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For better or worse, we’ll get back to being ourselves after COVID-19

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Amid our self-isolations, quarantines, and lockdowns in the face of COVID-19, the earth is breathing a sigh of relief. We have been fighting for its resources and disrupting its ecosystem, thinking we are making it more livable. While doing so, we killed millions of people and made many of the species extinct that shared the planet with us.

Now with the wars on hold and factories shut, the killing has stopped and skies are so clear as if the industrial revolution never took place. Warships are docking and belligerents on all sides of conflicts are implementing measures to contain the coronavirus.

But like past pandemics, this one, too, will be over. Development of vaccines and our herd immunity is just months away, after which we will revert to being ourselves. With livelihoods at stake, factories will gear into action as soon as there is the slightest respite from the virus.

Earth’s lungs will forthwith resume inhaling the emissions from these factories’ chimneys. Just as COVID-19, in its most extreme case, collapses lungs of those with depressed immunity, we will once again set out to test earth’s ability to fight the invasive nature of our manufacturing methods.

The desire for reigniting economic growth will surpass all other objectives since that is how the global economic model has been built. With the demand for higher production at the lowest possible cost, environmental protection is hardly catered for in the matrix. The compromise on our planet’s health is the highest cost excessive industrialization pays.

Profits will retake their place above everything else – over the sustainability of businesses, over the wellbeing of people. Caring for the environment will return to being somebody else’s problem who can, supposedly, reverse all effects of our pillaging, even if responsible countries withdraw from commitments like the Paris Accord on climate change.

That is one fallacy of multipartisan systems where a completely new set of policies and ideals have to take over every four years or so. Politicians in such frameworks are compelled to deliver immediate results, brushing aside longterm effects of their decisions. What happens after their tenure concludes, is supposed to be somebody else’s problem.

Apart from the war with our planet, we will also resume wars with each other. The new coronavirus, an invisible but common enemy of mankind, has put these conflicts on pause and given us an opportunity to reflect upon their rationale. The decision to press the play button will remain to be ours.

How long will it take for us to appreciate the virus’s inability to distinguish between the right and the wrong side in a war is a question of debate. Some countries, with bloated militaries, will continue to ignore our shared vulnerabilities despite gaining a first-hand experience of getting infected. In all likelihood, their fixation on solving the world’s problems with force will not heal.

To run our industries, we will keep competing for resources. Like village neighbors sparring over a passing stream of water, global conflicts seldom take the course of arbitration. The arrangement of international governance will perpetuate giving the right to the might.

Then there are the blows over ideologies that will continue to be exchanged. We had not learned to accept the viability of multiple political systems before the outbreak, nor are we expected of doing so any time soon.

Ideological battles historically emanated from religious differences. By the early twentieth century, they shifted to the capitalist vs communist tussle during the Cold War. Today the feud persists as a mix of quest for religious and political dominance.

Perceiving the COVID-19 threat as existential, most of the world has put ideological disagreements behind. Nations with all kinds of societal systems are assisting each other as the pandemic engulfs one after another. Once this threat departs, we risk getting back to subverting each other over our differing schools of thought.

Besides the bleak future painted above, there definitely is a silver lining. Social engagement that we took for granted in our daily lives was the first casualty of the contagion. Immediately after surmounting this challenge, there will be a boom in social activity as we will rush to meet our dear ones.

This is a classic example of realizing the value of something once it’s gone. Isolation has had a significant impact on our mental states. Achieving a level of normalcy would require getting near to people, spending time with those we missed, and, most importantly, going outdoors.

Past pandemics did not radically alter the collective human behavior. This one isn’t expected to either. For better or for worse, we will get back to being ourselves. Though by confining us to our homes, Mother Nature has given us a chance to come out of this calamity with a resolve of making a positive change.

Iram Khan is a Pakistan-based commentator on international and commercial affairs. She holds a Masters degree in Psychology and regularly contributes to news outlets with op-ed articles. She tweets at @IramKhanISB.

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New Social Compact

Child Abuse & Legal System

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In world where the population is high, crime rate is higher. China has a separate system because China has a large population but the laws are so strict that people are afraid to commit crimes. Legal System of Punishments in China is strict . The recent example in china is during COVID 19. People in China during lockdown was following the laws so strictly. On the other hand the situation in all others countries was very clear.

In countries where the punishments are harsher and deterrent, there is a reduction in crimes. Whereas in countries where the punishments are softer, people do not stop committing crimes.

When we discuss about the Punishments in Islamic Legal System , In Islamic law and the Qur’an there are severe punishments in heinous offenses. In Islam, it has always been the case that if a person commits a major crime, he should be punished in such a way that he becomes a lesson for others and people learn from it.It is in Islam that if someone steals, his hands will be cut off, then no one will ever dare to steal. Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) said that if my daughter Fatima also stole, I would cut off her hands.

Legal System of Pakistan , If the punishment is severe then the crime will decrease, if the punishment is not severe then the crime will increase day by day. In our country’s legal system Islamic law exist but No proper implementation is there. We mostly follow the principles of the common law for punishment.

The Pakistan Penal Code deals with punishments in criminal cases. Its origin is from the Indian Penal Code which is dated back to the 1860. When Pakistan came into being they renamed this enactment as Pakistan Panel Code. In fact, the origin of the mentioned punishments in the said enactment have basis from the Common Law System which was the system of British Government in the 19th Century. When  British Government was ruling over the Indo-Pak subcontinent, they made these laws in the beginning.

The Indian Penal Code was the basic legislation made in the 1860. Later on in 1898 the Code of Criminal Procedure was enacted also. Now in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh the same law is the basic criminal law with certain amendments. These laws have been changed a little bit, but their basic laws are the same and it is still implemented to a greater extent.

Example :According to section 377 of Pakistan Penal Code the unnatural offences are defined in a way that they are related to unnatural lust. If a man tries to have sex with a man and even if he tries to have sex with a child, his sentence is 10 years imprisonment. So if an offender wishes to abuse a child with a fear that if he is caught, he will be imprisoned, he will never commit such offense. Similarly if he knows that he will be released in little span of time on bail by getting the consent from the child’s family and by settling the matter by giving them some money, he may commit the offense without any fear. He may commit the same offense again and again.

Conclusion:It is important to create deterrence in punishments especially in heinous offenses so that people have fear of committing them. Only this way offenses can be controlled and society can be peaceful to live in.

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New Social Compact

East Africa: The status of women remains unequal at all levels of society

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For over two decades, the Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW) has been fighting for gender equality, empowerment of women and improvement of women’s rights in Kenya and broadly in East Africa. Established in 1999, CREAW has used bold, innovative and holistic interventions for the realization of women’s rights. Most of its programs have focused on challenging practices that undermine equity, equality and constitutionalism, promoting women’s participation in decision making and deepening the ideology and philosophy of women’s empowerment.

In this interview, Mercy Jelimo, an Executive Program Officer at the Nairobi-based Center for Rights, Education and Awareness (CREAW) discusses the current situation about gender issues, landmarked achievements, existing challenges and the way forward. Here are the interview excerpts:

In your estimation and from your research, how is the situation with gender inequality, specifically in Kenya, and generally in East Africa?

MJ: This survey was commissioned by our partners Women Deliver and Focus 2030 with over 17,000 respondents covering 17 countries on six continents. The survey findings indicated that over 60% of respondents believed that Gender Equality had progressed. However, on average 57% of respondents also felt that the fight for gender equality is not over particularly because we see key aspects of gender inequality persist including:  unequal distribution of unpaid care, domestic work and parental responsibilities between men and women (the COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted the burden women bear as caregivers) different employment opportunities with religion and culture continuing to entrench discrimination against women.

Whereas in East Africa, the survey only covered Kenya, the results are shared across. In particular, the Kenyan respondents indicated that there has been notable progress in regards to Gender equality particularly when it comes to the legal and policy frameworks to guard against discrimination on whichever basis be it sex, religion, class or race.

Over the last quarter century, the country has promulgated a new Constitution and a raft of subsidiary legislations and policies that are critical to Gender equality. Some of these laws include but not limited to: the Sexual Offences Act 2006, the Children’s Act 2001, the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act 2011, the Marriage Act 2014, the Protection Against Domestic Violence Act 2015, the Victim Protection Act 2014, the Witness Protection Act 2008, the National Policy for Prevention and Response to Gender-Based Violence 2014, the National Guidelines on the Management of Sexual Violence 2015, the Multi-sector Standard Operating Procedures for Prevention and Response to Gender Based Violence, and the National Policy on the Eradication of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) 2019.

Kenya has also ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol), the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, among other instruments. However, even with this robust legal framework, accountability and the implementation of these laws have lagged behind.

The status of women and girls as compared to men and boys still remains unequal at all levels of society both public and private. This imbalance manifests itself as normalized negative social norms and ‘cultural’ practices with brutal violations against women and girls continuing to be perpetrated, women being excluded from leadership and decision making  positions, limited in their political participation and women and girls being denied access to economic opportunities.

Undeniably, women and girls continue to be victims of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) including rape, domestic violence, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriage. In fact, as of March 2020, according to statistics from Kenya’s Gender Violence Recovery Centre (GVRC), 45% of women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 have experienced either physical or sexual violence with women with girls accounting for 90% of gender-based violence (SGBV) cases reported. Harmful practices such as FGM and child marriage are still prevalent, with the Kenya Demographic Health Survey (2014) reporting a national FGM prevalence rate of 21% for women and girls aged 15-49 years of age. The prevalence rate differs from one practicing community to the other, with communities such Somali (96%) Samburu (86%) and The Maasai (78%) having significantly higher prevalence. 

Sadly, this is the story across all the other countries in East Africa where we have progressive legal and Policy framework but with zero accountability mechanisms. It is worth noting that in 2018, the East Africa Community Council of Ministers approved the EAC Gender policy which is key to ensuring that gender equality and empowerment of women are not only integrated into every aspect of its work but provides an outline of key priority areas for partner states. The EAC has also instituted other gender mainstreaming efforts including the EAC Social Development framework (2013), the EAC child policy (2016) the EAC Youth policy (2013), a Gender Mainstreaming Strategy for EAC Organs and Institutions, (2013) amongst others.

By the way, what are your research findings that you presented in report on Jan 28? Are there any similarities and differences about gender studies in other East Africa countries?

MJ: The key findings from Kenya can generally be used to paint a picture of the situation in the EAC region. Apparent Gender disparities in the region remain in a number of areas such as in political representation, access to education and training, access to quality and affordable healthcare, high unemployment rates of women, rampant sexual and gender-based violence, harmful cultural practices, inadequate financing for gender needs and programs. 

Firstly, when asked about the status of Gender Equality, the majority of respondents identified Gender Equality as an important issue (96%) and that government should do more (invest) to promote gender equality.

Secondly, the role of religion and culture; how boys and girls are socialized and unequal representation were identified as obstacles to gender equality. This finding indicates the work that still remains to be done for Gender equality actors in Kenya and other partner states in the EAC. The most important step to achieving gender equality is dismantling systems and structures that promote and protect inequalities. whereas the country has made tremendous progress in having relevant legal and policy frameworks, there is still lack of implementation of these laws – this finding answers the why question– because institutions, people and structures are still very patriarchal. Furthermore, the lack of representation of women (also cited by Kenyan respondents as an obstacle) might explain the failures in implementation of the laws and policies.

Thirdly, the respondents identified corruption as the most important issue facing the country. This finding is also supported by the 2019 Global Corruption Barometer – Africa survey that showed that more than half of citizens in the continent think graft is getting worse and that governments were doing very little to curb the vice.  The impact that corruption has on service delivery cannot be overemphasized especially on public goods such as healthcare, education, water and sanitation. More specifically, is the resulting lack of public financing to programs and interventions that address gender needs & promote gender equality.

A recent Corruption Perception Index (CPI) Report by Transparency International indicated that all the countries in East Africa with the exception of Rwanda scored below the global average rate of 43 out of 100. More importantly is that the report noted that countries that perform well on the CPI have strong enforcement of campaign finance regulations as this correlates with the dismal performance of women in politics who often than not do not have the requisite political funding to mount effective political campaigns and outcompete their male counterparts.

What would you say about discrimination or representation of women in politics in the region? Do you feel that women are not strongly encouraged in this political sphere?

MJ: There has been significant progress when it comes to women’s political representation and participation with a majority of the countries in the EAC region adopting constitutional quotas and other remedies to promote representation. All the countries in the East Africa Community have achieved the 30% critical mass with the exception of Kenya (21%) and South Sudan (28%). More women occupy ministerial portfolios that were perceived to be the preserve of men such as defense, foreign affairs, manufacturing, trade, public service and so forth. Not to miss that the leading country globally – Rwanda is from the region (63%).

However, most institutions including parliaments are still male dominated and women in the region still face a number of challenges including violence against women in politics, religious and cultural beliefs and norms that limit women role, lack of support from political parties, lack of campaign financing and unregulated campaign financing environment with the progressive legal and policy frameworks yet to be fully implemented. These challenges continue to limit the representation and participation of women in public and  political sphere. The region is yet to have a woman as a president just to illustrate the glass ceilings that remain.

Tell us about how women are perceived (public opinion) in the society there? How is the state or government committed to change this situation, most probably by enacting policies?

MJ: “Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget and I ‘ll tell you what you value” This quote by President Joe Biden aptly captures the state of affairs in the region in relation to gender equality. The countries in the region have continued to enact and reform legal and policy frameworks but have largely remain unimplemented. The primary reasons being lack of financial and accountability mechanisms to ensure that these programs and policies are actualized. For us to reach to the conclusion that governments are committed to promoting gender equality and women empowerment, we need to see a shift from lip service to prioritization and adequate resourcing of programs that advance gender equality.

What platforms are there for improving gender equality, for ending gender-based violence and for discussing forms of discrimination there? Do you suggest governments have to act now to accelerate issues and progress on gender equality in East Africa?

MJ: As Deliver for Good Campaign partners in Kenya together with other gender equality advocates, the Sustainable Development Goals and Africa Agenda 2063 provide important blueprints to developing our society economically, socially and politically. The Deliver for Good campaign is an evidence-based advocacy campaigns that call for better policies, programming and financial investments in girls and women. Most importantly, the Generation Equality Forum (GEF) is an important mobilization moment to ask governments and private sector to accelerate progress not just in East Africa but globally. Specifically, we will be using this moment to call on governments, not only make bigger and bolder commitments but also, to ensure that they match these commitments with financing and accountability mechanisms.

As the Deliver for Good campaign partners in Kenya, we have a particular interest on one of the GEF Action Coalitions – Gender Based Violence – to leverage on the Kenyan government leadership and the political will to end traditional practices that are harmful to women and girls such as Female Genital Mutilation and Child Marriage. Particularly and in line with the survey findings, we will be calling for: increased accountability for physical and sexual crimes against women; increased investment on prevention and protection programs while calling for inclusive efforts and programs that leave no woman behind in Kenya and East Africa.

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New Social Compact

RUSAL Receives Guinea’s Best Company Awards For Fight Against COVID-19

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Russian Aluminium, a leading global aluminium producer, announced early February that its representative office in Guinea was awarded the Guinea Best Company Awards for its contribution to the fight against COVID-19 and socially responsible policy during the pandemic.

Since 2010, the Guinea Best Company Awards have been presented annually by the Think Tank of COPE-Guinée (Coordination of Guinean non-governmental organizations for the promotion of excellence) to 50 enterprises in Guinea and West Africa that have demonstrated significant achievements across various fields such as industry, economics and public life.

Assessing the results of 2020, the COPE-Guinée named Alexander Larionov, RUSAL General Director in Guinea, among the top 50 managers of commercial enterprises in the region. The results were based on indicators such as compliance with high standards of Corporate Social Responsibility during the pandemic, including the preservation of jobs, wages, social payments, investment projects, as well as the special contribution of enterprises to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Guinea.

The award ceremony was held in Conakry under the chairmanship of the High Representative of the Head of State, Claude Kory Kondiano, who noted in his speech: “Entrepreneurs and businessmen play a leading role in the development of Guinea, which has made significant progress in many areas over the past 10 years under the leadership of President Alpha Conde. Today’s ceremony is a great opportunity to pay tribute to the best of those who create jobs and support the national well-being of our country.”

Commenting on the RUSAL management in Guinea’s award for its achievements in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility and the fight against COVID-19, Yakov Itskov, Director of RUSAL’s Alumina Business, said: “For 20 years, RUSAL has been successfully developing its business in Guinea and has always helped the country’s residents in difficult times. In 2015, we built a state-of-the-art epidemiology center in Guinea to fight the Ebola epidemic, and in 2020, we opened another multi-functional infectious disease treatment center to counter COVID-19. We will continue to provide systematic support to Guinean healthcare, guided by the principles of social responsibility of business.”

In addition, in July 2020, RUSAL delivered medical humanitarian cargo intended to combat the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic. The cargo included dozens of medicines, as well as modern medical equipment and consumables for the treatment of patients with coronavirus. In November 2020, RUSAL supplied two new ambulances to Guinea, both equipped for providing emergency medical care and resuscitation of patients, including ventilators.

RUSAL was the first private company to assist Africa in fighting against the spread of dangerous infections. During the Ebola epidemic outbreak in Kindia in 2015, RUSAL built the Centre for Epidemic and Microbiological Research and Treatment (CEMRT). The center has since been acknowledged nationally as one of the sites for the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 in Guinea, and received the first patients with coronavirus. In June 2020, the new multifunctional medical center for the treatment of infectious diseases was constructed in Fria.

RUSAL has been operating in the Republic of Guinea since 2001, and remains as one of the largest international investors in the country. In Guinea, RUSAL owns Compagnie des Bauxites de Kindia (CBK), as well as the Friguia bauxite and alumina production facility. In addition, RUSAL is continuing with the implementation of a project aimed at developing the world’s largest bauxite deposit Dian-Dian in Boke. The proven reserves of this field amount to 564 million tons.

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