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Q&A: Femicides, Domestic Violence and Online Violence Have Been Exacerbated



Gladys Acosta, a Peruvian lawyer and sociologist who is the chair of the CEDAW Committee, considered the fundamental charter of women’s rights in the world, stands on a stretch of the Costa Verde boardwalk in Lima after her interview with IPS. The Convention celebrated its 40th anniversary in September 2021. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPSby Mariela Jara (lima)Friday, December 10, 2021Inter Press Service

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) celebrated its 40th anniversary in September of this year as the binding legal tool for women’s rights for all 189 states parties.

Acosta, a Peruvian feminist lawyer and sociologist, chairs the Committee of 23 independent experts with four-year mandates to monitor the implementation of the Convention.

After an intense period of sessions, Acosta is in Lima and will return in 2022 to her duties in Geneva, where the Committee operates, to finish her term. Until then, she will enjoy her view of the Pacific Ocean and the soothing murmur of the waves for a few weeks.

After stating that she is not pessimistic about the future, she adds that, on the contrary, “I am very critical and pessimistic about what is happening today.”

“We are reaching the limit of an era that is in its death throes because the level of injustice in the world cannot go on like this,” said the expert, who has previously held senior regional positions in United Nations agencies.

Among the issues addressed in her conversation with IPS, Acosta mentioned the importance of analyzing gender-based violence as part of the systemic discrimination against women, and said the pandemic is marking a before and after not only in relation to this problem, but also a change of era where the question of caring for people becomes much more of a priority.

IPS: Do you consider that the covid-19 pandemic marks a before and after in relation to discrimination against women, a step backwards in terms of achievements? Is it possible to make this interpretation?

GLADYS ACOSTA: I think that this will be the case for everything, not just for women, discrimination or human rights; I dare to think that it will be seen as a change of era. We are coming from an era with the greatest concentration of wealth in the history of the world, with a population in growing poverty, which is reaching unsustainable levels.

It is very important to develop this awareness, because we have been sold the idea that having money or buying goods is the non plus ultra of everything. We are in a post-neoliberal world and nobody knows for sure how far we have come, but we are at a breaking point because this economy based on the exploitation of territories, of people, of knowledge is a constant illicit appropriation of everything, and today with the pandemic it has come to light that human beings need care.

This has become a central focus and has been put on the agenda; the pandemic has clearly demonstrated that the presence of this virus has been exacerbated in the absence of care.

(Acosta vehemently recalled that many years ago feminist economics proposed that the economic system could not live without women’s work, especially unpaid work. And she called for an analysis of the current situation with fresh eyes and making better connections in order to, for example, “stop looking at the growing problem of violence against women as something dislocated, a loose wheel”.)

When we in the Committee took a position regarding Nov. 25 (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women), we saw that three forms of violence have been exacerbated: femicides, domestic violence and violence online, which has become widespread.

So, yes, there are some new things, but it is very clear that we have not resolved the basic forms of discrimination that are at the basis of society, which include social, political, economic, racial and cultural violence – and in places where there are castes: caste-based violence. There is a discriminatory base that is at its peak and I think it is a serious moment of very unequal and very unjust power relations that I view with great concern.

IPS: At the moment you describe, there is resistance put up by different population groups – young people, feminists, indigenous people – but it is difficult to bring them together in a concerted effort, as seen in Peru and other Latin American countries. Is this a great challenge?

GA: We are living in a highly conflictive time, it is not that we are being swept away by a right wing with no resistance. No. We are in a time of open conflict between political sectors, economic sectors, social sectors and there is a very clear resistance. And I am thinking on a global level, more globally as part of the Committee, not only with regard to what is happening in Peru. The environmental crises are very serious and covid has to do with that.

This is not an epidemic that can be seen as detached from human aggression against nature. Environmental crises accelerated in the twentieth century due to the model of industrialization, production and economic development. Now they are trying to reverse the situation, but global agreements are not easy and do not bear the desired fruits quickly because there are enormous economic interests involved.

Interests that are prepared to kill the planet! They say: “What does it matter, in thirty years we won’t be here.” Just like that, with an atrocious pragmatism. And within these environmental conflicts, we women bear the brunt.

Secondly, there is the social conflict that takes place within and outside these circumstances. And there is an atmosphere of conflict, I would say violent, armed, in different parts of the world and it has to do with this madness of arms production, because this is a war-economic model that produces and sells arms left and right.

And the big countries, even those that seem very democratic and progressive – and I say this because I see it in the Committee – are big producers of arms and sell them to countries that have conflicts and this has repercussions on women’s lives.

(Acosta explained that the Committee would address this problem with arms-producing nations and expects the resistance movement to grow. “The problem I find is that this perversity in the economy is unfortunately linked to a dominance in mass media and with a top-level technology. And I think that these elements, which are more macro, have to be included in the analysis of women’s issues”.)

Gladys Acosta sits on Lima’s malecon or boardwalk after an intense year as chair of the CEDAW Committee, made up of 23 independent experts who monitor compliance with the Convention against all forms of discrimination against women. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

IPS: Ecofeminists warn of the risk to the sustainability of life, indigenous peoples warn of the threat to nature as long as there are weak or complicit States. How does the Committee contribute to this reflection?

GA: First of all, States still exist. Although the economic power of transnational corporations is enormous, this is the sphere in which we move, we discuss with the States Parties, of which there are 189 in this Convention, in an interesting dynamic of pressure to respect international human rights standards, among which international standards for the protection of women’s rights are very important.

Women’s rights have an enormous connection with the sustainability of life, but not from an essentialist point of view. You brought up the issue of indigenous peoples and it seems to me that in many ways we are discussing a general recommendation on the rights of indigenous women and girls. There is an ancestral indigenous wisdom, especially that of women, which must be protected in a more effective sense.

There is an enormous knowledge about nature, food, seeds and seed reproduction; knowledge about how nature is suffering – they know the symptoms of this suffering and how we could do things differently. It is knowledge that has been handed down through the generations and that fortunately still exists and must be protected.

IPS: In another interview with IPS, in 2009, when you were regional representative of the predecessor organization of UN Women, you said that policies should not see women as a vulnerable sector; do you think there has been progress against that vision described as paternalistic?

GA: I would say there are both. It seems to me that the mobilization today in the world in favor of women’s rights is much more powerful, broader and more political. I think that in different countries you find everything, equality policies that have been very positive and that have opened the way for greater respect of women’s rights and greater access to education, university and work.

I would even say that the issue of parity has advanced despite the fact that something that worries me is also appearing, which is that some very retrograde sectors are taking advantage of the issue and want to make it their own when in reality the only thing they are looking for is more power for themselves. Women end up being nothing more than decorative elements within their political stance.

(Acosta highlighted in this context the emergence of younger movements, of young people who demand more power, and who have more vision about which direction to take than adults and older people, and said she had confidence in these movements, while clarifying that she meant the ones that take a “critical stance”.)

That is why I am not pessimistic about the future. I am very critical and pessimistic about what is happening today, but I do not think that this will remain the same. That is why I say that we are reaching the limit of an era that is in its death throes because the level of injustice in the world cannot go on like this.

This is going to explode and hopefully the damage to people will be minimal. But I know that the level of conflict will not remain unchanged.

© Inter Press Service (2021) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service


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From Milan to Glasgow, Young Moroccans Commit to Fighting Climate Change



A new way to recycle large amounts of coffee grounds; a platform connecting young African activists; technology to produce electricity from ocean waves or recycle plastic. A new energy-efficient construction method – an innovative carpooling app. 

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Health Workers Lauded for Role in Leprosy Treatment During Pandemic



Yohei Sasakawa, WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination and Chairperson of the Nippon Foundation, thanks participants at a webinar ‘Raising Awareness about Leprosy, Role of Health Professionals at the Grassroots Level’ organized by the Sasakawa Leprosy Initiative. He is with other participants from Japan, India and Nepal in the “Don’t Forget Leprosy” campaign event. by Joyce Chimbi (nairobi, kenya)Thursday, January 20, 2022Inter Press Service

Sasakawa, the WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination and Chairman of the Nippon Foundation, was speaking at a webinar ‘Raising Awareness about Leprosy, Role of Health Professionals at the Grassroots Level’ organized by the Sasakawa Leprosy Initiative.

A leprosy-free world was one where “patients and those cured of leprosy live free of discrimination and, people around them will be free of the misunderstanding, ignorance and fear that perpetuate discrimination”, he told the webinar.

Sasakawa Leprosy Initiative is a strategic alliance between WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, the Nippon Foundation and Sasakawa Health Foundation for achieving a world without leprosy and problems related to the disease. The initiative spearheaded a campaign, “Don’t Forget Leprosy”, to raise awareness about the condition in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

The WHO Goodwill Ambassador envisions a post-COVID world where those affected by leprosy will be liberated from such stigma and discrimination in keeping with human rights.

Sasakawa says this world is now at risk of delaying leprosy elimination due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as there was a 37 percent drop in reported new cases and leprosy programs in many countries have stalled or scaled back.

Participants heard about the role of health professionals in combating leprosy, recognition of this role and the successes and challenges faced in addressing leprosy during the ongoing health pandemic.

Their role, Sasakawa said, was a central pillar to the vision of a leprosy free world as it helps reduce transmission and disability.

An estimated three to four million people live with some form of disability caused by leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease.

“The ‘Don’t Forget Leprosy’ is a global campaign because our voices alone are not enough. Stopping leprosy requires (the involvement of) all of us, from India and Nepal to all other countries around the world,” he said.

Dr Rashmi Shukla outlined efforts in India to identify and treat patients with leprosy. He was speaking at a webinar ‘Raising Awareness about Leprosy, Role of Health Professionals at the Grassroots Level’ organized by the Sasakawa Leprosy Initiative. Credit: Joyce Chimbi/IPS

Dinesh Basnet, Central President of the International Association for Integration, Dignity and Economic Advancement (IDEA) in Nepal, said he was happy to see progress in recent years.

“More so Nepal’s efforts to track and eliminate leprosy. Even during the pandemic, detection and treatment interventions were uninterrupted, and this has been possible due to government commitment and unrelenting efforts of health professionals,” said Basnet.

“People affected by leprosy were not forgotten as communication continued through WhatsApp groups, and this was critical during the lockdown.”

Dr Indra Napit, a senior Orthopedic Surgeon at Anandaban Hospital, Nepal, spoke about innovative technology in the trial of Autologous Blood products to promote ulcer healing in Leprosy. He added that a new drug was on trial to manage reactions to this form of treatment at this leprosy mission.

In a video message, Birodh Khatiwada, Nepal’s Minister of Health and Population, spoke of Nepal’s undisrupted program to address leprosy, including the continued supply of leprosy medication despite the pandemic.

He says Nepal has already prepared the National Leprosy Roadmap, 2021-2030, National Leprosy Strategy 2021-2025, in line with the Global Leprosy Strategy, Neglected Tropical Diseases Roadmap and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Sasakawa emphasized that it was indeed the ultimate goal for India and other affected countries worldwide to reach zero leprosy cases by 2030.

Despite challenges in the fight to eliminate leprosy, a ray of hope shines through, with Anju Sharma sharing good practices in case finding in India amid the ongoing health pandemic.

Sharma is an accredited Social Health Activist and is considered a driving force behind India’s public health system and an essential link between the community and the public health system.

“Screening for leprosy during the pandemic is much more difficult. As COVID-19 cases increase, so does my responsibilities because I have to strictly follow COVID-19 protocols, and this takes a lot of time,” Sharma explained.

“Due to the pandemic, people are hesitant about getting screened. But I reassure them that protocols will be observed and remind them that failure to detect and treat leprosy can lead to disability.”

Dr Venkata Ranganadha Rao Pemmaraju, acting team leader, WHO Global Leprosy Programme, emphasized that discussing the role of health workers was critical, and hearing from those in the frontlines helps efforts to eliminate the pandemic move forward.

WHO, he said, subscribes to the Don’t Forget Leprosy campaign. He lauded ongoing efforts to sustain counselling for those affected by leprosy and those who tracked and managed Nepal-India cross border leprosy cases despite challenges COVID-19 protocols like restrictions on movement and lockdowns.

Dinesh Basnet, a person affected by leprosy thanked health care workers and others for their efforts in eliminating the disease. He was talking at a webinar ‘Raising Awareness about Leprosy, Role of Health Professionals at the Grassroots Level’ organized by the Sasakawa Leprosy Initiative. Credit: Joyce Chimbi/IPS

Similarly, Dr Rabindra Baskota, the Leprosy Control and Disability Management Section director in Nepal’s Ministry of Health and Population, confirmed that health workers had been relentless to find new cases, raising awareness on leprosy and treating patients despite ongoing challenges.

“Still, there is a need to train community health workers to detect new cases and manage reactions to leprosy treatment even as older and more experienced health workers retire,” he said.

Dr Anil Kumar, the deputy director-general (Leprosy) in India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, who spoke about good practices in combating leprosy said that a leprosy-free India was not very far off.

Despite a notable decline in screening and detecting cases due to COVID-19, he said critical interventions were nonetheless rolled out, and that leprosy-related services continued at the grassroots level.

“Migrant labourers were screened for leprosy at point of return to home districts and patients on treatment tracked. Treatment defaulters were cross notified based on the address in treatment record,” Kumar said.

“A WhatsApp group titled Leprosy Action Group was created for cross notification, and members included state leprosy officers and partners. Supportive supervision and monitoring up to sub-district level using virtual platforms continues.”

Executive Director of the Sasakawa Health Foundation, Dr Takahiro Nanri, moderated a panel discussion that included a session to further shed light on additional support needed to achieve leprosy elimination milestones.

Sasakawa suggested that health workers’ training included human rights, and the panel lauded health workers for their passionate and proactive steps to eliminate the disease.

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© Inter Press Service (2022) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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Ominous History in Real Time: Where We Are Now in the USA



US President Joseph R. Biden Jr. addresses the general debate of the UN General Assembly’s 76th session last year. In his inaugural address to the annual gathering of world leaders at the UN, Biden called for a new era of global unity against the compounding crises of COVID-19, climate change and insecurity. Credit: UN Photo/Cia PakOpinion by Norman Solomon (san francisco, usa)Monday, January 17, 2022Inter Press Service

Dollar figures can look abstract on a screen, but they indicate the extent of the mania. Biden had asked for “only” $12 billion more than President Trump’s bloated military budget of the previous year — but that wasn’t enough for the bipartisan hawkery in the House and Senate, which provided a boost of $37 billion instead.

Overall, military spending accounts for about half of the federal government’s total discretionary spending — while programs for helping instead of killing are on short rations at many local, state, and national government agencies. It’s a nonstop trend of reinforcing the warfare state in sync with warped neoliberal priorities. While outsized profits keep benefiting the upper class and enriching the already obscenely rich, the cascading effects of extreme income inequality are drowning the hopes of the many.

Corporate power constrains just about everything, whether healthcare or education or housing or jobs or measures for responding to the climate emergency. What prevails is the political structure of the economy.

Class war in the United States has established what amounts to oligarchy. A zero-sum economic system, aka corporate capitalism, is constantly exercising its power to reward and deprive. The dominant forces of class warfare — disproportionately afflicting people of color while also steadily harming many millions of whites — continue to undermine basic human rights including equal justice and economic security.

In the real world, financial power is political power. A system that runs on money is adept at running over people without it.

The words “I can’t breathe,” repeated nearly a dozen times by Eric Garner in a deadly police chokehold, resonated for countless people whose names we’ll never know. The intersections of racial injustice and predatory capitalism are especially virulent zones, where many lives gradually or suddenly lose what is essential for life.

Discussions of terms like “racism” and “poverty” too easily become facile, abstracted from human consequences, while unknown lives suffocate at the hands of routine injustice, systematic cruelties, the way things predictably are.

An all-out war on democracy is now underway in the United States. More than ever, the Republican Party is the electoral arm of unabashed white supremacy as well as such toxicities as xenophobia, nativism, anti-gay bigotry, patriarchy, and misogyny.

The party’s rigid climate denial is nothing short of deranged. Its approach to the Covid pandemic has amounted to an embrace of death in the name of rancid individualism. With its Supreme Court justices in place, the “Grand Old Party” has methodically slashed voting rights and abortion rights.

Overall, on domestic matters, the partisan matchup is between neoliberalism and neofascism. While the abhorrent roles of the Democratic leadership are extensive, to put it mildly, the two parties now represent hugely different constituencies and agendas at home. Not so on matters of war and peace.

Both parties continue to champion what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the madness of militarism.” When King described the profligate spending for a distant war as “some demonic, destructive suction tube,” he was condemning dynamics that endure with a vengeance.

Today, the madness and the denial are no less entrenched. A militaristic core serves as a sacred touchstone for faith in America as the world’s one and only indispensable nation. Gargantuan Pentagon budgets are taken for granted, as is the assumed prerogative to bomb other countries at will.

Every budget has continued to include massive outlays for nuclear weapons, including gigantic expenditures for so-called “modernization” of the nuclear arsenal. A fact that this book cited when it was first published — that the United States had ten thousand nuclear warheads and Russia had a comparable number — is no longer true; most estimates say those stockpiles are now about half as large.

But the current situation is actually much more dangerous. In 2007, the Doomsday Clock maintained by The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists pegged the world’s proximity to annihilation at five minutes to apocalyptic Midnight.

As 2022 began, the symbolic hands were at one hundred seconds to Midnight. Such is the momentum of the nuclear arms race, fueled by profit-driven military contractors. Lofty rhetoric about seeking peace is never a real brake on the nationalistic thrust of militarism.

With the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the third decade of this century is shaping up to unfold new wrinkles in American hegemonic conceits. Along the way, Joe Biden has echoed a central precept of doublethink in George Orwell’s most famous novel, 1984: “War is Peace.”

Speaking at the United Nations as the autumn of 2021 began, Biden proclaimed: “I stand here today, for the first time in twenty years, with the United States not at war. We’ve turned the page.” But the turned page was bound into a volume of killing with no foreseeable end.

The United States remained at war, bombing in the Middle East and elsewhere, with much information withheld from the public. And increases in U.S. belligerence toward both Russia and China escalated the risks of a military confrontation that could lead to nuclear war.

A rosy view of the USA’s future is only possible when ignoring history in real time. After four years of the poisonous Trump presidency, the Biden strain of corporate liberalism offers a mix of antidotes and ongoing toxins. The Republican Party, now neofascist, is in a strong position to gain control of the U.S. government by mid-decade.

Preventing such a cataclysm seems beyond the grasp of the same Democratic Party elites that paved the way for Donald Trump to become president in the first place. Realism about the current situation — clarity about how we got here and where we are now — is necessary to mitigate impending disasters and help create a better future. Vital truths must be told. And acted upon.

This article is adapted from the new edition of Norman Solomon’s book “Made Love, Got War,” just published as a free e-book.

Norman Solomon is the national director of and the author of a dozen books including Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America’s Warfare State, published in a new edition as a free e-book in January 2022. His other books include War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He was a Bernie Sanders delegate from California to the 2016 and 2020 Democratic National Conventions. Solomon is the founder and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

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© Inter Press Service (2022) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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