Global perspective Human stories

World News in Brief: Russia’s LGBT ban condemned, unprecedented Africa malnutrition crisis, health after childbirth

Mariana Katzarova, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Russian Federation, addresses the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
UN News/Dominika Tomaszewska-Mortimer
Mariana Katzarova, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Russian Federation, addresses the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

World News in Brief: Russia’s LGBT ban condemned, unprecedented Africa malnutrition crisis, health after childbirth

Human Rights

UN independent human rights experts on Thursday raised concerns about the “dangerous precedent and far-reaching negative consequences” of Russia’s Supreme Court decision declaring the “international LGBT movement and its structural units” as “extremist”.

This, in effect, bans all public LGBT activities and organisations within the country.

The nine UN Human Rights Council-appointed experts said the ruling “significantly distances” Russia from its obligations under international law to promote and protect human rights for all.

Tweet URL

The experts sent an official letter to the Russian Government on Monday, outlining their urgent concerns, which continues the trend of reported State-sponsored human rights violations against lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and other gender-diverse (LGBT) persons living there.

Bars and clubs targeted

They reported that in previous days, Russia had carried out raids in Moscow and Saint Petersburg at places commonly visited by LGBT persons, including LGBT-friendly bars and clubs.

“Policemen in balaclavas stormed in and carried out unsanctioned searches of the premises, while visitors had their identity documents checked and photographed, creating further risks of harassment or misuse of their personal information”, a press release issued by the UN rights office (OCHR) said.

“The immediate and highly publicised nature of these police actions appears to be aimed at intimidating and instilling fear within the LGBT community in Russia,” the UN experts said.

They warned that human rights defenders and organisations working to defend the LGBT community have now been forced to stop working, “fearing criminal prosecution” adding that some lawyers and human rights defenders representing LGBT clients have already done so.

“This jeopardises access to legal representation and justice for victims of discrimination, violence, and other crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” the experts said.

“In line with the Russian President’s declared intention to maintain an anti-LGBT stance as a cornerstone of his political agenda, this decision marks the latest step in a series of legislative initiatives and related actions, eroding any last remaining human rights safeguards for LGBT persons in Russia,” the experts said.

UN Special Rapporteurs and other rights experts do not receive a salary for their work and serve in their individual capacity, without representing any government or organisation.

‘Unprecedented’ malnutrition crisis in Africa: 75 per cent unable to afford healthy food

More than a billion Africans cannot afford a healthy diet and close to one in three of the continent’s children are stunted because of malnutrition.

Tweet URL

These are the grim findings of a report released on Thursday by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the African Union Commission.

It warns that 78 per cent of Africa’s population – including many living above the extreme poverty threshold – lack the means to eat healthy, compared with 42 per cent at the global level.

One in every five Africans is undernourished – that’s nearly 282 million people, says the report, or a quarter more than before the COVID-19 pandemic. The research indicates that the prevalence of stunting among children under five was 30 per cent in 2022.

The authors expressed hope that the alarming statistics pointing to an “unprecedented” food security and malnutrition crisis will “trigger new momentum for agrifood systems transformation in Africa” to make them more inclusive, resilient and sustainable.

Experts call for new focus on long-term health challenges due to childbirth

Every year, at least 40 million women are likely to experience a long-term health problem caused by childbirth, according to a new study published in The Lancet Global Health and highlighted by the UN health agency (WHO).

Part of a special Series on maternal health, the study shows a high burden of postnatal conditions that persist in the months or even years after giving birth.

These include pain during sexual intercourse (known as dyspareunia), affecting more than a third of postpartum women, low back pain, anal incontinence and urinary incontinence.

Other conditions include anxiety, depression, perineal pain, fear of childbirth and secondary infertility.

The authors of the paper call for greater recognition within healthcare systems of these common problems, many of which occur beyond the point where women typically have access to postnatal services, WHO said.

Effective care throughout pregnancy and childbirth is also a critical preventive factor, they argue, to detect risks and avert complications that can lead to lasting health issues after birth.

Daily suffering

“Many postpartum conditions cause considerable suffering in women’s daily life long after birth, both emotionally and physically, and yet they are largely underappreciated, underrecognized, and underreported,” said Dr. Pascale Allotey, Director of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research at the World Health Organization.

“Throughout their lives, and beyond motherhood, women need access to a range of services from healthcare providers who listen to their concerns and meet their needs - so they not only survive childbirth but can enjoy good health and quality of life.”

These conditions have been largely neglected in clinical research, practice and policy, the paper notes, even though they occur commonly.

The authors identified no recent high-quality guidelines published in the past 12 years to support effective treatment for around 40 per cent of the 32 priority conditions analysed and could not find a single high-quality guideline from a low or middle-income country.