rights of women.”

He vowed to help mothers get back to work by building more preschools and said that “the fight against gender violence” should be a top priority for everyone in Argentina.

The speech came just months after the country became the most populous in Latin America to legalize abortion, fulfilling one of Mr. Fernández’s key promises during his campaign for president.

“feminists” and “activists”, are driving the change: Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta, the country’s first minister of Women, Genders and Diversity; Vilma Ibarra, the president’s top legal adviser who has the authority to write bills and decrees (she wrote the country’s landmark abortion bill); and Mercedes D’Alessandro, the country’s first national director of economy, equality and gender within the Economy Ministry, and the author of “Feminist Economics.”

the highest number of gender-sensitive Covid-19 responses in the world.

Ms. Alcorta, Ms. Ibarra and Ms. D’Alessandro spoke with In Her Words from the Presidential Palace in Buenos Aires about the next big items on their policy agenda and how their WhatsApp group of female government leaders is helping to shake up what is still a male-dominated space.

a report on the unpaid care economy. It found that unpaid care and domestic work amount to almost 16 percent of G.D.P. — making it the largest sector of Argentina’s economy — and that 75 percent of care work is carried out by women. What are your plans to address the gender gap in unpaid domestic work and care?

Alcorta: The Ministry of Women, Genders and Diversities has created a special office to deal with care policies. In February 2020, we put together an inter-ministerial commission, including 14 ministries and strategic departments, focused specifically on crafting care policies.

We’ve also announced the creation of 800 kindergartens, nurseries and day care centers around the country, and we also want to look at leave policies to be shared by parents — so paternity and maternity leaves — to create more equality at the workplace. Before President Fernández’s administration, we didn’t have any of these things that we are now looking at.

D’Alessandro: In the pandemic, we found that activity in the unpaid care sector is the only sector that went up, while all other sectors fell. So, it’s important from an economic standpoint. And those 800 day care centers — they are not just creating a physical space where children will be looked after, but they’re also a way to create jobs and opportunities. When you create a new system, you are professionalizing the care work and you are also recognizing the value of that work.

Violence against women is a big problem in Argentina. The number of women killed reached a 10-year high during the lockdown, and there have been major protests against violence dating back to almost six years ago. Why is this still happening?

Alcorta: The femicide rate in Argentina has remained high for the past 20 years and those of us who study this phenomenon know that there are many issues that create the conditions for extreme violence. Often, higher inequality is correlated with more violence. Gender stereotypes also have a lot to do with this as does the culture — some Latin American societies are more tolerant of this violence. And of course, there are the shortcomings in the state agencies, like the police. Until 2015, Argentina didn’t officially track femicides. They used to be called “crimes of passion.” And there was no institutional structure that looked into violence against women, so we created a nationwide, federal agency.

The changes needed are huge and structural in nature so they can’t be resolved in a couple of years or with one administration.

The president has made gender equality a priority, but women are still a minority among ministers and other high positions in government. Will that change?

Ibarra: Not so many years ago, there weren’t any women at all in high-ranking positions and the creation of the Ministry of Women is a major highlight of this administration. Now, is that enough? No. But we are much better off than where we used to be.

We started a group on WhatsApp called “Women in Government” — a network of more than 250 women. And we get together, we have discussions, we share experiences and help one another. It’s important because we come from a culture that is male dominated and it’s easier for men to team up. So each woman and feminist who joins the government is opening up doors to change things.

Alcorta: This administration has the highest share of women in high-ranking positions — 37.5 percent, compared with the previous administration which had 22 percent. Certainly, as you go up to the level of ministers, you see that share get smaller. Argentina was also the first country in Latin America and the Caribbean that set a gender quota for Congress in 1991 and, since 2017, we have a parity law for Congress.

Until we took office 13 provinces had parity laws, and there was still another 10 left. Last year, seven provinces implemented provincial parity laws as well and now we have three left. One of our goals is to work with those remaining provinces so that all provinces have parity. This is a process — participation in Congress allows women to also become officials in the executive branch.

D’Alessandro: We can advocate laws related to gender parity and request that women are represented in the high levels of government and in Congress, but we still have many serious problems. In the judiciary, there’s a clear gender gap, but also in trade unions and in the business sector. I think this demonstrates the difficulties of society, which, at its core, is still a male-dominated patriarchal, unequal structure with clear discrimination against women. That’s what we need to fight.

It’s fascinating that you often call yourselves feminists and activists. That kind of language is rare — maybe even radical — for government officials. Do you face any backlash for that?

Ibarra: Yes, but we welcome that. Whenever someone says, “Where is the ministry for men?,” we say, “Well, men don’t need to get together and defend their rights and that’s great. But we need to make sure that women have the same rights.” That’s why we are feminists. We’re not against men. All we want to do is take apart a system that has abused and hurt women.

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Once-a-Decade Census Shows an Aging, Better-Educated China

Births are falling. The population is aging. The work force of the world’s second-largest economy is shrinking.

China’s latest once-a-decade census, which was conducted last year, showed the slowest population growth since the 1960s, confirming that the country is in the midst of an urgent demographic crisis.

The results may push the government to loosen its family planning restrictions, which have shaped the most intimate aspects of Chinese society — marriage, childbirth and child-rearing — for decades. But the stark need for change has also underscored how reluctant the authorities have been to fully let go of control.

according to World Bank data. Last year, just 12 million babies were born in China, the lowest official number since 1961, as the country was emerging from a devastating famine.

Experts cautioned that the pandemic may have been a major factor, but births have now declined for four consecutive years.

The numbers make clear that China’s aging crisis will not be resolved anytime soon. As older Chinese people occupy a greater share of the population, while the younger work force who would support them declines, China’s pension funds and underdeveloped facilities for older adults are sure to feel strain. Adults above 60 now make up 18.7 percent of the population, compared with 13.3 percent in 2010.

Liang Jianzhang, a demography expert at Peking University, said he expected that the government would lift its remaining limits on fertility soon. Five years ago it ended its one-child policy and allowed families to have two children, but families who have more can still be penalized or denied benefits.

forcing women to have fewer babies as part of an effort to control the Muslim ethnic minorities there.

Stuart Gietel-Basten, a professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology who studies demography. But that ratio is still higher than normal, suggesting a lingering preference for boys, he added.

The advancement of women faces more official obstacles, too. In an effort to address the fertility crisis, officials in recent years have sought to push women back into traditional gender roles. Feminist activists have been detained or censored online.

39 percent of adults aged 25 to 64 in countries that are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development had some form of tertiary education.) But it is a tremendous accomplishment for a country that in 1997 had fewer than 3.5 million undergraduate and graduate students.

Still, experts have noted that the surging numbers of college graduates may bring a new problem: a dearth of well-paid jobs to employ them. China’s economy is still largely reliant on blue-collar labor. Ning Jizhe, the head of China’s National Bureau of Statistics, acknowledged the gap at a news conference about the census on Tuesday.

“Employment pressure on college students is increasing,” he said. “The pace of industrial transformation and upgrading needs to speed up.”

Unless the new crop of educated young people can find stable jobs, Professor Gietel-Basten said, the fertility rate may drop even further. “If you’ve got a situation where you have graduate unemployment and it’s difficult to access these good jobs,” he said, “why would you have more babies?”

Wang Feng, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Irvine. As the northeast continues to empty out, those disparities may become even more pronounced, he added.

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