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Human Rights Lawyers Call On UK Government To Ban ‘Conversion Therapy’

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conversion therapy

Human rights lawyers call on UK government to ban ‘conversion therapy’

Leading human rights lawyers and experts have called for swift action to outlaw so-called conversion therapy, which they say is degrading and harmful, and should not be tolerated in a civilised society.

The Forum, chaired by Helena Kennedy QC, says all practices, including prayer, that seek to suppress, “cure” or change sexual orientation or gender identity must be criminalised. There should be no defence that a victim appears to have consented.

“Individuals who seek out conversion practices in the hope of being ‘cured’ are not made aware of the severe psychological harm to which they are exposed, and so cannot give informed consent,” says the Forum’s report, published on Friday.

People who “actively sought out and ‘consented’ to these practices … have since provided evidence of the severe, long-term, negative psychological impact”.

In May, the government announced it would bring forward legislation to ban “conversion therapy” but said it would first hold consultations on the issue. Since pledging to introduce a ban three years ago, it has come under pressure from some faith organisations to exempt prayer on the grounds of religious freedom.

Eighteen senior lawyers, academics, parliamentarians and civil society leaders are signatories to the Forum’s Cooper report, named after the human rights barrister Jonathan Cooper, who died suddenly earlier this month.

It demands a broad definition of conversion practices to prevent loopholes, saying it should cover “any practice that seeks to suppress, ‘cure’ or change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity”.

The report says: “It is vital that the definition implemented is sufficiently broad to effectively capture all forms these practices can take. Legislation must not allow any potential loopholes for individuals and institutions to continue undertaking conversion practices under a modified aim or false pretence.”

It also says that an exemption for religious practices would undermine prohibition. In an article published by the Guardian, Kennedy writes: “The government is undoubtedly under pressure from some religious institutions to severely limit such a ban on the fallacious grounds that it would interfere with religious freedom.”

The report recommends legislation criminalising condemnatory prayer that seeks to suppress or change a person’s identity, but permitting prayer that seeks to help someone come to terms with who they are.

Criminalisation is “essential when dealing with human rights abuses as this draws a clear line as to what acts will and will not be tolerated in a civilised society”, writes Kennedy. Perpetrators should be “left in no doubt that if they continue their harmful practices, they will face the full force of the law”.

The government should implement legislation without delay, she adds. “We question why further consultation is needed – too many lives have already been impacted by this form of abuse and countless more are still at risk.”

According to government research, 7% of LGBT+ people have experienced some form of conversion practice. Campaigners say it causes psychological harm and can drive people to self-harm or suicide.

In the Queen’s speech in May, Boris Johnson’s government said it would legislate to ban “coercive and abhorrent” conversion practices, but pledged to uphold freedom of speech and religious freedom. Some churches and faith leaders say politicians must not be permitted to dictate what people may or may not pray about.

Pray Away focuses in particular on Exodus International, which propelled and popularized the idea that it was possible – and preferable – to change one’s sexual orientation.

But David Walker, the bishop of Manchester, has said faith leaders should face prosecution if they failed to comply with a ban. Activity leading to prosecution should include prayer aimed at changing someone’s sexual orientation, he told the Guardian in June.

Campaigners for LGBT+ rights have warned that plans for government consultations before legislation is laid before parliament will lead to a dangerous delay.

Crispin Blunt, the Conservative MP, chair of the all-party parliamentary group on global LGBT+ rights and a member of the Forum, said: “The continued delay casts doubt over the government’s good intentions and Global Britain’s leadership on LGBT rights.

“These recommendations can and should be implemented without delay, for whilst we wait countless lives are being impacted, as it implies the UK thinks it is alright to try and ‘fix’ anyone’s sexuality and gender identity … Further government prevarication is no longer defensible.”

Almost two-thirds of British adults believe conversion practices should be banned, according to a YouGov survey earlier this year. The Royal College of Psychiatrists supports a ban, saying conversion practices are “unacceptable and harmful”.

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UN chief warns of ‘catastrophe’ from global food shortage

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UN chief warns of ‘catastrophe’ from global food shortage

The head of the United Nations warned Friday that the world faces “catastrophe” because of the growing shortage of food around the globe.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the war in Ukraine has added to the disruptions caused by climate change, the coronavirus pandemic and inequality to produce an “unprecedented global hunger crisis” already affecting hundreds of millions of people.

“There is a real risk that multiple famines will be declared in 2022,” he said in a video message to officials from dozens of rich and developing countries gathered in Berlin. “And 2023 could be even worse.”

Guterres noted that harvests across Asia, Africa and the Americas will take a hit as farmers around the world struggle to cope with rising fertilizer and energy prices.

“This year’s food access issues could become next year’s global food shortage,” he said. “No country will be immune to the social and economic repercussions of such a catastrophe.”

Guterres said U.N. negotiators were working on a deal that would enable Ukraine to export food, including via the Black Sea, and let Russia bring food and fertilizer to world markets without restrictions.

He also called for debt relief for poor countries to help keep their economies afloat and for the private sector to help stabilize global food markets.

The Berlin meeting’s host, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, said Moscow’s claim that Western sanctions imposed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were to blame for food shortages was “completely untenable.”

Russia exported as much wheat in May and June this year as in the same months of 2021, Baerbock said.

She echoed Guterres’ comments that several factors underlie the growing hunger crisis around the world.

“But it was Russia’s war of attack against Ukraine that turned a wave into a tsunami,” Baerbock said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted that Russia has no excuse for holding back vital goods from world markets.

“The sanctions that we’ve imposed on Russia collectively and with many other countries exempt food, exempt food products, exempt fertilizers, exempt insurers, exempt shippers,” he said.

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Bandits release Zamfara wedding guests after payment of ransom

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Bandits release Zamfara wedding guests after payment of ransom

Local and federal highways in the North-west have become vulnerable as bandits continue to ambush and abduct travellers.

The gunmen who abducted 29 people returning to Zamfara State from Sokoto State where they had gone to attend the wedding of colleagues have released them after the payment of an unspecified ransom.

The victims, who were mostly dealers of mobile phones and phone accessories at Bebeji Communication Market (Bebeji Plaza) in Gusau, the capital of Zamfara State were abducted in Sokoto 13 days ago.

Secretary of the GSM Dealers Association in the state, Ashiru Zurmi, confirmed the release of the victims but didn’t give details.

One of the victims reportedly died in captivity.

Though the amount paid as ransom to secure the release of the hostages has not been revealed, Abdullahi Lawal, whose brother was among those abducted, said their relatives were asked to make donations. He said his family raised N33,000 while the phone sellers’ association “provided the remaining money.”

“Every family was told to gather N400,000 while the members of the plaza and their colleagues in the state provided the remaining money. Some family members were able to raise the money in full, but we couldn’t. I took the money to the plaza and I was told that they were still negotiating with the bandits” he said.

He said he didn’t know how much was given to the bandits “but I’m happy that my brother is okay,” he said.

From N5m to N700,000

A phone accessories seller, Sharhabilu Muhammad, told PREMIUM TIMES over the phone that the officials of the phone dealers association negotiated with the bandits to reduce the ransom they originally demanded to release the captives.

“You know that the initial money they said was N5m for each of the captives but our officials kept negotiating with them (bandits) until they reduced the money to N700k,” he said.

When asked about the person who reportedly died in captivity, Mr Muhammed said his identity has not been revealed.

“We don’t know because even the bandits didn’t tell but we’ll surely find out when they (captives) arrive at Gusau tonight,” he added.

The police command spokesman, Mohammed Shehu, didn’t respond to calls and SMS sent to him on the development.

Backstory

PREMIUM TIMES reported that the wedding guests were abducted when bandits opened fire on the two buses they were travelling in a few kilometres after Bimasa in the Dogon Awo junction, Sokoto State.

They were returning from Tambuwal town in Sokoto State where they had attended the wedding of a colleague, Jamil Umar.

The captives were travelling on a Toyota Coaster bus belonging to the Universal Basic Education Commission UBEC and another bus owned by Gusau Local Government.

The bandits had demanded a ransom of N145 million to release the 29 hostages.

Bandits have been terrorising North-west states and a part of North-central Nigeria, killing and displacing hundreds of people and rustling domestic animals.

Travelling on federal and local highways is becoming dangerous as bandits block roads, abduct and kill motorists.

Major federal highways including Abuja-Kaduna, Gusau-Sokoto-Birnin Kebbi, and Birnin Gwari-Kaduna have become travellers’ nightmares with attacks and abduction or killing of travellers becoming a daily occurrence.

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Reps demand review of public officers’ salaries, allowances

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Reps demand review of public officers’ salaries, allowances

A motion seeking the intervention of the House of Representatives in the conflict between the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, and Justices of the Supreme Court, over issues bordering on welfare and working conditions suffered a setback on Thursday.

While the House called for a general review of salaries and allowances of all political office holders and public servants, the members were divided over which committees should handle the task.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, Onofiok Luke, had moved a motion to seek the intervention of the chamber in the crisis rocking the apex court and better welfare package for judicial officers across the courts.

Luke, who moved the motion titled, ‘Need to Address the Deteriorating Working Conditions of Judicial Officers,’ prayed the House to urge the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission to upwardly review the remuneration of judicial officers in line with present economic realities.

The lawmaker prayed the House to urge the Federal Government to increase the budgetary allocation of the judiciary for the upcoming fiscal year and provide special intervention funds for the development of the arm

He further prayed the House to mandate the Committee on Judiciary to ensure compliance and report back within six weeks for further legislative action.

While the lawmakers were making amendments to the prayers, the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, called for an upward review of the welfare package of all public office holders.

Wase, who stated that he appreciated the memo from the Justices to the CJN, noted that only the RMAFC had the responsibility to review remuneration of government officials.

The Deputy Speaker made reference to a part of the motion that read, ‘The remuneration of judicial officers was last reviewed in 2008 by the RMAFC when the official exchange rate was N117.74 to $1, whereas the naira has considerably depreciated.’

Wase partly said, “I think this particular element does not affect just judicial officers, maybe because they cried out now. I don’t think it is right that we have to wait every time until people write letters of complaints and there is protest before we begin to do the right thing.”

Rephrasing Wase’s proposed amendment, Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, said: “The DSP’s amendment is that we should not isolate the Judiciary and all those enumerated constitutional bodies and public office holders. They should be reviewed; a comprehensive review based on all the things that Hon Luke said – the exchange rates and this and that.”

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