France elects record number of women to parliament

Christophe Castaner (L), French Minister of State for Relations with Parliament, government spokesperson and "La Republique En Marche" (LREM) party candidate in the second constituency of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence for France's legislative elections, walks with Brune Poirson (R), LREM candidate in the 3rd district of the Vaucluse, during a campaign meeting on June 14, 2017, in Carpentras, southern France. France heads to the polls on June 18, 2017, for the second round of legislative elections, with Macron's year-old La Republique En Marche party and its allies tipped to clean up for the 577-member lower house of parliament, winning up to 445 seats. (AFP)
Updated 19 June 2017

France elects record number of women to parliament

PARIS: France voted a record number of women into parliament, election results showed on Monday, after President Emmanuel Macron’s victorious Republic on the Move (LREM) party fielded a gender-balanced candidate list.
Of the 577 newly elected lawmakers, 233 were female, beating the previous record of 155 set after the last election.
That sent France leapfrogging from 64th to 17th in the world rankings of female parliamentary representation and to 6th place in Europe, overtaking Britain and Germany, according to Inter-parliamentary Union data compiled at the start of June.
LREM, which won an overwhelming majority in Sunday’s ballot, had the highest proportion of women elected, at 47 percent.
“For the first time under the (postwar) Fifth Republic, the National Assembly will be deeply renewed — more diverse, younger,” the party’s acting president, Catherine Barbaroux, said.
“But above all, allow me to rejoice, because this is a historic event for the representation of women in the National Assembly.”
Female representation in the National Assembly has risen steadily, from 12.3 percent at the 2002 election to 38.6 percent this time.
But most parties still put up more men for election, despite France having a system in which a party’s funding is restricted if women do not make up at least 49 percent of candidates.
Female candidates have also tended to stand in constituencies they are unlikely to win, keeping the numbers of women who make it to the Palais-Bourbon low.
“(Macron’s) En Marche (party)... proactively decided to give winning seats to women,” said 34-year-old Brune Poirson, who beat the far-right National Front to be elected in the Vaucluse district in southeastern France. “This is a really bold move.”
“Normally political parties allocate women seats that are almost impossible to win, so they can say ‘hey, we have as many female candidates as male,’” added Poirson, a parliamentary novice with masters degrees in political science from Harvard and the London School of Economics.
Poirson decided to become a candidate in January when Macron sent a video to LREM members urging more women to put themselves forward.
“(Macron)... said: this is your responsibility as well — we need you. It was very powerful, and it really worked,” she told Reuters.

A culture with misogynistic tendencies has long characterised the upper echelons of French politics, but there have been signs of the veil being lifted on acts that might previously have gone unreported.
Last year Denis Baupin resigned as vice president of the National Assembly after being accused of sexual harassment by fellow politicians, while then finance minister Michel Sapin admitted behaving inappropriately toward a female journalist.
Laurianne Rossi, elected to the Hauts-de-Seine district on the outskirts of Paris, said even with the increase in female lawmakers, it would take time to make a real difference.
“There is still a long way to go before we get real equality...(but) the arrival of so many more women at the National Assembly will really help,” said Rossi, a 33-year-old former assistant to a Socialist senator.
Frances Scott, founder of Britain’s 50:50 Parliament, a cross-party group campaigning for gender balance in the legislature, said the result in France would spur parties in other countries to field more women candidates. Britain set its own record in elections on June 8, with 30 percent of parliamentary seats going to women.
“It looks like France is leading the way in terms of this democratic imperative,” said Scott.
“The evidence suggests that having more women in parliament leads to more informed and more responsive decision-making. It leads to a better parliament.”

Bangladesh declares zero tolerance against drug dealers

Bangladesh's Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) soldiers during a raid on suspected drug dealers at Mohammadpur Geneva Camp in Dhaka Saturday. (AP)
Updated 27 May 2018

Bangladesh declares zero tolerance against drug dealers

  • Law enforcers have so far arrested 3,000 drug dealers, while 23 drug peddlers were killed during “gunfights” while they were being captured.
  • Human rights activists and the country’s largest opposition party the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) have criticized the “gunfight” incidents as a “violation of human rights.”

DHAKA: Bangladesh has declared a war on drugs throughout the country. In the past 12 days around 84 alleged drug dealers were killed during gunfights with the law-enforcing agencies.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina launched the anti-narcotic drive in early May.

Human rights activists and the country’s largest opposition party the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) have criticized the “gunfight” incidents as a “violation of human rights.”

On early Sunday, 11 drug dealers were killed in separate gunfight incidents throughout the country. Among the dead was a ruling party leader who was a city councilor in Cox’s Bazar City.

The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), a paramilitary law-enforcing agency, started its anti-narcotic movement on May 4. And it has so far arrested 3,000 drug dealers, while 23 drug peddlers were killed during “gunfights” while they were being captured.

Commander Mufti Mahmud Khan, spokesperson of the RAB, told Arab News: “There is no question of violation of human rights in our ongoing war against drugs.”

He said that when the RAB captured any armed person or group generally some shootout incidents took place. And, he claimed, it also happens in the US and other developed countries. “We arrest the drug dealers based on intel information and later on they are produced to the court.”

Bangladesh Police started its all-out operation against drugs on May 15, and police headquarters has directed all its units to start countrywide operations against dealers.

Mohammad Masudur Rahman, deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said: “Our anti-narcotic operations will continue till the situations come down to a tolerant level.” He said the only objective of this operation was to bring down the usage level of narcotics in society.

Justifying the anti-drug movement, Masudur added: “We only arrest the persons with whom we get drugs. And we will continue this movement for an indefinite period.”

Obaidul Quader, general secretary of ruling party Bangladesh Awami League, said: “Any drug trader, irrespective of party, won’t be spared if accusations become true.

“The countrymen have amicably welcomed the law enforcement agencies’ drives against narcotics. Only those with evil political intentions are criticizing the crackdown,” Quader told local media on Saturday.

But Advocate Asadujjaman, human rights secretary of the BNP, claimed that in many areas of the country their supporters and leaders were arrested in the name of the anti-drug movement.

He added: “Any kind of extrajudicial killing is unconstitutional, illegal, inhuman and a violation of human rights of international standard. It shows that the government is not showing any respect to protect the basic rights of the people as stated in the Constitution.”

The country’s human rights group is also criticizing the killings. Nur Khan, renowned human rights activist and adviser of the Human Rights Support Society, demanded an investigation into every extrajudicial killing through a neutral and credible Investigation Commission.

Nur said: “This type of extrajudicial killing will establish the culture of absence of justice in the society. People will get frightened due to this situation.”