The Telegraph – Survey reveals toll of sexual harassment faced by young women

Anne Gulland, Global health security correspondent

Kolkata – West Bengal – India, 30 January 2019. More than two thirds of girls and young women surveyed in four countries around the world have been sexually harassed over the last six months, according to a new study.

A survey of 2 560 young people aged between 14 and 21 in Brazil, Kenya, India and the UK carried out by charity ActionAid shows how sexual harassment is a global phenomenon, blighting the daily lives of young women and girls.

Nearly three quarters of the young people of both sexes surveyed had witnessed negative or offensive attitudes towards women in the last six months. And 65 per cent of girls had been sexually harassed over that period.

Examples highlighted by survey respondents included wolf whistling, catcalling (making comments of a sexual nature), negative comments about girls’ appearance, sexual jokes, sharing explicit photos online, sexting, groping, upskirting – the practice of taking a photograph up a skirt which has recently been outlawed in the UK – and being forced to kiss someone.

Despite the worldwide Me Too and Time’s Up movements which have shone a light on the sexual harassment women face in their daily lives, the survey shows that sexist and misogynistic attitudes are prevalent around the world.

The ActionAid survey found that girls in Kenya were the most likely to face harassment with 74 per cent saying they had been exposed to it in the last six months, compared to 64 per cent in Brazil, 57 per cent in India and 48 per cent in the UK.

More than one in ten (12 per cent) of even the youngest girls interviewed in the UK (aged 14 to 16) said they worried about being sexually harassed every day, the survey found. This number increased to 41 per cent among girls the same age in Brazil.

Almost two thirds of 14-16-year-old girls and boys in the UK said they had witnessed misogynistic behaviour, such as negative comments about women’s appearance or sexual jokes about girls from those around them, including from family members and friends to strangers or teachers.

Sexual harassment was more tolerated in India than in the other countries: 16 per cent of respondents in India said that being forced to kiss someone was acceptable, compared to five per cent in the other countries surveyed.

And 15 per cent of Indian respondents said that upskirting was acceptable compared to six per cent in the other countries.

In Brazil, catcalling and wolf whistling are common with around 40 per cent of respondents being subject to one or other in the last six months.

Young people predominantly believe that education is the answer.

Overall 80 per cent support education as the way to tackle harassment of girls/women, backing educating boys in schools about how to treat girls (60 per cent), educating girls in school about how to report harassment (58 per cent), educating teachers about taking accusations seriously (45 per cent) and educating parents (41 per cent).

Girish Menon, ActionAid chief executive, said: “This research shines a worrying spotlight on how many young people witness or experience sexual discrimination and harassment.

“We know from experience that misogyny is not trivial. It happens because of deep-rooted beliefs that see women and girls as worth less, that their bodies exist to exploit, and control.”

The Tribune – Don’t meddle in gurdwara affairs, SAD warns BJP

Threatens to ‘sacrifice alliance’

Aditi Tandon, Tribune News Service

New Delhi – India, 30 January 2019. The Shiromani Akali Dal on Wednesday threatened the ruling BJP of a potential breakdown of alliance if it didn’t stop interfering in the management of gurdwaras.

Akali Dal spokesperson and party lawmaker from Delhi Manjinder Singh Sirsa issued a statement here slamming the BJP for installing its own people at Takht Hazoor Saheb, Nanded, and said “the sanctity of our shrines is more important to us than positions and alliances.

If the BJP doesn’t stop interfering in gurdwaras, we will not hesitate in sacrificing our alliance.”

The Akali Dal recently petitioned BJP chief against the inclusion of three central government nominees in the management of Patna Sahib Gurdwara.

The BJP ally in Punjab is now agitating an amendment to the related laws in BJP-ruled Maharashtra, which seeks to instal a president at Takht Hazoor Saheb, Nanded.

Sirsa cited the 1959 pact between Master Tara Singh and then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to say the agreement was that the Centre won’t interfere in Sikh religious affairs.

“Sikhs across the world are agitated with this attempt of the BJP Government to capture our gurdwaras. We don’t want MP, MLA positions. We don’t want alliances. In the path of religious duty nothing matters more to us than our service to the Panth. We are constrained to warn the BJP against this interference,” Sirsa told The Tribune on Wednesday, aggravating BJP’s persisting ally troubles.

Beurs RET Metro Lines D and E – Den Haag Centraal – Spui girls in hijab – My Den Haag office !

Beurs RET Metro
30 December 2018

Waiting for RandstadRail RET Metro E

RandstadRail RET Metro E to Slinge

RandstadRail RET Metro E to Slinge

Den Haag Centraal
Tramplatform High
30 December 2018

RandstadRail TramTrain

Spui: girls in hijab
30 December 2018

When will we see a statue like this in Gent ?

My ‘office’ in Den Haag
30 December 2018

Harjinder Singh da daftar

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Man in Blue – Giani Harpreet Singh, Akal Takht Jathedar, Bats for Amendment of Sikh Gurdwaras Act

Giani Harpreet Singh, acting Jathedar of Akal Takht, said the Sikh Gurdwara Act was framed in 1925 and no amendments have been incorporated in it since then.

Ramlal Kondal

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 30 January 2019. Giani Harpreet Singh, the acting Jathedar of the Akal Takht, has mooted changes in the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925. “It’s time the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925 gets amended for the better future of the Sikh community,” Harpreet Singh told News 18 on Wednesday.

“The Indian Constitution came into force in 1950, and the Parliament has amended it many a times. Similarly, the Gurdwara Act was framed in 1925 and similar amendments should have been incorporated in it after consulting various Sikh scholars and intellectuals.

But it hasn’t happened till now,” pointed out Harpreet Singh, who also serves as the Jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib, another Sikh temporal seat situated at Talwandi Sabo in Bathinda, Punjab.

“It is necessary for the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) to emerge as an even larger and better organisation of the Sikhs on a global stage,” he added.

A day earlier, similar sentiment echoed at the one-day workshop in Ludhiana which was organised by the Guru Gobind Singh Study Circle. Apart from Harpreet Singh, the workshop was attended by eminent Sikh scholars, including Sardara Singh Johal, Dr S P Singh, Dr Khem Singh Gill, Dr Balkar Singh and Dr (Lt. Col.) G P I Singh, Vice-Chancellor of Adesh University, Bathinda.

The workshop had Sikh intellectuals discussing topics such as ‘how to maintain the importance, dignity and reverence of the Akal Takht’ and ‘agendas of the SGPC in the context of Sikh diaspora and globalisation’.

Asked if he would take up the suggestions that came up during the workshop with the Singh Sahibaans or the SGPC president, Harpreet Singh responded in the negative, saying, “As of now only ideas have been exchanged”.

“These are my personal thoughts and I have merely put these before the scholars,” added Harpreet Singh who is presently pursuing PhD from department of religious studies, Punjabi University.

The Gurdwara Act, passed way back in 1925, paved way for the formation of Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee with the aim of reformation of Sikh religious places. The SGPC today controls nearly 200 historic shrines in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. The gurdwaras in Delhi are administered by Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee.

Dawn – Talking Afghan peace

Zahid Hussain

Op/Ed, 30 January 2019. In what is being described as the most tangible step forward in the Afghan peace talks, US officials and the Afghan Taliban seem to have come close to a deal on a draft framework that could bring to an end America’s longest war.

Although there are still major obstacles in the way, sustained negotiations between the two sides have paved the path to a final agreement on the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan.

Significantly, the breakthrough came after the talks had hit a frustrating stalemate earlier, with the Taliban threatening to pull out from the negotiations entirely, leading to a toughening of the US tone.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the chief American negotiator, had even indicated that the US would increase military pressure in order to force the Taliban to return to the negotiating table.

It all happened after a meeting between US and Taliban representatives late last year in Abu Dhabi, and attended by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, ended on a positive note. However, the Taliban’s refusal to meet representatives of the Kabul government who were present in the city clouded the outcome and the mood.

Some reports suggested that Khalilzad had received guarantees from Saudi Arabia that the Taliban would enter into direct talks with the Kabul government. But at the last moment, the Taliban backed out of their promise and reinforced reservations among various Afghan factions that the peace process would go nowhere without the Taliban showing some flexibility.

The Taliban turndown particularly infuriated Afghan President Ashraf Ghani who had sent his national security adviser, Hamdullah Mohib, to the UAE.

Yet another setback to the fragile negotiating process came when the Taliban rejected a January meeting expected to take place in Saudi Arabia. The Taliban officials said there was no decision taken on the location.

At the core of the Taliban refusal was a long-held suspicion of US motivations. The Taliban accused the US of duplicity and of reneging on the agreement reached in previous meetings.

A major point of contention stalling the talks was the insistence of the Taliban that the US should stick to what it claims was the ‘agreed agenda’ of discussing the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan and preventing Afghan soil from being used against other states.

The Americans have now backed out and are unilaterally adding new subjects. The ice was finally broken after hectic behind-the-scene diplomatic efforts, with Islamabad reportedly playing a major role in persuading the Taliban to return to the table.

US-Taliban talks: As hopes rise of a deal, what comes next?

Initially, the meeting between the Taliban and US officials was to take place in Islamabad, but the media report leaking the news led to the venue being shifted to Doha. The talks that continued for six days finally produced remarkable results it would seem, with both sides apparently showing flexibility.

A change in the Taliban negotiating team may have also contributed to the breakthrough. In the midst of the marathon Doha negotiations, the Taliban appointed Mullah Baradar Akhund, a deputy of Mullah Omar and co-founder of the Islamist militia as the chief negotiator.

Mullah Baradar who had been held by Pakistani authorities for more than a decade was released only months ago; he remains one of the most powerful and respected insurgent leaders, despite having been in custody for so long. He has also been elevated to second position in the Taliban hierarchy.

His appointment manifested the seriousness the Taliban assign to the peace negotiations. Another factor behind Mullah Baradar’s elevation is believed to be the respect he commands with and his influence over Taliban field commanders whose support would be critical to any peace agreement.

His heading the team has certainly given greater authority to the Taliban negotiators.

Now it all depends on the Taliban agreeing to a ceasefire and sitting across the table with the Kabul government. The persistent Taliban refusal to negotiate with representatives from Ashraf Ghani’s government has so far remained a major stumbling block in taking the peace process forward.

But there appears to be a strong possibility of the insurgents agreeing to an intra-Afghan dialogue after a framework deal. A ceasefire could follow the talks. But there is still a long way to go before a comprehensive agreement among all stakeholders can be reached.

Exiting Afghanistan, however, remains the biggest foreign policy challenge for Washington. Although it has been an unwinnable war, America’s departure may not be that easy. Complete withdrawal may have its own complications.

The 17-year-long war has left the country more divided. With their battlefield victories and expanding territorial control, the insurgents have certainly gained the upper hand as the Afghan endgame comes closer.

The recent large-scale attacks, launched by the Taliban, targeting Afghan military personnel and installations have given the insurgents a further boost.

There is no indication of them holding back their guns until the Americans agree to a time frame for complete troop withdrawal. In fact, there could be an escalation in the Taliban’s military offensive in spring. It will be a fight-fight and talk-talk situation.

America’s desperation to pull out is itself seen as a victory for the Taliban who have gained greater international recognition over the years.

That has also fuelled apprehension among other Afghan groups inside and outside the government. A major challenge for Khalilzad would be to take all those groups on board.

President Ashraf Ghani’s speech in Davos is indicative of the gap that exists between America’s exit plan and the Kabul government’s concerns.

There is increasing apprehension that the withdrawal of the American forces could further empower the Taliban and plunge Afghanistan into another round of civil war. These concerns are valid and any peace deal with the Taliban must address those fears.

Then there is also a need for a regional agreement guaranteeing non-interference in Afghanistan. The involvement of regional countries has fuelled civil wars in Afghanistan. Though there has been a significant breakthrough, it is not going to be a smooth path to peace in Afghanistan.

The writer is an author and journalist.