Points of Progress: Norway updates hate speech laws, and more

Places where the world saw progress, for the Dec. 7, 2020 Monitor Weekly.

1. United States

The National Museum of the American Indian has unveiled the first national memorial to Native American veterans. The National Native American Veterans Memorial took 25 years to become a reality, but the steel ring and stone drum sculpture now sits on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., honoring the service of Native Americans in every branch of the military. It was designed by Harvey Pratt, a Vietnam War veteran and member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. Many Native veterans plan to sanctify the site with memories and prayers once it becomes safe to travel to the capital. “We wish for this to be a sacred place, not just for Native Americans, but for all Americans,” said Kevin Gover, the director of the museum and citizen of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma. (NPR)

2. United States

Why We Wrote This

This is more than feel-good news – it's where the world is making concrete progress. A roundup of positive stories to inspire you.

The Miami Marlins hired Kim Ng as general manager, making her the first female GM in Major League Baseball. Ms. Ng previously served as the league’s senior vice president of baseball operations, after stints as assistant GM for the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees. She’s had a long career with MLB, beginning as a Chicago White Sox intern three decades ago. Ms. Ng is believed to be the first woman to lead a team in any of North America’s four major sports leagues, and is the first Asian American GM in MLB history.

Joseph Guzy/Miami Marlins/USA Today Sports/Reuters
Miami Marlins general manager Kim Ng stands at Marlins Park on Nov. 16, 2020, in Miami. She is the first woman and Asian American to hold the title.

“I have spent countless hours advocating for young girls, advocating for young women and really trying to help them advance their careers,” said Ms. Ng. “That’s something that is so important to me. ... There is an adage: ‘You can’t be it, if you can’t see it.’ ... Now you can see it.” (ESPN)

3. Middle East

The digital revolution – sped up by the pandemic – is opening doors for Arab women in the workforce. Women are well positioned to meet the surging demand for digital skills in the Middle East, experts say. In some conservative communities, women are only comfortable turning to other women for certain tech jobs, such as repairing a phone or computer that contains personal photographs. And for the 44% of women who cited work-life balance as a main barrier to keeping a job, remote working tempers a major obstacle for entering and staying in the workforce.

Nusaibah Almuaalemi/Reuters
Martial arts instructor Seham Amer checks her computer at home in Sanaa, Yemen, Sept. 3, 2020. The Middle East and North Africa have the lowest rate of working women in the world, but opportunities are increasing.

The Middle East and North Africa have some of the lowest rates of women in the workforce in the world, with women making up a quarter of the labor market. Although the pandemic is expected to leave 700,000 Middle Eastern women out of work this year, a recent McKinsey study shows the so-called fourth industrial revolution will ultimately double job opportunities for women over the next decade. “This is a tremendous opportunity,” said Jasmine di Florio, senior vice president at Education for Employment, a job training program that has since moved online. “These are areas where you can reskill someone relatively quickly.” (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

4. Norway

Norway’s government recently outlawed hate speech against transgender and bisexual people by expanding a decades-old penal code that protects gay and lesbian people. Parliament approved amendments addressing discrimination based on “gender, gender identity, or expression” and changing “homosexual orientation” to “sexual orientation.” Norway is considered one of the most LGBTQ-friendly countries in Europe, but advocacy groups say reported homophobic crimes have risen. Under the updated penal code, people found guilty of hate speech against transgender or bisexual people can face fines or up to three years in jail. “I’m very relieved actually, because [the lack of legal protection] has been an eyesore for trans people for many, many years,” said Birna Rorslett, vice president of the Association of Transgender People in Norway. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

5. Tristan da Cunha

The British government’s Blue Belt Program is establishing the world’s fourth-largest marine sanctuary around the archipelago of Tristan da Cunha. The project will cover 265,437 square miles in the South Atlantic Ocean, protecting 90% of the waters surrounding the remote island chain from extractive activity such as fishing and mining. Conservationists say the unique ecosystem is a critical nursery for blue sharks, but faces several threats, including illegal fishing and invasive species. 

Sue Scott/Pew Charitable Trust/AP
Tristan da Cunha, a four-island archipelago in the South Atlantic with 245 permanent residents, has created a marine protection zone three times the size of the United Kingdom.

This is also a step forward for ocean conservation more generally, experts say. Less than 3% of the world’s ocean area is fully protected, compared with 13% of land mass. A recent study found that extending protected ocean zones by even 5% could lead to at least a 20% improvement in future fishing catches. (Axios, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, National Geographic)

6. Bangladesh

Bangladesh has launched an all-female police team to tackle the rise in online abuse against women. Data shows that internet use in Bangladesh has doubled in the past five years. Online harassment – including revenge porn, social media hacking, and blackmail – disproportionately targets women, and police hope the new unit will make victims more comfortable coming forward. “We have different teams working with cybercrime in the police,” said Benazir Ahmed, inspector general of police. “But many [women] don’t want to approach these areas. That’s why we have created an all-woman team.”  Authorities are responding to nationwide protests against increases of all types of sexual violence in the country. Women’s rights activist Maleka Banu says that the unit is a good first step, and if managed well, could create real change in the handling of cybercrime. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

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