Shamima Begum, UK teen who joined ISIS, not allowed to return home to fight for citizenship
On March 12th, the United Kingdom Supreme Court ruled that "ISIS bride" Shamima Begum will not be granted permission to come back to the UK to appeal in court for her UK citizenship. In 2015, Shamima left the UK for Syria along with her two school friends to join ISIS. Later in 2019, her citizenship was stripped when she was found in a northern Syrian refugee camp. In 2020, the UK Court of Appeal ruled that Shamima would be allowed to return to the UK to fight the court case that revoked her citizenship. Lord Robert Reed, the President of the Supreme Court, said that the Court of Appeal made four errors when it permitted Shamima to carry out her appeal. The Supreme Court ruled that Begum will be allowed to appeal against her citizenship being revoked only when her participation does not compromise public safety. Human rights campaigners and legal experts have heavily criticized the Court's decision to withdraw Shamima's citizenship.
Sri Lanka will ban the burqa and shut many Islamic schools
Location: Colombo, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, a majority-Buddhist nation, has declared that burqa-wearing will be banned in the country. Alongside the burqa banning, the Sri Lankan government will be dismantling more than a thousand Islamic schools, commonly known as madrasas. In 2019, Islamic militants bombed churches and hotels, resulting in the death of more than 250 people. This attack led to a temporary ban on the wearing of the burqa. Sarath Weerasekera, the minister of public security, mentioned that the decision to shut down the schools had been taken since these madrasas flouted Sri Lanka's national education policy. In 2020, the government went against the wishes of the Muslim population by mandating the cremation of all COVID-19 victims. Later, this ban was lifted after Sri Lanka received criticism from the United States and international rights groups.
Texas bill would allow the death penalty for patients who get abortions
Location: Texas, USA
Texas recently proposed a bill called the Abolition of Abortion in Texas Act, which would allow punishing women with the death penalty for having abortions. There were no exceptions made for victims of rape or incest. According to the Washington Post, it would make it possible to charge a woman with homicide for having the procedure. Rep. Tony Tinderholt, who introduced the bill, states it would make people “consider the repercussions” of having sex. Though the bill is unlikely to pass, it still may be part of a bigger scheme by anti-abortion alliances to introduce laws that could challenge Roe v. Wade, a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. Reproductive rights activists considered Tinderholt’s proposal a preview of what could happen if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
Court Says Japan's Ban On Same-Sex Marriage Is Unconstitutional
Location: Sapporo, Japan
On March 17th, the Sapporo District Court in Japan ruled that the government's ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. This decision is considered monumental as Japan is the only G-7 nation that does not fully legally recognize same-sex partnership. The court found that making same-sex marriages illegal violates Article 14 of the Japanese constitution, prohibiting discrimination due to "race, creed, sex, social status or family origin." On Valentine's Day in 2019, thirteen couples filed lawsuits in Sapporo, Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya, followed by three more in Fukuoka several months later. Kanako Otsuji, an openly gay opposition party member, expressed herself via Twitter, saying that she urges the legislature to "deliberate a proposed amendment to the civil code to make same-sex marriage possible." In January, a coalition of 116 groups had insisted that Yoshihide Suga, Japanese Prime Minister, introduce a national LGBT anti-discrimination policy before the Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to begin this summer.
Pakistani university expels students after a video of a girl proposing to a boy goes viral
Location: Lahore, Pakistan
On March 11th, a video of a girl proposing to a boy went viral in Pakistan. Both of them attended the University of Lahore, where the video was recorded. The video depicts the girl proposing to the boy, clasping a bouquet of roses while kneeling in front of him. Nearby students cheered them along as the boy took the flowers and pulled the girl in for a hug. The university's special disciplinary committee held a meeting on March 12th and summoned the students to appear before the committee. However, the students did not appear; thus, based on the alleged misconduct, the two students were expelled. Mixed reactions were seen on the internet as a result of the expulsions. Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto's daughter Bakhtawar Bhutto-Zardari described the university's action as "ridiculous." Additionally, former cricketer Wasim Akram's wife Shaniera Akram also criticized the university's decision via Twitter.
China breaching every article in genocide convention, says legal report on Uighurs
Location: Xinjiang, China
According to a landmark legal report published by a non-partisan US-based thinktank, the treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang by the Chinese government has breached every single article of the UN's 1948 genocide convention. The report notes a harrowing number of human rights violations, citing evidence of mass deaths, targeted death sentences, forced sterilizations, torture, and other cruel treatment of the Uighur community. Despite the availability of evidence, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has adamantly rejected the accusation of committing atrocities against the Uighur Muslim minority. On March 8th, Wang Yi, China's foreign minister, labeled the claims of genocide in Xinjiang as "preposterous" and "a fabricated rumor" to damage China's reputation. China's premier, Li Keqiang, joined a press conference on March 12th to address the ongoing controversy. Nonetheless, the press meeting only allowed questions that were vetted ahead of time.
Indian Marriage “Invalid” as Muslim Woman Didn't Convert To Hinduism
Location: New Delhi, India
Recently, India Today reported that a marriage between an 18-year old Muslim woman and a 25-year old Hindu man was ruled invalid by the Punjab and Haryana high court. The reason behind such a ruling was that the woman did not convert to the Hindu religion prior to the marriage ceremony. The report stated that the couple had approached the Ambala Superintendent of Police requesting security protection, as their families were against interfaith marriage and had threatened the couple. Upon receiving no protection from the police, they had to move the case to the high court. The court declared that the marriage between the couple would not be considered valid, as the woman did not convert to Hinduism. However, the court directed the police to take appropriate action to protect the couple. The court also mentioned that since the petitioner was a part of the majority of the population, i.e., from a Hindu family, the couple will be entitled to live together like married partners.
Tunisian LGBT+ activist jailed for six months after reporting police harassment
Rania Amdouni, a 26-year-old Tunisian LGBT+ human rights activist, was arrested on February 27th and sentenced to six months in prison. Fellow activists reported to Reuters that police had increasingly targeted Rania since February, as she was part of the protest against police repression. She was ridiculed for her appearance and sexual orientation when she went to the police station to file a complaint. The police declined to register her complaint and instead imprisoned her after a verbal altercation. Under Article 125 of the penal code, Rania can be punished by up to one year in prison. She is now in custody at a women’s prison in Manouba, west of Tunis. According to her lawyer, the guards at the prison harass and threaten her at night. Amdouni was also charged with “causing embarrassment and disruption” and “apparent drunkenness.” These claims are reportedly unsubstantiated and lacking evidence. Rasha Younes, an LGBT+ rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, condemned the Tunisian authorities for sending this appalling message to victims of discrimination.
Pope Francis says Catholic Church can't bless same-sex marriages
Location: Vatican City
The Vatican issued a statement indicating that the Catholic Church will not bless same-sex marriages. The statement remarked that the blessing of same-sex unions cannot be lawful. A Pew survey demonstrated that more than half of Catholics in the United States are in favor of same-sex marriage. The pope has a complicated relationship with the LGBTQ community; largely resulting from this long-standing controversy. He supported civil unions for same-sex couples instead of same-sex marriages during his tenure as the archbishop of Buenos Aires. To support their decision, the Church indicated that the decision was not intended to be a measure of "unjust discrimination," but rather to preserve the perceived sanctity of the union between men and women as a liturgical rite.
Atheist Day, March 23rd, 2021
Atheist Day is approaching! Atheist Day is celebrated on March 23rd. Use #AtheistDay to help other atheists find community and to normalize atheism. On this day, we recognize the struggle of atheists to live authentic lives in many parts of the world; the fight to openly affirm one’s atheism, and the fear of intolerant governments, mobs, and religious zealots. You can also use other hashtags like #IAmAtheist & #AtheismMyRight.