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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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India suspends visas for Canadians

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India has suspended visa services for Canadian citizens amid an escalating row over the killing of a Sikh separatist on Canadian soil.

Visa service provider BLS posted a message from India’s mission blaming “operational reasons” for the decision.

Tensions flared this week after Canada said it was investigating “credible allegations” linking India with the murder of the separatist leader.

India angrily rejected the allegation calling it “absurd”.

Analysts say relations between the countries, which have been strained for months, are now at an all-time low.

The message about the suspension of visas was first posted on the BLS website on Thursday.

“Important notice from Indian Mission: Due to operational reasons, with effect from 21 September 2023, Indian visa services have been suspended till further notice,” it read.

India’s foreign ministry refused to comment on the matter and asked the BBC to refer to the BLS website.

The move comes a day after India issued an advisory urging its citizens travelling to or living in Canada to “exercise utmost caution” in view of the “growing anti-India activities and politically-condoned hate crimes and criminal violence in Canada”.

Canada has 1.4 million people of Indian origin, making up 3.7% of the country’s population, according to the 2021 census. India also sends the highest number of international students to Canada – in 2022, they made up 40% of total overseas students at 320,000.

(BBC News)

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One in 10 people now aged 80 or older

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For the first time ever, more than one in 10 people in Japan are now aged 80 or older.

National data also shows 29.1% of the 125 million population is aged 65 or older- a record.

Japan has one of the lowest birth-rates in the world and has long struggled with how to provide for its ageing population.

It has the world’s oldest population, measured by the proportion of people aged 65 or up, the United Nations says.

That proportion stands at 24.5% in Italy and 23.6% in Finland, which rank second and third respectively.

In Japan, those aged over 65 are expected to account for 34.8% of the population by 2040, according to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.

The country’s elderly employment rate is among the highest across major economies – workers aged 65 or more make up more than 13% of the national workforce.

But this has done little to relieve the burden on the country’s social security spending.

Japan has approved a record budget for the next fiscal year, in part due to rising social security costs.

Efforts to boost its birth rates have also met with little success amid the growing cost of living, and notoriously long working hours.

Birth rates are slowing in many countries, including Japan’s neighbours, but the problem is particularly acute in Japan.

The country was estimated to have had fewer than 800,000 babies born last year – the lowest number since records began in the 19th century.

In the 1970s, that figure was more than two million.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in January that his country is on the brink of not being able to function as a society because of its declining birth rate.

However authorities remain hesitant about accepting migrant workers as a solution to falling fertility.

Other countries in Asia are facing similar demographic challenges.

Last year, China’s population fell for the first time since 1961, while South Korea has reported the lowest fertility rate in the world.

(BBC News)

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UK to ban American bully XL dogs

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The British government has announced steps to outlaw the American bully XL by the end of the year.

The American bully XL  is a popular breed that likely descended from pit bulls.

The ban was announced after a string of dog attacks that caused outrage on social media last week.

PM Rishi Sunak said it was clear the American XL bullies were “a danger to communities” and a ban was needed.

He added that experts and police will work together to “accurately define the breed” and powers will be used in the Dangerous Dogs Act.

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