Political power ‘firmly in men’s hands,’ global parliamentary official says

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, center, is joined by Inter-Parliamentary Union Secretary-General Martin Chungong, right, and moderator Paddy Torsney, Permanent Observer to the UN, as she speaks to reporters during a news conference on March 15, 2017 at UN headquarters. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Updated 16 March 2017
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Political power ‘firmly in men’s hands,’ global parliamentary official says

BOGOTA: Women made scarcely any progress increasing their presence in the top echelons of government last year, leaving gender equality in legislatures and ministries a distant goal, data showed on Wednesday.
A map ranking countries based on women in politics showed the number of women ministers and legislators barely rose, and the number of countries with a female head of state fell.
Progress getting women and men in equal numbers among the world’s political leaders is at a near standstill, said the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and UN Women, which compiled the map.
“The overall stagnation and specific reversals are warning bells of erosion of equality that we must heed and act on rapidly,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women.
Specifically, the number of women ministers nudged up to 732 from 730 in 2015, and their representation in parliaments rose less than a full percentage point to 23 percent. The number of countries with a female head of state or government fell to 17 from 19.
“These developments show that progress in gender equality remains slow in all structures of power and types of decision-making,” IPU Secretary-General Martin Chungong said in a statement.
“Power is still firmly in men’s hands,” he said. The Swiss-based IPU works to promote representative democracy.
Nordic countries suffered the largest setback globally, with a 6 percent drop in women ministers. Overall, however, women account for 44 percent of the top political executives.
In Africa, women hold one-fifth of the ministerial posts but, with the exception of the Congo and Zambia, saw a steady decline over the last two years.
Finland, which had the most women ministers in 2015, saw a sharp fall to 39 percent from 63 percent. Finland now ranks 14th, while Bulgaria, France, and Nicaragua share first place.

In those three top countries as well as in Sweden and Canada, the number of women in ministerial positions is slightly more than half.
Rwanda has the highest ratio of female legislators, at nearly two-thirds in its lower house, followed by Bolivia, Cuba and Iceland.
North, Central and South Americas made significant gains over the year, with women comprising a quarter of the legislatures.
In Arab states, the biggest improvement was in Tunisia, where the ratio of women in parliament rose to 23 percent from 11 percent.


Case dropped against US actor accused of hate attack hoax

Actor Jussie Smollett speaks to reporters at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago after prosecutors dropped all charges against him, Tuesday, March 26, 2019. (AP)
Updated 27 March 2019
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Case dropped against US actor accused of hate attack hoax

  • Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the deal “a whitewash of justice” and lashed out at Smollett for dragging the city’s reputation “through the mud” in a quest to advance his career
  • Authorities alleged that Smollett, who is black and gay, knew the men and arranged for them to pretend to attack him

CHICAGO: Infuriating Chicago’s mayor and police chief, prosecutors abruptly dropped all charges against Jussie Smollett on Tuesday after the “Empire” actor accused of faking a racist, anti-gay attack on himself agreed to do volunteer service and to let the city keep his $10,000 in bail.
Authorities gave no detailed explanation for why they abandoned the case only five weeks after filing the charges and threatening to pursue Smollett for the cost of a monthlong investigation. Prosecutors said they still believe Smollett concocted the assault. Smollett insisted he told the truth all along.
The dismissal drew an immediate backlash. Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the deal “a whitewash of justice” and lashed out at Smollett for dragging the city’s reputation “through the mud” in a quest to advance his career. At one point he asked, “Is there no decency in this man?“
Smollett’s attorneys said his record was “wiped clean” of the 16 felony counts related to making a false report that he was assaulted by two men. The actor insisted that he had “been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one.”
“I would not be my mother’s son if I was capable of one drop of what I was being accused of,” he told reporters after a court hearing. He thanked the state of Illinois “for attempting to do what’s right.”
In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Cook County prosecutors’ office said the dismissal came “after reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case.” Tandra Simonton called it “a just disposition and appropriate resolution” but said it was not an exoneration.
When dropping cases, prosecutors will sometimes insist that the defendant accept at least a measure of responsibility. Outside court, neither Smollett nor his legal team appeared to concede anything about his original report in January .
Defense attorney Patricia Brown Holmes said Smollett was “attacked by two people he was unable to identify” and “was a victim who was vilified and made to appear as a perpetrator.”
Authorities alleged that Smollett, who is black and gay, knew the men and arranged for them to pretend to attack him.
Emanuel, who is in his final weeks in office after two terms, said the hoax could endanger other gay people who report hate crimes by casting doubt on whether they are telling the truth.
Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson stood by the department’s investigation and said Chicago is “is still owed an apology.”
“I’ve heard that they wanted their day in court with TV cameras so that America could know the truth. They chose to hide behind secrecy and broker a deal to circumvent the judicial system,” Johnson said at a graduation ceremony for new police cadets.
Chicago’s top prosecutor, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, recused herself from the investigation, citing conversations she had with a Smollett family member.
Many legal experts were surprised by the dismissal, especially since it did not include any condition that Smollett apologize and admit he orchestrated the attack.
“This situation is totally bizarre. It’s highly, highly unusual,” said Phil Turner, a Chicago defense attorney and former federal prosecutor with no ties to the case.
He said it would be wrong to argue leniency on the grounds that no serious harm was done.
“The damage done was worse than a broken arm or money lost in a fraud,” Turner said. “The reputation of the city has taken a tremendous blow.”
Because Chicago was the primary victim, Turner argued, it would have been appropriate for prosecutors to consult the mayor and the police chief in advance.
“That prosecutors didn’t seem to do that is an insult to the city and police,” he said.
Smollett reported that he was attacked around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29 in downtown Chicago. Investigators said he made the false report because he was unhappy with his pay on “Empire” and believed it would promote his career.
The actor plays the gay character Jamal Lyon on the hit Fox TV show, which follows a black family as they navigate the ups and downs of the recording industry.
He reported that he was assaulted on his way home from a sandwich shop. Smollett said two masked men shouted racial and anti-gay slurs, poured bleach on him, beat him and looped a rope around his neck. He claimed they shouted, “This is MAGA country” — a reference to President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan. He asserted that he could see one of the men was white because he could see the skin around his eyes.
Police said Smollett hired two men, both of whom are black, to attack him. Smollett allegedly paid the men $3,500.
The men were brothers Abimbola “Abel” and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo, and one of them had worked on “Empire.” An attorney for them has said the brothers agreed to help Smollett because of their friendship with him and the sense that he was helping their careers.
Holmes refused to answer questions about whether Smollett’s team would seek legal action against the two.
Before the attack, police said, Smollett also sent a letter threatening himself to the Chicago studio where “Empire” is shot. The FBI, which is investigating that letter, has declined to comment.
Smollett said he wanted “nothing more than to get back to work and move on with my life.” But his future with the show was unclear. Shortly after the charges were filed, producers announced that his character would be removed from the final two episodes of the season.
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