The right to use the Catalan language in education

An in-depth analysis on the compliance of Spain’s national laws in accordance with the European Regional level


Under the rule of dictator Franco, students were not allowed to learn Catalan due to an outright language ban. The prolonged hardship of four decades finally halted with his death in 1975. As a result, the post-Franco era saw a resurrection of Catalan.

The Spanish Constitution 1978(Constitution), under Art.3(1), mentions Castilian as the official language. Additionally, it recognises “other Spanish languages” under Art.3(2). They refer to the minority languages Catalan, Basque and Galician, which are also co-official languages of Spain. Catalan is spoken in many areas but mainly in Catalonia, the Balearic islands, and Valencia.

Additionally, statutes were tailored for the specific autonomous communities. Subsequently, the 1979 Statute of Autonomy of Cataloniawas created. At the EU level, Spain has assumed international legal obligations toward protecting the linguistic rights of the Catalan minorities in the educational context.

Generally, the fundamental means of preserving these rights is attributable to a well- functioning educational system. The compulsory stage notably begins at the elementary level. However, recently Catalan was constitutionally challenged, which instigated fear of another suppression of their linguistic rights.The European framework governing the right to use minority languages in primary education

At the European level, the leges speciales, comprise the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages (Charter) and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities(FCNM), whereby Spain ratified both.

The European framework governing the right to use minority languages in primary education

At the European level, the leges speciales, comprise the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages9 (Charter) and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities10 (FCNM), whereby Spain ratified both.

The Charter

According to De Witte11, the core attribute of the Charter is its “à la carte approach”, whereby Member States (MS) have a discretion to choose which regional/minority languages they wish to protect according to the different provisions.

Art.8 deals specifically with education. Art.8(1) states that “…the Parties undertake, within the territory in which such languages are used, … and without prejudice to the teaching of the official language(s) of the State:”. In effect, Art.8(1) relates solely to the territory where each regional/minority language is practised12. The interpretation of this provision is set as a condition, in that Parties can only provide the minority language as long as it does not disrupt the parallel teaching of the official language.

In relation to primary level education, Spain has assumed its obligations under Art.8(1)(b)(i) and Art.(8)(1)(h). The former states that MS are required “to make available primary education in the relevant regional or minority languages.”. The latter conveys that they are required “to provide the basic and further training of the teachers required to implement…” the said provisions to which the MS have accepted.

In regard to Art.8(1)(b)(i), this implies that MS are required to provide the minority language at the primary level. Additionally, Art.8(1)(h), is an equivalent provision for teachers, which completes the whole process of “making the language available”, as MS arrequired to  ensure the competence of their teaching staff at this level.


Under the FCNM, there are no provisions specific to primary education. Instead, the relevant articles cover linguistic rights at all levels. In contrast to the Charter, the characteristic of these articles embraces a collective aspect rather than individualised components13.

According to Thornberry14, the sub-articles of Art.12 FCNM are interconnected when dealing with the curriculum, inter-communal educational contacts, and access to education. Art.12(1) is a firm injunction that compels MS to take actions in the fields of education where “appropriate”, “…to foster knowledge” of both the minority languages and that of the majority. In essence, Art.12(1) must be executed in a critical and objective way, that is free from ideological manipulation such as xenophobic concepts and delivered with value to human rights15.

Additionally, Art.12(2) requires that MS shall “inter alia provide adequate opportunities for teaching and access to textbooks, and facilitate contacts among student and teachers of different communities.”. The term “inter alia” enables a widened scope for MS to materialise its obligations under Art.12(1). Additionally, “facilitate” refers to simplifying the process of socialisation.

Lastly, Art.12(3) is based on the principle of equality. It necessitates that MS “…promote equal opportunities for access to education at all levels for persons belonging to national minorities.”. This provision can be interpreted in two ways, either it implies that all national minorities are given the same equal rights, or that national minorities are given the same equal rights as that of the majority.

Furthermore, Art.14(1) obligates MS to allow a national minority to learn their language. It states that “…every person belonging to a national minority has the right to learn his or her minority language.”. Additionally, Art.14(2) reiterates “adequate opportunities” in relation to being taught or to “receive instruction” in the “minority language”. Although, Art.12(3) acts as a caveat to Art.14(2) in that it can only be activated as long as it does not prejudice the learning/teaching of the official language of the State. In effect, the whole provision is directly aimed at education by the use of the terms “learn” and “teach”. Hence, Art.14 FCNM protects not only the linguistic rights but also the identity of the national minorities16.

Therefore, at the European level, both instruments complement each other in terms of guaranteeing a wide scope of protection to the linguistic rights attached to the use of minority languages at a primary level of education.

The Spanish national laws governing the right to use Catalan in primary education

With the education system being decentralised in Spain, the Autonomous Communities are given constitutional powers to control education. This entails that the Generalitat (the Catalonian Government), inter alia, bears an obligation to protect linguistic rights in education17.

The Regional laws

The leges speciales applicable to primary education are The Reform of the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia 200618 (Estatut) and The Linguistic Policy Act 199819(LPA). Under the Estatut, the relevant provision is Art.35, “Linguistic rights in the field of education”, which corresponds to Chapter III, “Education” of the LPA, more precisely, Art.20, “The language of education” and Art.21, “Non-university education” and Art.24, “Teaching staff”. Therefore, they shall be examined by themes.

The right to use Catalan in primary education is derived from Art.35(1)-(2) of the Estatut and Art.20, Art.21(1), and Art.21(3) of the LPA. Both Art.35(1)-(2) establish the right for every person “to receive an education in Catalan” at the “non-university level”. The term “non- university” refers to all education below this level which includes the primary level.

Furthermore, Art.35(2), in respect to the students, combines both a right and an obligation “to have sufficient oral and written knowledge of Catalan and Castilian upon completing compulsory education…”. Additionally, the said provision provides that both languages “…shall be sufficiently represented in the curricula.”. Art.21(3) guarantees the same but with reference to “teaching” instead of “learning”.

Upon completion of their primary education, students are granted a school-leaving certificate on the condition that they are proficient in both Catalan and Castilian20. Hence, both statutes systematically support the right to be educated at a primary level.

Moreover, the powerful combination of the right and obligation under the Estatut presents the following legal implication. The stringency of the obligation holds a higher threshold than “duty”21. Therefore, reinforcing the normative practises of the legal entitlement provided by the right. The obligation further insulates the said right by its legally binding attribute22. Thus, clearly aiming at its preservation.

In addition to Catalan being recognised as the official language of Catalonia together with Castilian23, it is also the “own language”24 which means native to Catalonia. The rights attached to its native and official value are derived from Art.6 of the Estatut which conveys that Catalan “…is the language of normal use for teaching and learning in the education system.” This notion is further carried under Art.35(1) of the Estatut, Art.20(2) and Art.21(1) of the LPA.

Under the provisions, the LPA emphasises the “vehicular” characteristic of Catalan as a means to achieve its normalisation in the bilingual model. Art.20(2) further requires

“educational establishments at all levels” to use Catalan “in their educational and administrative activities, both internally and externally.”. This implies that the ambit of the rights is not limited to elementary classrooms. The word “externally” denotes that Catalan extends to extra-curricular activities. Additionally, as Costa25 conveys, references to “non- university” under the Estatut and “all educational establishments” cover private and public schools. Reciprocally, the linguistic rights are further enhanced by Art.24(1), ensuring the competence of teachers. The teaching staff must “know” Catalan and Castilian and apply them to their “teaching tasks”.

In terms of prohibition of discrimination, both Art.35(3) of the Estatut and Art.21(5) of the LPA state that students shall not be separated, be it in centres or class groups, on the grounds of their habitual language. In essence, this provision protects against the “individualised treatment”26, which can occur in two ways either by treating Castilian as superior to Catalan or vice versa. Given the vulnerable age of students at the primary level, that is from six to twelve, these provisions are fundamental and facilitate the enjoyment of the rights.

Hence, it is evident that the leges speciales, the linguistic rights provide for full validation and legal effectiveness to any primary school students practising those rights.

The Constitution

By virtue of all Catalonians being Spanish citizens, the right to education is protected in a more general manner under the Constitution. Art.27(1) notably states that, “Everyone has the right to education…”. Art.27(4) further conveys that “Elementary education is compulsory and free.”. Hence, Art.27 interpreted in light of the constitutional acknowledgement of the statutes in the autonomous communities, confers that the scope of protection extends to the linguistic rights in education being protected also under the Constitution.

The compliance with the European regional level of Spain’s national laws regarding the right to use the Catalan language in education

While Spain does not formally recognise national minorities under its Constitution and legal system28, the State still acknowledges its international obligations to preserve and respect the linguistic rights of those minorities29. However, Catalonians were of the view that the constitutional challenges to Catalan were an obstruction to these rights.

The Legal Challenges

Despite the Estatut approved by the Catalonian and Spanish governments and a binding referendum, the Constitutional Court’s ruling in 201030 declared Art.6(1) of the Estatut, as unconstitutional. In addition to Catalan being the “language of normal use”, it was previously also the language of “preferential use”31. The Court stated that it imposed “…the prescription of a priority use of one of them…”32. The term was consequently struck out. This decision directly impacted on Art.35(1)-(2) of the Estatut as they are now to be interpreted in accordance with the ruling.

Since Catalan is the native language of Catalonia, it predominantly suggests that it is “preferential”. Consequently, the sentiment was that Spain had acted ultra vires, as it defeated the notion of “own language”. In effect, the bilingual model does not imply that both languages are taught in equal proportions, rather that both are included in the educational system33. The Catalonian linguistic regime notably, treats Castilian as a language immersed into the curricula34. Nonetheless, the ruling declared that “Castilian is to be introduced as the language of instruction “proportionately and equally to Catalan at all class levels.”35. Thus, perceived as highly prejudicial to Catalan.

In 2021, the Spanish Supreme Court ordered the Generalitat to provide for at least twenty- five percent of teaching hours for the main subjects36. Where Castilian, in the existing linguistic model, only formed part of five to ten percent of the teaching hours, which amounts to approximately two hours per week at the elementary level.

Compliance with the Charter

Nevertheless, the Committee of Experts’ (CoE) assessment, in its third report38, conveyed that the 2010’s ruling did not affect Spain’s compliance with the Charter “especially with respect to education”39. According to the CoE’s assessment40 and Ramallo’s41, Spain in choosing “(b)(i)” (first sub-paragraph), implies a high level of commitment which normally entails satisfying also (ii) and (iii)42. Those sub-paragraphs require Spain to provide a “substantial part” of the education at primary level in Catalan, and the teaching forming “…an integral part of the curriculum”43.

Therefore, in reference to “make available”, under Art.(b)(i) of the Charter, the CoE deduced that the ruling had essentially set a precedent for parents to have the discretion to allow their children to be educated in Castilian only and that Catalan was to be considered optional44. Additionally, the commitment under Art.8(h) entails that it accounts for any discrepancies in the “de facto situation of regional or minority languages”45. In Catalonia, this would refer to normalising the education of Castilian in parallel to Catalan. The selection of the said provision further implies that Spain has chosen a provision which wording46 adapts to the legal framework applied to Catalan in Catalonia

Nevertheless, the CoE still requested Spain to report on how the ruling impacted on Catalan. As a matter of fact, the CoE’s fourth48 and fifth report49, had assessed that Spain indeed guaranteed Catalan in primary education. Therefore, fulfilling all of its obligations in respect to the selected provisions under Art.8 of the Charter

Compliance with the FCNM

In contrast to the above reports, all five FCNM reports submitted by Spain, specifically focus on the Roma Community. However, the Advisory Committee (AC) conveys, that this does not limit the protection of rights of other Communities.

The notion of “equality”54 in terms of access to education under Art.12 of the FCNM, notably entails that, the latitude of the rights are not limited to the learning/teaching of Catalan in classrooms. The scope of protection of these rights extend to “educational activities outside regular school hours.”.

In effect, Art.20(2) LPA provides for “external activities”. The provision is further reinforced by Art.44 of the Estatut, “Education, research and culture”, whereby public authorities have a duty to “promote and encourage” family members and provide access to “extra-curricular educational activities”. This implies that when primary school students leave their classrooms, they are legally provided the right to practise Catalan in whichever activities they please. The right for students ultimately gives rise to opportunities for teachers. Therefore, the Spanish laws not only conform with the FCNM, but are construed to preserve the language by its active stimulation.

In accordance with Art.14 of the FCNM both the LPA 1998 and the Estatut are coherent in conveying the “right to learn”58 Catalan. The term is synonymous to “the right to receive an education in Catalan” under the Estatut and the notion follows under the provisions of the LPA which guarantee the right to use Catalan in education. Additionally, The AC elucidated that it assessed whether national minorities were given the right to learn their “own language” and if there were any limitations to the exercise of the said right59. In effect, the right to use their “own language” is found under both statutes with the only condition being that it does not prejudice Castilian. The principle of equality is evidently enshrined in both statutes given that the bilingual linguistic equilibrium is vehemently iterated. Hence, the Spanish laws comply with Art.14 of the FCNM


To conclude, the Charter’s à la carte method enabled Spain the discretion to choose obligations positively in accordance with primary education under Art.8. The CoE reports, notably, reflected the consecutive fulfilments and compliance. Despite the constitutional battles that directly impacted the primary level of education, the guarantee of the Catalan language and its rights to Catalonia remain unchanged. Additionally, the right to know their own language did not neglect Castilian and its rights in the reintegration of the bilingual educational system, which is a prerequisite under the Charter.

Concerning the FCNM, the Estatut and the LPA, conformed at a more profound level than the mere literal wording of the provisions. Thus, allowing primary school students the right to enjoy Catalan above and beyond the rigid school framework.

Lastly, the provisions under the national laws, in letter and spirit, aim to protect the rights and preserve them. Thus, overall, Spain’s national laws are in full compliance at the European regional level.

By Samia Mallam-Hasham

An analysis of academic feminist criticisms of the provisions of international humanitarian law relating to women in armed conflict

Photo by Ahmed akacha on

International Humanitarian Law (IHL) founded on the concept of jus in bello, strives in regulating armed conflict and aims in protecting non-combatants against belligerents. In situations of armed conflict, there is a complete and ultimate breach of the rule of law whereby the impact on beings is so drastic that it promptly leads to a barbaric behavioural change. Consequently, women and girls are the main target of uncivilised norms in times of war which most commonly take the form of gender-based violence. They notably face manifest violations that are discriminatory and disproportional as to their rights because of their gender and sex.

In parallel, the advancement of IHL rules, has recognised that women are more prone to certain types of violence and as a result designed special laws (lex specialis) for these victims. The scope of prosecution has also, been widened for gender-based crimes. For instance, in Akayesu whereby the ICTR in 1998 set a milestone in adding Rape as an element of genocide and as a Crime Against Humanity. Nevertheless, these IHL Rules, have been subject to various criticisms by different schools of thoughts on whether these laws are adequate in protecting women and/or are properly enforced.

The basis of this analysis will thus evaluate dichotomous feminist critiques of IHL rules from the Revision and Enforcement School of thoughts, in relation to Rape and Sexual violence directed at women during international armed conflicts and evaluate whether they are outdated.

As such, the spearheading IHL rules and provisions surrounding the protection of women in relation to Rape and Sexual violence that shall form the basis of this analysis are firstly, Article 27, paragraph 2 of the Geneva Convention (GC) IV 1949, which states that: “Women must be especially protected against any attack on their honour, in particular against rape, enforced prostitution, or any other form of indecent assault.”. Secondly, Article 76(1) of the Additional Protocol (AP) I of the Geneva Conventions, complements this provision by stating that: “Women must be the object of special respect and must be protected in particular against rape, forced prostitution and any other form of indecent assault”.

The Revision School of thought

The first school of thought calls for a reform of the IHL rules and the criticisms made are derived from a mindset that women are dominated by a global patriarchal system since time immemorial. The rules are therefore, interpreted in such a way as to bring to surface the underlying flair of masculinity veiled in those provisions.

For instance, Gardam’s interpretation of the notion of a woman’s honour, in the wording and tenor of the Art.27, is that it is created by men for their own needs and overlooks the perception women have on sexual violence i.e., that Rape affects them both physically and psychologically. Bennoune and Crowe share similar thoughts, as they argue that instead of enunciating the protection of women as to their bodily integrity, it pejoratively connotes the respect owed to women in the conservation of their chastity and modesty. Since, in contrast, the reference to a man’s honour withholds positive attributes such as bravery, strength and independence.

The issue in practice, as to the undesirable prejudice women suffer, has serious implications as it would infer that a woman survivor of Rape in times of armed conflicts, bears the consequences of being dishonored and judge in society as being impure given that Art.27, inextricably draws a correlation between a woman’s honor and her sexuality.

However, Bennoune, distinguishes the drafting of Art.76 as it centers the attention towards human dignity rather than honor.

Although, a very simplistic interpretation of Art.27, could also be that ‘honor’ refers to preserving the value and dignity and women should remain untouched, which humbly draws in the physical aspect of the crime. After all, the fact that there is a lex specialis in the Geneva Convention, irrespective of the wording, demonstrates that there is a special attention given to the need in safeguarding those victims. The aim of Art.27 is strictly to protect women from an objective standpoint.

Thus, an over interpretation and biasness towards the rules not being derived from a gender equal standpoint is erroneous. Since, the level of subjectivity inculcated, not only creates an ambiguity but also has no bearing in the scope of protection accorded.

Additionally, feminists in critiquing the rules, bear in mind that, during armed conflicts, the anarchy that immerses, heightens the instigation of gender-based and sexual violence to the extent that perpetrators are not only the enemies but also the allies. It is a known fact that even UN Peacekeepers have been involved in sexual misconducts as part of their peacekeeping operations. As a matter of fact, Aoi, De Coning and Thakur are, of the view that armed conflicts change the sexual and psychosocial behaviour. As a total collapse in law and order, and the socio-economic factors creates a ‘permissive environment’ since the maintenance of norms disintegrate given the absence of the natural checks and balances system.

Therefore, in analysing the lack of prohibition, feminists are vehemently conscious that the Rape and Sexual violence during those times are significantly more drastic than in times of peace.

Additionally, one other main criticism of Art. 27 and Art. 76, is that they deal only with the protection of women and fail in prohibiting Rape and Sexual violence. Chinkin conveys that they do not “impose a blanket prohibition against sexual abuse but rather oblige States to offer women protection against attacks on their honor and to accord them special respect”. Furthermore, the reasoning follows that, even though both men and women can be raped, women are more vulnerable, and the aftermath is much greater to endure. For instance, as a consequent of being raped, a woman is disposed to unwanted pregnancies, shame and the fear of not being accepted in her community anymore.

Bennoune’s view however, is nuanced from Chinkin, as she believes that Art.27 and Art.76, are scarce in terms of mirroring the violent feature of the crime as it concentrates more on pregnancy and sexual violence instead of patronymically displaying the multi- dimensional impacts of the crime, as also conveyed by Gardam.

However, as the ICRC factually stated, women and men face different menaces during those situations. For instance, men are more likely to be killed on the field whereas women are more prone to sexual violence. Therefore, the reason as to why the rules emphasise the threat to the reproductive features.

Furthermore, Gardam’s view on the lack of prohibitive measures and sanctions of Rape under Art. 27 and Art. 76, is such that it weakens the applicability of the laws. In isolation, Rape and Sexual violence crimes are not serious enough to form part of the definition of “Grave Breaches” under Art.147 of the GC IV. Crowe suggests that this is due to the sentiment of a general indifference.

Nevertheless, Gardam, acknowledges that Rape can amount to the other elements of the definition of “Grave Breaches”. The criticism stems from the fact that Rape amounting to torture for instance, is a question of interpretation as has previously been done by the ICTY in Celebici and in Furundzija for example.

However, in the latter, the tribunal explicitly stated that Rape in time of war is prohibited under the Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocols. Additionally, it is important to note the intertwining of IHL rules and despite Rape not forming part of the definition of Grave Breaches per se, the ICC Statute has codified Rape and Sexual violence under Art.8(2)(xxii) which out rightly states that “rape…or any form of sexual violence” amounts to a Grave Breach of the Geneva Conventions and under Art. 7(1)(g) as a Crime against Humanity.

The question of interpretation should further be considered, as complementary to the existing rules as they aid in further developing the definition of Rape and Sexual violence. For instance, the Musema case, referred to Furundzija in including “oral penetration” whilst also making use of the definition set forth in Akayesu and stated that rape unmistakably includes oral penetration since, “the essence of rape is not the particular details of the body parts and objects involved, but rather the aggression that is expressed in a sexual manner under conditions of coercion.”

Therefore, these arguments are redundant as they do not holistically take into consideration the other legal regimes, cases or provisions that should be read in conjunction to determine the protection accorded by IHL. Since it is evident, that IHL rules combined with the jurisprudence of the ICC and the Ad-Hoc Tribunals do provide extensive material concerning Rape and Sexual violence. As Copelon states, ““[p]prosecuting rape as a grave breach should effectively expand the meaning of the Conventions and Protocols and obviate the need for formal amendment””.

The Enforcement School of thought

Another school of thought on these IHL rules is that ““[i]f women have to bear so many of the tragic effects of armed conflict, it is not primarily because of any shortcomings in the rules protecting them, but because these rules are all too often not observed””. In essence, this school of thought conveys that the laws themselves are adequate but lack enforcement. As a matter of fact, it holds that men and women should be seen as equals. The ICRC argues that women should not be seen as vulnerable even in times of conflict. The interpretations that this school provides blatantly contrast with those previously mentioned.

In terms of the inherent discrimination criticism by the Revision school, Durham retaliates by stating that, those lex specialis are specifically designed to ensure the survival of women during the harshest times. Therefore, the whole scrutiny from a gender inequality standpoint counteracts the real objective of IHL. Since IHL is not construed to regulate social structure and as a result does not give way for a deeper social analysis. Furthermore, Liesbeth Lijnzaad contributes to this outlook as she is of the view that it is impractical to expect that IHL encompasses all types of gender issues during times of armed conflict when societies in times of peace fail to.

Moreover, as to the view that those IHL rules do not prohibit gender-based crimes, Quénivet counterargues that “protection” in IHL, should be interpreted as prohibition. Since the basis of the GC and the APs are to shield women unconditionally, thus it implies that the prohibition of those crimes forms parts of those rules.

Hence, it is manifestly absurd to consider that the rules disadvantage women, not to mention that none of them deal in as much detail for men. It is evident that, the sub- categorisation of the types of women victims under the GC is purposefully drafted to adequately provide for them in terms of both prohibition and protection as outlined by Quénivet.

An impartial gendered-equality scrutiny on those feminist critiques will indicate that none of them mention the fact that Rape and Sexual violence rules specific to men are virtually inexistent since they are always justified as being universal. Therefore, an overall gender- neutral approach would be to consider the lex specialis for women as a regime to counteract different permutations of issues that can arise rather than those drafted solely based on them being females.

Nevertheless, Durham and O’Byrne, in terms of protection argue that the pragmatic solution to resolve the lack of enforcement is through ‘soft laws’ instead of revising the existing IHL rules namely, the United Nations Security Council 1325 Resolution (Resolution) and the CEDAW.

The adoption of the CEDAW is particularly seen to mend the gaps of gender-based violence between the mainstream human rights treaties. As such, it regularly monitors implementation of the Resolution at State-level. Additionally, General Recommendation No.30, notably, serves as a guide for Member States to carry out their due diligence in relation to women’s rights in situations of armed conflicts.

Furthermore, the Resolution, prominently addresses “…the need to implement fully international humanitarian and human rights law that protects the rights of women and girls during and after conflicts”. Additionally, it emphasises the need to take special measures to protect women from gender-based violence. Therefore, as Cohn conveys, “…1325 puts women squarely in the center of efforts to end armed conflicts and creates sustainable peace.”

However, these supplementary protections even though, in theory strive in detail at practically helping women in those situations, they are also criticised for lacking enforcement. For instance, the Security Council is in fact not a monitoring body and as such, does not have a “mandate, function and means for holding all UN member states accountable to its thematic resolutions”as pointed out by Rourke and Swaine.

Furthermore, in responding to the disparagement on the lack of enforcement the Security Council tends to adopt subsequent resolutions instead of practically solving the issue at hand. As a result, it leads to a reiteration.

The issue with the CEDAW, on the other hand although being a monitoring body, can only be acceded via ratification. The Revision school, in particular, Charlesworth and Chinkin accurately convey that “some states have used the reservation mechanism effectively to hollow out the heart of their formal obligations”. Hence, those reservations are in reality a loophole for States to circumvent their responsibilities and to be held accountable. Therefore, by default the Convention is not only ineffective in terms of monitoring States but evidently unenforceable.

Thus, it is clear that these mechanisms are but illusionary, as even though they emphasise on the specific issues of gender-based violence in armed conflict and the need for States to observe their obligations of women’s rights, they are rhetoric.


Ultimately, both schools share the same values and intentions towards levelling up protection for women in armed conflict. To answer the question of whether these rules are fit for purpose in the 21st Century based on the above analysis, the straightforward answer is in the affirmative. The revision school of thought does demonstrate to some level that the language used is archaic and old-fashioned as it does not resonate with strong, independent women in modern times.

However, the school’s interpretation and implication of women requiring chivalric protection from men has no legal structure and is biased. As analysed, the language has no impact on the numerous scopes of their applications as perpetrators can be held criminally liable and prosecuted as seen via the Ad-Hoc tribunals and the ICC Statute.

In addition, the evolution in the jurisprudence of IHL rules have enabled Rape and Sexual violence, in different situations of armed conflict globally to be scrutinised in depth and have given women the justice deserved at the time needed and progress continues to be made.

The enforcement school of thought has notably, made it clear that the rules are suitable for women in this era. Evidently, in every legal regime the execution of laws is criticised as there is not one system that has ever reached a Utopian level, even less in times of armed conflict.

After all, the aim of IHL rules and the supplementary soft laws, focus on minimising the damage inflicted on women in armed conflicts and enable the issues to be examined through a multi-dimensional lens. Therefore, even though, they are criticized for a lack of enforcement, a flawless system during a time of magnified chaos is simply unrealistic. Thus, women are indeed accorded as much protection as can be provided for in this day and age.


China turning a blind eye to its International Obligations


China has seen an upsurge in religious persecutions against Uyghur Muslims, under the regime of Xi Jinping since he assumed the Presidency in 2013 as he aims in achieving the goal of creating a unified China. However, this goal entails eliminating the minorities. By default, the Uyghur Muslims are officially recognised as being one of the national minorities and are a target due to their practice of Islam which differs from the general population which is the Han Chinese making up 92%. The Uyghur Muslims are notably, from a specific region known as the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR) whereby they form half of that region’s population which amounts to around twelve million people.

The gravity of the situation lies in the fact that China is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and instead of standing as an exemplary Member State in terms of respecting its obligations towards its citizens and the international community as a whole, it has continuously denied the human rights violations and disregards its duty towards the fundamental rights of the Uyghur Muslims.

The rights of the Uyghur Muslims at a Universal Level

Under International Law, there are only a few instruments that afford protection to the Uyghur Muslims. The core UN Treaty concerned is the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) which China is legally bound by given the fact that the treaty has been ratified. In other words, any violation(s) of the ICERD would amount to a breach of the jus cogens i.e., the peremptory norms which are non-derogable under international law.

Furthermore, other legal instruments that protect those minorities are namely, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (UN Declaration) which even though, are non-binding in nature, still have a high degree of relevance and importance as they form part of the International norms.

The International Treaties

The ICERD notably, legally binds States to comply with the Treaty in the observance of human rights and mentions that there should be no distinction as to religion.

Under Article 1 of the ICERD, the term “racial discrimination” encompasses “ethnic origin” and “descent”. Another mutual characteristic of the Uyghur Muslims, besides religion is that they are of Turkic descent. As such, the Uyghur Muslims, who are also officially recognized by China as an ethnic group, are protected from discrimination on those grounds.

Furthermore, Article 5 of the ICERD conveys a duty on China to not only prohibit racial discrimination but also to eliminate it. A further elaboration of this Article would entail that China should hold the rights of minorities to the same level as those of the Han Chinese i.e., they are viewed as equals. It specifically includes under civil rights, ‘the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion’ under Article (5)(d)(vii). Therefore, allowing Uyghur Muslims the freedom to exercise Islam without facing any discrimination within the Chinese territory and jurisdiction.

The Norms

Furthermore, even though China has not ratified the ICCPR yet, that does not exempt it from not complying with this key human rights international treaty. By being a signatory, China has a duty to ensure it does not carry out any actions that defy the ICCPR. Therefore, it is responsible for guaranteeing the rights of the Uyghur Muslims under this treaty. As such, the main provision relating to the protection of Uyghur Muslims at a Universal level is found under Article 27 of the ICCPR which states that:

“In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or to use their own language.”

Article 27 thus confers an obligation on China to allow Uyghur Muslims to practice Islam. This right is distinguished from the general rights of the Han Chinese population as it is specific to the minority group. Additionally, China’s duty in complying with this article encompasses the protection of the social identity of this religious minority i.e., as religion is often the core guide for the way people behave in a society for instance, their lifestyle and way of being.

 The UN Declaration as a matter of fact was inspired by Article 27 of the ICCPR and it further details out the rights of minorities including the need for States to protect their fundamental human rights (Article 4). Additionally, it creates a framework for Uyghur Muslims to practice Islam without facing discrimination as righteously stated under Article 2. Furthermore, Article 5, demands that National policies and programmes take into consideration the ‘legitimate interests’ of national minorities. Thus, China has a duty to ensure that there are no laws or norms that conflict with the legitimate interests of those minorities.

Hence the Uyghur Muslims have an international framework in terms of protection of their rights at a Universal level that China has a responsibility to the International Community to conform with.

Are the rights of Uyghur Muslims recognised and protected under the Chinese Constitution?

The main concern under the International instruments above in the protection of minorities are the State’s observance of the fundamental human rights. As such, Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), is the main Article concerning the freedom to practice religion. It notably allows for religions or beliefs to be practiced without any conditions imposed on communities or individuals.

The Chinese Constitution carries a similar provision, under Article 36 whereby it conveys that religion should not be forced upon any individuals by any entities including the State and that none of its citizens shall be discriminated against. However, Article 36 makes mention of the State only protecting ‘Normal religious activities’ with no supplementary definition of what constitutes ‘normal’. Therefore, the protection of freedom of religion is limited in scope as it is subjective.

Furthermore, the UDHR sets some limitations on the practise of religion under Article 29(2) for the general welfare and so as not to disrupt the public order. Article 36 of the Chinese Constitution reflects this by also including ‘public order’ and other restrictions so as not to interfere with the health or education in China which is rather ambiguous but on the outset is still reflective of the UDHR.

As to the general rights of minorities, Article 4 of the Chinese Constitution states that:

All ethnic groups of the Peoples Republic of China are equal. The state shall protect the lawful rights and interests of all ethnic          minorities and uphold and promote relations of equality, unity, mutual assistance and harmony among all ethnic groups. Discrimination against and oppression of any ethnic group are prohibited; any act that undermines the unity of ethnic groups or creates divisions among them is prohibited.”

An interpretation of this article would therefore mean that, as they are a recognised ethnic group, the State bears the legal responsibility to protect their rights and offer them the same level of treatment as they would to any other minorities. As such, they are constitutionally a protected group. Additionally, the ‘unity’ of the Uyghur Muslims is notably, Islam. Therefore, Article 4 gives them the right to freely practise Islam without being discriminated and oppressed.

Furthermore, when Article 4 is read in conjunction with Article 36, it is clear that the Chinese Constitution allows religion to be practised by ethnic groups in the entire State, the Uyghur Muslims are not limited to practising Islam within the XUAR.

Rights in the XUAR

In essence, the XUAR, is constitutionally delegated powers under Section 6 of the Constitution: Autonomous Organs of Ethnic Autonomous Areas. In a nutshell, the Autonomous system, allows for a self-government whereby it is given the power to fine-tune central directives, State laws, regulations, and policies to fit its local conditions.

The 1984 Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law (REAL) as a matter of fact, is conferred these powers constitutionally and Article 11 sets out the following in accordance with religious beliefs:

          Autonomous agencies in ethnic autonomous areas guarantee the freedom of religious belief to citizens of the various nationalities. No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion, nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion. The state protects normal religious activities. No one may make use of religion to engage in activities that disrupt public order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the educational system of the state. Religious bodies and religious affairs shall not be subject to any foreign domination.”

Article 11’s wording mirrors that of Article 36 of the Chinese Constitution with the only difference being that it concentrates on the freedom of religious beliefs in the autonomous regions.

Therefore, by interpreting Article 11 of the REAL in combination with the self- governing feature of the autonomous region, Uyghur Muslims within the XUAR, are allowed to practice Islam in the realms of their culture, traditions, and Turkic descent without facing discrimination and interference by State or Non-State entities, subject to some reasonable restrictions of ensuring lordre public and the non-interference in China’s health and education.

Hence, the Chinese Constitution recognises and protects the rights of Uyghur Muslims in the practice of Islam and the Autonomous System, further enables not only for their rights to be tailored but also accord them the necessary protection with the incorporation of different nuances as to their ethnic background.

The National Laws that quash the protection of Uyghur Muslims

However, these rights are limited in scope to a theoretical framework and the Uyghur Muslims are faced with multiple local laws, policies and regulations purposefully enacted to deprive them of the freedom to practice Islam.


In 2017, the Regulations on Religious Affairs was enacted following the National Conference on religious work whereby Xi conveyed that the Regulation was created with the intent to ‘Sinicize’ religions. In essence, it is the process of unifying China by forcing minorities to conform with the Han Chinese culture fully, including their religion and customs. Furthermore, in reference to the policy of Sinicization he mentioned ‘providing active guidance to religions so that they can adapt themselves to socialist society’.

As such the existing domestic laws should be interpreted from this standpoint. For instance, Article 13 of the Criminal Code, defines a crime as ‘an act that endangers the sovereignty… of the State’, ‘… subverts the State power of the people’s democratic dictatorship’ and one which ‘… overthrows the socialist system’. Therefore, the underlying significance in regard to religion is that Islam is a threat to the National identity of the Atheist and Communist State. It challenges the Central government in maintaining State Sovereignty as Islam is more than just a religion, it is a mean to socially control individuals.

Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Regulation on De-extremification37 (De- extremification Laws)

Article 13’s interpretation is fully supported by the fact that it is applied in the context of de-extremification which is explicitly aimed at the Uyghur Muslims. Article 4 states that: ‘De-extremification shall persist in the basic directives of the party’s work on religion, persist in an orientation of making religion more Chinese and under law, and actively guide religions to become compatible with socialist society’.

Moreover, with the same intent, the Uyghur Muslims have also been introduced to new norms in the XUAR by the ‘Strike Hard Campaign Against Violent Terrorism’ which comprises of the Mass Surveillance system and the re-education camps.

In a nutshell, the Mass Surveillance involves a highly advanced technological system monitored by Han Chinese authorities whereby information is illegally gathered and is programmed in such a way that lawful practices are flagged as suspicious or threatening behaviors. The authorities, therefore, have full control over Uyghur Muslims.

Additionally, since 2017, over one million Uyghurs have been sent to the      re-education camps. The purpose behind those camps, is notably, to forcefully convert Uyghur Muslims into Han Chinese by any means necessary including a series of inhumane and torturous acts.

The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Implementing Measures on the Counter-Terrorism Law (The Measures)

Furthermore, the Measures derive from China’s Counter-Terrorism Law 2015, which in its execution, is justified as a means to restore the public order by eliminating ‘terrorists’ in the XUAR.

Article 5 notably, states that: ‘Efforts to counter terrorism and extremism shall treat both the symptoms and causes and take comprehensive measures, combating in accordance with law and blending leniency and severity, respecting customs and protecting human rights’.

The ‘symptoms’ are detailed under Article 9 in the De-extremification Regulation as mentioned above, whereby Primary expressions of extremification include: covering the face, wearing gowns, and growing ‘irregular beards’. Additionally, generalizing the concept of Halal48 is banned under the same Article. Furthermore, Article 3, refers to ‘distorted religious teachings which is directed at Islamic teachings.

As such these norms are correspondingly, excessively disproportionate, The Regulation notably, draws no distinction between what constitutes terrorist activities and daily acceptable practices. Additionally, Article 5 of the Measures shows a complete disregard in the protection of human rights since the definition of a terrorist and a Muslim is one and the same. Religious persecution is thus justified as a measure taken in ‘anticipating the enemys moveas conveyed under Article 4 of the Measures51.

Therefore, those norms, are in clear violations of the ICERD since they discriminate Uyghur Muslims by stereotyping them as terrorists and criminalizing Islam to its very core whereby a Uyghur Muslim is strictly prohibited from conducting normal Islamic practices.

Furthermore, in conjunction with Article 5 of the UN Declaration mentioned above, these norms evidently overlook the ‘legitimate interests’ of the Uyghur Muslims. Lastly, the whole of Article 27 of the ICCPR in its application is extinguished, as there is a complete erasure of their social identity as practicing Muslims, Furthermore, their civil rights are violated as those civilians, by lawfully practicing their religion and abiding to all the norms of the XUAR are religiously persecuted.


Therefore, even though China’s constitution acknowledges the rights of the Uyghur Muslims and accords them protection both at a National level and in the XUAR, they are but fictitious and exist only in theory. The incessant aim of Xi’s regime in leading the Uyghur Muslims to extinction clearly demonstrates a breach in the rule of law. Since multiple National norms override their freedom to exercise Islam through immoral justifications of ensuring public order. It is thus evident that China shows an utter disregard to both the customary international norms and the ICERD. Thus, the delay in the ratification of the ICCPR is strategically based with the same intent of circumventing its international obligations and allowing Uyghur Muslims to be protected at a Universal level. Hence, the non-conformity, results in leaving Uyghur Muslims vulnerable and unable to practice religion without the fear of persecution.  

Samia Mallam-Hasham, Barrister-At-Law, Human Rights Advocate


El pasado mayo, el Congreso de la República del Perú promulgó el Proyecto de Ley N° 094, el cual condiciona la publicación de materiales educativos al consentimiento de madres y padres de familia. Tal como dice la ley, los padres y madres pueden influir en la elaboración de los materiales que se usarían en las escuelas:

“Los representantes de las APAFA, comités, asociaciones civiles u otras instancias de representación inscritas (…) designarán a los representantes que participarán en el proceso de elaboración del contenido de materiales, textos y recursos educativos conforme al procedimiento que se establezca en el respectivo reglamento.”

Ante eso, la Defensoría del Pueblo manifestó que: “La promulgación de esta ley afectaría el derecho a la educación e implementación de la educación sexual integral (ESI), e impediría al Minedu garantizar su cumplimiento en un contexto recurrente de violencia y embarazos en niñas y adolescentes mujeres”

Asimismo, la entidad comunicó lo siguiente: “Nuestra institución considera que el condicionamiento de la publicación de materiales educativos al consentimiento previo de progenitores, constituiría un peligroso precedente para todas las políticas públicas, pues institucionalizaría -a través de una ley- un derecho a veto por parte de personas con creencias o prejuicios, generando inestabilidad y falta de seguridad jurídica para la protección de los derechos humanos de las personas, y particularmente, de las y los estudiantes”

En la actualidad, el Ministerio de Educación del Perú es la Entidad encargada de elaborar estos materiales educativos. En el año 2016, nació el Movimiento “Con Mis Hijos No te metas”, el cual se opone a la Educación con Enfoque de Género en las Escuelas. En el año 2017, este movimiento se opuso al Currículo Nacional, el cual incluía un temario con enfoque de género, con la finalidad que la educación sea inclusiva y que se pueda prevenir embarazos adolescentes.

Actualmente, este movimiento mantiene su discurso y al aprobar la ley 094 daría libre albedrío a que estos intereses particulares sean parte de la elaboración de materiales educativos. No se puede negar que peligra el derecho de niñas, niños y adolescentes al no recibir una educación sexual integral y libre de discriminación. Con esta norma en vigencia, grupos conservadores pueden aprobar o desaprobar materiales educativos bajo su propia perspectiva, limitando la educación con enfoque de género y retrasando los pocos avances que se han podido dar en el país.

En un país con una alta tasa de violencia hacia la mujer, embarazos adolescentes y prejuicios, sí es necesaria la Educación con Enfoque de Género. Necesitamos que nuestra infancia y nuestra adolescencia tenga una educación de calidad y crecer en un ambiente seguro donde los prejuicios cada día se derriban más. Asimismo, ya existen experiencias en las escuelas donde la Educación Sexual Integral ha logrado disminuir los casos de embarazo adolescente. Urge la intervención del Estado y que día a día los intereses de grupos conservadores tengan menor participación en leyes que afectan a toda una nación. Un país sin machismo ni discriminación, es un país sin violencia.

Ana Claudia Baltazar Diaz

Devastating Earthquake in Afghanistan. Help needed from UN

BBC Photo

“Every street you go, you hear people mourning the deaths of their beloved ones,” a journalist in Paktika province told the BBC.

On Wednesday, June 22, 2022 the earthquake struck Paktika and Khost provinces at 1:30 AM while people were asleep. Many people have been killed and several others injured in, at least in Gyan and Barmal districts of Paktika 1,000 People have been killed and more than 1500 others have been injured, Maulvi Sharafuddin Muslim, Deputy Minister of State for Disaster Management of Taliban said.  The Gyan district police chief told the media that the death toll could rise further as the quake destroyed many homes and they were busy removing people from the rubble. 

Complete villages are destroyed, a 5 years old girl lost her all 5 members of the family, a kid who is only 8 years lost her all family, a man who is 55 years old lost his family’s 17 member.

Rescue workers said the casualties from the quake, which struck during the early hours of Wednesday, were likely to increase further.   

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said the magnitude 6.1 quake struck about 44 kilometers from the provincial capital of Khost. 

Speaking to the BBC, a doctor in Paktika said medical workers were among the victims.

“We didn’t have enough people and facilities before the earthquake, and now the earthquake has ruined the little we had,” they said. “I don’t know how many of our colleagues are still alive.”

Communication following the quake is difficult because of damage to mobile phone towers and the death toll could rise further still, another local journalist in the area told the BBC.

“Many people are not aware of the well-being of their relatives because their phones are not working,” he said. “My brother and his family died, and I just learned it after many hours. Many villages have been destroyed.”

Karim Nyazai was in the provincial capital and returned immediately to find his village devastated and 22 members of his extended family dead.

“I was away from my family who live in a remote village in the Gyan district. I went there as soon as I could find a car in the early morning,” he told the Guardian.

“The entire village is buried. Those who could manage to get out before everything fell down were managing to take out the bodies of their loved ones out of the rubble. There were bodies wrapped in blankets everywhere.

“I lost 22 members of my [extended family] including my sister, and three of my brothers. More than 70 people in the village died.”

Global and domestic reactions:

The United States has expressed sorrow over the recent quake and casualties in the country.  The State Department said it had received “grave reports” of reports of earthquakes and casualties in Afghanistan.

A statement issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that China extends its condolences to the Afghan people over the recent earthquakes in Paktika and Khost provinces.

 The Chinese Foreign Ministry said it was “deeply saddened” by last night’s quake and its aftermath.

French President Emmanuel Macron

“Our thoughts are with the hundreds of victims of the earthquake which has hit Afghanistan and Pakistan with indescribable force, the thousands of injured, the families who have lost everything and everyone facing this terrible ordeal.”

Pope Francis, the leader of the world’s Catholic Christians, has expressed his condolences to the victims of the earthquake in Khost and Paktika.  He said that international aid agencies should work together to help Afghans alleviate their hardships and problems.  He hoped that humanitarian assistance to Afghans would increase.

In a tweet, US Secretary of State Anthony Blanken called the Afghan earthquake a “great tragedy” and said it had exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in the country.

Iran has shown readiness to help the victims of the recent earthquake.  Saeed Khatibzada, a spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry, said in a recent statement. He says Iran is deeply saddened by the incident and shares its grief with Afghans.

Manzoor Ahmad Pashtun, PTM leader;

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of life and property caused by the earthquake in Paktika and Khost provinces.

 We share the grief of the bereaved families and the people of this region.”

 At present, we call on the Pashtun Afghan people and the international community to urgently provide financial and medical assistance to these areas.

Former President Ashraf Ghani, in a message issued on last night’s earthquake, He called on the international aid agencies, national businesses and charities to reach out to the needy and fulfill their national, cultural, religious and social duty at this critical time.

Turkey has also expressed its condolences over the recent death toll from the quake.  The Turkish embassy in Kabul said it shared its condolences with the families of the victims.

Former President Hamid Karzai has called for help for the quake victims.  A statement from the office of former President Hamid Karzai said that last night’s earthquake had caused financial and personal losses to many people in the country and was deeply saddening.

 He called on charities, national businesses, humanitarian organizations and other agencies to help the affected families and help them in this difficult situation.

Abdullah Abdullah“It is with great sadness that some of our compatriots have been martyred and some others injured due to the severe earthquake in Gyan district and surrounding areas of Paktika”.  According to reports, some people are still trapped under the rubble due to the collapse of houses.

I urge the authorities, domestic and foreign social and charitable organizations to do everything possible to help and cooperate with the injured and the victims of the accident.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif extended his condolences and an offer of support in a tweet on Wednesday.

“Deeply grieved to learn about the earthquake in Afghanistan, resulting in the loss of innocent lives,” he wrote. “People in Pakistan share the grief and sorrow of their Afghan brethren. Relevant authorities are working to support Afghanistan in this time of need.”

India expressed “sympathy and condolences to the victims and their families,” according to a tweet by the spokesperson of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs on Wednesday.

Taliban appeal for international aid

The government sadly is under sanctions so it is financially unable to assist the people to the extent that is needed,” said Abdul Qahar Balkhi, a senior Taliban official.

“International relief agencies are helping, neighboring countries, regional countries, and world countries have offered their assistance which we appreciate and welcome.

“The assistance needs to be scaled up to a very large extent because this is a devastating earthquake which hasn’t been experienced in decades.”

Taliban authorities said people were still under the rubble and. They also urged all aid organizations working in Afghanistan to help in the rescue operations.

Acting Foreign Minister of Taliban Amir Khan Mottaki. called on international community and Afghan businessmen to help and reach out to the families affected by the recent earthquake.  He called on Afghan businessmen pledge to reach out to their countrymen as much as they can and are ready for humanitarian aid.

“The government is working within its capabilities,” tweeted Anas Haqqani, a senior Taliban official. “We hope that the International Community & aid agencies will also help our people in this dire situation.”

Assistance is done as four helicopters and few ambulances had arrived in the quake-hit area of ​​Paktika. “A couple of helicopters came to help but it is not clear what else they can do other than moving the dead bodies.” Four families are in one tent, there are some other aids which is by the international community and people but it’s not enough and it can take a place.

Humanitarian aid is needed urgent

People are in immediate need of shelter, food, and water. We ask you to donate and do your best as it becomes our moral duty to help others when life gets difficult. Our people are hopeless and devastated. It’s that time they need our help; every dollar you donate can make a huge impact. Our donation may not cure the pain of this tragedy but will certainly aid those who are immediately in need of basics such as food, water, shelter, clothing, medicine and other essential items

Although many international aid agencies have stopped operating in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime, some of those who do exist have spoken of obstacles to aid delivery.

The incident is new and so far, the Taliban government or other international organizations have not surveyed how much aid will be needed for the quake victims in Khost and Paktika, but aid agencies based in Afghanistan say millions of dollars may be needed to deal with the damage. 

Now the main obstacle to the delivery of aid is the lack of a sound banking system, which many institutions are facing. With the emergence of the Taliban regime, it has become difficult to transfer money to Afghanistan, only the United Nations can.

Noorwali Khpalwak

Climate change on the threshold of the 2020s:Consequences and benefits of Covid-19

Between saying and doing lies the sea, in this case an increasingly polluted sea. Forests burn for days, biodiversity is increasingly at risk, in some cities the air is so polluted and almost unbreathable: climate change is a reality now more relevant than ever.

It is not surprising, then, that climate change, environmental degradation and overexploitation of resources are some of the biggest problems facing the international community today of which society at large-especially younger generations-is becoming increasingly aware.

As early as 1997, with the Kyoto Protocol, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) laid the groundwork for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Under the Kyoto mechanisms, parties were ranked according to emission levels, with a corresponding responsibility to reduce them by a given amount; thus, richer countries were given greater responsibility for reducing emissions than poorer countries (which is why, for example, the United States did not support the Protocol).

Despite broad support for the Protocol, global emissions over the past 20 years have grown rapidly, and climate change has remained a major international concern.

Average global temperatures have continued to rise, peaking between 2010 and 2019. The parallel increase in greenhouse gas emissions has contributed considerably to global warming, so much so that the European Earth Observation Program – Copernicus – has designated 2020 as the warmest year ever recorded in Europe.

On average, global temperature has increased by 0.94-1.03°C since the late 19th century, with potentially catastrophic long-term effects on the environment and climate. In order to curb this increase, the international community agreed – at COP21 – on the so-called Paris Agreement, whose aim is to keep global warming below 2°C.

Indeed, since the Paris Agreement places equal responsibilities on all parties, not only poorer countries are in a position where they have less room to develop their economies, but the asymmetries present in the distribution of wealth and political power are increasing. Moreover, because the global economic model is built on competition and growth, which are linked and translated into geopolitical power, it is unlikely that any country will adopt measures in the future that disproportionately damage its position on the world stage. However, despite these issues, the European Union has sought, and still seeks, to position itself as an international leader in issues of climate change resilience and sustainability, as well as to promote the importance of joint environmental action on the international stage and among the European population.

Although the official goal of global environmental policy has long been to limit global warming to below 2°C, a special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the state of global warming – published in 2018 – indicated that average global temperatures have increased by about 1°C since the pre-industrial era and predicted that average global warming is likely to reach an increase of 1.5°C between 2030 and 2050. The onset of the pandemic crisis in 2020 was certainly a game changer; the temporary slowdown in global greenhouse gas emissions due to significantly reduced economic activity in the first half of the year has, in fact, allowed the Earth to “breathe,” having led to 19 percent reductions in daily emission levels compared to April 2019. This has benefited the reduction of climate change risks, however, it is presumed that this slowdown will be temporary. The environmental benefits of the global economic slowdown due to COVID-19, however, extend far beyond lower greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, there has also been a significant decline in commercial fishing operations as the instability of global supply chains has prompted a renewed focus on strengthening local supply chains to support community fishers and reduce food insecurity risks. This, in turn, has also had indirect impacts on carbon footprints.

A further feature of the global response to the pandemic has been the willingness of most governments to rely on the advice of doctors and experts; a rationale that many commentators have urged to apply to global responses to climate change as well, arguing that the threats of climate change are far more widespread and enduring.

Francesca Teresi

The psychological fallout of the war in Ukraine

Life has changed in so many ways for us, the Ukrainian people. We have lost the many basic comforts of our lives and our houses, while our beliefs, our opinions, and our attitudes toward living have all changed dramatically. We are fearful of potential nuclear war, and the current war that could, if it continues to escalate, affect people around the world.

Hundreds of people live in the Kharkiv metro because of the war. Photo by David Peinado / Pexels

As an academic, I view the effects in multiple dimensions. Through personal research, I know the shock and uncertainty Ukrainians are facing; the changes they are experiencing in their psychological wellbeing that have come about from an uncertain existence. At the same time, my everyday life has evolved into something that doesn’t feel real. Immense traffic jams as people flee their homes, people clad in military gear and weapons walking on the streets, explosions and alarms urging us to take shelter from an imminent threat. And we don’t know when any of this will end.

A mental burden we all bear

The Ukrainian people have acted with an extraordinary resilience though. Voluntary organizations have formed quickly to help, some providing defense and patrolling neighborhoods, while others have set up mental health hotlines to provide people with much needed psychological support. Many of those volunteering have been misplaced  thousands of people who have been forced to leave their homes, their jobs, and their lives behind are offering to support millions of people just like them.

It’s hard for many of us to comprehend the immense psychological strength these efforts take. I spent time volunteering at the very beginning of this war, helping those fleeing their homes to find a place to go. On that day, our team met an estimated 35,000 refugees who all needed shelter. But our social infrastructure simply wasn’t built for such a crisis; the organizational skills simply didn’t and don’t exist. We are left with a situation of not being able to help people who are in dire need. Yes, we can provide food and clothes, but where can people go?

For those that do make it to a refugee shelter, life now consists of living in a shared space with others. Often these spaces are massively over-populated, some housing thousands of people. The smells, lack of oxygen, and external noises all present discomforts, while a lack of structure brings its own psychological burden. People now have no purpose. They simply wait for mealtimes while digesting information that further aggravates their stress during their free time.

Worse still, outdated stigmas get in the way of them receiving help. In Ukraine, when you offer psychological support, many people hear the prefix ‘psych’ and immediately shut down any avenues of discussion. They don’t want to be thought of as having ‘mental disorders’ or mentally ‘ill’. They simply will not accept the help you can offer them.

Diversification of reality

The shock of this war is not being felt by everyone in the same way. A phenomenon called ‘diversification of reality’ is currently at play, creating individual narratives to something that from the outside looks like it could only ever exist in one form.

Ukrainians living in war-affected areas of the country, for example, are experiencing something very different to those living in unaffected cities or towns. These different perspectives are more damaging to societal attitudes than you might think. Those who have lived under imminent threat will be dealing with extreme stress and potential post-traumatic stress disorder, while those who haven’t been directly affected will likely be dealing with less severe psychological distress.

Ultimately this means that when refugees from affected areas relocate and settle in unaffected areas, it is difficult for both parties to understand each other. A directly affected refugee may for example feel resentment toward the unaffected, while the unaffected will likely struggle to comprehend or empathize with the affected.

And this isn’t just between strangers: the same goes for families. Husbands or fathers who have been called up to fight will be dealing with entirely different scenarios and emotions to their loved ones. Their loved ones may be living in shelters which, as I described, may mean they are living in extreme discomfort. Men on the front line may also be feeling extreme distress but in a different way. When these family members meet again, their understanding of each other has forever been transformed and may never recover.

Societal division

With all this happening, you are also met with something that war very quickly creates: societal division. You are either an ally or an enemy, and many refugees who aren’t Ukrainian are met with a new-found patriotism from natives who see them as ‘outsiders’. This tension, combined with the fact that personal, financial, and social needs are already severely unmet for many refugees, leads to emotional burnout for everyone involved.

Societal division is further stoked by a curious means. Due to a lack of wanting to face reality, a willingness to close oneself off from the trauma of war, people turn toward any possible method of distraction. Currently, this tends to be television or social media.

With little else to do, people begin to consume this media in large quantities, allowing for a unique characteristic to blossom among society: a virtualization of expertise. As people consume more and more media related to the war, they begin to believe themselves to be experts on what is happening. This becomes a problem if their sources are biased to present a specific version of events. This leads to a variety of experts with a variety of different perspectives on the war, many of whom struggle to comprehend the perspectives of others, leading to societal tension and bitterness.

The will to carry on

You would think it would be easy for individuals to collapse under such a hefty psychological weight. But humans are strong. And I can tell you first hand that this particularly applies the proud people of Ukraine.

I have witnessed people arrive at a refugee shelter after an 18-hour journey on a packed train where they have had to stand for the entire time. The scenes many of them have witnessed and the basic comforts they have been denied are inconceivable to the rest of us. Even as I helped them with their bags, guided their children to a safe place, and reassured them that they were safe, my imagination could never fully understand their trauma. And yet, even in the face of the psychological scars they now undoubtedly bear, they continue to seek to survive.

Building bridges

Even with a fierce will to survive, the people of Ukraine need mental health support now more than ever. And that’s why a team of fellow psychologists and I are in the process of developing a method of allowing people to provide others with mental assurance. A kind of ‘horizontal diplomacy’ that lets people from around the world to act as a virtual shoulder to lean on for the people in Ukraine who have been affected by this war. Because together we can help each other, and together we can make a difference.

Dr Viktor Vus

Published with permission from

“Unprepared for motherhood”: stories of stigma among Rwandan adolescent mothers

Unwanted pregnancies are on the rise among Rwandan girls, posing a serious challenge. Teenage mothers’ current reality is heartbreaking. They are frequently discriminated against in society; they are judged, labeled, and have limited access to reproductive health, rights, and education, which puts them at higher risk of sexual abuse and exploitation. When a young mother is abandoned, ignored, or rejected, it has a direct detrimental impact on her life and that of her child(ren), but the ripple effect can also be felt in the future growth of a country. Reducing Teen pregnancy is a priority for the Rwandan government as well as development partners.

The majority of these teen mothers rely on family members for support. Mistreatment and abuse are frequently associated with this, negatively impacting their mental health and well-being.

Experts claim that pregnancies in girls under the age of 18 have irreversible implications. They point out that adolescent births violate girls’ rights, have life-threatening repercussions in terms of sexual and reproductive health, and cost communities a lot of money in terms of development, prolonging the poverty cycle.

According to Rwanda’s National Institute of Statistics, infant deaths and deaths in the first week of life are 50% greater among babies born to adolescent mothers than among babies born to mothers in their 20s (NISR).

Origin of the issue

The ‘culture of silence’ has emerged as one of the major factors contributing to the surge in teen pregnancies. Because of family ties, fear of social alienation, and financial incentives, some families continue to cover up for the adults involved in impregnating adolescent girls. The causes of teen pregnancy are clearly a complex and interconnected set of issues that necessitate multilevel and multi-component remedies.

Thousands of adolescent girls drop out of school or face discrimination or exclusion from schools each year in Africa because they are pregnant or have become mothers. Hundreds of thousands of girls became pregnant as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to reports, while schools were closed, sexual violence in communities increased, and protective systems for girls remained weak.

What can be done

Supporting comprehensive sexuality education in schools and improving youth-friendly services can help to address these issues. Governments, civil society organizations, and communities themselves must collaborate to address issues ranging from education to service provision, as well as the entrenched cultural norms that limit access and uptake.  Addition work to prevent and combat gender-based violence is equally crucial. Families must be taught to forgive and not stigmatize these children.

Ronald Kimuli

Green Wave: Women’s struggles for Legal Abortion in Latin American

Abortion is still a highly contested issue, whether for patriarchal, religious or social reasons. Latin American women are still fighting for their rights. The message is clear: Women will have the decision about their bodies. The aim of the movement is to put on the agenda the situation of women in relation to their reproductive health, which needs reform. Also, the importance of having sexual education in schools.

Under the motto of legal, safe and free abortion; Latin American women protest in favor of abortion, pointing to as a precedent the history of many women who have aborted in secrecy and precariousness (most of them died). Likewise, abortion is criminalized in many countries of the continent, leaving women in a state of vulnerability.

Status of the legalization of abortion in Latin America

Actually, only in 5 countries is the interruption of pregnancy legalized (within the established deadlines) :

  • Colombia
  • Argentina
  • Uruguay
  • Cuba
  • Puerto Rico
  • In the case of Mexico, it is only legalized in the cities of Mexico City and Oaxaca

In the rest of the Latin American countries, abortion is only allowed in specific cases: when the life of the mother or the baby is in danger, or in cases of sexual abuse;  with the exception of countries such as Honduras, El Salvador, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where abortion is criminalized in its entirety.

The Green Wave Movement

Under a perspective of intersectional and anti-capitalist feminism, the movement of the Green Wave arises. This movement originates in Argentina, where under the use of green scarves and with the participation of women of all ages and all social strata, legal, safe and free abortion is collectively demanded in the nation.

The “Argentinian Green Wave” influenced women’s collectives in other Latin American countries, where women’s collectives hold performances and songs where not only the legalization of abortion is demanded, but also slogans such as “the patriarchy is going to fall” are exposed. Thus generating a new social movement and debating in various spaces on the subject, but above all, generating an awakening in many women, who for the first time join a collective struggle in defense of their rights and the rights of thousands of women.

The discourses of the Green Wave not only influence thousands of women on the continent, but also generate new practices in the community, through which a community of struggle can be observed in an area where women survive on a daily basis and whose rights are not protected for centuries. The speech of “que sea ley” and “el patriarcado se va a caer” has come to stay until the fight is victory.

Movement Challenges

In Latin America, there is a strong presence not only of the Catholic Church, but also of Christian and Evangelical churches. These churches still have social influence and are against the legalization of abortion. Although there are secular states in Latin America, there are also conservative societies. Essentially, this creates pressure in society for policies that limit women’s rights.

Latin American women not only face this problem, but also problems with patriarchal structures. In a continent where there is wide inequality and those who are affected are women from low social strata, as well as women who are victims of a patriarchy that tries to dominate them the main challenge is to put women’s reproductive rights on the agenda, and in an attempt to make visible the need for public policies that address the issue, the community unites women from all nations, with the hope that tomorrow abortion will be legal for all.

Ana Claudia Baltazar Diaz

Minimalism as an Indicator to Sustainability


Minimalism is way of living that will allow the people to realize the requirements for living a comfortable life. As there are no theorems to prove the definition can vary to understanding of respective person and community. It will help us to conserve resources for future generation along with it will reduce pollution to great extent. Minimalism also will allow healthy lifestyle avoiding excessive eating, needless luxury and most importantly to be effective. The unconscious consumption is leading great burden in human life, it is affecting several factors of Environment. Minimalism sometimes misinterpreted as spending less money, In fact, it is spending money on right requirement. Purpose of being minimalistic is to contribute to sustainable environment to conserve resources.

There are certain elements identified to represent minimalism as an indicator to sustainability and numbers taken from references not presented in this article.

Fast fashion

With the fancy to look a par with trend we are falling for multiple marketing trends by companies, we are buying clothes more than required. To meet the demand the manufacturing of clothes is being done in short time with less resources companies are degrading the quality of the clothes. It is affecting the environment in many ways and consuming excess of water. It takes around 1,800 gallons of water to grow enough cotton to produce just one pair of regular blue jeans. In countries like Bangladesh where there is high export of less expensive clothing, The tanneries release about 22,000 cubic meters of toxic wastewater into nearby rivers every day. Fast fashion not only emits 10% of carbon emissions from human but also pollutes ocean with micro plastic. Respecting minimalistic values will reduce tenuity to follow the trend and thereby decrease carbon emissions through clothes.

Over consumption of Food

Conscious consumption of food is helpful to body and environment. We are unaware of the requirement and consumption of food that is necessary for us. There are different reasons to demonstrate excessive consumption i.e., stress, lethargy and uniformed about environmental emissions. Excessive eating is impacting the organ failures and impacting 40% mortality rate . If we are careful about quality and quantity of the food, we can reduce up to 30% of greenhouse gas affects. Being minimalist is to eat what is good, not more.

The scarcity of water is also a problem that minimalism address where overconsumption of water is leading to lack of safe water for 1 in 10.

Abstemious lifestyle

Minute things we do in everyday life will have high impact altogether. Minimalism will attract people to contribute their fantasies for a better cause. It must be fascinating to live in big house, driving many cars and using number of resources, there are debates stating people are free to live the way they want to until they are respecting the legal rules. With due respect to everyone who have gone through to earn this luxury and prosperity, the questions are “Are we spending on right requirement”, “Is your luxury affecting the community and environment in any way “. Minimalism is not against expensive products, it is not for luxury impacting environment. Multiple gadgets, automobiles and luxury homes consumes lot of resources and creates social impact on people living in the community. Even after obligation to respect ISO 14001 norm and companies policy to recycle approximately 40%, emissions are growing as the global energy demands of the gadget sector will grow 7 to 20 percent by 2030. We reach a footprint of having 720kg CO2e per £1000 spent(approx.) On car manufacturing. Have large homes where high number of resources are used and constructions abandoned for long period of time is not sustainable way of living.

Growing desires of the society is proportionate to consumption of resources. In view of suitability, it is highly important to identify wants and needs. Living with principal needs is proven to be supportable to the nature and healthy for body and mind. This article proposes the practical parameters to consider minimalism as indicator like green electrons and footprints to measure sustainability. There are only few critical problems addressed above to align minimalism principles and explain environmental effects.

Pavani Buddaraju