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Policing at Sarah Everard Vigil Faces Official Scrutiny

LONDON — The mayor of London and the British cabinet minister responsible for policing both called on Sunday for an independent investigation into how the city’s main police force broke up a vigil for Sarah Everard, the 33-year-old marketing executive whose killing has sparked a reckoning over violence against women, after images of officers clashing with women at the event prompted a widespread outcry.

The mayor, Sadiq Khan, said that “scenes arising from the policing of the vigil,” which had been banned under coronavirus restrictions, “were completely unacceptable,” and that he was “not satisfied” with explanations from the two top officers in the force, the Metropolitan Police.

A spokesman for the Home Office, the government department that oversees policing, confirmed on Sunday that Priti Patel, the home secretary, had asked the Inspectorate of Constabulary, a government body that assesses police forces, for a report into what happened at the vigil.

Mr. Khan said in a statement that he had sought a full inquiry from the same body, and that he was also asking another regulator, the Independent Office for Police Conduct, to investigate the actions of officers at the vigil.

a Metropolitan Police officer has been charged with kidnapping and murdering Ms. Everard, who disappeared while walking home from a friend’s house in Clapham on March 3.

Mr. Khan said that the police had assured him last week that the vigil would be policed sensitively, and that he had met on Sunday with the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick, and her deputy, Stephen House, to demand an explanation. “I am not satisfied with the explanation they have provided,” he added.

In a statement overnight, Helen Ball, an assistant commissioner for the Metropolitan Police, said that officers on the ground were “faced with a difficult decision” in the evening after hundreds of people “packed tightly together, posing a very real risk of easily transmitting Covid-19.”

“Police must act for people’s safety, this is the only responsible thing to do. The pandemic is not over and gatherings of people from right across London and beyond, are still not safe,” she said, adding, “We accept that the actions of our officers have been questioned.”

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In Nigeria, ‘Feminist’ Was a Common Insult. Then Came the Feminist Coalition.

LAGOS, Nigeria — During the biggest demonstrations in Nigeria’s recent history, 13 women came together to support their fellow citizens risking their lives to march against police brutality.

The women were all in their 20s and 30s. All at the top of their fields. Many had never met in person. They found one another through social media months before, and named their group the Feminist Coalition. They jokingly called themselves “The Avengers.”

“We decided that if we don’t step in, the people who suffer the greatest will end up being women,” said Odunayo Eweniyi, a 27-year-old tech entrepreneur and a founding member of the Feminist Coalition.

repeatedly been voted down by Nigeria’s male-dominated Senate.

And then there’s the matter of being proud feminists, in a country where the word feminist is commonly used as an insult.

For years, identifying as a feminist in Nigeria has been fraught. The coalition’s decision to use the word in the organization’s name, and the female symbol in their yellow logo, was pointed. Many of the protesters benefiting from their assistance were men — and not all of them had been supportive of women’s rights.

Ms. Ovia, 27, co-founded a company with friends in 2016 that aims to try to make sure that health care across Africa is driven by data and technology. The company, Helium Health, has helped hospitals and clinics set up electronic medical records and hospital management systems.

She said she hadn’t expected the work of the Feminist Coalition to be so serious, supporting protesters as they risked their lives to try to change a police system that brutalized young people.

“I thought it was going to be a lot more fun than this, let me not lie,” she said, laughing. “I thought we’d meet up, we’d drink, we’d bitch about men. We’d do some work. I didn’t know that lives would be threatened.”

a 2019 interview about Wine and Whine.

“Oh!” replied the host, sounding taken aback by her use of the word.

“We’re very feminist,” she responded, laughing. “Your reaction tells me that feminism is perceived as this bad thing.”

history of feminist movements, identifying as a feminist is seen as radical.

Ms. Eweniyi recently got tattoos of her favorite equations: Schroëdinger’s equation, the golden ratio, and the uncertainty principle.

She’s working to reduce uncertainty in Nigerian women’s lives.

The savings app start-up that Ms. Eweniyi launched in 2017, called Piggyvest, tackles one of the main problems the Feminist Coalition has identified — financial equality for women. The idea is that people should be able to save and invest even small amounts of money. It has more than 1 million customers — men and women.

tweeted Fakhrriyyah Hashim in February 2019. “You are done getting away with monstrosities against women.”

Her tweet kicked off northern Nigeria’s #MeToo movement. In it, Ms. Hashim coined the hashtag #ArewaMeToo — Arewa means “north” in Hausa, a West African language spoken by most northern Nigerians.

In a highly conservative region with what Ms. Hashim, 28, has called a “culture of silence,” #ArewaMeToo unleashed a deluge of testimonies about sexual violence. When it spilled off social media and into street protests, the Sultan of Sokoto, the highest Islamic authority in Nigeria, banned it.

Another campaign Ms. Hashim launched, #NorthNormal, pushed for Nigerian states to apply laws that criminalize violence and broaden the definition of sexual violence.

Her women’s rights activism has brought her death threats and abuse. Now, she’s put some distance between herself and the people behind those threats, having taken up a fellowship at the African Leadership Centre in London.

An estimated two-thirds of Nigerian girls and women do not have access to sanitary pads. They can’t afford them.

Karo Omu, 29, has been fighting to get pads and other sanitary products to Nigerian girls for the past four years. She focuses on girls in public schools who come from low-income families, and girls who have had to flee their homes and are living in camps.

There are 2.7 million internally displaced people in northeastern Nigeria as a result of the violent and uncontrolled insurgency waged by the Islamist group Boko Haram and its offshoots. And for many women and girls living in the camps, it is a struggle to get enough food and clothing, let alone expensive sanitary pads.

Her organization, Sanitary Aid for Nigerian Girls, hands out reusable pads, bought with money crowdfunded by Ms. Omu and her colleagues, so that girls have one less thing to worry about. Some of the girls they’ve helped had never had a pad before.

“Women’s issues are fought by women,” she said.

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A Women’s March in Mexico City Turns Violent, With at Least 81 Injured

MEXICO CITY — Hundreds of women marched on Mexico’s seat of government Monday, some carrying their children, others blowtorches, bats and hammers, prepared for a confrontation they hoped would force the country to tackle rampant violence against women.

The International Women’s Day protest was fueled by anger at President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has backed a politician accused by several women of rape in a country that suffers some of the world’s worst rates of gender violence. Despite a rift within the governing party over the issue, Mr. López Obrador has supported the politician ahead of June elections.

As the protesters gathered around the national palace — Mr. Lopez Obrador’s residence and the seat of government — their ire was focused on a metal fence that had been erected to protect the building from being overrun. Women wearing black balaclavas pulled down parts of the barricade as the police fired volleys of flash-bang grenades into the crowd, causing several small stampedes.

At least 62 police and 19 civilians were injured by late Monday evening, according to Mexico City’s security branch.

an average of 10 women were killed in Mexico every day, and there were some 16,000 cases of rape. An investigation by one news site, Animal Politico, found that from 2014 to 2018, only about 5 percent of all sexual assault allegations, including rape, resulted in a criminal sentence.

It is that impunity that has enraged Mexico’s feminists, leading some groups to embrace violence as a tactic to force the nation to pay attention to their demands.

“We fight today so we don’t die tomorrow,” women chanted Monday as they marched across the city to the national palace. Others declared, “The fault is not mine, not because of where I was or what I was wearing.”

Over the weekend, activists spray-painted the barricade around the palace with the names of women killed by their husbands, boyfriends or supposed admirers.

filled the capital’s streets after several grisly assaults against women sparked public outrage, including the killing of a 7-year-old girl who was found disemboweled in a body bag.

A day later, tens of thousands of women stayed home from work in a nationwide strike to protest the violence.

accused of sexual assault by several women. The candidate, Félix Salgado Macedonio, is running for governor in the state of Guerrero, pending a party poll to confirm his candidacy.

On the morning of Monday’s protest, the president again accused conservative groups of co-opting the feminist movement, and claimed that women’s marches had begun only after he took power. He pointed to his own government as a commitment to his struggle for equality, the first cabinet in Mexican history to have half the seats filled by women.

Mr. López Obrador defended the wall his government erected around the national palace. And he said that while he supported the feminist movement, he would not tolerate the violence or the vandalism seen during the women’s march last year.

Ms. Granados and her daughter said the wall felt out of keeping for a president who says he is a man of the people.

“Look, I don’t agree to destroy monuments or damage, right?” Ms. Granados said. “But it is also clear to me that a monument is not worth more than the life of a girl.”

Her daughter, Ms. Puente, piped up.

The wall, she said, “is a contradiction.”

Ana Sosa in Mexico City contributed reporting.

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Swiss Voters Narrowly Approve a Ban on Face Coverings

GENEVA — Switzerland on Sunday became the latest European country to ban the wearing of face coverings in public places, prohibiting the veils worn by Muslim women.

Official results of the nationwide referendum showed 51.2 percent of voters supported the ban on full facial coverings, which was proposed by the populist, anti-immigrant Swiss People’s Party (S.V.P.), compared with 48.8 percent opposing it, a much narrower margin of victory than pollsters had initially predicted.

The initiative, started long before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, makes exceptions for facial coverings worn at religious sites and for security or health purposes, but also bans coverings like the ski masks worn by protesters. Officials have two years to write legislation to put the ban into effect.

The federal government had urged voters to reject the ban as tackling a problem that didn’t exist and arguing that it would damage tourism.

Critics of the ban cited a study showing only some 30 women in Switzerland wear the veils and most of them were born in Switzerland and had converted to Islam. The only people seen wearing the burqa, a full head-to-toe covering, are visitors from the Middle East, mostly wealthy tourists from the Persian Gulf bringing welcome revenue to the country’s hospitality industry.

France, Denmark, the Netherlands and Austria ban face coverings, and opinion polls at the start of the year showed the Swiss initiative garnering the backing of around 65 percent of voters, but the gap narrowed quickly as liberals and women’s groups pushed back against a ban they condemned as racist, Islamophobic and sexist.

The Swiss People’s Party has “always profited from campaigning against minorities, and feel they have to keep doing it,” said Elena Michel, a manager of a campaign against the ban for Operation Libero, an activist group supporting liberal causes. “In the end all our freedoms are at stake. If we open that door, it shows a tendency that it’s OK to take away the fundamental rights of minorities.”

Switzerland’s Central Council of Muslims called the result of the vote “a dark day” for Muslims and issued a statement saying, “Today’s decision opens old wounds, further expands the principle of legal inequality, and sends a clear signal of exclusion to the Muslim minority.”

The proposal put forward by the Swiss People’s Party, the country’s largest, did not mention Islam or niqabs and burqas — veils traditionally worn by Muslim women — calling instead for a ban on “full facial covering.” But the party left no doubt as to whom it was targeting.

Menacing campaign posters depicting a black-garbed woman scowling from behind her veil carried the slogan “Stop Extremism!”

The initiative evoked memories of a successful 2009 campaign by the S.V.P. to ban the construction of minarets, the towers from which mosques traditionally broadcast the call to prayers. Switzerland had three minarets at the time but the party challenged such architecture as alien to the Alpine nation’s culture and landscape, and hammered home the message with posters depicting minarets as missiles.

The S.V.P. framed its campaign leading up to Sunday’s vote as part of a “war of civilizations” in which it was defending Switzerland against “the Islamization of Europe and our country.”

To win support from other parts of the political spectrum, the party also framed the initiative as liberating women from religious oppression and said it would help the police deal with hooligans in street protests and at sporting events.

Some liberal-leaning Muslims supported the ban.

“What the full veil represents is unacceptable; it is the cancellation of women from public space,” Saïda Keller-Messahli, president of the Forum for a Progressive Islam, told Swiss media.

Social commentators say Switzerland’s 400,000 Muslims, who make up around 5.5 percent of the population, are better integrated than those in France or Germany.

Some who campaigned against the ban called the outcome better than expected.

“We lost the battle but not the war,” said Ines el-Shikh, a Muslim and co-founder of the Violet Scarves, a feminist group, who celebrated the sharp drop in support for the ban. “This is huge. It shows the power that feminism as an organized movement can bring to public debate.”

Others said they feared the outcome would merely stoke the politics of division and fuel anti-Muslim sentiment.

“Things are going in a bad direction and this is going to make them worse,” Sanija Ameti, a political activist and member of the Green Liberals Party, said. “That frightens me.”

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Women Call for India’s Chief Justice to Quit Over Remarks in Rape Cases

NEW DELHI — Outrage in India is growing over comments made by the nation’s chief justice in two rape cases, with thousands of women signing a letter this week demanding that he resign.

Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde, the head of India’s Supreme Court, asked a 23-year-old man accused of raping a minor whether he would marry his victim, who is now an adult.

The victim, who under Indian law can’t be identified, has accused the man, a distant relative and a civil servant with the Maharashtra State government, of repeatedly stalking and raping her starting when she was 16.

The judge’s comments provoked new demands that people in power, and particularly men, do more to improve how women and girls are treated in India.

spate of shocking assaults in recent years has galvanized women’s groups and other activists to change long-held attitudes toward sexual violence.

Justice for victims is rare. Of the tens of thousands of rape cases reported annually in India, only a handful result in prosecutions, figures from the National Crime Records Bureau show. Activists say the true scope of the problem is far worse, as many cases are never reported because of the stigma.

On Monday, Justice Bobde was hearing a petition filed by the accused man in the statutory rape case for relief from a lower court’s jail order.

“Will you marry her?” Justice Bobde asked, according to Indian media reports.

“You should have thought before seducing and raping the young girl,” he added. “We are not forcing you to marry. Let us know if you will.”

Activists said they were “appalled and outraged.”

“Your proposal of marriage as an amicable solution to settle the case of rape of a minor girl is worse than atrocious and insensitive for it deeply erodes the right of victims to seek justice,” the open letter published Tuesday said.

ruling in a child abuse case that groping a minor without skin-to-skin contact could not be termed sexual assault under the child protection law sparked outrage. She acquitted the man, whom a lower court had convicted of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old. After India’s attorney general said that it set a dangerous precedent, the Supreme Court stayed the judgment.

In two separate cases, Justice Ganedivala acquitted two other men accused of raping minors, saying that the victims’ testimonies were unreliable.

After her rulings, a Supreme Court panel headed by Justice Bobde reversed its decision to make her a permanent judge of the Bombay High Court.

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E.U. Pushes Companies to Close Gender Pay Gap

BRUSSELS — Pushing member states to address salary disparities between men and women, the European Union revealed details on Thursday of a proposed law that would require companies to divulge gender pay gaps and give job candidates access to salary information in employment interviews. It also would provide women with better tools to fight for equal pay.

The move comes as female workers across the world have been disproportionately affected by the economic repercussions of the coronavirus crisis, and it could lead to sanctions on companies that do not comply.

The proposed law would also empower women to verify if they are being fairly compensated in comparison with male colleagues. The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, wants to provide workers with the ability to seek proper compensation in case of discrimination.

Under the proposed law, those who believe they are victims could take action through independent monitors of compliance with the equal-pay requirement. They could also press gender-based pay grievances through workers’ representatives, either as individuals or in groups.

European Institute for Gender Equality, a research group, female managers earn a quarter less than male ones.

Despite several efforts to enforce equal pay in practice, for more than 60 years it seemed out of reach for women across the bloc, which presents itself as the beacon of human rights and equality. So far, only 10 European countries, including Austria, Germany, Italy, and Sweden, have introduced national legislation on pay transparency.

The proposed E.U.-wide law requires approval by member countries and the European Parliament. There are concerns that it might be blocked by national governments, as happened with the European Commission’s proposal to introduce gender quotas on management boards. Wary of these potential obstacles, Vera Jourova, the bloc’s top official for values and transparency, called the proposal on pay “pure pragmatism and good economic calculations,” underlining that gender equality at work benefited businesses.

2020 Women in Work Index, compiled annually across 33 developed countries by PricewaterhouseCoopers, a consultancy, economic damage from the pandemic, as well as repercussions from government policies, is disproportionately affecting women. This has reversed the steady trend of gains for women in employment and has led to what the consultancy calls a “shecession.”

Women’s rights groups welcomed the commission’s initiative. “Information is power: pay transparency would enable employees to know the value of their work and negotiate salaries accordingly,” said Carlien Scheele, director of the European Institute for Gender Equality. “This would help tackle discrimination in the workplace, which can only be a boon for gender equality.”

Employers, aware of the proposal’s possible legal and economic repercussions, were careful in their assessment, blaming what they described as deep underlying reasons for gender inequalities.

“Reasonable requirements on pay transparency can be part of the answer,” said Markus J. Beyrer, head of BusinessEurope, a lobbying group. “However, the key to improve gender equality is to address the root causes of inequalities, especially gender stereotypes, labor market segregation and insufficient provision of child care.”

Mr. Beyrer said the commission must respect “national social partners’ competences” and should not “complicate human resources management with excessive administrative burdens and open the way to undue litigation.”

According to Ms. Jourova, “binding rules” are required, not just reliance on the social responsibility undertaken by companies. “We see that it doesn’t lead anywhere,” she said.

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