1. The Houthi attack on the United Arab Emirates
Who are the Houthis? What is the underlying conflict threatening regional stability?
A suspected drone attack on Monday in Abu Dhabi, the capital of UAE, caused multiple explosions in which three people were killed. The Shia Houthi rebels of Yemen have claimed responsibility for the attack.
In recent months, Giants Brigades, a militia group made up of Southern Yemenis (backed by the UAE) and the Joint Forces (militia led by a nephew of the slain former Yemeni President Saleh) turned their guns against the Houthis. They inflicted major damages on the Houthis and have, with Government troops, pushed into the Houthi territories. The recent attack on Abu Dhabi is seen as retaliation for these damages.
The roots of the Houthi movement can be traced to “Believing Youth”, a Zaydi revivalist group founded by Hussein al-Houthi and his father, in the early 1990s. But the movement took a political turn when it started attacking the “corrupt” regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh and his support for the U.S.’s war on terror. They called themselves Ansar Allah (Partisans of God) and started mobilising tribesmen in the north against the Government.
The story so far: A suspected drone attack on Monday in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), caused multiple explosions in which three people were killed —two Indians and one Pakistani. The Shia Houthi rebels of Yemen, who have been controlling the northern parts of the country, including the capital Sana’a, for almost seven years, have claimed responsibility for the attack. While the UAE hasn’t confirmed the Houthi claims, its officials said to the media that the explosions were caused by a suspected drone attack. On Tuesday, the Saudi-led coalition that is fighting the Houthis in Yemen, launched air strikes on Sana’a.
Who are the Houthis?
The roots of the Houthi movement can be traced to “Believing Youth” (Muntada al-Shahabal-Mu’min), a Zaydi revivalist group founded by Hussein al-Houthi and his father, Badr al-Din al-Houthi, in the early 1990s. Badr al-Din was an influential Zaydi cleric in northern Yemen. Inspired by the Iranian revolution of 1979 and the rise of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon in the 1980s, Badr al-Din and his sons started building vast social and religious networks among the Zaydis of Yemen, who make up roughly one-third of the Sunni-majority country’s population. The Zaydis are named after Zayd Bin Ali, the great grandson of Imam Ali, Prophet Mohammed’s cousin and son-in-law who Shias, Sunnis and Zaydis revere. Zayd Bin Ali had led a revolt against the Ummayad Caliphate in the eighth century. He was killed, but his martyrdom led to the rise of the Zaydi sect. While the Zaydis are seen part of the Shia branch of Islam, both in terms of theology and practice, they are different from the ‘Twelver’ Shias of Iran, Iraq and Lebanon.
For centuries, the Zaydis were a powerful sect within Yemen. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, the Zaydis would establish a monarchy (the Mutawakkilite Kingdom) in the country. But their dominance would come to an end in 1962 when the Egypt-backed republicans overthrew the monarchy. When Badr al-Din al-Houthi and his son Hussein launched the Believing Youth, the plan was to reorganise the Zaydi minority. But when the movement turned political and started attacking the “corrupt” regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh and his support for the U.S.’s war on terror, it became a thorn on Saleh’s side. They called themselves Ansar Allah (Partisans of God), mobilised tribesmen in the north against the Government and chanted “Death to America”. In 2004, Saleh’s government issued an arrest warrant against Hussein al-Houthi. He resisted the arrest, starting an insurgency. In September, the Government troops attacked the rebels and killed Hussein. Since then, the Government launched multiple military campaigns in Sa’dah, the Zaydi stronghold, to end the resistance, which was locally called the Houthis movement, after their “martyred” leader. But it only strengthened the Houthis, who, by 2010, when a ceasefire was reached, had captured Sa’dah from the Government troops.
What led to the Houthis’ rise?
When protests broke out in Yemen in 2011 as part of the Arab Spring protests that felled Tunisian and Egyptian dictators, the Houthis, now confident from their military victories and the support they enjoyed in Sadah,backed the agitation. President Saleh, a Zaydi who was in power for 33 years, resigned in November, handing the reins to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, a Saudi-backed Sunni. Yemen, under the tutelage of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, started a national dialogue to resolve internal differences. The Houthis were part of the dialogue. But they fell out with the transitional Government of Mr. Hadi, claiming that the proposed federal solution, which sought to divide the Zaydi-dominated north into two land-locked provinces, was intended to weaken the movement. They soon got back to insurgency. Saleh, who was sidelined by the interim government and its backers, joined hands with his former rivals and launched a joint military operation. By January 2015, the Houthi-Saleh alliance had captured Sana’a and much of northern Yemen, including the vital Red Sea coast. (Later the Houthis turned against Saleh and killed him in December 2017).
Why did Saudi Arabia attack Yemen?
The rapid rise of the Houthis in Yemen set off alarm bells in Riyadh which saw them as Iranian proxies. Saudi Arabia, under the new, young Defence Minister, Mohammed Bin Salman, started a military campaign in March 2015, hoping for a quick victory against the Houthis. But the Houthis had dug in, refusing to leave despite Saudi Arabia’s aerial blitzkrieg. With no effective allies on the ground and no way-out plan, the Saudi-led campaign went on with no tangible result. In the past six years, the Houthis have launched multiple attacks on Saudi cities from northern Yemen in retaliation for Saudi air strikes. In 2019, the Houthis claimed the attack on two Saudi oil installations that knocked out, briefly, half of the kingdom’s oil output (the Houthi claim was disputed by experts and governments, who said the attack was too sophisticated for the rebels to carry out. The U.S. has blamed Iran).
The Houthis have established a Government in the north. The Supreme Political Council, headed by its President, Mahdi al-Mashat, is the executive branch of their rule. Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, Hussein’s brother, leads the movement. There are serious allegations against both the Saudis and the Houthis in the war.
While the Saudi bombings caused a large number of civilian deaths, the Houthis were accused, by rights groups and Governments, of preventing aid, deploying forces in densely populated areas and using excessive force against civilians and peaceful protesters.
Why did the Houthis target the UAE?
This is not the first time the Houthis attacked the UAE. In 2018, when the UAE-backed forces were making advances in Yemen, the Houthis claimed attacks against the Emirates. Since then, the UAE pulled out its troops from Yemen and offered tactical support to the Southern Transitional Council, a group of rebels based in Aden, that was also fighting the Saudi-backed Government forces of President Hadi. During this period, the Houthis stayed focussed entirely on Saudi Arabia and Saudi-backed forces inside Yemen. But in recent months, Giants Brigades, a militia group largely made up of Southern Yemenis (backed by the UAE) and the Joint Forces (the militia led by a nephew of the slain former President Saleh) turned their guns against the Houthis. They inflicted major damages on the Houthis in Shabwah on the Arabian coast and have, with Government troops, pushed into the Houthi territories in al-Bayda and Marib. By flying armed drones undetected all the way from northern Yemen to the Gulf coast, either across Saudi Arabia or through the Gulf of Oman, and carrying out attacks on Abu Dhabi, the second most populous city in the tiny UAE, the Houthis appear to have sent a clear message to the Emiratis — stay out of Yemen or face more attacks.
2. ‘Cyberattacks surge as COVID spurs digital push’
Ransomware incidents rose 151%: WEF
The accelerating pace of digitalisation, fuelled by the COVID-19 pandemic, has led to a record-breaking year for cybercrime with ransomware attacks rising 151% in 2021, and an average of 270 cyberattacks per organisation being faced, a new study showed on Tuesday.
The World Economic Forum’s ‘Global Cybersecurity Outlook 2022’, released during its online Davos Agenda summit, further showed that each successful cyber breach cost a company $3.6 million (almost ₹27 crore) last year, while the average share price of the hacked company underperformed the NASDAQ index by close to 3% even six months after the event in case of the breach becoming public.
The WEF said the global digital economy had surged on the back of the COVID-19 pandemic, but so had cybercrime.
There is also a perception gap between business executives who think their firms are secure and security leaders who disagree. Some 92% of executives surveyed agreed cyberresilience was integrated into risk-management strategies, but only 55% of cyber leaders agreed.
3. Rising sea levels prompt Indonesia to relocate capital
Indonesia’s parliament on Tuesday passed a law approving the relocation of its capital from slowly sinking Jakarta to a site 2,000 kilometres away on the jungle-clad Borneo island that will be named “Nusantara”.
The House of Representatives vote provides the legal framework for the move, which was first tipped by President Joko Widodo in April 2019, citing rising sea levels and severe congestion on densely populated Java island.
Home to more than 30 million people in its greater metro area, Jakarta has long been plagued by serious infrastructure problems and flooding exacerbated by climate change.
The new capital will cover about 56,180 hectares in East Kalimantan province on the Indonesian part of Borneo.
Early plans for the new capital depict a utopian design aimed at creating an environmentally friendly “smart” city, but few details have been confirmed.
Environmentalist critics of the capital’s move have warned it could damage ecosystems in the region.
Budget details have not yet been revealed in a presidential decree, though previous reports have pegged the project’s costs at $33 billion.
Primary Factors For Sea Level Rise
The change in sea levels is linked to three primary factors, all induced by ongoing global climate change:
When water heats up, it expands. About half of the sea-level rise over the past 25 years is attributable to warmer oceans simply occupying more space.
Large ice formations such as mountain glaciers naturally melt a bit each summer.
In the winter, snows, primarily from evaporated sea water, are generally sufficient to balance out the melting.
Recently, though, persistently higher temperatures caused by global warming have led to greater than average summer melting as well as diminished snowfall due to later winters and earlier springs.
That creates an imbalance between runoff and ocean evaporation, causing sea levels to rise.
Loss of Greenland and Antarctica’s ice sheets:
As with mountain glaciers, increased heat is causing the massive ice sheets that cover
Greenland and Antarctica to melt more quickly.
Scientists also believe that meltwater from above and seawater from below is seeping beneath Greenland’s ice sheets, effectively lubricating ice streams and causing them to move more quickly into the sea.
While melting in West Antarctica has drawn considerable focus from scientists, especially with the 2017 break in the Larsen C ice shelf, glaciers in East Antarctica are also showing signs of destabilizing.
- Projected inundation due to sea-level rise can impact the islanders as residential areas are quite close to the present coastline.
- Airport and residential areas will be severely affected
- The only airport in the archipelago is located at the southern tip of Agatti Island, and has a high likelihood of damage due to inundation from sea-level rise.
- Devastating effect on coastal areas:
- Destructive erosion
- Wetland flooding
- Aquifer and agricultural soil contamination with salt, and
- lost habitat for fish, birds, and plants.
- Higher sea levels are coinciding with more dangerous hurricanes and typhoons that move more slowly and drop more rain, contributing to more powerful storm surges that can strip away everything in their path.
- Forced migration of people due to flooding
- The prospect of higher coastal water levels threatens basic services like internet access, since much of the underlying communications infrastructure lies in the path of rising seas.
- A higher sea level causes heavy rains and strong winds, unleashes severe storms and other big atmospheric phenomena that can be a real threat to places that might be on its way.
- If all the ice that currently exists on Earth in glaciers and sheets melted it would raise sea level by 216 feet. That could cause entire states and even some countries to disappear under the waves, from Florida to Bangladesh.
Adapting to the threat
As a result of these risks, many coastal cities are already planning adaptation measures to cope with the long-term prospects of higher sea levels, often at considerable cost.
Building seawalls, rethinking roads, and planting mangroves or other vegetation to absorb water are all being undertaken.
The communities vulnerable to rising seas can only go so far in holding back the tide.
4. Marital rape, gender neutral laws come up at NCW meet
Discussion held to review criminal law from women’s perspective
At a consultation organised by the National Commission for Women on amendments to criminal law on Tuesday, there was unanimity among speakers that marital rape should be criminalised. The meeting also discussed rising instances of cybercrime against women and the need for gender-neutral rape laws.
The NCW is expected to have another round of discussion on this issue, following which it will send the recommendations to the Ministry of Home Affairs, which is looking at a review of the criminal laws, including the Indian Penal Code, 1860, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. The meeting comes at a time the Delhi High Court is hearing multiple petitions on making marital rape an offence and the Centre has sought more time to present its stand.
The petitions have sought striking down the exception to Section 375 of the IPC, which says forcible sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being 18 years, is not rape. “There was agreement among all present that marital rape exemption cannot continue. There was one voice that raised concerns about evidence gathering,” said a person present at the meeting who did not want to be identified.
‘Strict burden of proof’
Geeta Luthra, senior advocate in the Supreme Court, who made the point on the need for evidence for punishing marital rape, told The Hindu, “No one is talking against women’s autonomy or privacy or that marital rape should not be an offence. But there should be a better investigative process and a strict burden of proof so that it doesn’t happen that someone is miffed and makes a marital rape allegation.”
The meeting also discussed the interpretation of consent. “We have said there should be a broader understanding of when consent stands vitiated. Anything obtained with fraud or force where force means fear of injury to body, mind and reputation is considered in cases of extortion and we are demanding that the same standard should be applied to consent in sexual offences as well. The focus has to be on violence and not morality,” said Ved Kumari, Vice-Chancellor, National Law University, Odisha.
On the issue of age of marriage being raised for women to 21 years to make it equal to that of men, most speakers agreed that 18 years should be the age of marriage for both men and women.
The meeting also discussed the need for gender-neutral anti-rape laws which the civil society has demanded to recognise same-sex assaults among gay, lesbian and bisexual people as well as sexual crimes against transgender persons.
“There was a lot of emphasis on cyber-crimes against women as well as making revenge porn and online stalking punishable,” Pinky Anand, senior advocate, Supreme Court, said..
Several women’s rights activists, however, were unhappy because they were not invited for the discussions.
While there were 13 speakers, only one was an activist and remaining were lawyers apart from a representative each from the National Law School of India University, Bangalore, and the National Law University, Odisha.
National Commission for Women (NCW):
- The National Commission for Women was set up in January 1992 under the National Commission for Women Act, 1990 ( Act No. 20 of 1990 of Govt.of India ) to :
- Review the Constitutional and Legal safeguards for women ;
- Recommend remedial legislative measures ;
- Facilitate redressal of grievances and
- Advise the Government on all policy matters affecting women.
- It is statutory body
- Mandate, of the Commission is to initiate various steps to improve the status of women and worked for their economic empowerment during the year under report.
- It took up the issue of child marriage, sponsored legal awareness programmes,Parivarik Mahila Lok Adalats and reviewed laws such as Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, PNDT Act 1994, Indian Penal Code 1860 and the National Commission for Women Act, 1990 to make them more stringent and effective.
- It organized workshops/consultations, constituted expert committees on economic empowerment of women, conducted workshops/seminars for gender awareness and took up publicity campaign against female foeticide, violence against women etc. in order to generate awareness in the society against these social evils.
Mission of NCW
To strive towards enabling women to achieve equality and equal participation in all spheres of life by securing her due rights and entitlements through suitable policy formulation, legislative measures, effective enforcement of laws, implementation of schemes/policies and devising strategies for solution of specific problems/situations arising out of discrimination and atrocities against women.
Composition of National Commission for Women
The Commission must consist of a minimum number of members which includes a chairperson, a member secretary, and the other five members.
Chairperson: The central government should nominate the chairperson.
Five members: The five members are also to be nominated by the central government from amongst the person of ability, integrity, and standing. They should possess experience in various fields like law or legislation, trade unionism, management of industry potential of women, women’s voluntary organization, education, administration, economic development, and social good-being.
Member Secretary: The Central Government also nominates member secretary. He/ she should be either an expert in the field of management, an organization, or an officer who is a member.
- The Indian Constitution doesn’t contain any provision specifically made to favor women intrinsically.
- Article 15 (3), Article 14 and Article 21 protect and safeguard women. They are more gender-neutral.
Major role of National Commission for Women:
- Investigation and Examination: NCW investigate and examine all the matters related to the safeguards provided for the women under the Constitution and other laws.
- Presentation of Reports: It table reports to the central government, every year and at such other times as the commission may deem fit, reports upon the working of those safeguards
- Recommendation to government: Make in such reports and recommendations, for the effective accomplishment of those safeguards for enhancing the conditions of the women by the Union or any State.
- Legislative reviews: Review, every now and then, the current provisions of the Constitution and other laws distressing the women and prescribe alterations and suggest curative legislative measures meet any break, inadequacies and incapacity in such legislation.
- Cases of violation: Take up cases of infringement of the provisions of the Constitution and of other laws relating to the women with the relevant authorities.
- Suo motu notice: It looks into complaints, and takes Suo Motto notice of matters relating to – deprivation of women’s rights, Non-implementation of the laws and Non-compliance of the policy decisions guaranteeing the welfare for women society.
- Special Studies and Investigation: It conducts special studies or investigation on the concerning issues or circumstance emerging out of segregation and outrages against ladies and recognises the limitations in order to suggest techniques for their expulsion
- Research: It also undertakes promotional and educational research so as to propose ways of ensuring due representation of the women in all fields.
Functions of National Commission for Women
- Inquiry and Investigation
The National Commission of Women enjoys the powers of a civil court. It investigates and examines the matters related to the safeguards ensured for feminine society under the Constitution of India. It took complaints suo moto notice of issues related to the non- implementation of laws and non- enforcement of laws and non -compliance of policy decisions, guidelines enacted and aimed at mitigating hardships ensuring the welfare and then take up issues arising out of matter with the concerned authorities.
- Action Research
NCW members take part in the planning process of socio-economic development of women, propose measures to encourage their representation in all spheres, and review their advancement. It also examines the safeguards provided for women in the Constitution and other laws study their working, recommend amendments to meet any inadequacies or deficiencies, and advocate measures for effective implementation.
- Legal Intervention
The Parivarik Mahila Lok Adalat, (PMLA) is an innovative component with its roots in the traditional Nyaya Panchayats. It is created by NCW for the redressal and speedy disposal of cases. It has taken up 7500 cases so far. The essential feature of PMLA is cordial mutual settlement and flexibility in implementation, aiming to empower women in the justice delivery mechanism.
|Provide consultation on all major policy matters that affect women. Issuing summons for the examination of documents and the witnesses. It has the power to make any public record. Receiving evidence on affidavits Discovery and production of documents Summoning and enforcement||Not concrete powers: The NCW is only recommendatory and has no power to enforce its decisions. Often it takes action only if the issues are brought to light. Legal powers: Commission lacks constitutional status, and thus has no legal powers to summon police officers or witnesses. Less funding: NCW’s functions are dependent on the grants offered by the central government. Financial assistance provided to the Commission is very less to cater to its needs. Political interference: It does not have the power to choose its own members.|
Steps need to be taken:
- Staff selection: Commission must be granted the power of selecting its own members. The members should be chosen without any prejudice and should have fair knowledge of law and understands the society and human behaviour.
- Awareness generation: More awareness has to be created especially among the rural women about the existence of the Commission. The Commission can employ a person at the district level to bring into light the atrocities occurring at the district level.
- Legal powers: Functioning of the NCW has to be strengthened and given more legal powers as part of any effort to strengthen the laws for safety of women at the workplace. The chairperson of NCW should be given the status of the Union Cabinet Minister and the members that of minister of state.
- Funding: Centre must devolve more funds to NCW. NCW should have an independent budget and must not be dependent on the Women and Child Development Ministry for funds.
Though the NCW have done some good work for the women in India, the above mentioned shortcomings must be addressed. NCW was instrumental in various campaigns, for example, against triple talaq. But at numerous times the Commission has not been able to come up to the expectations of women in India. Empowering NCW with enough powers can help in making it more efficient.
List of Women-Specific Legislation
There are multiple laws that have been passed for the safety and rights of women in India. Given below is a list of few such laws:
- The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956
- The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 (28 of 1961) (Amended in 1986)
- The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987 (3 of 1988)
- The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (PREVENTION, PROHIBITION and REDRESSAL) Act, 2013
- The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013
- Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
- The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986