Kenya court’s hijab ban ruling sparks fears over Muslim girls’ schooling

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Muslim pupils wearing hijabs study at the Ganjoni Primary School in Mombasa, coastal Kenya, on January 25, 2019. (AFP)
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Muslim pupils wearing hijabs study at the Ganjoni Primary School in Mombasa, coastal Kenya, on January 25, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 27 January 2019

Kenya court’s hijab ban ruling sparks fears over Muslim girls’ schooling

  • If schools decide to take up the ban, the government must monitor this to ensure it does not discriminate against Muslim girls

NAIROBI: A ruling by Kenyan’s top court that schools can ban the hijab could lead to Muslim girls — already at risk from practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage — dropping out of school, campaigners warned on Friday.
The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that every school had the right to determine its own dress code, overturning a 2016 judgment allowing Muslim students to wear the hijab in non-Muslim schools, and directed the government to frame guidelines.
Human rights groups fear some schools will opt to impose the ban, which pertains to both the hijab and the white trousers often worn by Muslim schoolgirls under their skirts.
“I believe there is a large sense of tolerance in most schools, both public and private, in Kenya. But there is a possibility that some schools will enforce a ban,” said Demas Kiprono, campaigns manager at Amnesty International in Kenya.
“If this happens, it may affect schooling for Muslim girls. Religious dress is an important issue for some Muslim communities, so the ban may lead to families taking their daughters out of school, or girls may themselves not feel comfortable.”
Muslims make up about 10 percent of Kenya’s 44 million people, while Christians account for almost 85 percent of the population, according to the latest census data available.
Campaigners say Kenyan girls, including those from Muslim communities, already face multiple barriers to completing their education.
Traditional practices such as FGM and child marriage often force adolescent girls to drop out of school, they said, and schools banning hijabs could lead to higher drop-out rates.
“This is a missed opportunity by the Supreme Court to have set a landmark judgment on women’s right to privacy and to choose what she wants to wear,” said Agnes Odhiambo, senior women’s rights researcher for Human Rights Watch in Kenya.
“If schools decide to take up the ban, the government must monitor this to ensure it does not discriminate against Muslim girls. This ruling does not promote integration, peace and tolerance in our schools and communities.”


Indian govt slammed over poor ranking in global hunger index

Visitors try out food at 'Bengaluru Aaharotsava', a 3-day vegetarian food festival, in Bangalore on October 18, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 19 October 2019

Indian govt slammed over poor ranking in global hunger index

  • This ranking reveals a colossal failure in Govt policy and blows the lid off the PM’s hollow ‘sabka vikas’ (development for all) claim,” tweeted Rahul Gandhi, who leads the opposition Congress party

NEW DELHI: India’s poor rating in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) has come in for sharp criticism, with the opposition calling it a “colossal failure of government policy.”
The GHI showed that India ranked 102 in the database of 117 nations and trailed its smaller South Asian neighbors Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. In 2000, India ranked 83 out of 113 nations.
The index is designed to measure and track hunger at a global, regional, and national level. The report, which was released on Wednesday, was a joint effort between Irish aid agency Concern Worldwide and German organization Welt Hunger Hilfe.
“This ranking reveals a colossal failure in Govt policy and blows the lid off the PM’s hollow ‘sabka vikas’ (development for all) claim,” tweeted Rahul Gandhi, who leads the opposition Congress party.
Thomas Isaac, finance minister in the southern state of Kerala, said: “The slide started with PM (Narendra) Modi’s ascension. In 2014 India was ranked 55. In 2017 it slipped to 100 and now to the levels of Niger and Sierra Leone. The majority of the world’s hungry now resides in India.”
The GHI score is based on four indicators — undernourishment; child wasting (children below five who have a low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition); child stunting, (children under the age of five who have low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition); and child mortality, the mortality rate of children under the age of five.
“India’s child wasting rate is extremely high at 20.8 percent, the highest for any country,” the report said. It added that, with a score of 30.3, India suffered from a level of hunger that was serious.

BACKGROUND

The Global Hunger Index showed that India ranked 102 in the database of 117 nations and trailed its smaller South Asian neighbors Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. In 2000, India ranked 83 out of 113 nations.

International NGO Save the Children  said the government needed to focus on wasting and stunting. Other low- and middle-income countries in the world which are faring better have actually scored better than India in those two areas, it added.
“There are nearly 1.8 million children in the country who are wasting and for that we will need comprehensive interventions, including the provision of therapeutic foods for such children to be managed at a community level,” it told Arab News.
The NGO warned of serious social consequences, with wasting leading to impaired cognitive ability and poor learning outcomes. “Furthermore, for underweight and stunted girls, it invokes a vicious cycle whereby initial malnutrition with early child-bearing gets translated into poor reproductive health outcomes.”
Arab News contacted the Child and Family Welfare Ministry for comment but did not get a response.
Nepal ranks 73 in the index, Sri Lanka is placed at 66, Bangladesh is in 88th place, Myanmar is at the 69th spot and Pakistan ranks 94.
The GHI said these countries were also in the serious hunger category, but that their citizens fared better than India’s.