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

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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to Rape and Sexual violence directed at women during international armed conflicts and evaluate whether they are outdated.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.

Conclusion

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.

Samia.F.Mallam-Hasham
Barrister-at-Law

Italian Youth Deviance Intervention

The Ministers of Internal Affairs and Justice, with Transcrime Research Center and Sacro Cuore University made a wonderful job in studying and reporting the presence and activity of baby gangs in Italy.

With the Scentific Committee of the Human Advisor Project we decide to activate a program of intervention about this phenomenon, working of what we elaborated could be the most important cause: Italian Young Generation is completely lost and not listened to, from years.

For that, our program aims to get in touch with young generations in difficult areas, mix with them, get to know them, listen to them (focusing on the North-East of Italy) and better understand the phenomenon and the possible intervention that need to be implemented, mostly about education but also about education to self-awareness, compassion, mindfulness and emotional intelligence, making them aware of the world they are creating for themselves and help them to face the uncertainty of this historic moment.

The program is not public because of safety reasons. Results will be published in the next two years.

China turning a blind eye to its International Obligations

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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.

Sinicization

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.

Conclusion

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

LA EDUCACIÓN CON ENFOQUE DE GÉNERO SI ES PRIORIDAD

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

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

How to prevent the next pandemic (ENG)

After two years of pandemic, Bill Gates delivers a book that in about three hundred pages can serve as both a warning and a handbook for the future. How to prevent the next pandemic, published on 3 May by the Allen Lane publishing house, has been the talk of the town since its release. The Coronavirus pandemic, in fact, has not yet died out and continues to plague governments around the world with its social, political, health and economic implications, but Mr. Gates is already looking to the future, trying to find an answer to the existential question that also gives this book its title ‘How can we prevent the next pandemic?

The Microsoft founder is firmly convinced – and personally, after reading his book, I find myself agreeing with him – that by learning from the current pandemic and implementing a series of strategies for the future, we can avoid the outbreak of a global health crisis like the one caused by Covid-19.

Based on the shared views of the world’s leading experts and his own experience fighting deadly diseases through the Gates Foundation, in How to prevent the next pandemic Bill Gates clearly and convincingly sets out the importance of being better prepared for the spread of new viruses.

The book consists of nine chapters plus an Introduction and an Afterword, the core of which revolves around the idea that while epidemics are inevitable, pandemics are optional. The world, therefore, in Gates’ thinking should not live in fear of the next pandemic, but should make the right investments for the benefit of all, with a view to making Covid-19 the last pandemic ever.

As many will recall, Bill and Melinda Gates have been committed to fighting the virus from the earliest days, collaborating with experts inside and outside the Gates Foundation who have been fighting infectious diseases for decades. This commitment inevitably led Mr. Gates to reflect on many factors in the pandemic response that could have been faster and more efficient.

Starting with the fact that respiratory viruses, including influenza and coronaviruses, are particularly dangerous because they spread very quickly, Bill Gates explains that the likelihood of a pandemic striking the world is steadily increasing; partly because human beings with urbanisation are encroaching on countless natural habitats and, as a result, interacting with animals more often, creating the conditions that allow a disease to pass from animal to human. In addition to this, another key point to consider is the lack of technical preparedness that all countries around the world have generally shown in responding to the virus. Back in 2015, during a speech at the TED conference entitled “The next epidemic? We’re not ready”, Gates had emphasised the importance of planning for all kinds of scenarios – from vaccine research to the training of health workers – to prevent the outbreak of increasingly dangerous viruses. Reflecting this importance, How to Prevent the Next Pandemic sets out how governments, scientists, companies and individuals can build a system capable of containing the inevitable outbreaks so that they do not turn into pandemics. Specifically, each chapter of the book explains a different step to take in order to be ready, and together, all these steps form a plan to eliminate future pandemics and reduce the likelihood that society will have to go through another Covid-19.

The first chapter traces the importance of learning from the pandemic caused by Covid-19. The starting point is swift action. It is no coincidence that many of the countries that experienced low excess mortality – Australia, Vietnam, New Zealand, South Korea – at the start of the pandemic quickly tested a large portion of the population, abruptly isolated individuals who tested positive and those who had been exposed to the virus, and put in place a plan to track, monitor, and manage cases that crossed their borders. Of course, Gates explains, just as some countries show us what to do and how to act, others show us the opposite. Not everyone did the right thing. Some people refused to wear a mask or vaccinate. Some politicians have denied the seriousness of the disease and avoided implementing the necessary closures to stop the spread of the virus.

Another fundamental point, repeatedly emphasised by the author, is that investing in innovation today will pay off in the future. In this regard, in the second chapter Gates emphasises the importance of putting in place a global body of experts whose task is to study how to respond to diseases that could kill thousands of people. Simply put, the world has never before invested in the mechanisms needed to prevent future pandemics and now is the time to do so.

Today, there are many organisations working to respond to pandemics, the best known being the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) which does heroic work but does not have the personnel, funds or global mandate to deal with any threat.

What Bill Gates therefore advocates is the creation of a permanent organisation of experts, fully paid and prepared to organise, at any time, a coordinated response to any dangerous outbreak. Mr. Gates proposes to call this group GERM – Global Epidemic Response and Mobilisation – and to fill it with experts from all over the world with a wide range of expertise (epidemiology, genetics, diplomacy, logistics, computer models, communication, etc.) who, when not actively working in the field, are based in the public health agencies of individual countries, in the regional offices of the WHO, and at the headquarters in Geneva.

Several times throughout the book, Gates explains how the most important job of this team would be to help run epidemic response exercises to see if the world is ready for the next big pandemic. However, GERM’s impact would not be limited to stopping pandemics, the group would also improve overall health worldwide, especially in poorer countries.

Another important part of prevention is to study and constantly monitor the spread of different viruses. Indeed, with the right investment and preparation, we will be able to rapidly test large numbers of people during an epidemic in the future. A rapid and efficient response is inevitably linked to the development of digital data collection systems so that public health offices can keep abreast of the situation in their communities, as well as the ability of governments around the world to establish working relationships with infectious disease experts from both the public and private sectors.

In the fourth chapter, the author explores an issue that has plagued countless countries and governments over the past two pandemic years: the need to teach and help people to protect themselves and others. The most useful way we can all do our part is through so-called ‘non-pharmaceutical inventions’ – NPIs – (masks, sanitisers, lockdowns, etc.). The irony of NPIs is that the more useful and effective they are, the easier they are to criticise. However, as our recent past shows, lockdowns – for example – have allowed the world’s economies to recover faster, simply by forcing people to stay indoors and thus saving lives. Of course, not everything that governments have implemented during the current pandemic has been right, nor will it be necessary in the future to repeat every single action taken in the fight against Covid-19. In particular, Gates focuses on the closure of schools, emphasising that schools will not need to be closed for extended periods of time in the future, especially if the world community is able to provide vaccines for everyone within six months.

However, what works for one place or country does not necessarily work for another. Lockdowns are a clear example of this disparity. As explained by the author, social distancing and lockdowns work more for wealthier countries and neighbourhoods; this is because wealthier people tend to work jobs that do not require them to travel and go out to work and because they can afford to stay indoors. Consequently, just as it is important to develop and implement the study of new vaccines, new tests for infectious diseases, and new treatments, it is equally important to work on the inequalities that afflict the global community and that, consequently, slow down the fight against future pandemics. Both locally and globally. A further recurring theme of the book is that the global community does not have to choose between preventing future pandemics or implementing global health: these are in fact mutually reinforcing. The greatest medical breakthrough of this pandemic – and one of the most important in recent decades – was the creation of vaccines against Covid-19. One study found that in the first year they saved more than 1 million lives and prevented 10 million hospitalisations in the US alone. The creation and distribution of the vaccines has been quite rapid, yet there are a number of problems that need to be solved before the next potential pandemic arrives, such as the huge disparity between those who have been vaccinated and those who have not. It is important to remember that the speed with which the vaccines against Covid-19 were implemented depends largely on a matter of ‘luck’. In fact, coronaviruses had already caused two previous outbreaks (SARS and MERS), allowing scientists to learn a great deal about the structure of the virus. In particular, the scientific community – before 2020 – had already identified Covid’s characteristic spike protein – the crown-like spikes of the virus of which countless images have been disseminated – as a potential target for vaccines, so when it came time to create new vaccines, scientists suddenly realised which part of the virus was most vulnerable to attack. In the next outbreak,’ Mr Gates warns us, ‘we might not be so lucky. It could be caused by a virus that scientists have not yet studied.

That is why, according to the author, the global community must adopt a serious plan for the development, production and distribution of new vaccines to prevent another pandemic. However, it is good to keep in mind the difficulty and especially the high costs of such processes. Production alone is a huge challenge: to avoid the inequalities we have seen in Covid-19, the world will have to be able to produce enough vaccines for everyone on the planet within six months of the discovery of a new pathogen (around 8 billion doses for a single-dose vaccine and 16 billion for a two-dose version). To do this, Bill Gates proposes – in chapter six – a four-step plan, starting with accelerating the invention of new vaccines.

All this inevitably requires a lot of practice. ‘Practice, practice, practice’, not surprisingly, is how the author wanted to call the next chapter, in which he advocates a series of simulation plans for the future that will help the global community prevent future pandemics from breaking out. So, just as countless governments spend millions on military exercises, so too should they in the future invest in health exercises that will make us all better prepared should another virus spread. Such exercises will not only be useful in preventing further pandemics, but will also help governments to be prepared in the event of a bioterrorist attack (which is the deliberate use of biological agents – such as viruses, bacteria or toxins – in actions against public safety). The very possibility of a bioterrorism attack is one of the reasons why governments around the world should invest more money in research, study and prevention of diseases that can ‘go global’. Inevitably, investments of public money – as well as the ability to cope with crises – are easier and more possible in richer countries, which greatly contributes to widening inequalities between developed and undeveloped or developing countries. In this regard, Mr. Gates proposes for the immediate future to start decreasing the gaps between rich and poor countries, especially in the area of public health since “where we live and how much money we have determines the chances we have of dying young or becoming wealthy adults”. Narrowing the gaps between wealthier and poorer countries not only helps to eliminate inequities in health and healthcare, but also helps to prevent the spread of new pandemics. Thus, both rich and poor countries benefit.

In conclusion, Bill Gates reminds us that investing public money in planning and preventing new pandemics will make people healthier, save lives and reduce the health gap between rich and poor, even when the world is not actually facing an active epidemic. How to prevent the next pandemic is therefore a handbook, an opportunity not only to prevent things from getting worse, but also to make them better. “We must not give up,” says Mr Gates, “living in perpetual fear of another global catastrophe. But we must be aware of this possibility and be willing to do something about it. I hope the world seizes this moment and invests in the necessary steps to make Covid-19 the last pandemic’.

Personally, I found reading this book extremely interesting, but above all enlightening. Reading How to prevent the next pandemic made me realise how many things are often taken for granted nowadays, especially for people like me who live in developed countries. From the distribution of vaccines to the possibility of finding sanitary devices or swabs, everything is easier if we just leave the house and walk a few metres to find a pharmacy. The Covid-19 pandemic affected every country in the world without distinction, but the ability of governments to respond to it was inevitably related to the type of country (rich or poor, developed or underdeveloped). I believe, therefore, that reading this handbook – as it should be read – can be extremely useful, both for individuals and for governments themselves.

Francesca Teresi

How to prevent the next pandemic (ITA)

Dopo due anni di pandemia, Bill Gates ci consegna un libro che in circa trecento pagine può fungere sia da monito che da manuale per il futuro. How to prevent the next pandemic, pubblicato lo scorso 3 maggio dalla casa editrice Allen Lane, ha fatto parlare di sé sin dal momento della sua divulgazione. La pandemia da Coronavirus, infatti, non si è ancora estinta e continua ad affliggere i governi di tutto il mondo con le sue implicazioni sociali, politiche, sanitarie ed economiche, ma Mr. Gates rivolge già il suo sguardo al futuro, cercando di trovare una risposta all’esistenziale domanda che da anche il titolo a questo libro “Come possiamo prevenire la prossima pandemia?”. Il fondatore di Microsoft è fermamente convinto – e personalmente, dopo aver letto il suo libro, mi trovo d’accordo con lui – che imparando dall’attuale pandemia e mettendo in atto una serie di strategie per il futuro, potremo evitare il divampare di una crisi sanitaria globale come quella causata dal Covid-19.

Basandosi sulle opinioni condivise dei maggiori esperti mondiali e sulla propria esperienza nella lotta alle malattie mortali attraverso la Fondazione Gates, in How to prevent the next pandemic Bill Gates espone in modo chiaro e convincente l’importanza di essere più preparati al diffondersi di nuovi virus.

Il libro si articola in nove capitoli più un’Introduzione ed una Postfazione, il cui nucleo fondamentale ruota attorno all’idea che se da una parte le epidemie sono inevitabili, dall’altra le pandemie sono facoltative. Il mondo, quindi, nel pensiero di Gates non deve vivere nella paura della prossima pandemia, ma deve fare i giusti investimenti a beneficio di tutti, nell’ottica di rendere il Covid-19 l’ultima pandemia di sempre.

Come molti ricorderanno, Bill e Melinda Gates si sono impegnati nella lotta al virus fin dai primi giorni, collaborando con esperti interni ed esterni alla Fondazione Gates che da decenni combattono le malattie infettive. Questo impegno ha inevitabilmente portato Mr. Gates a riflettere su molti fattori della risposta alla pandemia che avrebbero potuto essere più veloci ed efficienti.

Partendo dal fatto che i virus respiratori, inclusi influenza e coronavirus, sono particolarmente pericolosi poiché si diffondono molto rapidamente, Bill Gates ci spiega che le probabilità che una pandemia colpisca il mondo sono in continuo aumento; in parte perché l’essere umano con l’urbanizzazione sta invadendo innumerevoli habitat naturali e, di conseguenza, interagisce con gli animali più spesso creando le condizioni che permettono ad una malattia di passare dall’animale all’uomo. Oltre a ciò, altro punto fondamentale da considerare è l’assenza di preparazione tecnica che in generale tutti i paesi del mondo hanno dimostrato nel rispondere al virus. Già nel 2015, nel corso di un discorso alla conferenza TED intitolato The next epidemic? We’re not ready, Gates aveva sottolineato l’importanza di pianificare ogni tipo di scenario – dalla ricerca sui vaccini alla formazione degli operatori sanitari – per evitare il divampare di virus sempre più pericolosi. Ricalcando tale importanza, How to prevent the next pandemic espone come governi, scienziati, aziende ed individui possono costruire un sistema in grado di contenere gli inevitabili focolai così da evitare che questi si trasformino in pandemie. Nello specifico ogni capitolo del libro spiega un diverso passo da compiere per essere pronti e, nell’insieme, tutti questi passi costituiscono un piano per eliminare future pandemie e ridurre le probabilità che la società debba attraversare un altro Covid-19.

Il primo capitolo ricalca l’importanza dell’imparare dalla pandemia causata dal Covid-19. Il punto di partenza è costituito da un’azione repentina. Non a caso, molti dei paesi che hanno avuto un basso eccesso di mortalità – Australia, Vietnam, Nuova Zelanda, Corea del Sud – all’inizio della pandemia hanno testato rapidamente una grande parte della popolazione, isolato repentinamente gli individui risultati positivi e quelli che erano stati esposti al virus, e messo in atto un piano per tracciare, sorvegliare e gestire i casi che avevano attraversato i loro confini. Ovviamente – spiega Gates – così come alcuni paesi ci mostrano cosa fare e come agire, altri ci mostrano il contrario. Non tutti hanno fatto la giusta cosa. Alcune persone si sono rifiutate di indossare la mascherina o di vaccinarsi. Alcuni politici hanno negato la gravità della malattia ed evitato di mettere in atto le chiusure necessarie ad arrestare la diffusione del virus.

Un altro punto fondamentale, più volte rimarcato dall’autore, è che investire nell’innovazione oggi ripagherà in futuro. A questo proposito, nel secondo capitolo Gates sottolinea l’importanza di mettere in campo un corpo globale di esperti il cui compito è studiare come rispondere a malattie che potrebbero uccidere migliaia di persone. In poche parole, il mondo non ha mai investito prima nei meccanismi necessari a prevenire future pandemie ed ora è il momento di farlo.

Oggi, le organizzazioni che lavorano per rispondere alle pandemie sono molte, la più nota è sicuramente la Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) che svolge un lavoro eroico senza tuttavia avere il personale, i fondi o il mandato globale necessari ad affrontare ogni minaccia.

Ciò che dunque Bill Gates auspica è la creazione di un’organizzazione permanente di esperti, completamente retribuiti e preparati ad organizzare, in qualsiasi momento, una risposta coordinata ad un’eventuale epidemia pericolosa. Mr. Gates propone di chiamare questo gruppo GERM – Global Epidemic Response and Mobilization – e di riempirlo di esperti provenienti da tutto il mondo con un’ampia gamma di competenze (epidemiologia, genetica, diplomazia, logistica, modelli informatici, comunicazione, ecc..) i quali, quando non lavorano attivamente sul campo, sono basati nelle agenzie di salute pubblica dei singoli Paesi, negli uffici regionali dell’OMS e nella sede centrale di Ginevra.

A più riprese nel corso del libro, Gates spiega come il lavoro più importante di questo team sarebbe quello di aiutare a gestire le esercitazioni di risposta alle epidemie per verificare se il mondo è pronto per la prossima grande pandemia. Tuttavia, l’impatto del GERM non si limiterebbe a fermare le pandemie, il gruppo, infatti, migliorerebbe anche la salute generale in tutto il mondo, soprattutto nei Paesi più poveri.

Un’altra parte importante della prevenzione è rappresentata dallo studiare e tenere sotto controllo costante il diffondersi dei diversi virus. Infatti, con i giusti investimenti e la giusta preparazione in futuro, durante un’epidemia, saremo in grado di testare rapidamente un elevato numero di persone. Una risposta rapida ed efficiente è inevitabilmente connessa allo sviluppo di sistemi di raccolta dati digitali così da permettere agli uffici di salute pubblica di essere sempre aggiornati sula situazione della propria comunità, nonché alla capacità dei governi di tutto il mondo di stabilire relazioni lavorative con esperti di malattie infettive provenienti sia dal settore pubblico che da quello privato.

Nel quarto capitolo, l’autore approfondisce una tematica che nel corso di questi ultimi due anni di pandemia ha afflitto innumerevoli paesi e governi: la necessità di insegnare ed aiutare le persone a proteggere sé stesse e gli altri. Il modo più utile con cui tutti noi possiamo fare la nostra parte è costituito dalle cosiddette “invenzioni non farmaceutiche” – NPI – (mascherine, igienizzanti, lockdown, ecc..). L’ironia delle NPI è che più sono utili ed efficaci, più è facile che vengano criticate. Tuttavia, come il nostro recente passato dimostra, i lockdown – ad esempio – hanno permesso di alle economie mondiali di riprendersi più velocemente, semplicemente obbligando le persone a stare in casa e salvando così delle vite. Ovviamente, non tutto ciò che i governi hanno messo in atto nel corso dell’attuale pandemia è stato giusto, né tanto meno sarà necessario in futuro ripetere ogni singola azione compiuta nella lotta al Covid-19. In particolare, Gates si focalizza sulla chiusura delle scuole, sottolineando come per l’avvenire non sarà necessario chiuderle per periodi di tempo prolungati, soprattutto se la comunità mondiale sarà in grado di fornire vaccini per tutti nel corso di 6 mesi.

Tuttavia, ciò che funziona per un posto o un paese non funziona necessariamente anche per un altro. I lockdown sono un chiaro esempio di tale disparità. Come spiegato dall’autore, il distanziamento sociale e le chiusure forzate funziona maggiormente per i paesi ed i quartieri più ricchi; questo perché le persone più ricche fanno tendenzialmente lavori che non li obbligano a spostarsi e ad uscire per andare a lavorare e perché possono permettersi di stare chiusi in casa. Di conseguenza, così come è importante sviluppare ed implementare lo studio di nuovi vaccini, nuovi test per le malattie infettive e nuovi trattamenti, allo stesso modo è importante lavorare sulle disparità che affliggono la comunità globale e che, di conseguenza, rallentano il contrastare future pandemie. Sia a livello locale, sia a livello globale.

Un ulteriore tematica ricorrente del libro è che la comunità globale non deve scegliere se prevenire le future pandemie o implementare la salute globale: queste infatti si rinforzano a vicenda.

La più grande scoperta medica di questa pandemia – nonché una delle più importanti degli ultimi decenni – è stata la creazione dei vaccini contro il Covid-19. Uno studio ha rilevato che nel primo anno hanno salvato più di 1 milione di vite e impedito 10 milioni di ricoveri solo negli Stati Uniti.

La creazione e la distribuzione dei vaccini è stata piuttosto rapida, tuttavia ci sono una serie di problemi che necessitano di essere risolti prima che arrivi la prossima potenziale pandemia, come l’enorme disparità tra chi è stato vaccinato e chi no.

È importante ricordare che la rapidità con cui i vaccini contro il Covid-19 sono stati messi in atto dipende in buona parte da una questione di “fortuna”. I coronavirus, infatti, avevano già causato due precedenti epidemie (SARS e MERS), consentendo agli scienziati di imparare molto sulla struttura del virus. In particolare, la comunità scientifica – prima del 2020 – aveva già identificato la caratteristica proteina spike del Covid – le punte del virus simili a una corona di cui sono state diffuse innumerevoli immagini – come un potenziale bersaglio per i vaccini, così quando è arrivato il momento di creare nuovi vaccini, gli scienziati hanno repentinamente capito quale parte del virus era più vulnerabile all’attacco. Nella prossima epidemia – ci mette in guardia Mr. Gates – potremmo non essere così fortunati. Potrebbe essere causata da un virus che gli scienziati non hanno ancora studiato.

Ecco perché, secondo l’autore, la comunità globale deve adottare un piano serio per lo sviluppo, la produzione e la distribuzione di nuovi vaccini per prevenire un’altra pandemia. Tuttavia, è bene tenere a mente la difficoltà e soprattutto i costi elevati di tali processi. La sola produzione è una sfida enorme: per evitare le disuguaglianze che abbiamo visto nel Covid-19, il mondo dovrà essere in grado di produrre vaccini sufficienti per tutti gli abitanti del pianeta entro sei mesi dalla scoperta di un nuovo agente patogeno (circa 8 miliardi di dosi per un vaccino a dose singola e 16 miliardi per una versione a due dosi). Per fare questo Bill Gates propone – nel sesto capitolo – un piano in quattro fasi, a partire dall’accelerazione dell’invenzione di nuovi vaccini.

Tutte ciò necessita inevitabilmente di molta pratica. “Practice, practice, practice”, non ha caso così l’autore ha voluto chiamare il capitolo successivo, nel quale auspica per il futuro una serie di piani di simulazione che aiuteranno la comunità globale ad evitare l’esplodere di future pandemie. Dunque, così come innumerevoli governi spendono milioni in esercitazioni militari, allo stesso modo dovranno in futuro investire in esercitazioni sanitarie che ci renderanno tutti più preparati qualora un altro virus dovesse diffondersi. Tali esercitazioni saranno utili non solo a prevenire ulteriori pandemie, bensì aiuteranno anche i governi ad essere preparati nel caso di attacchi di Bioterrorismo (che consiste nell’utilizzo intenzionale di agenti biologici – come virus, batteri o tossine – in azioni contro l’incolumità pubblica). Proprio la possibilità di un attacco di bioterrorismo è una delle ragioni per cui i governi di tutto il mondo dovrebbero investire più denaro nella ricerca, nello studio e nella prevenzione di malattie che possono “diventare globali”. Inevitabilmente, gli investimenti di denaro pubblico – così come la capacità di affrontare le crisi – sono più semplici e possibili nei paesi più ricchi, fatto che contribuisce enormemente ad acuire le disparità tra paesi sviluppati e paesi non sviluppati o in via di sviluppo. A questo proposito Mr. Gates propone per l’immediato futuro di cominciare a diminuire le distanze tra i paesi ricchi e i paesi poveri, soprattutto in ambito di salute pubblica dato che “dove viviamo e quanti soldi abbiamo, determinano le possibilità che abbiamo di morire giovani o diventare adulti abbienti”. Diminuire le distanze tra i paesi più o meno abbienti non solo contribuisce ad annullare le ingiustizie in termini di salute e sanità, ma aiuta anche a prevenire il diffondersi di nuove pandemie. Dunque, ne beneficiano sia i paesi ricchi sia i paesi poveri.

In conclusione, Bill Gates ci ricorda che investire denaro pubblico nel pianificare e nel prevenire nuove pandemie renderà le persone più sane, salverà vite e ridurrà il divario sanitario tra ricchi e poveri, anche quando il mondo non sia effettivamente di fronte a un’epidemia attiva. How to prevent the next pandemic rappresenta dunque un manuale, un’opportunità non solo per impedire che le cose peggiorino, ma anche per migliorarle. “Non dobbiamo arrenderci – dice Mr. Gates – a vivere nella perenne paura di un’altra catastrofe globale. Ma dobbiamo essere consapevoli di questa possibilità ed essere disposti a fare qualcosa. Spero che il mondo colga questo momento e investa nei passi necessari per rendere il Covid-19 l’ultima pandemia”.

Personalmente ho trovato la lettura di questo libro estremamente interessante, ma soprattutto illuminante. Leggere How to prevent the next pandemic mi ha fatto capire quante cose vengono spesso date per scontate oggigiorno, specialmente per chi come me vive in paesi sviluppati. Dalla distribuzione dei vaccini alla possibilità di trovare dispositivi sanitari o tamponi, tutto è più semplice se ci basta uscire di casa e fare pochi metri per trovare una farmacia. La pandemia da Covid-19 ha colpito tutti i paesi del mondo senza distinzioni, ma la capacità dei governi di rispondere a tale crisi è stata inevitabilmente correlata alla tipologia di paese (ricco o povero, sviluppato o sottosviluppato). Credo, dunque, che la lettura di questo manuale – come tale dovrebbe essere letto – possa rivelarsi estremamente utile, tanto per i singoli individui quanto per i governi stessi.

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 https://www.talkingmentalhealth.com/

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