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UNITED KINGDOM, June 1, 2018 (News Wires) - British Open champion Nour El Sherbini celebrates her 26th successive month at World No.1 as she extends her lead over runner-up Raneem El Welily, who remains at No.2. Nour El Tayeb stays at No.3, while New Zealand’s Joelle King is the other player featured in the top five.

France’s Camille Serme has returned to the world’s top five for the first time since February after the PSA Women’s World Rankings for June were released today (June 1).

Gohar falls down to No.6, with Laura Massaro – who will aim to defend her title at next week’s ATCO PSA Dubai World Series Finals – Sarah-Jane Perry, Nicol David and Alison Waters rounding out the rest of the top 10.

Hong Kong’s Annie Au and Wales’ Tesni Evans retain their respective rankings of No.11 and No.12, while England’s Victoria Lust moves up two places to a career-high No.13 ranking.

United States No.1 Olivia Blatchford falls a place to No.14, while there is a move up to a career-best ranking for Egypt’s Salma Hany, who rises to No.15.

India’s Joshna Chinappa drops two places to No.16, with Australia’s Donna Urquhart remaining at No.17 ahead of Harvard-graduate Amanda Sobhy – who rises three spots to No.18 – Dipika Pallikal Karthik (No.19) and Hania El Hammamy, who completes the top 20.

TOKYO, May 29, 2018 (AFP) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government came under fire Tuesday after a senior MP suggested only women should raise children under three and another urged newly-weds to have at least three kids.

Abe's government has made "womenomics" -- or boosting women's participation in the workplace -- a priority, as the country's workforce drops amid a rapidly ageing population.

But Koichi Hagiuda, a senior member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), touched off a firestorm on Sunday when he said men rearing children might be "unwelcome" for them.

"Children need an environment where they can stay with their mothers ... if you ask infants under three which parent they like more, the answer should be mama, even though there are no firm statistics to support it," said Hagiuda, 54, the LDP's executive acting secretary-general.

Those remarks came after another MP, Kanji Kato, doubled down on comments suggesting young couples should produce at least three children, saying he had received popular backing.

But the leader of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party lashed out on Tuesday, saying the comments were "intolerable."

"There are many people who cannot give birth to children despite wanting to and there are many single-father families," Yukio Edano said. "Don't they notice these facts?"

Sumire Hamada, from rights group Asia-Japan Women's Resource Center, told AFP that Hagiuda's comments were "out of the question."

"What happened to the government's pledge to build a society where men can participate in child-rearing?

"These comments overturn what the government has said, and I'm sure many fathers have been angered" by Hagiuda's "rude remarks," she said.

Another campaigner said the remarks could encourage men to persist in the long working-hours culture endemic in Japan.

Tetsuya Ando, founder of the organisation Fathering Japan, told AFP: "When he said children under three like mothers more than fathers, that's unacceptable."

"That kind of remark puts pressure on working mothers to stay at home while removing fathers' rights to rear children," said Ando, 55, himself a dad-of-three.

RIYADH, May 15, 2018 (News Wires) - A car show in the Saudi capital is drawing in many women, who from next month will be allowed to drive in the kingdom as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s modernization plans.

The event also attracted banks ready to offer financing for women buyers.

“Anything related to cars these days is attracting Saudi Arabian women. I want to know more about cars and prices,” said Shaimaa al-Fadl as she climbed into a car at the exhibition and adjusted the rear-view mirror.

The royal decree will end a conservative tradition seen by activists as an emblem of the Muslim kingdom’s repression of women.  

CANNES, May 13, 2018 (News Wires) — Eighty-two women climbed the steps of the Palais des Festivals at the Cannes Film Festival in an unprecedented red carpet protest to press for improved gender equality in the film industry.

The number of stars, filmmakers and film industry professionals ascending the steps represented the number of female filmmakers who have been selected to compete at Cannes during the festival’s seven-decade history.

In contrast to their 82, 1,866 films directed by men have been picked for the prestigious festival lineup.

Organizers said the event was orchestrated by the Time’s Up movement and the French movement known as 5020x2020 to show “how hard it is still to climb the social and professional ladder” for women.

It brought an array of film industry professionals to the Cannes red carpet, including actresses Salma Hayek and Jane Fonda, “Wonder Woman” filmmaker Patty Jenkins and French director Agnes Varda, a recipient of an honorary Palme d’Or at Cannes.

Also joining were the five female members of this year’s Cannes jury: Cate Blanchett, Kristen Stewart, Ava DuVernay, Lea Seydoux and Burundian singer Khadja Nin. Blanchett read a statement atop the Palais steps in English; Varda read it in French.

JEDDAH, April 18, 2018 (AFP) — Colourful and oozing defiance, a sports-friendly version of the abaya gown was once considered a symbol of cultural rebellion in conservative Saudi Arabia, but it is fast becoming the new normal.

Pictures of female athletes running in the garb in the Red Sea city of Jeddah went viral last month, setting off a new debate on sartorial freedoms for women in a country where the typically all-black, body-shrouding garment is obligatory in public.

Some cultural purists vented fury online, calling it a breach of tradition, but opposition has been largely muted following recent comments from powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that the abaya — any abaya — is not mandatory in Islam.

Until a formal edict comes however, designers such as Eman Joharjy are cashing in on the growing popularity of the so-called sports abayas, as many women push back against traditional attitudes of equating chastity with dress code.

“There is a big demand,” Joharjy told AFP at her fashion studio in Jeddah.

“Having them in different colours is empowering.”

Akin to a zippered jumpsuit, sports abayas envelop a woman’s body but offer greater mobility for sporting activities, in contrast to the classic baggy version where tripping on the hem of the flowing garment is a common risk.

The 43-year-old’s designs come in colours like pistachio green, beige and white — more tolerable in the kingdom’s scorching heat — and she uses natural fabrics, including French poplin, that do not cling to a sweating body.

One of the early pioneers of the trend, Joharjy said she was branded a social outlier and jeered by some as “batman” when she began designing — and donning — sports abayas publicly in 2007.

“There was a little bit of rebellion but I designed it for myself, because it’s practical,” she said.

“You zip up and are ready to go.”

‘Football-themed abayas’

Joharjy has defied a popular maxim in Saudi Arabia: “If it’s not black, it’s not an abaya.”

Abayas have evolved over the years, with new patterns, fabrics and embellishments, and they are sometimes worn in the kingdom with baseball-style caps over headscarves.

The latest fad is an eye-catching ensemble of “football-themed abayas” — in the colours of the local teams, a new way for female sporting fans to cheer for their favourite players.

Such fashion trends are gaining momentum amid the kingdom’s liberalisation drive, including a historic royal decree allowing women to drive from June and enter sports stadiums for the first time.

The government is also seeking to jump-start women’s sports and is moving toward compulsory physical education classes for girls, after a ban was lifted in 2014.

Saudi officials recently announced that women would be able to participate next year in the Riyadh international marathon, previously a male-only event.

Women exercising in public were long a target for the kingdom’s austere religious police, which has largely been neutered in recent years.

And the once-unthinkable idea of doing away with the abaya appears to now be gaining traction.

“The laws are very clear and stipulated in the laws of Sharia: that women wear decent, respectful clothing, like men,” Prince Mohammed told CBS Television last month.

“This, however, does not particularly specify a black abaya. (It) is entirely left for women to decide what type of decent and respectful attire to wear.”

‘Modest look’

Muslim cleric Sheikh Ahmed bin Qassim al-Ghamdi added a new wrinkle to the debate when he dismissed the long-held view that black was the only colour for abayas permissible in Islam.

“The cloak is meant for maintaining a modest look and it does not have to be black,” the former chief of the religious police in the holy city of Mecca, told Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television last month.

But the risk of a social backlash is real in a society steeped in conservatism.

“They look like cleaners!” a tweet said, in response to viral images of athletes dressed in sports abayas.

“Their purpose is not sports. We have all been running in full body veil,” tweeted another.

Back at Joharjy’s studio, a long-time client Marwa al-Hadi walked in wearing one of her designs with magenta sneakers.

“Abaya is like the Indian saree, it is part of our identity,” Joharjy told her, as they weighed in on the future evolution of the garment.

“But at the same time, if God did not want women to do sports, we would not have muscles or a body.”

Hadi nodded.

“It is no one’s business to stop and question what I’m wearing,” she said.

LOS ANGELES, April 4 (AFP) - The world’s largest festival of French film hits Hollywood this month embracing the #MeToo moment with a line-up dedicated to the country’s best female filmmaking talent. The 22nd COLCOA is offering a record 86 films, television shows, digital series and virtual reality experiences, many never seen before in the United States, as well as a handful of international and US premieres. It is the first edition of the annual event since the Harvey Weinstein sex abuse scandal that sparked the #MeToo and Time’s Up campaigns, and the programme reflects the push to celebrate the work of women. “Through its different competitions, we are proud to dedicate this year’s programming of COLCOA to women, both in their role in the making of the films and series, and their central roles in the majority of the stories selected this year,” said executive producer Francois Truffart. Originally styled ”City of Lights, City of Angels”, COLCOA boasts some 75 entrants for a slew of honours, including the audience award, best documentary, best TV movie, critics award and critics special prize. With the film industry still reeling from the shock of the sexual harassment and assault firestorm that ended the careers of Weinstein and numerous other powerful Hollywood figures, the female aspect of many COLCOA entrants should resonate on both sides of the Atlantic. These include Oscar-nominated Xavier Legrand’s feature debut Custody, a social realist thriller about a violent abuser who forces his way back into his ex’s life that won best director and debut at the Venice film festival.

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