Taliban control notwithstanding, every month the districts’ teachers trudge to Sheberghan, the provincial capital, to collect their salaries, one of many anomalies in a country that is already under de facto control of two governments. Better to have to pay the teachers than close the schools. The city, dusty but bustling, is still in the hands of the central government, but like other provincial capitals it is an isolated island; the Taliban rule the roads, coming and going.

The provincial government still employs school chiefs for the captured districts. But local education officials must watch, helplessly, as Islamist insurgents front-load a heavy dose of religion into the curriculum, slash history instruction and keep the girls out.

The female teachers have been fired. The Taliban use free government textbooks, but they strictly monitor their use, and make sure the ones devoted to Islamic instruction get a heavy workout. And they punish teachers who don’t show up for work, docking their pay. There are no days off. The Taliban have accused teachers in these districts of spying, and of shaving their beards.

“‘If we don’t obey them, we will be punished,’” The education director of Jowzjan, Abdul Rahim Salar, recalled the teachers and principals telling him. “They were worried for their lives.’’

For the girls who escape to Sheberghan to continue their education, there is the sense of a baffling destiny imposed by the Taliban, narrowly avoided. Nilofar Amini, 17, said she missed the school she was barred from three years ago. She had arrived here in the provincial capital only four days before.

“I want to be educated,” Ms. Amini said, sitting with relatives in a room at a derelict shopping center.

Her high voice was muffled by the light blue burqa imposed by the Taliban even on teenagers — she wore it out of habit, though removed it after the interview. Ms. Amini described her life since the schools ban: “I have been sewing, making kilim rugs, handicrafts.”

She added: “The girls there, they stay indoors all day. They can’t even visit relatives.” The Taliban have destroyed the cellphone towers; no chatting on phones.

Ms. Amini’s father, Nizamuddin, a farmer, sitting next to her in the shopping center, hinted at the consequences of the Taliban strictures against girls’ education: “I’m illiterate. It’s like I am blind. I have to be led by others. And so that is why I want my daughters to be educated.”

The Taliban’s policy on education for girls can vary, slightly. Local commanders make the decisions, reflecting the decentralization of a movement scholars like Antonio Giustozzi have described as a “network of networks.” Human Rights Watch noted in a report last year that though the Taliban commanders often permit schooling for girls up to age 12, it is unusual for them to allow it for older girls. Though in some areas, “pressure from communities has persuaded commanders to allow greater access to education for girls,” the report said.

But not many. And not in this part of Afghanistan.

A teacher in the district whose three teenage daughters are now barred from schooling said, “The situation is bad, and I feel badly for them. They don’t have anything to do.” He added that his daughters are just helping their mother with housework.

Encountered at the provincial school headquarters in Sheberghan, where he had gone to collect his salary, the teacher asked that his name not be used out of fear of retribution by the Taliban. He said his daughters keep asking when they can return to school.

“They wouldn’t let us study any longer,” said Fatima Qaisari, 15, at a dusty camp for refugees from neighboring Faryab province. She was 12 when her school was shut down.

Education officials here describe an environment of repression in which residents, parents and teachers have no opportunity to weigh in on the Taliban’s rigid and harsh policies.

“We’ve been in touch with them many times. But there has been no result,” said Abdel Majid, the head of schools in Darzab.

“They tell us, ‘Our government doesn’t want us to teach girls,” he said. “Nobody can disobey them.” The Islamic State faction destroyed some of his schools; others don’t have windows.

At first, Mr. Majid told many of the girls to “play a game” with the Taliban, and pretend they were younger than the cutoff age. “After a year, they warned me that I should stop it,” he said.

He and others have been told that the girls’ schools would stay shut at least until the advent of what Taliban officials depict to bemused residents as the insurgents’ grail: a top-to-bottom “Islamic system,” in which there might be a place for girls’ education.

Shaiasta Haidari, the finance director for Jowzjan Province’s schools, said officials sent a letter alerting the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, of the situation. “Nothing has happened,” she said. “Of course, I am not happy.”

Not far away at the Marshal Dostum School — named after Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, a former vice president and local warlord whose portrait hangs everywhere in the city — a handful of girls from the Taliban-controlled districts are trying to make up for lost ground. On a recent morning, streams of their schoolmates, laughing girls in black and white uniforms, rushed past the flowered grounds, eager to begin the school day.

In the principal’s office, some of the refugees from Darzab and Qosh Tepa marveled at the senselessness of the Taliban’s decision to bar them from school. Several said they wanted to be teachers; one girl was hoping to study engineering.

Farida, 16, shook her head. “Their decision, it doesn’t make any sense. It’s not even logical.”

Nabila, the teenager from Darzab, added: “The Taliban, they don’t have the brains to know that it is important for girls to go to school.”

Fatima Faizi and Kiana Hayeri contributed reporting.

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Surviving in Isolation, Where the Steppe Has Turned to Sand

The road ends, and the old Soviet car I’m in — a Lada Niva — begins to shake on the unpaved lane. In the darkness, Erdni, the driver, somehow manages to maneuver between large gullies and mounds of sand that seem impossible to discern.

After a couple hours of driving east from the Russian city of Elista, I find myself in the heart of the Kalmyk steppe — at the farming spot, or camp, where Erdni lives with his wife, his children and his father.

equivalent of New Year’s Day, is the date on which Kalmyks traditionally add a year to their age — a kind of culture-wide birthday.

“After surviving 2020,” he says, smiling, “we could easily add five years.”

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In Xinjiang, China Targets Muslim Women in Push to Suppress Births

When the government ordered women in her mostly Muslim community to be fitted with contraceptive devices, Qelbinur Sedik pleaded for an exemption. She was nearly 50 years old, she told officials in Xinjiang. She had obeyed the government’s birth limits and had only one child.

It was no use. The workers threatened to take her to the police if she continued resisting, she said. She gave in and went to a government clinic where a doctor, using metal forceps, inserted an intrauterine device to prevent pregnancy. She wept through the procedure.

“I felt like I was no longer a normal woman,” Ms. Sedik said, choking up as she described the 2017 ordeal. “Like I was missing something.”

Across much of China, the authorities are encouraging women to have more children, as they try to stave off a demographic crisis from a declining birthrate. But in the far western region of Xinjiang, they are forcing them to have fewer, as they tighten their grip on Muslim ethnic minorities.

internment camps and prisons. The authorities have placed the region under tight surveillance, sent residents to work in factories and placed children in boarding schools.

By targeting Muslim women, the authorities are going even further, attempting to orchestrate a demographic shift that will affect the population for generations. Birthrates in the region have already plunged in recent years, as the use of invasive birth control procedures has risen, findings that were previously documented by a researcher, Adrian Zenz, with The Associated Press.

crimes against humanity and genocide, in large part because of the efforts to stem the population growth of Muslim minorities. The Trump administration in January was the first government to declare the crackdown a genocide, with reproductive oppression as a leading reason; the Biden administration affirmed the label in March.

Ms. Sedik’s experience, reported in The Guardian and elsewhere, helped form the basis for the decision by the United States government. “It was one of the most detailed and compelling first-person accounts we had,” Kelley E. Currie, a former United States ambassador who was involved in the government’s discussions. “It helped to put a face on the horrifying statistics we were seeing.”

Beijing has accused its critics of pushing an anti-China agenda.

in March. “No one nor any agency shall interfere.”

To women in Xinjiang, the orders from the government were clear: They didn’t have a choice.

Last year, a community worker in Urumqi, the regional capital, where Ms. Sedik had lived, sent messages saying women between 18 and 59 had to submit to pregnancy and birth control inspections.

“If you fight with us at the door and if you refuse to cooperate with us, you will be taken to the police station,” the worker wrote, according to screenshots of the WeChat messages that Ms. Sedik shared with The Times.

encourage births, including by providing tax subsidies and free IUD removals. But from 2015 to 2018, Xinjiang’s share of the country’s total new IUD insertions increased, even as use of the devices fell nationwide.

The contraception campaign appeared to work.

report by a Xinjiang government research center read. “They have avoided the pain of being trapped by extremism and being turned into reproductive tools.”

Women like Ms. Sedik, who had obeyed the rules, were not spared. After the IUD procedure, Ms. Sedik suffered from heavy bleeding and headaches. She later had the device secretly removed, then reinserted. In 2019, she decided to be sterilized.

“The government had become so strict, and I could no longer take the IUD,’” said Ms. Sedik, who now lives in the Netherlands after fleeing China in 2019. “I lost all hope in myself.”

leaked last year from Karakax County, in southwestern Xinjiang, which revealed that one of the most common reasons cited for detention was violating birth planning policies.

government notice from a county in Ili, unearthed by Mr. Zenz, the researcher.

operated under secrecy — many were subjected to interrogations. For some, the ordeal was worse.

Tursunay Ziyawudun was detained in a camp in Ili Prefecture for 10 months for traveling to Kazakhstan. She said that on three occasions, she was taken to a dark cell where two to three masked men raped her and used electric batons to forcibly penetrate her.

“You become their toy,” Ms. Ziyawudun said in a telephone interview from the United States, where she now lives, as she broke down sobbing. “You just want to die at the time, but unfortunately you don’t.”

Gulbahar Jalilova, the third former detainee, said in an interview that she had been beaten in a camp and that a guard exposed himself during an interrogation and wanted her to perform oral sex.

The three former detainees, along with two others who spoke to The Times, also described being regularly forced to take unidentified pills or receive injections of medication that caused nausea and fatigue. Eventually, a few of them said, they stopped menstruating.

The former detainees’ accounts could not be independently verified because tight restrictions in Xinjiang make unfettered access to the camps impossible. The Chinese government has forcefully denied all allegations of abuse in the facilities.

in February.

Beijing has sought to undermine the credibility of the women who have spoken out, accusing them of lying and of poor morals, all while claiming to be a champion of women’s rights.

Even in their homes, the women did not feel safe. Uninvited Chinese Communist Party cadres would show up and had to be let in.

The party sends out more than a million workers to regularly visit, and sometimes stay in, the homes of Muslims, as part of a campaign called “Pair Up and Become Family.” To many Uyghurs, the cadres were little different from spies.

The cadres were tasked with reporting on whether the families they visited showed signs of “extremist behavior.” For women, this included any resentment they might have felt about state-mandated contraceptive procedures.

When the party cadres came to stay in 2018, Zumret Dawut had just been forcibly sterilized.

Four Han cadres visited her in Urumqi, bringing yogurt and eggs to help with the recovery, she recalled. They were also armed with questions: Did she have any issues with the sterilization operation? Was she dissatisfied with the government’s policy?

“I was so scared that if I said the wrong thing they would send me back to the camps,” said Ms. Dawut, a mother of three. “So I just told them, ‘We are all Chinese people and we have to do what the Chinese law says.’”

But the officials’ unwelcome gaze settled also on Ms. Dawut’s 11-year-old daughter, she said. One cadre, a 19-year-old man who was assigned to watch the child, would sometimes call Ms. Dawut and suggest taking her daughter to his home. She was able to rebuff him with excuses that the child was sick, she said.

Other women reported having to fend off advances even in the company of their husbands.

Ms. Sedik, the Uzbek teacher, was still recovering from a sterilization procedure when her “relative” — her husband’s boss — showed up.

She was expected to cook, clean and entertain him even though she was in pain from the operation. Worse, he would ask to hold her hand or to kiss and hug her, she said.

Mostly, Ms. Sedik agreed to his requests, terrified that if she refused, he would tell the government that she was an extremist. She rejected him only once: when he asked to sleep with her.

It went on like this every month or so for two years — until she left the country.

“He would say, ‘Don’t you like me? Don’t you love me?’” she recalled. “‘If you refuse me, you are refusing the government.’”

“I felt so humiliated, oppressed and angry,” she said. “But there was nothing I could do.”

Amy Chang Chien and Fatima Er contributed reporting.

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The Refugee Who Fought Germany’s Hard Right

GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany — The country’s largest-circulation tabloid called him the “scandal asylum seeker” and accused him (falsely) of entering the country illegally. People hacked his social media accounts and broadcast his location and personal information. A far-right political leader decried him as the “ringleader” of a violent protest, while another even suggested people like him would be a good reason to bring back the death penalty in Germany.

Alassa Mfouapon is hardly the first refugee to become sensationalist fodder for tabloids or a convenient scapegoat for far-right, anti-immigration politicians. In the five years since a major wave of refugees arrived in Germany, such portrayals have become commonplace.

But the 31-year-old from Cameroon is the first to take them to court for those depictions — and win.

In the process, he has emerged as an ideological lightning rod in the debate over refugee politics in Germany, his journey highlighting the disconnect between the country’s image on refugee issues and the reality for many of those who seek asylum here.

German court ruled that aspects of the police’s handling of the Ellwangen raid were illegal. The court did not rule entirely in his favor — it said, for example, that his 2018 deportation to Italy was legal, and that people in refugee facilities like Ellwangen cannot expect the same privacy rights as ordinary citizens. But his case has spurred a re-examination of the treatment of the Ellwangen incident in the German news media, drawing more attention to the voices of the refugees involved.

Cases like Mr. Mfouapon’s remain rare, because few refugees want to stand up to the state for fear they will become targets, just as Mr. Mfouapon has.

Mr. Mfouapon returned to Germany in 2019. He and his wife split up, unable to move past the loss of their son. He has added German to his other language skills and, with the help of some activists involved in his petition, applied for and started a training program in media production last year.

He has also launched a refugee advocacy organization to continue drawing awareness to these issues. Speaking out about his experiences is important to him personally, but is also a way to cope with the trauma and loss he has faced.

“All these events in my life, all these things that were happening before — if you want to deal with them, the only way you can do it is to try to go forward,” he said. “To say, ‘I will be fighting for the people who are not yet in this situation, so that what’s happening will not happen to anyone else.’”

He believes Germany needs to re-examine its asylum policy, and is pushing for changes to the Dublin rule. With worsening conditions in his home country and many others, Mr. Mfouapon said, migration issues will only intensify in coming years — and governments like Germany’s need to be ready with better solutions.

“They are trying to stop it, they are not trying to solve it,” he said. “And trying to stop something that’s exploded already — you can’t.”


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Fallen British Empire Soldiers Overlooked Because of Racism, Inquiry Finds

LONDON — Tens of thousands of soldiers from Africa and Asia who died during World War I in the service of what was then the British Empire were not properly commemorated, partly because of prejudice and racism, according to the findings of an inquiry issued on Thursday.

The report, written by an independent committee, found that the graves of 45,000 to 54,000 people who died serving the British war effort — largely East Africans, West Africans, Egyptians and Indians — did not receive appropriate memorials. At least 116,000 other casualties were not named on any memorials, the report said, adding that the number could be as high as 350,000.

First reported by The Guardian newspaper on Wednesday, the inquiry found that, though some colonial subjects had volunteered their service, “an equally high proportion may have been coerced or forcibly conscripted by the military and colonial authorities,” especially in African colonies and in Egypt.

Those who died, in some cases, were commemorated collectively on memorials rather than with their own individual headstones or grave markers, like their European counterparts were. In other cases, soldiers who were missing had their names recorded in registers rather than in stone.

erupted across the country last summer. Critics have said that a government-commissioned report on racial discrimination, released last month in response to those protests, whitewashed racial injustice in Britain after it said that disparities were more because of reasons of socio-economic status than of race.

Statues of slave traders have been torn down in some cities in Britain, and museums in the country have been working to highlight links to slavery and colonialism in their exhibits. The royal family has also come under fire after Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, said in an interview last month that a member of the family had asked questions about the skin color of their son, who was then not yet born.

“Unremembered — Britain’s Forgotten War Heroes,” which followed the British Labour lawmaker David Lammy as he investigated why African soldiers who served and died during World War I had not received their own graves.

said on Twitter in response to the inquiry. But recognition that the commission had failed to treat Black African and other ethnic minority soldiers the same as others was a “watershed moment,” he said, adding that it offered an opportunity to work through “this ugly part of our history.”

The report said the failure of the commemoration efforts was underpinned by “entrenched prejudices, preconceptions and pervasive racism of contemporary imperial attitudes.”

Responding to the findings, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission apologized for “historic failings” and said that it was fully committed to delivering on a series of recommendations made in the report. Those included providing more resources to search for those not commemorated and collaborating with local communities to highlight difficult parts of the British Empire’s history.

“The events of a century ago were wrong then and are wrong now,” Claire Horton, the commission’s director general, said in a statement. “We are sorry for what happened and will act to right the wrongs of the past.”

The British defense secretary, Ben Wallace, apologized on behalf of the government on Thursday. “There can be no doubt that prejudice played a part in some of the commissioners’ decisions,” he said in Parliament. He said that the government would support the implementation of the report’s recommendations. “Whilst we can’t change the past, we can make amends and take action,” he said.

But Kehinde Andrews, professor of Black Studies at Birmingham City University, said “It’s really farcical that in the 21st century, now, they want to apologize.”

The commission was created in 1917 to commemorate the deaths of service members in cemeteries and memorials across the world. Among the group’s main principles is “equality of treatment for the war dead irrespective of rank or religion.” At least 1.7 million British Empire and Commonwealth citizens died during the two World Wars.

In World War I, the contributions of soldiers from “white-settled” countries such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand dominated the narrative over other parts of the British Empire, the report said.

Many Britons were unaware that nonwhite colonial subjects were involved in the empire’s wars, and that was because of gaps in the history that is taught in schools, Professor Andrews said. “If government institutions were serious, you have to fundamentally rebuild the school curriculum from scratch,” he added.

The forced conscription of colonial subjects, he said, should open a conversation about restitution and reparations for the families of those affected.

“This was 100 years ago,” he said, adding that the current accounting of past wrongs was “too little, too late.”

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What Do Women Want? For Men to Get Covid Vaccines.

Holly Elgison and Len Schillaci are a mixed vaxxed couple, and they are far from alone.

“I was always going to get the vaccine, 100 percent,” said Ms. Elgison, a medical claims auditor in Valrico, Fla.

Her husband, a disaster insurance adjuster, said he will pass. “To be honest with you, I think that the worst of Covid is behind us,” Mr. Schillaci said. “I’m good.”

As the Biden administration seeks to get 80 percent of adult Americans immunized by summer, the continuing reluctance of men to get a shot could impede that goal.

Women are getting vaccinated at a far higher rate — about 10 percentage points — than men, even though the male-female divide is roughly even in the nation’s overall population. The trend is worrisome to many, especially as vaccination rates have dipped a bit recently.

higher for men than among women. And the division elucidates the reality of women’s disproportionate role in caring for others in American society.

“It could matter to localized herd immunity,” said Alison Buttenheim, an associate professor of nursing at the University of Pennsylvania and expert on vaccine hesitancy. “While most experts are fretting about larger gaps by race, political party, religion and occupational group,” she said, many of which overlap with the gender disparities, “I haven’t heard of any specific initiatives to target men.”

In Los Angeles County, where 44 percent of women over 16 have gotten their first shot — compared with 30 percent of men — officials are scrambling to figure out how to do just that.

“We are very concerned about it and are planning to embark on some targeted outreach among men,” said Dr. Paul Simon, the chief science officer at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, who said that the disparities are of particular concern for Black and Latino men. Only 19 percent of Black males in Los Angeles County and 17 percent of Latino males have received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared with 35 percent of Asian men and 32 percent of white men, according to the most recent data available from early this month.

larger proportion of that age group. In many states, health care workers and schoolteachers were also given vaccine priority: Women account for three-quarters of full-time health care workers and over 75 percent of public schoolteachers in the United States are female.

The disparities show both where women do the paid and unpaid labor of life. For instance, women lost the majority of the earliest jobs in food services, retail businesses, health care and government jobs. The mothers among them have done most of the work in the shift to remote schooling and caring for parents and sick relatives.

The combination may have increased their vaccine motivation in two ways: They are seeking to protect the rest of their family and they are desperate to get back in the work force. Indeed, just as women drove the job losses last year, they are leading the economic recovery now; roughly half a million women joined the labor force in March, in part because in-person schooling has resumed across much of the country.

“In addition to women being disproportionately represented in several essential jobs,” said Pilar Gonalons-Pons, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania who specializes in gender issues, “they are also disproportionately represented as unpaid caregivers for older adults in their families and communities, and this can also be an additional motivation for getting the vaccine.”

In many ways, the pattern with vaccines reflects longstanding gender differences when it comes to preventive health care. Women are on average more likely to get annual physicals than men, even when adjusted for pre-existing health conditions and other factors, and are more likely than men to get preventive care.

less likely to visit doctors regularly and go to the emergency room in a crisis and to get basic dental care, according to federal data. Vaccines are no exception: Historically, influenza vaccination is much higher among females — about 63 percent compared to 53 percent — though the gap narrows in Americans over 75 years old.

The coronavirus vaccine “is the latest expression of the tried-and-true gender gap we’ve long witnessed in preventive health care seeking patterns,” said Lindsey Leininger, a health policy researcher and clinical professor at Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.

But experts say that even in the context of general male health care recalcitrance, there may be some factors that are specific to this vaccine that are preventing more male shots in arms. Because the sign up has been cumbersome and confusing, men may have had less patience in navigating the system, which has largely taken place online, a process that women might find easier since they tend to get more of their health care information online.

“We have to figure out if disparities are about access, if men are having more difficulty navigating the appointment systems,” Mr. Simon of Los Angeles said.

Further, when it comes to the coronavirus — which has been the subject of rampant misinformation, evolving medical advice and politicization — other dynamics may be at work.

“Some men have a sense that they are not necessarily susceptible,” Mr. Simon said health care workers have told officials. “They have weathered this for more than a year and have a sense of omnipotence.”

turned it down.)

research on this trait.

“In other words, these cultural ideals lead men to avoid important health care in order to act masculine,” she said. “Now that the vaccine is available to everyone, it will be interesting to watch male-female differences in vaccine uptake, because these will more likely reflect social and cultural ideas about gender and health, such as the cultural idea that ‘real men’ don’t need preventive health care.”

At this stage, U.S. health authorities have not released data on nonbinary adults and vaccination.

There may also be political connections. Women are far more likely than men to register as Democrats, and polls demonstrate that Republicans across the country have been far less likely than Democrats to embrace the vaccine.

So who will men listen to? Not their wives and female friends or doctors, it seems. For their recent preprint study, Leah Witus and Erik Larson, professors at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minn., watched videos with men and women that featured identical information about the vaccine. Among the 1,184 Americans who watched them, most were positively influenced by the male narrator while the female narrator got a far more mixed response.

“The male-narrated version of the video increased vaccination intention in viewers,” said Ms. Witus, “but the female-narrated had mixed associations with vaccine propensity, and in some viewers, those that identified as conservative, actually decreased vaccination intention.”

This may spell victory for Mr. Schillaci as he and his wife subtly joust for influence over their 20-year-old son’s vaccination decision. Mr. Schillaci has been sharing his views with his son, whom his wife is prodding to take a shot.

“I would rather he got the shot, and I hope that he’ll consider it,” said Ms. Elgison.

But Ms. Elgison’s own decision may benefit her son, even if he decides against the vaccine.

As often happens in life, men may find their gaps covered by women. “To the extent most people live and socialize in a mixed-gender setting, the men will benefit from the higher coverage among women,” Ms. Buttenheim said.

Ms. Elgison, however, still has a trump card she hopes might work. “I would like my son to get it so we can all travel together,” she said. “I explained to him that it’s possible that we could protect his dad.”

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The Vaccination Gender Gap: Women Are Getting Shots at a Higher Rate Than Men

Holly Elgison and Len Schillaci are a mixed vaxxed couple, and they are far from alone.

“I was always going to get the vaccine, 100 percent,” said Ms. Elgison, a medical claims auditor in Valrico, Fla.

Her husband, a disaster insurance adjuster, said he will pass. “To be honest with you, I think that the worst of Covid is behind us,” Mr. Schillaci said. “I’m good.”

As the Biden administration seeks to get 80 percent of adult Americans immunized by summer, the continuing reluctance of men to get a shot could impede that goal.

Women are getting vaccinated at a far higher rate — about 10 percentage points — than men, even though the male-female divide is roughly even in the nation’s overall population. The trend is worrisome to many, especially as vaccination rates have dipped a bit recently.

higher for men than among women. And the division elucidates the reality of women’s disproportionate role in caring for others in American society.

“It could matter to localized herd immunity,” said Alison Buttenheim, an associate professor of nursing at the University of Pennsylvania and expert on vaccine hesitancy. “While most experts are fretting about larger gaps by race, political party, religion and occupational group,” she said, many of which overlap with the gender disparities, “I haven’t heard of any specific initiatives to target men.”

In Los Angeles County, where 44 percent of women over 16 have gotten their first shot — compared with 30 percent of men — officials are scrambling to figure out how to do just that.

“We are very concerned about it and are planning to embark on some targeted outreach among men,” said Dr. Paul Simon, the chief science officer at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, who said that the disparities are of particular concern for Black and Latino men. Only 19 percent of Black males in Los Angeles County and 17 percent of Latino males have received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared with 35 percent of Asian men and 32 percent of white men, according to the most recent data available from early this month.

larger proportion of that age group. In many states, health care workers and schoolteachers were also given vaccine priority: Women account for three-quarters of full-time health care workers and over 75 percent of public schoolteachers in the United States are female.

The disparities show both where women do the paid and unpaid labor of life. For instance, women lost the majority of the earliest jobs in food services, retail businesses, health care and government jobs. The mothers among them have done most of the work in the shift to remote schooling and caring for parents and sick relatives.

The combination may have increased their vaccine motivation in two ways: They are seeking to protect the rest of their family and they are desperate to get back in the work force. Indeed, just as women drove the job losses last year, they are leading the economic recovery now; roughly half a million women joined the labor force in March, in part because in-person schooling has resumed across much of the country.

“In addition to women being disproportionately represented in several essential jobs,” said Pilar Gonalons-Pons, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania who specializes in gender issues, “they are also disproportionately represented as unpaid caregivers for older adults in their families and communities, and this can also be an additional motivation for getting the vaccine.”

In many ways, the pattern with vaccines reflects longstanding gender differences when it comes to preventive health care. Women are on average more likely to get annual physicals than men, even when adjusted for pre-existing health conditions and other factors, and are more likely than men to get preventive care.

less likely to visit doctors regularly and go to the emergency room in a crisis and to get basic dental care, according to federal data. Vaccines are no exception: Historically, influenza vaccination is much higher among females — about 63 percent compared to 53 percent — though the gap narrows in Americans over 75 years old.

The coronavirus vaccine “is the latest expression of the tried-and-true gender gap we’ve long witnessed in preventive health care seeking patterns,” said Lindsey Leininger, a health policy researcher and clinical professor at Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.

But experts say that even in the context of general male health care recalcitrance, there may be some factors that are specific to this vaccine that are preventing more male shots in arms. Because the sign up has been cumbersome and confusing, men may have had less patience in navigating the system, which has largely taken place online, a process that women might find easier since they tend to get more of their health care information online.

“We have to figure out if disparities are about access, if men are having more difficulty navigating the appointment systems,” Mr. Simon of Los Angeles said.

Further, when it comes to the coronavirus — which has been the subject of rampant misinformation, evolving medical advice and politicization — other dynamics may be at work.

“Some men have a sense that they are not necessarily susceptible,” Mr. Simon said health care workers have told officials. “They have weathered this for more than a year and have a sense of omnipotence.”

turned it down.)

research on this trait.

“In other words, these cultural ideals lead men to avoid important health care in order to act masculine,” she said. “Now that the vaccine is available to everyone, it will be interesting to watch male-female differences in vaccine uptake, because these will more likely reflect social and cultural ideas about gender and health, such as the cultural idea that ‘real men’ don’t need preventive health care.”

At this stage, U.S. health authorities have not released data on nonbinary adults and vaccination.

There may also be political connections. Women are far more likely than men to register as Democrats, and polls demonstrate that Republicans across the country have been far less likely than Democrats to embrace the vaccine.

So who will men listen to? Not their wives and female friends or doctors, it seems. For their recent preprint study, Leah Witus and Erik Larson, professors at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minn., watched videos with men and women that featured identical information about the vaccine. Among the 1,184 Americans who watched them, most were positively influenced by the male narrator while the female narrator got a far more mixed response.

“The male-narrated version of the video increased vaccination intention in viewers,” said Ms. Witus, “but the female-narrated had mixed associations with vaccine propensity, and in some viewers, those that identified as conservative, actually decreased vaccination intention.”

This may spell victory for Mr. Schillaci as he and his wife subtly joust for influence over their 20-year-old son’s vaccination decision. Mr. Schillaci has been sharing his views with his son, whom his wife is prodding to take a shot.

“I would rather he got the shot, and I hope that he’ll consider it,” said Ms. Elgison.

But Ms. Elgison’s own decision may benefit her son, even if he decides against the vaccine.

As often happens in life, men may find their gaps covered by women. “To the extent most people live and socialize in a mixed-gender setting, the men will benefit from the higher coverage among women,” Ms. Buttenheim said.

Ms. Elgison, however, still has a trump card she hopes might work. “I would like my son to get it so we can all travel together,” she said. “I explained to him that it’s possible that we could protect his dad.”

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Mao Ayuth, Filmmaker Who Survived the Khmer Rouge, Dies at 76

Mao Ayuth, one of the few Cambodian filmmakers to survive the Khmer Rouge era, during which most artists and intellectuals were killed, and who then rose to become secretary of state in the Ministry of Information, died on April 15 in Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital. He was 76.

Phos Sovann, a spokesman for the ministry, said the cause was complications of Covid-19.

Mr. Mao Ayuth, who was also a novelist, poet and screenwriter, began his film career in the 1960s and early ’70s, in what became known as a golden age of Cambodian cinema. Filmmaking flourished under the country’s leader at the time, Prince Norodom Sihanouk, an avid cineaste who directed his own films.

Chet Chong Cham” (“I Want To Remember”), a story of survival during the previous decades of civil war and ruin, is told in flashbacks within flashbacks. It, too, proved popular among a people hungry to see scenes from their recent past.

The Cambodian movie industry then experienced what may have been the fastest growth and quickest decline of any in the world. At its peak, the industry produced 167 films in 1990; the number dropped to just 31 in 1994.

One reason was competition from flashier foreign films; another was the advent of television in Cambodia. But the main cause was film piracy. As soon as a film was screened, it would be pirated and taken home on discs. The absence of strong copyright laws continues to debilitate Cambodian cinema.

Mr. Mao Ayuth’s most popular film, “Ne Sat Kror Per” (“The Crocodile”), in 2005, was based loosely on his childhood memories of crocodile hunters, telling the story of a hunt for the mythical Crocodile King.

He was born on July 8, 1944, in Kampong Cham province, in the central lowlands. His father, Men Thoeung, was a commune official. His mother was Tai Sing.

After attending a scriptwriting program in the early 1960s, Mr. Mao Ayuth worked at Cambodia’s first television station, starting as a production assistant and rising to news director.

A decade later he went to France with a stipend from the national television and radio agency. While on a vacation in the Swiss Alps, he used his hand-cranked camera to produce footage that became part of “Beth Phnek Hek Troung.” The winter scenes of mountains, ski lifts and tourists in fur hats were a thrill for Cambodians, who had never seen snow.

He is survived by his widow, So Samony; four daughters, Mao Bophany, Mao Moni Na, Mao Moni Neath and Mao Moni Roath; and one son, Mao Makara.

Mr. Mao Ayuth was appointed secretary of state in the Ministry of Information in 1993. He was also president of the Association of Television Stations of Cambodia.

He was recently selected by Prime Minister Hun Sen to create a film series about Mr. Hun Sen’s life as a poor village boy who rose to become one of the world’s longest-serving leaders, in power now for more than three decades.

Mr. Mao Ayuth was still working on the series at his death, regarding it as a distinct privilege.

“When it is for his honor, we must try hard,” he told reporters in January. “It is a huge honor that the top leader has put trust in us, so we must fulfill our obligations to meet his trust.”

Sun Narin contributed reporting from Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

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Quebec’s Ban on Public Religious Symbols Largely Upheld

MONTREAL — A Quebec court on Tuesday largely upheld a law barring public sector employees such as schoolteachers, police officers, and judges from wearing religious symbols while at work, in a ruling that human rights advocates said would undermine civil liberties in the province.

But the ruling also made some big exceptions that dissatisfied the provincial government. Both sides said they intended to appeal.

Religious minorities across the province said the decision marginalizes them. While the ban is supported by a majority of Quebecers, it has nevertheless proved deeply polarizing in Quebec society where minority lawyers and teachers, among others, say it has derailed their lives and careers, while fomenting Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

“The law destroyed my career dreams,” said Noor Farhat, a lawyer who wears a head scarf and aspired to be a public prosecutor. She represented a large Quebec teachers’ union that is one of the plaintiffs in the case. “It is a clear violation of freedom of religion and the government is limiting human rights,” she said.

François Legault, the right-leaning Quebec premier, has said that the law is necessary to ensure that the separation between religion and state is respected in Quebec, a province where secularism holds sway. The law, adopted in June 2019, applies to Muslim head scarves, Jewish skullcaps, Sikh turbans and Catholic crosses, among other symbols.

Lawyers for the Quebec government argued that the law did not impinge on minority rights since people could practice their religion at home. Supporters of the law also argued that it is a force for liberal values, including respect for women and gay people, by preventing religious orthodoxy from encroaching on public life.

But human rights advocates and legal scholars counter that the law breaches the Canadian constitutional right to freedom of religion, while undermining social equality and denying minorities access to jobs in vital fields such as education and law enforcement. They also criticize the law as running counter to Canada’s vaunted model of multiculturalism.

“It will drive religious minorities away rather than bringing them into society,” said Robert Leckey, dean of McGill University’s faculty of law in Montreal and a leading constitutional lawyer. “An inclusive society is surely one where schoolteachers are allowed to look like the kids they are teaching.”

In a 240-page ruling, Justice Marc-André Blanchard of the Quebec Superior Court in Montreal said the Quebec government had the right to restrict the religious symbols worn by public sector employees including teachers, police officers, lawyers and prison guards, while they were at work.

Supreme Court. Simon Jolin-Barrette, Quebec’s minister of justice, also said Quebec planned to appeal the ruling, saying that the exemptions carved out in the court’s decision threatened to effectively create two Quebecs and that the law should apply to all Quebecers.

A legal challenge to the law in the courts has proved difficult because to insulate it from potential court action, the government invoked a rarely used constitutional loophole known as the “notwithstanding clause,” which empowers Canadian legislatures to override some constitutional rights like freedom of religion or expression.

The clause was added to Canada’s 1982 constitution to appease some provinces, which were resistant to including a charter of rights as part of the document.

Ms. Farhat said the law had disproportionately affected visible minorities like Muslim women who wore outwardly conspicuous religious symbols like head scarves. A Catholic cross was less conspicuous since it could be concealed in a blouse or a shirt while at work.

Quebec is hardly alone in imposing such a law. In 2004 France banned religious symbols such as Muslim head scarves at state schools. In May 2018, Denmark banned face veils in public, igniting criticism that the law discriminated against Muslim women.

Identity and religion are sensitive issues in Quebec, a Francophone province surrounded by English-majority Canada. In the 1960s, Quebec underwent a social rebellion known as the Quiet Revolution during which Quebecers revolted against the Roman Catholic Church, which had dominated daily life in the province for decades. The result, sociologists say, is that outward expressions of religious orthodoxy have long been viewed with suspicion.

Julius Grey, a leading Canadian human rights lawyer who has argued frequently before the Supreme Court of Canada, said the decision could potentially open the way for other provinces to defy safeguards of the Canadian constitution by weaponizing the notwithstanding clause.

After the law was passed in June 2019, protests erupted across the province, with some local mayors and school boards in Montreal saying they would refuse to enforce it. The Quebec government passed an amendment appointing inspectors to ensure it was obeyed.

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In a Charged Environment, France Tackles Its Model of Secularism

PARIS — The French government on Tuesday initiated a wide-ranging public debate on France’s model of secularism, seeking to gain the upper hand on a contentious topic that has roiled the nation in recent months and is likely to be a battleground in a presidential election next year.

Marlène Schiappa, the minister of citizenship, assembled a small group of intellectuals at a gathering in Paris, kicking off what is expected to be a monthslong series of discussions that she described as the “Estates-General on laïcité’’ — referring to the historic assemblies held in France to debate the fundamentals of French society.

Known as laïcité, the French secularism separating church and state has served as the bedrock of the country’s political system for more than a century.

“In every country, there are words that are important, that can’t be overlooked,’’ Ms. Schiappa said, describing laïcité as an idea in which “French destiny is found.’’

announced to a French newspaper over the weekend, caught many by surprise because of its timing and its intentions. It is starting just as lawmakers are wrapping up work on a bill that is intended to reinforce the country’s principles of secularism and to combat Islamism.

Led by Ms. Schiappa — a high-profile minister who has espoused a strict view on secularism — the debate comes as President Emmanuel Macron tries to fend off an increasing threat from the right and far right ahead of next year’s presidential election.

As Mr. Macron tries to burnish his credentials as a defender of a strict vision of laïcité, he has also moved to seize another issue important to right-wing voters: crime.

Following months of attention on the government’s stumbling coronavirus vaccination campaign, Mr. Macron pledged on Monday to be tough on crime, to crack down on recreational drugs and to recruit 10,000 additional police officers by the end of his current five-year term. The promises were made in a long, tough-talking interview he gave to a conservative newspaper, Le Figaro, that another publication described as reminiscent of Rudolph Giuliani, the combative former mayor of New York.

On Monday, Mr. Macron visited drug-dealing spots in the southern city of Montpellier, talking to police officers and riding along inside a police car. Even as Ms. Schiappa inaugurated the debate on secularism, Mr. Macron’s prime minister and justice minister visited a prison under construction in eastern France to announce details of the government’s expansion of the prison system.

Laïcité Observatory, a government watchdog that supporters of a strict laïcité long criticized as being soft. The government’s bill against Islamism also intends to enforce the country’s principles of secularism by gaining greater control over Muslim and other religious organizations, and by restricting home and private schooling.

Appearing inside a church that had been converted into a government building, Ms. Schiappa spoke about the need for a “calm’’ discussion on laïcité. But the heated nature of the debate could be seen as some of the six invited intellectuals — four in favor of a strict laïcité and two against — took barely concealed swipes at one another.

Conservative intellectuals said that laïcité was a universalist principle and a useful tool to fight against Islamism and an identity-driven fragmentation of society.

Raphaël Enthoven, a philosopher, criticized those who, in the name of tolerance toward religions, favor a liberal version of laïcité, saying it plays into the hands of Islamists. “Laïcité is the object of prosecution and despicable propaganda which consists in presenting it almost as racism,” Mr. Enthoven said.

French Democratic Confederation of Labor, said it was a bad idea to initiate these discussions while the separatism bill had yet to become law.

“We must stop making laïcité a permanent object of media agitation,’’ he said in a tweet.

Mr. Macron’s two-pronged efforts on laïcité and crime this week come as polls show him neck-and-neck with Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Rally, in next year’s presidential election. With voters moving to the right and France’s left-leaning parties in shambles, Mr. Macron’s electoral strategy rests on winning over right-leaning voters who might be tempted to migrate to the extreme right.

Polls show that while support for Macron has remained steady overall, he has lost support among right-wing voters over the past four months. While 48 percent of conservative voters and 20 percent of far-right supporters said they were satisfied with him in December, according to an IFOP study, that proportion fell to 30 percent and 13 percent in April, according to the same polling firm.

Mr. Macron has also been under pressure from the right-controlled Senate, which last week passed a toughened version of his bill against Islamism, adding a series of amendments that critics said risked discriminating against Muslims.

Many of the new measures stem from debates over the wearing of the Muslim veil. They include a ban on ostentatious religious symbols or clothing for minors in the public space and in sport tournaments, as well as for parents accompanying children on school outings. They also enable local authorities to ban the full-body swimsuit that some Muslim women wear at swimming pools and empower mayors to ban foreign flags in and around city hall buildings during wedding celebrations.

The bill, which was approved earlier by the National Assembly, will now be examined by a cross-party parliamentary commission. If the commission fails to come to an agreement, the National Assembly, which is controlled by Mr. Macron’s party, will have the final say. The Constitutional Council could also revoke some of the new measures.

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