This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
Africa sees COVID-19 cases pass 500,000: WHO
COVID-19 infections in Africa have surpassed half a million, the World Health Organization (WHO) has announced, and there are concerns that a growing number of countries are seeing a sharp rise in infection.
To date, the virus has claimed almost 12,000 lives on the continent, more than those who died in the world’s worst Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which ended in 2016.
Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa account for about 71 per cent of COVID-19 cases, while South Africa alone accounts for 43 per cent.
In a statement, WHO Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said that more than a third of countries in Africa have seen infections double in the past month, increasing the threat of COVID-19 overwhelming fragile health systems.
She called on countries to continue to strengthen key public health measures such as testing, tracing contacts and isolating cases, in a bid to slow down the spread of the virus to a manageable level.
‘Conversion therapy’ alert at UN Human Rights Council
Painful and traumatic so-called “conversion therapy” that’s carried out on people to alter their sexual orientation or gender identity, should be banned worldwide, a leading rights expert said on Wednesday.
Speaking at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, independent expert Victor Madrigal-Borloz, said that the practice existed “in every corner of the world”, even though it had no medical justification.
He said that the victims - lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender-diverse (LGBT) people - were often left with long-lasting psychological and physical damage.
Globally, conversion – or ‘reparative’ - therapy is likely happening in at least 68 countries, from Africa to Latin America, the Caribbean and Asia, the Human Rights Council heard.
Such practices were driven by the misconception that LGBT persons are somehow inferior, and that this must be remedied “at any cost”, Mr. Madrigal-Borloz said.
Practices detailed by the expert in his latest report include exorcisms by churches or traditional healers in Mozambique, and so-called “corrective” rapes, allegedly arranged by the families of lesbian women.
In Ukraine, Mr. Madrigal-Borloz described meeting a gay 16-year-old who said his parents had sent him to a psychologist for treatment and to a priest to express repentance, while also ousting him from the family home.
Dismantling such biases and prejudices requires concerted action from States, the medical community, civil society and faith-based organisations, the independent expert maintained.
UN expert calls for end to gender-based violence against women journalists
Women journalists face particular dangers while going about their work which Governments should do more to prevent, the UN Human Rights Council heard on Wednesday.
In an appeal to Member States, Dubravka Simonovic, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, said that action was needed now, to combat an “emerging fundamentalist discourse” and a “global backlash against women’s rights”.
Since 1992, 96 women journalists have been killed while doing their jobs, the independent expert said, along with the threat of “sexual assault and rape…to undermine their credibility and discourage them from working, Ms. Simonovic explained.
Highlighting increasing online harassment, the rights expert citing a survey by a UK newspaper which showed that of the millions of comments left on its website, eight of the 10 most abused writers were women.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.