UN Security Council urged to classify Taliban oppression of women as ‘gender apartheid’

Experts on Tuesday urged the international community to officially recognize the “gender apartheid” in Afghanistan amid the escalating restrictions imposed on women and girls by the Taliban regime in the country. (AP/File Photo)
Experts on Tuesday urged the international community to officially recognize the “gender apartheid” in Afghanistan amid the escalating restrictions imposed on women and girls by the Taliban regime in the country. (AP/File Photo)
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Updated 27 September 2023
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UN Security Council urged to classify Taliban oppression of women as ‘gender apartheid’

UN Security Council urged to classify Taliban oppression of women as ‘gender apartheid’
  • ‘The Taliban are not simply failing to uphold women’s rights, this oppression of women is central to their system of governance,’ says lawyer and campaigner Karima Bennoune
  • Council members unanimously condemn the treatment of women and girls in Afghanistan but stop short of using the word ‘apartheid’ to describe it

NEW YORK CITY: Experts on Tuesday urged the international community to officially recognize the “gender apartheid” in Afghanistan amid the escalating restrictions imposed on women and girls by the Taliban regime in the country.

During a media event on the sidelines of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly, shortly before a special meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, international lawyer and civil society representative Karima Bennoune said the “drastic restrictions” on 50 percent of the population were “unparalleled” in the world.

“I believe the ‘gender apartheid’ approach is the most promising way forward as the Taliban are not simply failing to uphold women’s rights, this oppression of women is central to their system of governance,” she added.

“Deeming the situation to be gender apartheid not only implicates the perpetrators of the apartheid but, as was the case with racial apartheid in South Africa, it means that no member state can be complicit in or normalize the Taliban’s illegal actions.”

The International Criminal Court defines the crime of apartheid perpetrated by a regime as the systematic oppression and domination by one racial group of one or more other racial groups with the aim of maintaining that regime.

During the Security Council meeting, Bennoune noted that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and a number of governments have already labeled the Taliban’s actions against women and girls as a form of apartheid, and called on the UN to officially codify this approach under international law by adding the word “gender” to the existing definition.

“The apartheid framework recognizes that the ordinary human rights approach, centering the state as the actor to implement human rights, cannot work here,” she said.

“Positive change will only be possible with a consistent, principled international response led by this council, mandated by its 10 Women, Peace and Security resolutions, and supported by states from all regions.”

Sima Sami Bahous, the executive director of UN Women, echoed Bennoune’s views during her comments at the meeting.

The members of the council unanimously condemned the treatment of women and girls in Afghanistan but stopped short of using the word “apartheid” to describe it.

Albania’s permanent representative to the UN, Ferit Hoxha, whose country holds the presidency of the council this month, said of the Taliban: “This regime and its rules are medieval and retrograde, with extrajudicial killings and arbitrary arrests simply unacceptable.

“Two years on from the Western withdrawal from Afghanistan, the situation remains dire, with the international community struggling to balance its support for the Afghan people without rewarding the de facto authorities.”

Representatives from several states, including China, Japan, Mozambique, the UK and the US, all called for a reversal of the Taliban restrictions on women and girls.

Speaking on behalf of Gabon, Ghana and Mozambique, the three current African non-permanent members of the Security Council, Mozambique’s representative to the UN, Pedro Comissario Afonso, said: “The lack of representation of the diversity of the Afghan people at the ethnic and social level in the political sphere is both apparent and deplorable.”

With winter approaching, council members expressed concern that the continued failure to reintegrate women into the positions they held before the Taliban takeover will serve only to exacerbate people’s

suffering amid a shortfall in funding for international aid, and the reluctance of many countries to engage with the regime.

Citing a recent UN Development Program report that said gross domestic product in Afghanistan fell by 3.6 percent in 2022, following a 20.7 percent contraction in 2021, China’s representative, Zhang Jun, attributed the decline to a “sharp drop” in humanitarian funding.

“The report claims two thirds of Afghanistan will need humanitarian assistance next year, with 41 million Afghans in a state of food insecurity, and yet the humanitarian assistance program is just 27 percent funded at present,” he said.

“This is a clear demonstration that the cutback in funding is of an ideological and political nature that only stands in the way of the Afghan people; winter is coming.”

Both India and Iran, who share borders with Afghanistan, expressed concern about the “potential consequences for regional insecurity” caused by the situation in the country. However, the Chinese envoy suggested that “on the whole,” the security situation had improved since the Taliban took control.

The Taliban’s choice of representative to the UN is not recognized by the international organization. Naseer Faiq, the representative of the former Afghan government that was toppled by the Taliban, strongly rejected the Chinese representative’s suggestion.

“Taliban assertions of counterterrorism and counternarcotics efforts ring hollow as they are leaders, are deeply involved in narcotics production and smuggling within the Taliban centers of power and resources distribution,” he told the council.

“Tragically, two years since the Taliban seized control, the situation of Afghanistan has not improved … the Afghan people continue to suffer.”

Describing Afghanistan under the Taliban as a “hub for terrorism,” Faiq said that despite the challenges, the Afghan people are nonetheless “resolute” in their diversity and would continue to “work tirelessly” to defend their rights.

Echoing calls by Afghan community organizations, he urged the council and international partners to maintain the pressure on the Taliban and demand the reversal of policies that deny women their rights.

“We also call on the UN to recognize and classify the plight of woman and girls as gender apartheid, and emphasize the necessity of ongoing humanitarian assistance for the people of Afghanistan, subject to rigorous monitoring and supervision of aid delivery,” Faiq said.

“We can help shape a better future for the Afghan people and prevent the country from once again becoming a breeding ground for extremism.”


Nine arrests during London protest against Israel arms exports

Police officers remove ‘Workers for a Free Palestine’ demonstrators in London.
Police officers remove ‘Workers for a Free Palestine’ demonstrators in London.
Updated 57 min 13 sec ago
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Nine arrests during London protest against Israel arms exports

Police officers remove ‘Workers for a Free Palestine’ demonstrators in London.
  • Last week new Foreign Minister David Lammy said a blanket ban on arms exports to Israel would not be right
  • London’s Metropolitan Police said protesters arrived outside Britain’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and blocked pedestrian and vehicle access

LONDON: British police on Wednesday arrested nine people during a protest against arms exports to Israel that briefly blocked the street outside the foreign ministry, highlighting pressure on the new Labour government over its stance on the Gaza war.
Pro-Palestinian protesters in Britain have been campaigning for a government ban on arms sales to Israel following its offensive on Gaza in response to the Oct. 7 attack.
Last week new Foreign Minister David Lammy, who has said he wants a balanced position on Israel and Gaza, said a blanket ban on arms exports to Israel would not be right, but he would follow a quasi-judicial process in assessing whether sales of offensive weapons that could be used in Gaza could proceed.
London’s Metropolitan Police said protesters arrived outside Britain’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and blocked pedestrian and vehicle access. Police then said the protest could only continue if it left the central arch of the street clear.
“When the group failed to comply with the conditions, officers intervened and made nine arrests, quickly restoring access,” a Met Police spokesperson said.
While in opposition, Lammy earlier this year said the government should suspend the sale of UK arms if there were a clear risk they might be used in a serious breach of humanitarian law.
Now in government, he said last week he requested on his first day in office an assessment of the legal situation and that he hoped to be able to communicate any decisions with “full accountability and transparency.”
Labour was elected with a huge majority earlier this month, but lost some seats to pro-Gaza candidates.
Campaign group Workers for a Free Palestine, which organized the protest, said that was a sign the government should take a stronger stance on restricting arms sales, and called on Lammy to “practice what he preached in opposition.”
While the previous Conservative government was a strong supporter of Israel’s right to defend itself following the Oct. 7 attack, Reuters found that the value of Britain’s approvals of new arms licenses dropped sharply after the start of the war.


Global hunger crisis set back 15 years, UN report reveals 

Global hunger crisis set back 15 years, UN report reveals 
Updated 52 min 9 sec ago
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Global hunger crisis set back 15 years, UN report reveals 

Global hunger crisis set back 15 years, UN report reveals 
  • FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu: Transforming agrifood systems is more critical than ever as we face the urgency of achieving the SDGs within six short years
  • Qu Dongyu: FAO remains committed to supporting countries in their efforts to eradicate hunger and ensure food security for all

RIYADH: The 2024 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, or SOFI, report, jointly published on Wednesday by five UN agencies under the theme “Financing to end hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition,” highlighted the deepening global food crisis. 

The heads of the five UN agencies — the Food and Agriculture Organization, World Health Organization, International Fund for Agricultural Development, World Food Programme, and UNICEF — emphasized the urgent need for increased and more efficient financing to address these complex challenges. They called for transformative measures in agrifood systems, equitable access to resources, and enhanced international cooperation to mitigate the impacts of food insecurity and malnutrition.

FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu said: “Transforming agrifood systems is more critical than ever as we face the urgency of achieving the SDGs within six short years. FAO remains committed to supporting countries in their efforts to eradicate hunger and ensure food security for all. 

“We will work together with all partners and with all approaches, including the G20 Global Alliance against Hunger and Poverty, to accelerate the needed change. Together, we must innovate and collaborate to build more efficient, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable agrifood systems that can better withstand future challenges for a better world,” Qu added.

The report, unveiled during the G20 Global Alliance against Hunger and Poverty Task Force Ministerial Meeting in Brazil, underscored that the international community is falling significantly short of achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2, zero hunger, by 2030. Highlighting a setback of 15 years in progress, the report compares current undernourishment levels to those last seen in 2008-2009.

In 2023, approximately 733 million people worldwide faced hunger, marking a continuation of the high levels observed over the past three years. This equates to one in 11 people globally, with the situation particularly dire in Africa, where one in five individuals grappled with food insecurity.

While there have been some gains in specific areas such as reducing stunting and promoting exclusive breastfeeding, the overall number of undernourished people is at a constant, ranging between 713 and 757 million in 2023. Regional disparities persist, with hunger increasing in Western Asia, the Caribbean, and several African subregions, while remaining stable in Asia and showing improvement in Latin America.

The report’s projections for 2030 suggest that around 582 million people will continue to suffer from chronic undernourishment, half of them in Africa. This mirrors levels observed in 2015 when the SDGs were adopted, indicating a plateau in progress.

Beyond hunger, the report highlights broader challenges in food security and nutrition. In 2023, 2.33 billion people faced moderate or severe food insecurity, worsened by various factors such as economic decline and climate change. 

The affordability of healthy diets is also a critical issue, particularly in low-income countries where over 71 percent of the population cannot afford adequate nutrition.

Despite gains in exclusive breastfeeding rates and reductions in child stunting, the world is still faced with many challenges. Rates of wasting among children and adult obesity are concerningly high, states the report, and indicate a double burden of malnutrition affecting global populations.

“The fastest route out of hunger and poverty is proven to be through investments in agriculture in rural areas. But the global and financial landscape has become far more complex since the Sustainable Development Goals were adopted in 2015,” said IFAD President Alvaro Lario. 

“Ending hunger and malnutrition demands that we invest more — and more smartly. We must bring new money into the system from the private sector and recapture the pandemic-era appetite for ambitious global financial reform that gets cheaper financing to the countries who need it most,’’ Lario added.

The report urges unified global action to achieve SDGs by 2030 by adopting and prioritizing innovative solutions and substantial investments to ensure that all people have access to safe, nutritious, and sufficient food.

The SOFI report is an annual assessment providing insights into global progress toward ending hunger, improving food security, and advancing nutrition under the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Its findings are intended to guide policymakers, international organizations, and the public in addressing these pressing global challenges.


10 migrants drown in rushing river crossing Darien Gap in Panama

10 migrants drown in rushing river crossing Darien Gap in Panama
Updated 24 July 2024
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10 migrants drown in rushing river crossing Darien Gap in Panama

10 migrants drown in rushing river crossing Darien Gap in Panama
  • The National Border Service said in a statement that the victims were swept away by the strong current
  • Their bodies were later seen near the Indigenous community of Carreto

PANAMA CITY: Ten migrants drowned trying to cross a rushing river in Panama’s Darien Gap that borders Colombia, Panamanian authorities said Wednesday.
The National Border Service said in a statement that the victims were swept away by the strong current and their bodies were later seen near the Indigenous community of Carreto.
An agency official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the case said on condition of anonymity that the drownings were believed to have occurred on July 16, but the area was so remote that they were only now able to release the information.
The prosecutor’s office was investigating details, including the victims’ nationalities, the official said. More than half of the migrants crossing the Darien come from Venezuela.
More than 500,000 migrants made the treacherous crossing through the jungle-clad border in a record-setting 2023. So far this year, more than 212,000 have entered Panama through the Darien.
It is the rainy season in Panama, making the numerous rivers that migrants have to cross more dangerous.
New Panamanian President José Raúl Mulino has pledged to stop migration through the Darien with assistance from the US government.


‘Competent, experienced’ Harris could win US election: Scholz

‘Competent, experienced’ Harris could win US election: Scholz
Updated 24 July 2024
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‘Competent, experienced’ Harris could win US election: Scholz

‘Competent, experienced’ Harris could win US election: Scholz
  • Scholz told reporters at his annual summer press conference in Berlin that “I think it’s entirely possible that Kamala Harris wins the election but it will be American voters who decide“
  • He said his own exchanges with Harris had been “conversations where she put forward her views authentically“

BERLIN: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Wednesday that it was “entirely possible” that US Vice President Kamala Harris will win November’s presidential election, describing her as “competent and experienced.”
Following 81-year-old President Joe Biden’s stunning decision to exit the race for the White House on Sunday, Harris has emerged as the virtually unchallenged frontrunner for the nomination of their Democratic party.
Scholz told reporters at his annual summer press conference in Berlin that “I think it’s entirely possible that Kamala Harris wins the election but it will be American voters who decide.”
Scholz said that Harris was “a competent and experienced politician who knows exactly what she’s doing.”
He said his own exchanges with Harris had been “conversations where she put forward her views authentically” and was not simply “saying something prepared beforehand.”
He added that Harris had “clear ideas about the role of her country in the world and the challenges that confront us.”
The US presidential race is being keenly watched by Washington’s allies in Europe, particularly due to the possibility of victory for the combative and often isolationist Donald Trump.
“What happens there is of the greatest importance for all countries in the world and of course especially for the close allies of the US in Germany and in Europe,” Scholz said.
He made clear that the relationship “cannot depend on who the president is,” saying it was his job to work with whichever administration was elected.


1,000 tourists evacuated after fire in southern Italy

1,000 tourists evacuated after fire in southern Italy
Updated 24 July 2024
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1,000 tourists evacuated after fire in southern Italy

1,000 tourists evacuated after fire in southern Italy
  • Three Canadair water bombers and a helicopter were deployed to try to contain the blaze
  • According to reports, tourists from a complex near the bay of San Felice are among those moved

ROME: Around 1,000 tourists were evacuated on Wednesday after a wildfire broke out in the southern Italian region of Puglia, firefighters said.
Three Canadair water bombers and a helicopter were deployed to try to contain the blaze in a wooded coastal area in the Gargano sub-region.
“The fire is being tackled from the land and from the air,” a fire service spokesman told AFP, confirming that around 1,000 tourists had been evacuated.
According to reports, tourists from a complex near the bay of San Felice are among those moved.
Puglia attracts tourists from around the world with its clear waters, white sandy beaches and distinctive architecture.
The area hit by the fire is dominated by the Gargano National Park.
“The situation is critical,” the mayor of nearby Vieste, Giuseppe Nobiletti, had earlier told reporters, according to the Corriere della Sera newspaper.
He expressed concern that the winds were pushing the flames toward the tourist complex.
After weeks of hot weather, fires have broken out almost daily across Italy, particularly in the south and on the islands.
Two firefighters died last week fighting a blaze near Matera in Basilicata, a region that neighbors Puglia.