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Male Afghan UN workers stay home in solidarity after Taliban bans female staff

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Afghan men working for the United Nations in Kabul will stay home in solidarity with their female colleagues after the Taliban prohibited Afghan women from working for the global organization, according to a senior UN official.

Ramiz Alakbarov, the UN Deputy Special Representative, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, called the Taliban’s decision an “unparalleled violation of human rights.”

“The lives of Afghanistan women are at stake,” he said, adding, “It is not possible to reach women without women.”

International UN staff in Afghanistan will stay at their posts, he added.

The UN said on Wednesday that it had been notified by the Taliban that Afghan women were no longer permitted to work for the UN in Afghanistan and that the measure would be actively enforced.

In a statement, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres demanded Afghanistan’s rulers immediately revoke the order, saying it was discriminatory and breached international human rights law.

The Taliban have increasingly restricted women’s freedoms since seizing power in 2021.

There was no immediate word from their government on why the order had been issued. Foreign female UN workers are exempt.

The UN has been working to bring humanitarian aid to 23 million people in Afghanistan, which is reeling from a severe economic and humanitarian crisis. Female workers play a vital role in on-the-ground aid operations, particularly in identifying other women in need.

“Female staff members are essential for the United Nations operations, including in the delivery of life-saving assistance,” Secretary General Mr Guterres said in a statement.

“The enforcement of this decision will harm the Afghan people, millions of whom are in need of this assistance.

(Agencies)

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Indian farmers say they will resume march to New Delhi

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Protesting Indian farmers say they will resume marching to capital Delhi this week after rejecting a government proposal to buy some crops at assured prices on a five-year contract.
The protesters began marching last week but were stopped around 200km (125 miles) from Delhi.

Since then, farmer leaders were in talks with the government on their demands.

But on Monday night, they said the offer was “not in their interest”.

The government had proposed buying pulses, maize and cotton at guaranteed floor prices – also known as Minimum Support Price or MSP – through cooperatives for five years.

But the farmers say that they will stand by their demand of a “legal guarantee for MSP on all 23 crops”.

“We appeal to the government to either resolve our issues or remove barricades and allow us to proceed to Delhi to protest peacefully,” Jagjit Singh Dallewal, a farm union leader, told local media.

They say they will resume marching from Wednesday.

Farmers form an influential voting bloc in India and and analysts say the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be keen not to anger or alienate them. His Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is seeking a third consecutive term in power in general elections this year.

Last week, authorities clashed with the protesters, firing tear gas and plastic bullets at them in a bid to halt the march. They fear a repeat of 2020, when thousands of farmers camped at Delhi’s borders for months, forcing the government to repeal controversial agricultural reforms.

The latest round of protests began on Wednesday, when farmers from Haryana and Punjab started marching to Delhi. They say the government did not keep promises made during the 2020-21 protest, and also have demands including pensions and a debt waiver.

But their most important demand is a law guaranteeing a support price for crops.

India introduced the MSP system in the 1960s – first for only wheat and later other essential crops – in a bid for food security.

Supporters of MSP say it is necessary to protect farmers against losses due to fluctuation in prices. They argue that the resulting income boost will allow farmers to invest in new technologies, improve productivity and protect cultivators from being fleeced by middlemen.

But critics say the system needs an overhaul as it is not sustainable and will be disastrous for government finances. They also say that it will be ruinous for the agricultural sector in the long run, leading to over-cultivation and storage issues.

Since last week, federal minister Piyush Goyal and other government officials had held four rounds of talks with the farmers. On Sunday, Mr Goyal told journalists that the discussions had been “positive” and that the government was devising an “out-of-the-box” solution to benefit farmers, consumers and the economy.

But on Monday, farmer leaders said they were dissatisfied with the way the talks were being held, claiming that there was no “transparency”.


(BBC News)

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Greece legalizes same-sex marriage

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Greece has become the first Christian Orthodox-majority country to legalise same-sex marriage.

Same-sex couples will now also be legally allowed to adopt children after Thursday’s 176-76 vote in parliament.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the new law would “boldly abolish a serious inequality”.

But it has divided the country, with fierce resistance led by the powerful Orthodox Church. Its supporters held a protest rally in Athens.

Many displayed banners, held crosses, read prayers and sang passages from the Bible in the capital’s Syntagma Square.

The head of the Orthodox Church, Archbishop Ieronymos, said the measure would “corrupt the homeland’s social cohesion”.

The bill needed a simple majority to pass through the 300-member parliament.

Mr Mitsotakis had championed the bill but required the support of opposition parties to get it over the line, with dozens of MPs from his centre-right governing party opposed.

“People who have been invisible will finally be made visible around us, and with them, many children will finally find their rightful place,” the prime minister told parliament during a debate ahead of the vote.

“The reform makes the lives of several of our fellow citizens better, without taking away anything from the lives of the many.”

The vote has been welcomed by LGBTQ organisations in Greece.

“This is a historic moment,” Stella Belia, the head of same-sex parents’ group Rainbow Families, told Reuters news agency. “This is a day of joy.”

Fifteen of the European Union’s 27 members have already legalised same-sex marriage. It is permitted in 35 countries worldwide.

Greece has until now lagged behind some of its European neighbours, largely because of opposition from the Church.

It is the first country in south-eastern Europe to have marriage equality.

(BBC News)

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Imran Khan’s PTI surges in Pakistani elections despite imprisonment

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Jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party is set to emerge as the leading force in Pakistan’s parliamentary elections, although falling short of an absolute majority, according to reports from Pakistani media.

As of Saturday morning, the latest vote count revealed that PTI-affiliated independent candidates had secured 99 out of the 266 seats, while Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PMLN) won 71 and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) obtained 53 seats. 

A majority requires 133 seats, leaving 43 seats yet to be determined.

Imran Khan, currently in prison, delivered an unexpected victory speech generated by artificial intelligence. 

This unprecedented move comes amidst a crackdown on the opposition, resulting in the imprisonment of Khan and several other party leaders. 

Khan faced convictions in three cases over the past two weeks, involving alleged false marriage, divulging state secrets (connected to a leaked official message he denies), and purportedly selling presents gifted by foreign leaders during his tenure as Prime Minister.

The victory for PTI has stunned many observers, as the party appeared to be in disarray due to the imprisonment of its leader and other prominent figures. Notably, PTI candidates were compelled to run as independents after the Election Commission of Pakistan stripped the party of its familiar cricket bat symbol.

In response to the unexpected results, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who initially claimed victory for PMLN, has now expressed his intention to explore forming a coalition government with the rival PPP led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of the late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

The outcome of these elections marks a pivotal moment in Pakistan’s political landscape, with the unexpected success of PTI challenging conventional expectations despite the challenges faced by its leadership. 

As the country awaits the final seat tally and potential coalition negotiations, the political future of Pakistan hangs in the balance.

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