Will COVID-19 Change the Global Balance of Power?

Wang Yi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, addresses the virtual Security Council summit-level debate on “Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Global Governance post Covid-19”. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe.

Wang Yi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, addresses the virtual Security Council summit-level debate on “Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Global Governance post Covid-19”. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe.

By Daud Khan and Leila Yasmine Khan
AMSTERDAM/ROME, Oct 5 2020 – Lockdowns, social distancing, face-masks and other restrictions on personal and social behaviour have helped slow the progress of the COVID-19 virus. Enough to allow health systems to start catching their breath, for doctors to work out treatment protocols, and for work to start on a vaccine. There is now a need to take stock of the many other impacts the pandemic is likely to have, particularly at the economic and political level.

In terms of short to medium term impacts, the developed countries have been the hardest hit in terms of mortality, and their economies are projected by the IMF to shrink by 8% over 2020. More critically, the economic contraction will disproportionately impact the poor in these countries and accentuate the inequality that has been rising over the last 30 years.

The US stock market has regained all losses despite the fact that millions are jobless. The tech giants continue to post immense profits. Jeff Bezos, founder and major shareholder of Amazon, is now the richest man on earth with a net worth of over US$200 billion – this means that if he were to live another 40 years, and wanted to use all his money before dying, he would need to spend almost US$14 million a day! This, at a time when a growing number of people cannot afford decent housing, adequate clothing and proper nutrition.

It has become clear that widespread disease and death, helplessly watching one’s loved ones die, and being turned away from hospitals, are not things that happen only in poor countries

In contrast to what is happening in the advanced economies, many developing countries – particularly in Africa and Asia – have experienced lower mortality rates. This differential impact could be due to demographics – with the younger population in these countries proving more resilient.

Or it could be due to their more frequent exposure to other viruses which have built up their immunity levels. In some countries such as China, Viet Nam and South Korea it was clearly due to the Governments’ containment measures and the high levels of conformity to government guidelines.

In other countries it could be that the virus arrived later, after having mutated in to a milder variant which was less aggressive. Or it could be something deeper. For example, it could be that the genetic code of people of European origin makes them more vulnerable than Asians and Africans.

Maybe this is why many countries in South and Central America that have been colonized by Europeans, also suffered heavily. But there are flaws in each of these hypotheses. Surely we will know more as data from hundreds of ongoing studies from around the world are completed, compiled and analysed. Or maybe we will never have a final definitive explanation.

In any case, the lower health impact in developing and emerging economies has meant a lower overall economic impact. According to IMF projections, the GDP in emerging markets and developing countries is expected to fall by 3% in 2020 (as compared to the fall of 8% in developed countries).

Some countries, particularly in South and Central America, have been badly hit, but there are many others which have got off relatively lightly. Among the major economies, China is the only one expected to post a positive GDP growth in 2020. Its exports have already rebounded and it is now running a massive trade surplus.

But in addition to its differential economic impacts, the pandemic has also changed perceptions. In developed countries, it has badly dented the view of many people who felt that they were living in a superior system which could withstand and cope with unforeseeable events.

That their higher standards of living, their state-of-the-art health care systems, their social cohesion, and the superior levels of institutional maturity would have made them less vulnerable. This feeling of comfort and complacency has been badly shaken.

It has become clear that widespread disease and death, helplessly watching one’s loved ones die, and being turned away from hospitals, are not things that happen only in poor countries.

Their self-confidence could be in for other jolts in the coming months. Many countries are seeing a rapid spike in cases in recent weeks especially in several European countries. One of the underlying factors is a phenomenon called compliance fatigue – a feeling of weariness after months of restrictions, and a tendency to ignore government guidance, claiming that the worst is now over.

This happened especially among the youth who started to disregard the repeated warnings of scientists and the authorities also because initially it seemed that only the elderly were at risk. They are now paying the price of this social anarchy and several countries are facing the spectre of new restrictions and lockdowns which is jeopardising the projected recovery for 2021.

The economic inequality and lower levels of confidence in the “system” will accelerate some major social and political trends in the developed world. It is difficult to foresee the details, but the disdain for global, national and local institutions which have failed to deliver for increasing numbers of people will continue to grow.

Populist parties, which have already used this growing disillusionment to increase their influence and to take power in many countries, are likely to grow stronger. A critical consequence will be that the isolationism seen in the past decade or so will increase with slogans such as “America First”, “Make Britain Great Again” and “Prima gli Italiani” gaining traction.

These factors are all pointing to a very different world from what we have been seeing. The traditional powers of the west are neither as strong economically, nor as confident of their social and organizational superiority. China, along with developing countries in Asia and Africa that have better weathered COVID storm, will likely increase their global footprint at a much faster rate that they have been doing in the past decades.

Will this make for a better and more equitable world?

 

Daud Khan is a former United Nations official who lives between Italy and Pakistan. He holds degrees in Economics from the London School of Economics and Oxford University where he was a Rhodes Scholar; and a degree in Environmental Management from the Imperial College of Science and Technology.

Leila Yasmine Khan is an independent writer and editor based in the Netherlands. She has Master’s degrees in Philosophy and in Argumentation Theory and Rhetoric from the University of Amsterdam, as well as a Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy from the University of Rome (Roma Tre).

Empowering Women in Organic Value Chains

By External Source
Oct 5 2020 (IPS-Partners)

As COVID-19 shapes and re-shapes the “new normal” in the Pacific, organic food and products will be a key to community adaptation and resiliency in the region’s economies and livelihoods, with the opportunity to advance a more inclusive gender and people centred approach.

The POETCom initiative, under the SPC’s Land Resources Division, has recognized this by taking the next step in its Building Prosperity for Women Producers, Processors, and Women Owned Businesses through Organic Value Chains (BPWP) project, a collaboration with the Australian Government. The project seeks to empower women for greater access to sustainable livelihoods through participation in organic value chains.

POETCom has developed a toolkit for organic value chain assessment as part of the BPWP project. The kit was trialled in September 2020 at a workshop in Suva. Due to travel restrictions as a result of COVID-19, the project is trialling its toolkits in Fiji before implementing with partners in project countries.

Cicia Organic Monitoring Agency representative and POETCom member Petero Ratucove concluded, “This workshop helped recognize and act on the importance of designing implementations and interventions that account for the roles of women that would have otherwise been neglected in the overall economic development of any community. We need to communicate the importance of gender equity and ensure that we have more equitable distribution of ownership levels of engagement in decision making processes.”

The toolkit will help POETCom staff and partners deepen their knowledge and skills in gender and social inclusion mainstreaming, while guiding them to apply a gender lens to an organic value chain analysis or assessment.

The project works with individuals, families, producers and vendors, as well as organic governance structures. The four expected outcomes are:

    • Women have increased financial independence and influence in decision-making within the household.
    • Women are increasingly participating in organic value chains, including decision making processes.
    • Women and men benefit from viable organic value chains that meet market needs and increase food security.
    • The Pacific organic sector has more gender equitable policies and practices.

Building Prosperity for Women Producers, Processors, and Women Owned Businesses through Organic Value Chains launched in October 2018 and is being implemented in three phases over four years; initially working in the Republic of Marshall Islands and Palau with later activities planned for Kiribati and the Federated States of Micronesia

The workshop feedback is helping the POETCom team revise and finalise the working version of toolkit. The kit will then be applied by POETCom members to ensure challenges, opportunities and entry-points for women are identified and developed to secure equitable and equal benefits from organic agriculture. POETCom hopes to launch the finalised version of the project toolkit later in 2021 after trials in project countries.

Source: The Pacific Community (SPC)

 


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On the Occasion of World Teachers’ Day, ECW, GPE, UNESCO & UNICEF Call for the Resumption of Salary Payments for Teachers for the Coming School Year in Yemen

By External Source
Oct 5 2020 (IPS-Partners)

This World Teachers’ Day, celebrated under the theme, “Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future”, the Global Partnership for Education, Education Cannot Wait, UNESCO and UNICEF are calling for the resumption of salary payments for around half of the Yemeni teachers and school-based staff (estimated 160,000) who have not received regular salary payments since 2016. With suspended salary payments and schools regularly coming under attack, many teachers have been forced to find alternative sources of income to provide for their families.

The dire situation in Yemen, including ongoing conflict, natural disasters (flooding), wide-spread diseases (cholera, measles, polio), and poverty has pushed over two million children out of school and put at risk 5.8 million children who have been enrolled in school prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Teachers and school-based staff are critical to ensure continuation of education services and learning for every child in Yemen. Further delay in paying teachers will likely lead to the total collapse of the education sector and impact millions of Yemeni children, especially the most vulnerable and girls, putting them at risk of engaging in negative coping mechanisms such as child labor, recruitment into armed groups and forces, child marriage, trafficking and other forms of exploitation and abuse.

The global community must unite to end violence against children in Yemen and protect their health and right to education. Without a collective commitment to action, we will fail to meet the 2030 Agenda – Leaving no child and no teacher behind. A minimum of 70 million USD is needed to help address this gap and ensure teachers can receive a payment during the 2020-21 school year.

Education Cannot Wait, the Global Partnership for Education, UNESCO and UNICEF are committed to continuing our support for equitable, inclusive quality education for all Yemeni children. We join our voices to call on the international community and the authorities in Yemen to resume the payment of salaries to teachers in all parts of the country.

Above all, the parties to the conflict in Yemen should work towards peace to allow for recovery and a return to normalcy especially for the children who have suffered the tragic consequences of a conflict not of their making.

Source: Education Cannot Wait

 


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Empowering India’s Poor so They Don’t Return to Bonded Labour – Part 2

Entire communities are being gradually empowered to resist traffickers and are being taught the necessary legal knowledge to eradicate slave and bonded labour from their midsts in the near future. Credit: Rina Mukherji/IPS

Entire communities are being gradually empowered to resist traffickers and are being taught the necessary legal knowledge to eradicate slave and bonded labour from their midsts in the near future. Credit: Rina Mukherji/IPS

By Rina Mukherji
PUNE, India, Oct 5 2020 – One day, while the rest of his family were out at work, Kamlesh Pravasi from Jigarsandih village in Azamgarh district of Uttar Pradesh was “abducted when I returned home one day from school, by a contractor’s goons,” he told IPS. The then 12-year-old Pravasi, who was in the sixth grade, was forced to work in bonded labour in a brick kiln because his father could not repay a Rs 5,000 ($68) loan he had taken out from the contractor in order to pay for medical treatment for Pravasi’s sick brother.

Pravasi, along with his two younger brothers, was made to work from the early hours in the morning (from around 2 or 4 am) until 7 pm in the evening, for little or no payment. The family, comprising his parents and six siblings, could do little to alleviate their plight.

“Being illiterate, my parents were unsure of how much they owed to the contractor,” Pravasi admitted to IPS. The boys slaved in the kiln for five years — from 2012 to 2017 — until they were  eventually rescued by activists affiliated to the Human Liberty Network (HLN). HLN is a network of grassroots NGOs in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh working to end slavery and bonded labour.

Pravasi is now employed in construction work, and will soon sit for his intermediate grade /higher secondary examinations.

The story of Pravasi and his brothers is not an unusual one.

For Rajkumar Ram from Katahan village in West Champaran district of Bihar, a loan of Rs 30,000 ($410) taken 20 years ago meant that he and his entire family — including his wife, his three sons and young daughters — had to work in a brick kiln from 5 am in the morning to late evening for free.

The Ram family, like Pravasi and his brothers, where also rescued — but in their case help came from within the family.

Veena Devi (left) with her in-laws and husband. She was able to save her husband's family from years of bonded labour.

Veena Devi (left) with her in-laws and husband. She was able to save her husband’s family from years of bonded labour. Courtesy: Rina Mukherji

Veena Devi, came to the rescue of the Ram family, after marrying into the family in 2015.

“It was when I enrolled for vocational training and non-formal education under a non-governmental   organisation-NIRDESH, that I realised what inter-generational bonded labour meant,” Devi told IPS.

She also learnt that the entire village of Katahan, comprising 37 families, had been condemned to such inter-generational bonded labour.

With a matriculation certificate, Devi took up a teacher’s job at a non-formal education centre, became a member of a local self-help group, and with the help of activists, raised the funds to secure their release.

Her husband, Bansi Ram, now works in a dress-making factory, while her father-in-law has opened a grocery shop. Her brothers-in-law work as plumbers, while her mother-in-law rears goats.

Parents may be lured with a lump sum ofRs 5,000 ($68) to Rs. 10,000 ($136) paid in advance, as Manav Sansadhan Evam Mahila Vikas Sansthan ( MSEMVS) executive director Dr. Bhanuja Sharan Lal told IPS. MSEMVS is an NGO that focuses on the eradication of child labour.

“We recently rescued nine children from Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh who were trafficked to a panipuri (a type of snack) factory in Telangana after their parents were paid an advance of Rs 10,000 ($136) each. They were working free from 2 am to 4 pm in return for meals. Eight rescued children from Azamgarh (in Uttar Pradesh) were similarly employed in a textile factory in Gujarat as slave labour.”

Government initiatives & impediments in overcoming the problem

Of those most vulnerable are the Mahadalits and Dalits who have been confined to illiteracy and grinding poverty because of a casteist social structure.

Discrimination based on caste is illegal according to the country’s constitution and for more than 70 years the government has placed quotas on government jobs and education positions in order to ensure opportunities to all.

Affirmative action by the government has also contributed to Mahadalit children being sent to school, but most are first generation learners. This can limit the access families have to government schemes.

The Skill India initiative by the central government, which was launched in July 2015 and aims to train 400 million individuals in various skills by 2022, has evaded Mahadalit youngsters.

“To qualify for Skill India, you need to have a matriculation certificate. Poverty and family pressures cause most Mahadalit children to drop out after the sixth grade,” explains human rights activist and Adithi director Parinita Kumari of the reasons behind the exclusion of these groups.

Government efforts to rehabilitate migrant returnees through jobs under the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) too generally failed, since many were found to have no job cards and hence did not qualify.

  • The Act guarantees 100 days of wage employment to a rural household where the adults are willing to undertake unskilled labour.

“While those who returned through quarantine centres arranged by the government, were registered, the ones who returned on their own, were not; this made it difficult for them to avail of government schemes,” Kumari said.

Initiatives that work

The Bihar government, under Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, came up with a Mahadalit Vikas Yojana (Plan for the Development of Mahadalits), which was implemented in 2010. The Plan for the Development of Mahadalits saw the setting up of the Bihar Mahadalit Mission, wherein Mahadalits are being granted small pockets of land (122 square metres).

They are also supported with access to various financial, educational and other schemes, including the setting up of residential schools, community radio stations, assistance for buying school uniforms, skill development and women’s self-help groups.

Eradication of bonded labour is not an easy goal to achieve, given the circumstances that the practice draws sustenance from.

NGOs affiliated to HLN have been actively organising the most vulnerable communities in source, transit and destination villages into Community Business Committees, which use survivors/victims of trafficking as peer educators to impart the necessary knowledge to communities through awareness programmes. 

Since these individuals have first-hand knowledge of the modus operandi of traffickers, and are people drawn from within the community, the peer educators immediately strike a chord  among those they seek to educate.

“We have been conducting classes to impart knowledge on government helplines, and giving financial training through lead banks to survivors/victims of trafficking and rural communities in general so that they can access government schemes and apply for livelihood grants,” activist and Rural Organisation for Social Advancement chief functionary, Mushtaque Ahmed told IPS. 

Adithi has also been helping individuals take advantage of the Plan for the Development of Mahadalits, and access landholdings. 

Communities are also informed about government helplines to report trafficking, and given financial training through lead banks to access government schemes and livelihood grants.    

Consequently, entire communities are being gradually empowered to resist traffickers and are being taught the necessary, legal knowledge to eradicate slave and bonded labour from their midsts in the near future.

By empowering the poor to demand and access their rights, and imparting the necessary functional and financial literacy, one can be certain that “they don’t return to bonded labour,” Lal told IPS.

  • This is the second in a two-part series on bonded labour in India. Find Part 1 here.

 

This is part of a series of features from across the globe on human trafficking. IPS coverage is supported by the Airways Aviation Group.

The Global Sustainability Network ( GSN ) is pursuing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number 8 with a special emphasis on Goal 8.7 which ‘takes immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms’.

The origins of the GSN come from the endeavours of the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders signed on 2 December 2014. Religious leaders of various faiths, gathered to work together “to defend the dignity and freedom of the human being against the extreme forms of the globalisation of indifference, such us exploitation, forced labour, prostitution, human trafficking” and so forth.

Teachers Shoulder the Burden: Improving Support in Crisis Contexts

Globally 75 million children who cannot access education as a result of crises. A dated photo of a Syrian child in a refugee camp in Jordan. Credit: Robert Stefanicki/IPS.

Globally 75 million children who cannot access education as a result of crises. A dated photo of a Syrian child in a refugee camp in Jordan. Credit: Robert Stefanicki/IPS.

By Yasmine Sherif, Dean Brooks and Mary Mendenhall
NEW YORK, Oct 5 2020 – Teachers are at the heart of children and young peoples’ educational experiences. Teachers play multiple roles in their students’ lives by supporting their learning, providing them with inclusive and safe environments to grow and develop, and helping them become more confident as they make their way in the world. As we commemorate World Teachers’ Day on Monday, 5 October and its theme–Teachers: Leading in Crisis, Reimagining the Future–we must recognize the inspiring and transformative role that teachers working in armed conflicts, forced displacement, climate change induced disasters and protracted crises play in their students’ lives.

Even before the global pandemic, the lives and education of 75 million children and youth worldwide were already disrupted by crisis. Teachers living and working in these settings provide a lifeline to the young people desperate to be learning in school. Yet, they are often placed in classrooms with little to no training or professional development, and expected to work miracles with few teaching and learning resources and insufficient compensation. They also regularly encounter over-crowded classrooms with mixed-age students who need both academic and social-emotional support. All too often, teachers, schools and students are also subject to violent attacks, particularly in armed conflict settings.

Despite these challenges, teachers persist. They provide a sense of stability and structure in their classrooms that is desperately needed amidst unrest and displacement. Teachers working in these environments are innovative and resourceful in meeting the learning and development needs of their students. These teachers are “forced to reimagine education” and the futures of their learners everyday, something they were doing even before the coronavirus pandemic further exacerbated the challenges they already faced.

Yasmine Sherif

In Kakuma refugee camp in northwestern Kenya, a Kindergarten teacher (a refugee from Uganda) created a garden inside her classroom to help her students learn about soil, seeds, markets and communities since there weren’t enough textbooks for her students to learn these topics. Despite the additional challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers’ unwavering commitment has continued, including the adoption of digital and remote learning tools and methods. As Mona Ibrahim, a teacher in Lebanon describes, ‘We used these tools during the 2012 conflict, as well as during the 2014 conflict, and now we are using it during the crisis of the coronavirus.’

Teachers working in contexts affected by conflict and disasters often experience the same disruption, violence, and displacement as their students. While they work tirelessly to provide psychosocial support to their students, they are rarely provided with this support themselves. A Somali refugee teacher in Kakuma refugee camp shared this sentiment in a recent report on teacher well-being: “All my problems which I’m getting at home, I’m just carrying them to the school.”

In many settings, compounding crises, suspended teacher salary payments and schools regularly coming under attack mean teachers are often forced to find alternative sources of income to provide for their families. In Yemen, an estimated 160,000 teachers and school-based staff have not received regular salary payments since 2016 due to the ongoing famine, conflict and spread of disease. This is why Education Cannot Wait (ECW) and other education leaders are today calling for the resumption of teacher salary payments and training for Yemeni teachers, and why ECW funds teacher training and, in certain contexts, provides incentives for teachers in crisis-affected areas.

To respond to teachers’ needs, our organizations, Education Cannot Wait and the Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) have forged a new partnership to build a toolkit that focuses on teacher well-being, particularly in emergency settings – a resource that will be developed in collaboration with teachers. The toolkit will further supplement the INEE Minimum Standards for Education: Preparedness, Response, Recovery, the global framework for delivering quality education in emergencies, and the work of INEE’s Teachers in Crisis Contexts Collaborative.

Concrete action steps like this are important. Better support for teachers working in crisis contexts will help ensure that millions of children and youth receive the right to inclusive and equitable quality education, and that global commitments—such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the Global Compact on Refugees—are fulfilled.

Based on our respective work – both in financing and guiding the development of inter-agency standards, tools and support for education in emergencies, here are five additional ways that national governments, donors, and all relevant global, regional, national, and local stakeholders – and teachers themselves – can work together to improve teacher policies and practices:

    Prioritize teachers from the very onset of an emergency, through to recovery and development, with increased financial investments, better data, and effective planning so that adequate numbers of teachers, including female and minority teachers, are teaching where and when they are needed most.

    Respect teachers, including volunteers and facilitators, as individuals and professionals with appropriate and equitable recruitment policies, pay and employment terms, and working conditions.

    Enable teachers to support all learners by continuously investing in and dramatically improving the nature and quality of teacher preparation, continuous professional development, and sustained support.

    Support teachers’ well-being, recognizing the impact of crises on teachers in their own lives and in their ability to do their work, and providing comprehensive support to teachers at the individual, school, community, and national levels.

    Listen to teachers’ experiences and opinions, by including them in decision-making bodies and coordination mechanisms, program design and implementation, and research efforts.

Ongoing armed conflicts, crises and disasters have pushed millions of children and youth out of school around the world. Today’s ongoing health pandemic is doing further damage by rolling back progress that has been made in many places to get children and youth back into school and learning, especially for girls. Despite the compounding impact of COVID-19, it has also heightened our awareness of the vital role that teachers play. Now more than ever, we have a chance to transform education systems through the support we provide to teachers. Let us work together to do just that. Teachers around the world deserve nothing less.

Co-authors:

Yasmine Sherif is the Director of Education Cannot Wait. To donate to Education Cannot Wait’s work for teachers and students in emergencies, visit http://www.pledgeling.org/ECW and follow @EduCannotWait on Twitter.

Dean Brooks is the Director of the Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies. To find out more about INEE and to access inter-agency tools and resources to support teachers in crisis contexts please visit https://inee.org/collections/teachers and follow @INEEtweets on Twitter.

Mary Mendenhall, Ed.D., is an Associate Professor of Practice at Teachers College, Columbia University and a member of the INEE Teachers in Crisis Contexts Collaborative. To learn more about Dr. Mendenhall’s work, see her faculty profile and refugee education projects at Teachers College, and follow her at @marymendenhall1 on Twitter.

 


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Nepal Moves Against Acid Attacks on Women

A delegation of six civil society organizations– Amnesty International Nepal; Burn Violence Survivors Nepal; Forum for Women, Law and Development (FWLD); Justice and Rights Institute Nepal (JuRI-Nepal); Legal Aid and Consultancy Center (LACC) Nepal; and Women’s Rehabilitation Center (WOREC)— submitted a set of recommendations on the drafting of a new legislation on acid violence to Law to Justice Minister, Shivamaya Tumbahangphe, during a meeting at her office on 16 September, 2020. Credit: Burn Violence Survivors, Nepal

By Simone Galimberti and Sanju G.C.
KATHMANDU. Nepal, Oct 5 2020 – After a prolonged lobbying campaign, the Government of Nepal recently took some important actions against perpetrators of acid attacks while offering better provisions to support the process of rehabilitation of their victims.

The turning point was an announcement made by Prime Minister K.P. Oli on the 10th September, 2020 in the aftermath of a meeting with a delegation of six civil society and human rights organizations actively working on the issue.

During the program that also included an interaction with a group of survivors, Prime Minister Oli declared the Government would introduce a new legislation that would curb and prevent acid and burn related crimes.

On the 28th of September, President Bidhya Devi Bhandari issued two ordinances strengthening the legislation against acid attack, a plague that is becoming more and more common in Nepal as elsewhere in the region.

The promulgation comes at a critical juncture when violence against women and girls in Nepal has been on the rise, especially during the Covid induced lockdown and what has now been hailed as the ‘shadow pandemic’.

Through the new measures, perpetrators will have to pay a much heavier price for committing such heinous crimes including an increase in prison term to 20 years and a fine up to approximately 10,000 USD that would be used to compensate the victims.

In addition, the Government will bear the cost of treatment of the victims and also will regulate in a much stringent way the sales of chemicals being used for such attacks.

While there is no doubt that the two ordinances that still must be approved by the Parliament within six months before automatically elapsing, are important milestones to effectively deal with acid attacks, they are falling short of expectations.

The group of civil society organizations (CSOs) working on the issue had recommended a completely new set of legislation rather than amending the Penal Code as done by the Government through the two ordinances.

The rationale for a completely new piece of law is straightforward: stronger punishments together with a resolute commitment for treatment, something that perhaps should be granted elsewhere, and a long due regulation on the sale of acid chemicals, do not go far enough to ensure that the problem will be definitely eradicated.

This is the reason why a comprehensive set of recommendations was submitted during the meeting with Prime Minister Oli, including not only preventive measures but, very importantly, also proposals to fully rehabilitate the victims towards regaining a normal life.

Besides the measures incorporated in the two ordinances, the representatives of the civil society have been demanding for special social protection and compensatory safety net, relief for dependents of the victims, safety, security, and protection from discrimination for the victims and their family.

Twenty-five years after the historic Beijing women’s conference in China – a milestone in advancing equal rights – violence against women and girls is not only common, but widely accepted, a new UN report revealed last week. Credit: UNICEF/Noorani

In addition, the civil society also called for awareness on the issue of burn and acid violence, its effects and treatment. The fact that the Prime Minister Oli followed up on its promise, albeit only partially, is praiseworthy but not enough.

“Though the proposed provisions in the ordinance are very progressive than the existing legal provisions, it will be more comprehensive if the new law addressed issues such as survivor’s safety, treatment and overall well-being” shares Sabin Shrestha, the Executive Director of the Forum for Women, Law & Development (FWLD), one of the organizations engaged in drafting the recommendations.

Moreover, as often happens in countries struggling to reinforce the rule of law, the real issue will now be to wait and see how the new provisions of the Penal Code will be implemented on the ground.

Shrestha shares the concerns: “the new legal provision needs to be translated in reality and focus should be on the implementation of the law. Effective monitoring mechanisms should be ensured ultimately benefiting the victim”.

The demands from the civil society must be taken further into consideration with an even more specialized act for acid and burn related crimes which is comprehensive and addresses the socio-economic, psychosocial, and emotional costs of acid and burn related crimes.

“It is important to ensure that the specific legislation on acid violence adopts a comprehensive approach to focus on all aspects of the crime and its impact on victims/ survivors” Shrestha adds.

While the focus of the two ordinances have been on acid attacks, burn related crimes, a definition broader than narrowed terminology of “acid attacks” should also be fully acknowledged and properly addressed as highlighted by Pratiksha Giri, Executive Director Burns Violence Survivors Nepal, a local not for profit actively working on the reintegration and rehabilitation of the victims.

While the two ordinances have rectified the existing loopholes within the law that prevented fair and swift justice in the past and have been drafted from a victim centered, justice oriented approach as it was explicitly advocated by Muskan Khatun, Jenny Khadka, and Sangita Magar on behalf of the 12 survivors who met Prime Minister Oli, which in itself is an important achievement, more action must follow.

The full eradication of acid and burn attacks requires not only a speedy approval of a dedicated piece of legislation but also a comprehensive approach to prevent any kind of violence against women.

“The education curriculum has incorporated issues of violence, social injustices and inequalities in its curriculum to create awareness around the prevalent issues of contemporary society however, only superficially” says Giri.

She further elaborates, “Educating young children acts as predominant factor to raise awareness and bring about positive changes in the mindset of young children through the knowledge they acquire from schools”. We cannot agree more.

Hopefully the steps taken by the Government will also embolden and encourage civil society activists and the survivors to ask for more.

It is their right and their demands must be heeded to at the earliest.

 


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