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Women can be sacked for wearing a hijab, highest EU court rules

(Asian News Hub) – Women are allowed to be sacked by employers for refusing to remove their hijabs, Europe’s highest court has ruled.

EU judges decreed that businesses can ban employees from wearing a headscarf under certain conditions if they need to do so to project an image of neutrality to customers.

They were asked to make a judgment on two German cases after two female employees – one a cashier and the other a support worker for children with special needs – were threatened with suspension for wearing the hijab.

“A prohibition on wearing any visible form of expression of political, philosophical or religious beliefs in the workplace may be justified by the employer’s need to present a neutral image towards customers or to prevent social disputes,” said the EU court.

The EU Muslim Network has warned that the ruling could stoke Islamophobia in the EU.

Suliaman Wilms, who works for the organisation, told the Telegraph: “This judgment is not just a blow against active, dynamic and working Muslim women, it’s the confirmation of an ongoing European trend to constrain the religious expression of their faith and spiritual life praxis.”

The European Anti-Racism Network has also criticised the ruling.

“The Court of Justice of the EU continues to fail to protect Muslim women from structural and intersectional forms of discrimination” said Julie Pascoët, ENAR’s senior advocacy officer.

“Again, the court doesn’t take into account the disproportionate impact that companies’ policies prohibiting religious signs have on Muslim women as a result of racial and sexist prejudices against them.”

Hijab bans have been a contentious issue in Germany for many years although discussions around islamophobia are not yet playing a major role in the run up to elections this year to replace Angela Merkel as chancellor.

In neighbouring France, President Emmanuel Macron has been widely accused of stoking tensions through his “enlightened Islam” campaign which he insists is about stamping out radicalisation.

French debates about the hijab started in 2004, when a French judge ruled that a similar need for “neutrality” was a justifiable reason for sacking a daycare worker in a private creche.

EU countries have varied sets of laws and rules on headscarves.

Children in Austria under the age of 10 are not allowed to wear them to school for instance.

Decisions like this new one from the ECJ appear to contradict a legal ruling from the European Court of Human Rights which stipulated in 2013 that wearing a cross at work was a fundamental right.

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Over two million people died of drowning in last decade: WHO

(Asian News Hub) – The World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed that more than 2 million died due to drowning in the last decade, a number which exceeded fatalities caused by maternal conditions or protein-energy malnutrition.

Ahead of the first World Drowning Prevention Day to be marked on July 25, the WHO, in a statement released on Friday, said at least 236,000 people drown every year, and drowning is among the 10 leading causes of death for children and youth aged one to 24 years.

More than 90 per cent of drowning deaths occur in rivers, lakes, wells and domestic water storage vessels in low- and middle-income countries.

Half of all drowning deaths are in the Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions, according to the WHO.

Rates of drowning deaths per 100 000 population are highest, however, in the Western Pacific region followed by the African region.

“Anyone can drown, no one should,” noted Etienne Krug, Director of the Department of Social Determinants of Health, World Health Organization (WHO).

“I welcome the opportunity of this first World Drowning Prevention Day to increase attention and hasten action by governments and their partners to avert the pain and suffering caused by drowning, a largely preventable killer.”

World Drowning Prevention Day was called for by member states through adoption in April 2021 of UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/75/273, which also invited the WHO to coordinate drowning prevention actions.

To mark World Drowning Prevention Day, WHO and partners will host a virtual event on July 28, entitled “Global, national and local reflections on World Drowning Prevention Day 2021”.

IANS

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Pakistan deploys Army at Afghan border amid deteriorating situation in Afghanistan

(Asian News Hub) – Amid the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan due to US drawdown, Pakistan’s regular army has been deployed at the border areas with the neighbouring country as a security measure.

“Now regular army troops are manning the border after replacing the paramilitary forces,” the Pakistan Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed was quoted by the Dawn.

There are two key border crossings between Pakistan and Afghanistan; at Chaman in Balochistan and Torkham in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

In recent weeks, large-scale violence has been on the rise as the Taliban stepped up its offensive since the start of US troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the Afghan government has repeatedly accused Pakistan of supporting the Taliban and preventing the Afghan forces from carrying out military operations against them.

The decision to deploy the army was made amid the uncertain situation in the war-torn country.

“Paramilitary troops including the Frontier Constabulary, Levies, Rangers are deployed at the borders to deal with regular issues including illegal border crossing, smuggling etc,” the Interior Minister said. “However, the current volatile situation (in Afghanistan) demands that regular military troops be deployed along the border.”

Afghanistan is witnessing clashes between the government and the Taliban who have seized significant territories throughout the country and launched an offensive against big cities.

The growing Taliban offensive has created a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan which is leading to a refugee problem. Meanwhile, the Pakistani government announced that it will no longer welcome Afghan refugees.

The ties between the two sides have further deteriorated since the daughter of the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan was briefly kidnapped on her way home in Islamabad on July 16. Thereafter, Kabul recalled its ambassador from Islamabad, demanding punishment for those responsible.

ANI

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1.5 million children worldwide lost parents, guardians due to COVID-19: Lancet

(Asian News Hub) – More than 1.5 million children around the world, including 1,19,000 from India, have lost at least one parent, custodial grandparent, or grandparent, as a result of COVID-19, according to a new study published in The Lancet.

Of those, more than 1 million children experienced the death of one or both parents during the first 14 months of the pandemic, and another half a million experienced the death of a grandparent caregiver living in their own home, the study estimates.

In India, the researchers estimate an 8.5-fold increase in the numbers of children newly orphaned (43,139) in April 2021 compared to March 2021 (5,091).

Children who have lost a parent or caregiver are at risk of profound short- and long-term adverse effects on their health, safety, and wellbeing, such as increasing the risk of disease, physical abuse, sexual violence, and adolescent pregnancy.

“For every two COVID-19 deaths worldwide, one child is left behind to face the death of a parent or caregiver. By April 30, 2021, these 1.5 million children had become the tragic overlooked consequence of the 3 million COVID-19 deaths worldwide, and this number will only increase as the pandemic progresses,” said lead author Dr Susan Hillis, from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 Response Team.

“Our findings highlight the urgent need to prioritise these children and invest in evidence-based programmes and services to protect and support them right now and to continue to support them for many years into the future – because orphanhood does not go away,” he added.

The researchers estimated figures based on COVID-19 mortality data from March 2020 through April 2021, and national fertility statistics for 21 countries.

The countries with the highest numbers of children who lost primary caregivers (parents or custodial grandparents) included South Africa, Peru, United States, India, Brazil, and Mexico.

The countries with rates of COVID-19-associated deaths among primary caregivers (>1/1000 children) included Peru, South Africa, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Iran, United States, Argentina, and Russia.
For almost every country, deaths were greater in men than women, particularly in middle and older ages. Overall, up to five times more children lost their fathers than lost their mothers.

The researchers call for urgent action to address the impact of caregiver deaths on children into COVID-19 response plans.

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