May 14
Her eye on the news
‘Inhumane & cruel’

An attempt by Britain’s Home Office to deport a woman in a medical coma has exposed the Conservative government’s efforts to remove as many non-British nationals from the country as possible regardless of the risk posed to people’s lives, according to opposition politicians and activists.

Bhavani Esapathi, 31, an Indian national and east London resident living in the U.K. on student and work visas since 2010, had an application to stay in the U.K. denied on human rights medical grounds by the home office last September, while she was in a nearly two-week long vegetative state in the wake of a major surgery.

According to a letter signed by surgeons working at St. Mark’s Hospital, where Esapathi is being treated for Crohn’s disease, it is “of vital importance” that she continue to receive treatment at the hospital due to the “highly complex” nature of the “surgical and medical management” her case requires.

“This also means that, both now and after her surgery in 2019, Bhavani will not be able to travel due to her ongoing need for specialist care in our hospital as her recovery after her next operation is likely to be protracted and complex,” the letter read.

Despite doctors’ suggestion that deporting Esapathi would effectively be sentencing her to death, the Home Office’s refusal letter claimed that “this does not entitle you to remain here” even if leaving the country meant that “[your] illness deteriorates or you are unable to access treatment.” The letter further claimed that her deportation would cause “no insurmountable obstacles” to her relationship with her fiance Martin Mangler, whose job as a volcanologist “[depends] on him staying in the U.K.,” according to Espathi’s application.

According to Labour shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, cases such as Esapathi’s exemplify the “cruel and insensitive” policies “inflicted on vulnerable people” by a rampantly anti-immigrant Conservative government. Chai Patel, legal director at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, went further, describing the “inhumane and cruel” decision as unsurprising “from a department where officials are trained in how to reject human rights claims, and incentivized to issue removal orders.”

“At the moment,” he added, “the law allows the Home Office to send people to their death abroad.”

Read the full story at The Independent.


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'Defuse their plots'

As the Iranian economy buckles under the weight of U.S. sanctions, the country’s religious authorities have begun ushering in strict new laws — including an all-encompassing ban on men looking at women during the annual month-long celebration of Ramadan.

“My personal advice to women is to respect the hijab even more than before and gentlemen must avoid looking directly at female passersby,” said judiciary spokesperson Gholam-Hossein Esmaili. “Anyone ignoring these instructions during the Ramadan will be committing an offense and should expect some punishment from the law enforcement units.”

In addition to the ban on men looking at women, the Iranian judiciary and moral police have warned that people will be subject to arrest for eating in public during Ramadan’s fasting period, and that playing music in the car would be punishable by having one’s car towed.

Last month, supreme religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ushered in two new ultra-conservative leaders, General Hossein Salami and imam Ebrahim Raeesi, to serve as commander of the Revolutionary Guard and as the country’s chief judge respectively.

“The holy month of Ramadan is a reminder to us for being steadfast in our confrontation with the world arrogance as they seem to have a war deployment against us in all economic, cultural and social fronts, but not in physical manner,” said Salami. “Our mission is to block all their paths and defuse their plots by any means we can.”

Read the full story at The Telegraph.


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'Not alone'

Women in New York and London are standing up against catcalling and sexual harassment — both in the street, and on social media. Speaking to the BBC, Farah Bennis said she was inspired by the Instagram page Catcalls of New York City to chalk the catcalls thrown at women on the very same streets where they were subjected to them. Since starting on the project on her sister page Catcalls of London, she said she had received more than 3,000 submissions from women asking her to share their testimonials on the London pavement.

“It’s so awful the things that are said,” Bennis told the BBC. “You have really young girls experiencing over-sexualization, very misogynistic things, and violent things said to them … I’ve had so many catcalls that you don’t know if this is a harmless person who’s just saying something or if they’re going to react in a violent way.”

“This campaign has given me the opportunity to give other women a voice to express their frustration,” she continued. “We, as women, have constantly been conditioned to just ignore it and just move on with our lives — take it as a complement. It’s no longer just: ‘Be quiet and put up with it.’ It’s ‘No,’ we’re saying, ‘No, we don’t want it anymore.’”

One woman who shared her story with Bennis, Saffron Savill, said she had her perspective on the world — and men — irrevocably altered after facing persistent sexual harassment from a man on the street when she was 16 years old.

“He was like: ‘Give us a kiss,’ and he was saying it over and over. And then he grabbed the inside of my thigh and was like: ‘Oh, what I would do to you if I was younger,’” Savill recalled. “It really make me anxious about where I go. If I’m alone, what might happen. If there’s a man around I get really scared.”

But the work being done by Bennis and others, she said, had helped her to feel less alone in her experience, and more optimistic that stress harassment could be curtailed.

“It feels like something is being done, like it’s being challenged,” said Savill. “I think that’s why men carry it on, because it’s not challenged. It highlights how often it happens and it brings those girls together. You know you’re not alone.”

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"While visiting my NYC my daughter was harassed near the Times Square M & M store. We were walking when a guy kept yelling 'single? Single? Single?' My daughter responded with 'no thank you'. He then yelled 'Single, say no, don't you speak English'? She was a week from her 18th Birthday and this trip was my gift. It made me feel scared, because I know I won't always be able to protect her." – Anonymous … When I was chalking out this catcall, a man came up to me to ask what I was doing. I told him I have an Instagram account about catcalling and asked him what he thought about catcalling. He went on to tell me a story about his female friend being catcalled while he was with her and how messed up he thought it was. I said that I agreed it was messed up and told him that's exactly what the project is about, excited that we were on the same page. He said, "but wait, 'Single? Single? Single?' That's not a catcall. He's just trying to ask her if she's single. That's different." Clearly, we still have work to do. #stopstreetharassment

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Watch the full interview at BBC News.


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Sold out

A popular traditional practice in Migori County in Southern Kenya allows for women to marry women in informal unions in spite of the country’s legal ban on gay marriage. But human rights activists say the practice, known as “nyumba mboke,” is not something to be celebrated. In many cases, it’s reported, older or infertile women pay fathers a dowry in return for effective ownership of a young daughter who can provide them with children and thereby increase their status in the community.

Grace Boke, a 19-year-old mother of three girls, told Al Jazeera that her father “decided to give me away for four cows to a woman with no children” after she gave birth to her first daughter out of wedlock.

“My father forced me to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) when I was very young, in class two, and immediately after that, I was involved with a man who made me pregnant and disappeared,” Boke recalled. “My father later sold the cows and went for a drinking spree and never gave my mother any money from that. He later died.”

Boke says she soon discovered that her new partner, Pauline Gati, had no farm and had given away her remaining wealth to her father in return for the marriage. The two work as day laborers on farms to make ends meet, but are rarely able to adequately feed the three children. Despite that, Gati is now pushing Boke to get pregnant again so she can have a son.

“The children … will now be mine. I will have someone to take care of me when I grow old,” said Gati. “[Boke] has to give me a baby boy among the girls; I cannot have only girls in this community. I will lose respect.”

Read the full story at Al Jazeera.


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Sexual violence

Thousands of people took to the streets of Indian-controlled Kashmir on Monday to demand the death penalty for a man who allegedly raped a 3-year-old girl, amid growing anger over sexual violence in the troubled Himalayan region.

Dozens of people were injured, most of them police, when officers fired tear gas and used batons to disperse stone-throwing demonstrators who had blocked part of a highway, police said in a statement.

The child’s rape came weeks after the suicide of a girl who police say was repeatedly raped by her own father, and has intensified public concerns over sexual violence.

Shops, businesses and schools were also shut across the Muslim-majority region in response to a strike called by separatist cleric Moulana Masoor Abbas to protest the rape.

“We called for strike today to make people aware about growing incidents of rapes in the valley. We want justice for the victim,” Abbas told reporters.

Police said the child was lured into an empty school by a neighbor and raped last Wednesday. Her mother followed her screams to find her bleeding inside a bathroom.

One person has been arrested over the attack.

Some protesters said they no longer had faith in authorities to keep women and girls safe, calling for those found guilty of such crimes to be given the death penalty.

“If the culprits of such crimes are hanged, then such incidents can come down,” protester Nafia Khursheed told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Kashmiri women shout slogans during a protest against the rape of a three-year old girl in Bandipora district last week, in Srinagar May 13, 2019. (REUTERS/Danish Ismail)

Authorities appealed for calm after the protests, which followed a pledge by Muslim clerics in the region to dedicate their Ramadan sermons to women’s rights.

The Muttahida Majlis-e-Ulema (MMU), a council of Muslim religious leaders and scholars, said they wanted to address what they said was a rise in sexual violence in the region.

Crimes against women jumped 8 percent to 3,168 cases in 2017 from 2,915 the previous year, according to government figures.

Last year, nationwide protests flared over the rape and murder of an eight-year-old Muslim girl in Jammu and Kashmir state, prompting the federal government to introduce the death penalty for rapists of girls under the age of 12.

The outrage drew parallels with massive protests that followed the gang rape and murder of a woman on a Delhi bus in 2012, which led to tough new rape laws.

(Writing by Annie Banerji @anniebanerji, Editing by Claire Cozens, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian issues, conflicts, land and property rights, modern slavery and human trafficking, gender equality, climate change and resilience. Visit to see more stories)


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