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COVID-19 fuels domestic violence, forced marriage in Sudan – Study

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Deteriorating economic conditions since 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic have fuelled an increase in domestic violence and forced marriage in Sudan, a UN-backed study has revealed.

The study, Voices from Sudan 2020, published this week is the first-ever nationwide qualitative assessment of Gender-Based violence (GBV) in the country, where a transitional government is now in its second year.

Addressing the issue is a critical priority, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Government’s Combating Violence against Women Unit (CVAW), co-authors of the report.

“The current context of increased openness by the Government of Sudan, and dynamism by civil society, opens opportunities for significant gains in advancing women’s safety and rights,” they said.

The report aims to complement existing methods of gathering data and analysis by ensuring that the views, experiences and priorities of women and girls, are understood and addressed.

Researchers found that communities perceive domestic and sexual violence as the most common GBV issues.

Key concerns include physical violence in the home, committed by husbands against wives, and by brothers against sisters, as well as movement restrictions which women and girls have been subjected to.

Another concern is sexual violence, especially against women working in informal jobs, but also refugee and displaced women when moving outside camps, people with disabilities, and children in Qur’anic schools.

Forced marriage is also prominent, according to the report. Most of these unions are arranged between members of the same tribe, or relatives, without the girl’s consent or knowledge.

Meanwhile, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) remains widespread in Sudan, with varying differences based on geographic location and tribal affiliation.

Although knowledge about the illegality and harmfulness of the practice has reached community level, child marriage and FGM are not perceived as key concerns.

Women’s access to resources is also severely restricted. Men control financial resources, and boys are favoured for access to opportunities, especially education.

Verbal and psychological pressure to comply with existing gender norms and roles is widespread, leading in some cases to suicide.

The deteriorating economic situation since 2020, and COVID-19, have increased violence, especially domestic violence and forced marriage, the report said. Harassment in queues for essential supplies such as bread and fuel has also been reported.

Sudan continues to move along a path to democracy following the April 2019 overthrow of President Omar Al-Bashir who had been in power for 30 years.

In addition, the report stated that it has not been possible for the last three decades to discuss GBV.

“GBV data is dramatically lacking, with no nation-wide assessment done for the past 30 years, and a general lack of availability of qualitative and quantitative data,” the authors said.

To carry out the assessment, some 215 focus group discussions were held with communities: 21 with GBV experts, as well as a review of existing studies and assessments.

Research was conducted between August and November 2020, encompassing 60 locations and camps, and the data was scanned through a software for qualitative analysis, followed a model first used in Syria. (NAN)

 

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Iranian President, Ebrahim Raisi is dead

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Late Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi
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Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi has died after his helicopter crashed amid heavy fog in northern Iran, state media reported. Raisi was 63.

Rescuers on Monday found the chopper that was carrying the Iranian president, as well as the country’s foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and other senior officials, after it crashed in the mountainous northwest reaches of Iran.

The crash comes as the Middle East remains unsettled by the Israel-Hamas war, during which Raisi, under Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, launched an unprecedented drone-and-missile attack on Israel just last month.

Under Raisi, Iran enriched uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels, further escalating tensions with the West as Tehran also supplied bomb-carrying drones to Russia for its war in Ukraine and continued arming proxy groups in the Mideast such as Yemen’s Houthi rebels and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Raisi was a prominent figure in Iranian politics, known for his alignment with conservative and hardline factions. He had been serving as president for nearly three years and was widely expected to run for re-election next year.

Born in Mashhad, a significant religious center for Shia Muslims in northeastern Iran, Raisi’s journey into politics was deeply rooted in his religious education.

He studied at the renowned seminary in Qom, under the guidance of prominent scholars, including Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the current supreme leader of Iran.

His black turban, a symbol that he was a sayyid, or a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, held special significance among Twelver Shia Muslims, further cementing his religious and political stature.

Raisi’s career as a prosecutor began in various jurisdictions before he moved to Tehran in 1985. There, he became a part of a controversial committee of judges responsible for the execution of political prisoners, a role that drew significant criticism from human rights organizations.

Raisi’s untimely death leaves a significant void in Iran’s political landscape. As the nation mourns, questions about his potential successor and the future direction of Iranian politics loom large.

 

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Nigeria’s Senate President Akpabio seeks IPU’s voice in ending conflict in Gaza

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President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio
President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio
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The President of Nigeria’s Senate, Godswill Akpabio, has called on the International Parliamentary Union (IPU) to lend a strong voice to the restoration of lasting peace in war-torn Gaza.

Akpabio made the call while contributing to discussions at the ongoing 148th Session of the International Parliamentary Union Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.

He said it is time for nations to rise above sentiments and invoke the spirit of humanity, by doing all they can to bring sustainable peace to the region.

Some of the resolutions, according to the Chairman of Nigeria’s National Assembly, should include access to humanitarian aid, the restoration of normal life in Gaza, and meetings on a permanent truce.

His words: ” Madam President, this is a lone voice from Nigeria. We tried our best in Angola, and we failed to lend a collective voice to what is happening in Gaza. Today, the world is very expectant.

“We must drop ego. It has nothing to do with which country brings the proposal. The basic tenets of humanity demand that we leave here with a resolution for the rest of the world, to show that we have human feelings in us.

“The issues are very clear. If you notice the proposal for 12 blocs; they attempted to even marry the proposals from South Africa. Yes! South Africa has a right to be emotional, but we have children who are dying even as we are talking now. We have people who do not have water to drink, even as we are talking now. We have people who are going to suffer infections from gunshots.

“We have to show the world that we are human beings. The cessation of hostilities must be a part of our resolutions. Access to humanitarian aid must be a part of our resolutions.

‘At the same time, the release of hostages and even those who are prisoners of war, because if both sides take steps in releasing the hostages, releasing the prisoners of war, it means that both sides have agreed that the international community can go to the next stage, which is negotiation for sustainable peace.

“If they cannot agree, I would urge that, from here, we have a three-man drafting committee to come up with those resolutions which we must make before we leave here.

‘We can no longer allow a child to die tonight without lending our voice. It doesn’t matter which side. We are all parents. If we come here to look for ego and then try to be emotional, it’s not affecting them.

“There’s nothing affecting Denmark; there’s nothing affecting South Africa. The people affected are over there and nobody will agree to the lone resolution from Israel. It must be all-encompassing so that we stand up from here as human beings. That would be my plea.

“Let them go aside, meet and remove those vexatious items. In the course of their discussions, we can have amendments. We can add items that we should add, but we must discuss the Gaza issue in this 148th IPU Assembly. That is my position.”

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Okonjo-Iweala ‘Less Optimistic’ About World Trade In 2024

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Ngozi Okonjo Iweala
Ngozi Okonjo Iweala
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The World Trade Organization’s chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on Wednesday said she was “less optimistic” about world trade in 2024, pointing to tensions in the Red Sea.She said weaker global economic growth, “worsening geopolitical tensions, the new disruptions we see in the Red Sea, on the Suez Canal, the Panama Canal” meant “we are less optimistic”.

Okonjo-Iweala was speaking to journalists at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos where political and economic elites are meeting to discuss global challenges.

Before the massive Hamas attack on Israel in October and the subsequent outbreak of war in Gaza, the WTO had predicted trade would grow by 0.8 per cent in 2023 and projected growth of 3.3 per cent this year.

But Okonjo-Iweala warned the figure for 2024 would now be lower in future forecasts.

“We think there are a lot of downside risks to the forecasts we had made last year of 3.3 percent of growth of merchandise volumes this year. So we expect weaker performance,” she said.

“We will be revising estimates for this year, but they won’t be ready for another month or so,” Okonjo-Iweala added.

A spate of attacks by Yemeni rebels on Red Sea shipping has disrupted the vital trade route while the worst drought in decades to hit the Panama Canal has forced authorities to slow transits.

Yemen’s Huthi rebels say their strikes are in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

The attacks have, however, also caused shipping companies to avoid the Suez Canal.

The Hamas attack on October 7 resulted in the death of around 1,140 people in Israel, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

More than 24,400 Palestinians, around 70 percent of them women, young children and adolescents, have been killed in the Gaza Strip in Israeli bombardments and ground offensive since October 7, according to the Hamas government’s Ministry of Health.

 

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