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Bohra imam’s visit puts British girls at risk of mutilation, warn FGM campaigners | Female genital mutilation (FGM)

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Campaigners have criticised the UK government for granting a visa to a religious leader who has advocated for female genital mutilation (FGM).

Mufaddal Saifuddin who is the syedna, or leader, of the Dawoodi Bohra community, a sect of Shia Islam with 1.2 million followers worldwide, will give sermons in front of tens of thousands of people at Northolt mosque in London between 29 July and 7 August.

A group of anti-FGM activists and survivor-led organisations has written to Liz Truss and Priti Patel, as well as Andy Burnham, mayor of Manchester, and Sadiq Khan, mayor of London, calling on the UK government to revoke Saifuddin’s visa unless he publicly denounces FGM.

Saifuddin, who has publicly stated his support for FGM, was granted a visa despite UK immigration policy prohibiting supporters of the practice from visiting the UK. It is an offence in England and Wales for any person to perform FGM, punishable by up to 14 years in prison and/or a fine.

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Female genital mutilation: what does it involve and what are its consequences?

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Female genital mutilation (FGM) is the removal of part or all of the external genitalia for nonmedical reasons, as defined by the World Health Organization.

There are different types of cutting: removal of the clitoris and/or its hood; removing the clitoris and the inner fold of the vulva (labia minora); and the narrowing of the vaginal opening by cutting and repositioning the labia minora through stitching. Also known as infibulation, this has the worst health consequences. The fourth type of cutting includes other forms of injury to the genitalia such as incising, scraping or cauterising.

Since traditional practitioners use razor blades or knives, with no anaesthesia, girls experience excruciating pain and are at risk of severe bleeding and infections which can lead to sepsis. Some do not survive.

For the girls, who are often married off soon after genital cutting, sex is traumatic and painful, and enjoying sex will always be difficult unless they have surgical reconstruction.

In pregnancy, delivery is often risky due to obstructed and prolonged labour. Women are at risk of developing obstetric fistula (an abnormal opening between a woman’s genital tract and her urinary tract or rectum) which can cause incontinence – leading to shame, stigma and rejection from their partners.

  • Dr Mercy Korir is a medical doctor and health and science editor at the Kenyan media organisation Standard Group

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Saka Hakasi, former president of the Dawoodi Bohra Welfare Society, which has been excommunicated from the Dawoodi Bohra community and has approximately 800 members in the UK, said: “Given he supports FGM, I don’t understand how he can be given a visa to visit the UK, because it puts girls at risk. We are flabbergasted.”

The Home Office said it did not routinely comment on individual cases.

Four million girls and young women a year are believed to be at risk of being cut around the world and an estimated 200 million have already been mutilated, in a practice that causes lifelong health complications and often leads to the death of victims.

In 2015, Saifuddin’s office issued letters to his followers in countries where FGM is illegal, including the UK, informing members not to perform the practice. However, in a public sermon a year later, he stated: “It must be done.” Supporters of Saifuddin claimed his remarks had been misinterpreted.

In an open letter in 2016, an anti-FGM organisation within the Bohra community criticised his comments, noting that: “His declaration that Bohras must continue the act [of FGM], irrespective of opposition from various quarters, indicates that Bohra authorities were not being sincere” when they publicly urged congregations to stop the practice.

A UK-registered charity, for which Saifuddin is the corporate trustee, spent more than £800,000 on “costs incurred in defending four members of the Dawoodi Bohra Jamaat [congregation] in Sydney in connection with female genital mutilation”. In a landmark case in Australia, a Dawoodi Bohra imam, a former midwife and the victims’ mother were found guilty of mutilating two girls.

Masooma Ranalvi, who is part of the Dawoodi Bohra community in India, a survivor of FGM, and founder of WeSpeakOut, a survivor-led organisation, said: “It’s important for the UK government to take note of the fact that this is a man who is openly perpetuating and propagating a practice which is illegal in the UK. [His visit] will lead to a resurgence in [FGM].”

WeSpeakOut is planning a protest outside the mosque in north-west London on Friday 5 August.

Prince Charles has met the sect’s leader twice: in September they met at his Scottish estate, Dumfries House; the prince also met Saifuddin on a visit to Northolt mosque in 2009. Khan met Saifuddin on a previous visit.

“Prince Charles and Sadiq Khan are legitimising him. This is true of any person who publicly lauds him,” said Ranalvi. “It’s a clear statement of support for each other.”

She added: “Politicians and the crown should take a stand on it. That’s the only way we can condemn such practices.”

A spokesperson said Khan had no plans to meet Saifuddin. They said the mayor was “very clear that the despicable practice of FGM has absolutely no place in our city”.

Clarence House said there were no plans for Charles to meet Saifuddin on this visit.

FGM is inflicted on girls from the Bohra community usually between the ages of six and nine years old. It usually takes the form of Type 1 FGM (partial or total removal of the clitoral glans and/or the clitoral hood) or Type 4 FGM (pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterising the female genitals), as classified by the World Health Organization.

According to one survey, about 75% of girls in the Dawoodi Bohra community in India have undergone FGM, according to Ranalvi, who said she had anecdotal evidence that the practice continues in the UK, despite being illegal. Saifuddin’s visit coincides with the school summer holidays, when many British girls are sent abroad to be cut.

Many members of the Bohra community have called for an end to FGM as a form of child abuse and human rights violation that can cause lifelong physical and psychological trauma.

Representatives of the Dawoodi Bohra organisation were approached for comment but had not responded by the time of publication.

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BJP Set for Record Gujarat Win, But Likely Suffer Jolt in Himachal Pradesh

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bharatiya janata party (bjp), indian national congress, gujarat, himachal pradesh, aam aadmi party, narendra modi, narendra modi, state, state, prime minister, prime minister, arvind kejriwal, elections, elections, polls, polls

bharatiya janata party (bjp), indian national congress, gujarat, himachal pradesh, aam aadmi party, narendra modi, narendra modi, state, state, prime minister, prime minister, arvind kejriwal, elections, elections, polls, polls

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has ruled Gujarat for 27 consecutive years after winning its first election in 1995, and is on course to secure a seventh term.

The BJP was set to achieve its best-ever mandate in Indian state of Gujarat’s legislative assembly elections on Thursday. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party had already won 35 seats in his home state till afternoon, it was maintaining a lead in 121 other seats.

If the BJP does manage to claim victories on 150 seats, the federally ruling and Gujarat’s incumbent party will break Congress’ previous record of winning 149 constituencies in the assembly polls in 1985.

The BJP’s impending monster triumph in Gujarat can be understood from the fact that the party’s vote share in the state has further increased by at least 4 percent in this poll.

In 2017, the BJP secured 49.1 percent votes in the state, winning a simple majority with 99 seats. On the other hand, the main opposition party, Congress was at 41.4 percent, bagging wins in 77 constituencies.

But this time round, the Congress’ vote share suffered a huge dip as it dropped to 27 percent from more than 41 percent in 2017 and that’s perhaps the reason it is only in a position to win 17 seats in the state right now.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, waves from a truck as he campaigns for the Gujarat state elections in Ahmedabad, India, Thursday, Dec.1, 2022. - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.12.2022

BJP Wins Over Three Ex-Congress Seats as Gujarat Polls Underway

Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party, which campaigned vigorously to make the fight three-cornered, seem to have fallen flat in Gujarat as it is only leading on 5 seats at present. Notably, Kejriwal had predicted 90-plus seats for his party in the state. But all his tall claims seemed to have fallen flat.

In more embarrassment for AAP, its candidate for the state chief’s position Isudan Gadhvi is currently trailing the BJP’s Ayar Mulubhai Hardasbhai Bera by nearly 20,000 votes in the Khambhalia constituency.

But the AAP still has something to cheer about its performance in the western coastal state. The party is set to open its account in the Gujarat legislature with its five candidates leading till afternoon: “Aam Aadmi Party is becoming a national party today with the votes of the people of Gujarat,” AAP No.2 and Delhi State Deputy Chief Manish Sisodia tweeted.

Meanwhile, in Himachal Pradesh, the BJP was expected to suffer a massive jolt as the Congress took a sizable lead in the hill state – 26 to 39 and was heading to form its government there.

Himachal has alternated between the BJP and Congress since 1985 and looking at the current trends, it appears that the former may fail to buck the trend. The only big solace for the BJP in Himachal Pradesh is that its outgoing State Chief Jairam Thakur has won from his traditional Seraj seat by a margin of more than 20,000 votes.



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What led to the downfall of Peru’s Pedro Castillo? | International

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Pedro Castillo – the recently-impeached president of Peru – during a televised address to the nation on Wednesday, December 7, 2022
Pedro Castillo – the recently-impeached president of Peru – during a televised address to the nation on Wednesday, December 7, 2022– (AFP)

On the morning of Wednesday, December 7, Peruvian President Pedro Castillo announced five measures in a televised address. The first was that he was going to “temporarily dissolve” his country’s Congress, so as to install an “emergency government.”

Shortly afterwards, Castillo’s cabinet resigned and he was denounced by the country’s judiciary. He is currently under arrest.

The same day he announced his plans, a vote was set to be held in Congress over whether or not the president should be impeached. This was the third attempt by the legislative branch to remove the highly unpopular Castillo since he began his term in July of 2021.

In his address to the country – just hours before the vote – Castillo accused the parliamentarians of “destroying the rule of law” and trying to “establish a congressional dictatorship.”

Over the past 16 months, the political tensions in the Andean country have been high. After winning the 2021 presidential elections by a margin of less than half-a-percent, Castillo – a former union leader – has constantly clashed with the Congress, which is dominated by centrist and center-right parties who oppose his Marxist “Free Peru” party. This has led to political gridlock, with hardly any legislation being passed.

During his Wednesday address, Castillo claimed that, because of the Peruvian Congress – which has an approval rating of about 20%, almost as low as his – the situation in the country had become “intolerable” and that the people were demanding exceptional measures to preserve democracy and the rule of law.

In addition to announcing the closure of the Congress, Castillo noted his intention of holding new legislative elections “as soon as possible.” This constituent assembly, he explained, would be responsible for drafting a new federal constitution within a period of no more than nine months.

“From today onwards, until the inauguration of a new national Congress, [I] will govern by decree,” he added.

Castillo also announced a curfew across the country, which would have come into effect at 10PM and lasted until 4AM.

“Everyone who possesses illegal weapons should turn them over to the National Police within a period of 72 hours. Whoever doesn’t comply will be subject to punishment consisting of prison time – a measure which will be established by decree,” he added, in a nod to high crime rates. This was in an attempt to get popular support for his shuttering of the legislature.

Another measure mentioned was in relation to the total reorganization of the justice system, the judiciary, the Attorney General’s office, the National Board of Justice and the Constitutional Court. However, Castillo did not offer further details on the scope of this planned unilateral reform, which caused widespread fear among much of the population.

Castillo called on the National Police – with the help of the Armed Forces – to dedicate all their efforts to a “real and effective fight” against crime, corruption and drug trafficking. Within this same point, he stressed that private property and freedom of commerce would be guaranteed and respected within the framework of a social market economy. Given that most of Castillo’s family is under investigation for corruption, while his party leadership expresses support for nationalization policies, none of these promises generated public confidence.

During his address, Castillo also asked civil society institutions and associations to support his decisions to “set Peru on course.” He specifically mentioned the “rondas campesinas” – the lightly-armed rural peasant militias that have been existence since the war against the Shining Path terrorist group (1980-92). Although Castillo was once a rondero, these groups also broke with Castillo, refusing to endorse his attempt to rule by decree and demanding that new elections be held immediately.

Castillo said that he had informed the Organization of American States about his decision, bizarrely linking it to the American Convention on Human Rights. The document mentions that “in case of war, public danger or other emergencies that threaten the independence or security of the state, [the executive] may adopt measures that, for the time strictly limited to the exigencies of the situation, suspend the obligations contracted by virtue of this Convention.” As Peru is facing no public emergency, this justification was rejected unanimously by all ministers, congresspeople and judges – including those from Castillo’s political bloc – who were supported by the police and army.

Castillo was arrested by the Peruvian National Police in the afternoon following his address, while en route to the Mexican Embassy to seek asylum.

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Women’s football in Africa is in danger of being left on the touchline | Juliet Bawuah

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I have been following women’s football in Africa for almost 15 years. And I’m sad to say that there has been little progress in supporting or promoting it in that time. The complaints are familiar now: lack of representation, lack of infrastructure, poor wages and underfunding are among the myriad failings that have held back the women’s game.

This sorry state of affairs is continent-wide. Yet talent abounds: four-time African Women’s Footballer of the Year and Barcelona player Asisat Oshoala from Nigeria and Ghana striker Evelyn Badu, who plays for Norwegian club Avaldsnes IL and was named 2022 Young Player of the Year and Interclub player of the year by the Confederation of African Football (CAF), are among the best. But these stars succeeded against the odds. Where is the grassroots investment to ensure the girls of today have open opportunities instead of having to sneak out of their homes to play the game they love? It shouldn’t all be left to the players themselves to nurture future stars, as Oshoala is doing through her Lagos-based academy, or former Super Falcons player Ayisat Yusuf-Aromire with her SheFootball Initiative.

Salima Mukansanga of Rwanda has made history in Qatar as one of four female referees, the first women to officiate at a World Cup.
Salima Mukansanga of Rwanda has made history in Qatar as one of four female referees, the first women to officiate at a World Cup. Photograph: Sarah Stier/FIFA/Getty Images

It’s not just underfunding at entry level. For years, the women’s league in Ghana went without a major sponsor, only to be bailed out this year by a brewery company. When the women’s league winners in Ghana qualified for the inaugural CAF Women’s Champions League in Ivory Coast in 2021, it took the intervention of the vice-president of Ghana and some private individuals to come to their aid with donations before they could make the tournament.

Time and again, female players have to fight not just for decent pay, but to be paid at all. In 2016, members of Ghana’s national senior women’s team, the Black Queens, staged a protest at the country’s sports ministry over unpaid bonuses. The players, who placed third in the Women’s Africa Nations Cup that same year, were also protesting over outstanding pay from their participation in the African Games the previous year. It was a shameful spectacle. The bonuses were eventually paid in 2020.

At the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco in July, Nigeria’s women’s team, the Super Falcons, boycotted training in protest over outstanding pay. It was not the first time they have acted over late payments. In 2019, Nigerian players refused to leave their hotel during the Women’s World Cup in France until they were paid the bonuses they were owed.

Recent efforts by some countries such as Senegal and Morocco, as well as by CAF, to invest in the women’s game are welcome developments. But much more could be done to develop talent, commercial opportunities and infrastructure.

But Africa is not alone in failure to address inequalities in sport. World Cup host Qatar is still playing catch-up when it comes to women’s football. Its national women’s team is unranked by Fifa, and while opportunities for girls to play are improving, they remain limited.

But there have also been reasons to celebrate: six female referees, including Salima Mukansanga of Rwanda and Yoshimi Yamashita from Japan, have made history during this tournament as the first women to officiate at a World Cup.

Behind the scenes, women such as Sarah Cheadle, the only female director on the World Cup production team, are an inspiration. I’ve found it encouraging to see an increase in the number of female sports journalists, commentators and administrators compared with previous World Cups.

I have been fortunate to work at football tournaments and have often left excited at the potential for African female sports journalists. Qatar is another opportunity to shape our careers. With a bigger platform we can add our voices to calls for better support for women’s football. I am also mindful that I need to ensure that the door stays open for others to follow.

The torch we hold is not for ourselves but for all.



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