LGBTIQ Freedom Zone in EU
The European Parliament recently declared the European Union a "LGBTIQ Freedom Zone" in response to a backsliding of LGBTIQ rights in some EU countries, especially Poland and Hungary.
- A majority of countries in the EU (23/27) recognise same-sex unions, with 16 legally recognising same- sex marriage.
- LGBTIQ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Inter-sex and Queer.
- Same-sex relationships are not legally recognised in Poland, and the country already bans same-sex couples from adopting children together. However, as single people are permitted to adopt, some have managed to get around the ban by adopting as single parents.
- Now, Poland has come up with the proposal wherein a person is liable to criminal offence if he/she is found to be applying for adoption as a single parent being in a same-sex relationship.
- LGBTIQ community in Poland is subject to increased discrimination and attacks, notably growing hate speech from public authorities and elected officials.
- Since March 2019, more than 100 Polish regions, counties and municipalities have adopted resolutions declaring themselves to be free from LGBTIQ "ideology".
- Recently, the Parliament of Hungary too, adopted constitutional amendments that restrict the rights of LGBTIQ people.
- Hungary and Poland have been at loggerheads with the European Commission (executive body of the European Union) over an array of issues, mostly centering around abuses to the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and the rights of minorities.
- The Hungarian and Poland authorities have described LGBTIQ principles of governance as "foreign" ideology.
➤ The EU Resolution:
- The EU Parliament resolution declared the entire European Union as an ''LGBTIQ Freedom Zone".
- The resolution provides LGBTIQ persons everywhere in the EU the freedom to live and publicly show their sexual orientation and gender identity without fear of intolerance, discrimination or persecution.
- It further urged the authorities at all levels of governance across the EU to protect and promote equality and the fundamental rights of all, including LGBTIQ persons.
➤ Global Scenario of LGBTIQ Community:
- Ireland: Ireland legalized same-sex marriage. The country, which had decriminalized homosexuality in 1993, became the first country to allow same- sex marriage at a national level by popular vote.
- USA: US Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was legal.
- Nepal: Nepal legalized homosexuality in 2007 and the new Constitution of the country gives many rights to the LGBTIQ community.
➤ LGBT Community in India
Even after section 377 of IPC was removed by the Supreme Court in Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, 2018 case, there is a wide gap in implementing a policy for the LGBTIQ community and making a better environment for them. Right now, they are facing many issues that are underlined below.
- Family: The problem of sexual orientation and gender identity leads to fighting and family disruption. Lack of communication and misunderstanding between parents and their LGBTIQ children increases family conflict.
- Discrimination at Work Place: LGBTIQ suffers from the socio-economic inequalities in large part due to discrimination in the workplace.
- Injustice: Human rights and fundamental rights are applicable to all people, but the state has failed to create special legislation which protects the rights of LGBTIQ Minority community and to provide real justice to them.
- Health Issues: Criminalisation of homosexuality leads to discrimination and results in LGBTQ people getting poor or inadequate access to services within the health system. It also creates barriers to both the availability and the ability to access HIV prevention, testing and treatment services.
- Isolation and Drug Abuse: They gradually develop low self-esteem and low self-confidence and become isolated from friends and family. These people mostly get addicted to drugs, alcohol, and tobacco to relieve stress and rejection and discrimination.
➤ Related Legal Developments
- Naz Foundation vs. Govt. of NCT of Delhi (2009):
- Delhi High Court struck off section 377, legalising consensual homosexual activities between adults.
- Suresh Kumar Koushal Case (2013):
- SC overturned the previous judgment by Delhi High Court (2009) arguing that “plight of sexual minorities" could not be used as an argument for deciding constitutionality of law.
- Justice K.S. Puttaswamy vs. Union of India (2017):
- SC ruled that Fundamental Right to Privacy is intrinsic to life and liberty and thus, comes under Article 21 of the Indian constitution. It held that "sexual orientation is an essential attribute of privacy".
- Navtej Singh Johar vs. Union Of India (2018):
- Dismissed the position taken by SC in Suresh Kumar Koushal case (2013) and decriminalised homosexuality.
- Shafin Jahan v. Asokan K.M. and others (2018): The Supreme Court observed that choice of a partner is a person's fundamental right, and it can be a same-sex partner.
- Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019: The Parliament has passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019 which has been criticised for its poor understanding of gender and sexual identity.
- Same-sex Marriage: In February, 2021, the Central Government opposed same-sex marriage in Delhi High Court stating that a marriage in India can be recognised only if it is between a “biological man" and a “biological woman" capable of producing children.
Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Nidhi
The Union Cabinet has approved the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Nidhi (PMSSN) as a single non-lapsable reserve fund for share of Health from the proceeds of Health and Education Cess.
The proceeds of Health and Education Cess are levied under Section 136-b of Finance Act, 2007.
Salient Features of the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Nidhi (PMSSN):
- It is a non-lapsable reserve fund for Health in the Public Account.
- Proceeds of share of health in the Health and Education Cess will be credited into PMSSN.
- Ayushman Bharat - Health and Wellness Centres (AB-HWCs).
- National Health Mission.
- Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY).
- Emergency & disaster preparedness and responses during health emergencies.
- Any future programme/scheme that targets to achieve progress towards Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the targets set out in the National Health Policy (NHP) 2017.
- Administration and maintenance of the PMSSN is entrusted to the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW).
In any financial year, the expenditure on such schemes of the MoHFW would be initially incurred from the PMSSN and thereafter, from Gross Budgetary Support (GBS).
➤ Benefits of PMSSN: Enhanced access to universal & affordable health care through availability of earmarked resources, while ensuring that the amount does not lapse at the end of financial year.
➤ Significance of Spending on Healthcare:
- Improved Developmental Outcomes: From an economic standpoint, better health improves productivity, and reduces losses due to premature death, prolonged disability and early retirement.
- Enhance Opportunities: One extra year of population life expectancy raises GDP per capita by 4%, investment in health creates millions of jobs, largely for women, through a much needed expansion of the health workforce.
➤ Health and Education Cess: In the Budget speech 2018, the Finance Minister while announcing Ayushman Bharat Scheme, also announced replacement of existing 3% Education Cess by 4% Health and Education Cess.
- It is collected to address the educational and healthcare needs of rural families in India.
- Different from the usual taxes and duties like excise and personal income tax, a Cess is imposed as an additional tax besides the existing tax (tax on tax) with a purpose of raising funds for a specific task.
- The Union government is empowered to raise revenue through a gamut of levies, including taxes (both direct and indirect), surcharges, fees and cess.
- A cess, generally paid by everyday public, is added to their basic tax liability paid as part of total tax paid.
- Article 270 of the Constitution allows cess to be excluded from the purview of the divisible pool of taxes that the Union government must share with the States.
- Cess collected for a particular purpose cannot be used for or diverted to other purposes. A particular cess continues to be levied till the time the government collects enough funds for the purpose that it was introduced for.
- For example, the Swachh Bharat cess (abolished in 2017) was levied by the government for cleanliness activities.
➤ Difference between Surcharge and Cess:
- Surcharge is an additional charge or tax levied on existing tax. The main surcharges are on personal income tax (on high income slabs and on super rich) and on corporate income tax.
- Despite both are not shareable with state governments, surcharge can be kept with the Consolidated Fund of India (CFI) and spent like any other taxes, the cess should be kept as a separate fund after allocating to CFI and can be spent only for a specific purpose.
- A surcharge is discussed under Article 270 and 271 of the Indian Constitution.
- Unlike a cess, which is meant to raise revenue for a temporary need, surcharge is usually permanent in nature.
State of Water Supply in Schools and Anganwadis
According to information provided to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Water Resources, only half of government schools and anganwadis have tap water supply, despite a 100-day campaign for 100% coverage being launched by the Jal Shakti Ministry in October 2020.
- The Committee also noted the progress of the flagship Jal Jeevan Mission.
➤ About the Campaign:
- The campaign aims to provide potable piped water supply for drinking and cooking purposes and tap water for hand washing and in toilets in every school, anganwadi and ashramshala or residential tribal school.
- It was launched on 2nd October, 2020 (Gandhi Jayanti).
- The 100-day period should have ended on 10th January, 2021.
- However, some States/ UTs have indicated that they need more time to complete the task and sustain the efforts. Therefore, the campaign has been extended till 31st March, 2021.
➤ Related Observations:
- As of now, only 48.5% of anganwadis and 53.3% of schools had tap water supply. o Less than 8% of schools in Uttar Pradesh and 11% in West Bengal have it, while it is available in only 2-6% of anganwadis in Assam, Jharkhand, U.P., Chhattisgarh and Bengal.
- Seven States - Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Punjab - achieved 100% coverage.
- Around 1.82 lakh grey water management structures and 1.42 lakh rainwater harvesting structures were also constructed in schools and anganwadi centres.
- Health Issues of Children Emanating from Contaminated Water:
- Children are more susceptible to water borne diseases (Diarrhea, Cholera, Typhoid), more so, when there is also a need for repeated washing of hands as a precautionary measure during the pandemic.
- Other nutritional issues and the health hazards emerge in children from on account of lack of potable drinking water.
➤ About Jal Jeevan Mission:
- Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) envisages supply of 55 litres of water per person per day to every rural household through Functional Household Tap Connections (FHTC) by 2024.
- JJM focuses on integrated demand and supply-side management of water at the local level.
- Creation of local infrastructure for source sustainability measures as mandatory elements, like rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge and management of household wastewater for reuse, would be undertaken in convergence with other government programmes/schemes.
- The Mission is based on a community approach to water and includes extensive Information, Education and Communication as a key component of the mission.
- JJM looks to create a jan andolan for water, thereby making it everyone's priority.
- Funding Pattern: The fund sharing pattern between the Centre and states is 90:10 for Himalayan and North-Eastern States, 50:50 for other states, and 100% for Union Territories.
- In the Budget 2021-22, Jal Jeevan Mission (Urban) has been announced under the Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry to provide universal coverage of water supply to all households through functional taps in all statutory towns following Sustainable Development Goal- 6.
- The Standing Committee noted that mere provision of tap connection without ensuring assured availability of water in the pipeline would not serve the purpose and would defeat the very objective of JJM.
- It called for real-time monitoring of water supply at the district level.
- The centre government should take measures to set up water purification or reverse osmosis (RO) plants on an urgent basis so that children do not suffer due to contamination of drinking water.
➤ Grey water
- Grey water is defined as wastewater that is produced from household processes (e.g. washing dishes, laundry and bathing).
- Grey water can contain harmful bacteria and even faecal matter that contaminates soil and groundwater.
First World Report on Hearing: WHO
The First World Report on Hearing was released by World Health Organization (WHO) - a day ahead of World Hearing Day on 3rd March.
- The Report underlines the need to rapidly step up efforts to prevent and address hearing loss by investing and expanding access to ear and hearing care services.
- Nearly 2.5 billion people worldwide - or 1 in 4 people - will be living with some degree of hearing loss by 2050.
- At least 700 million of these people will require access to ear and hearing care and other rehabilitation services unless action is taken.
- Adverse Health Effects:
- Untreated hearing loss can have a devastating impact on people's ability to communicate, study, and earn a living. It can also impact people's mental health and their ability to sustain relationships.
- Lack of Specialists among Low-Income Countries:
- About 78% have fewer than one Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist per million population.
- 93% have fewer than one audiologist per million.
- Only 17% have one or more speech therapists per million.
- 50% have one or more teachers for the deaf per million.
➤ Hearing Impairment in India:
- Over 27,000 children are born deaf every year in India. Hearing impairment or loss is often neglected as it cannot be seen and in most cases the diagnosis is delayed.
- There are many children who can benefit through advanced hearing technology but are missed out because of low awareness around hearing issues in babies.
- One major reason is the unavailability of newborn screening programmes at birth and low awareness among parents.
- Government Initiative: National Programme for the Prevention & Control of Deafness (NPPCD) under National Health Mission aims:
- To prevent the avoidable hearing loss on account of disease or injury.
- Early identification, diagnosis and treatment of ear problems responsible for hearing loss and deafness.
- To medically rehabilitate persons of all age groups, suffering with deafness.
- To strengthen the existing inter-sectoral linkages for continuity of the rehabilitation programme, for persons with deafness.
- To develop institutional capacity for ear care services by providing support for equipment and material and training personnel.
- Required Interventions:
- Holding screening programmes can help in early diagnosis, which in turn will lead to early treatment.
- The Universal Newborn Hearing Screening (UNHS) helps in early detection of congenital hearing loss and this test is vital to detect hearing impairment in newborn babies and to ensure early intervention.
- While UNHS screening is mandatory in developed countries, it is not included in the list of mandatory health screening procedures for newborns in India, except Kerala.
➤ Suggested Strategies:
- Integration of Hearing Care into Primary Healthcare: This will close the present patient-doctor gap.
- Clinical Screening at Strategic Points in Life: To ensure early identification of any loss of hearing and ear diseases.
- Promoting Hearing Assistive Technology and Services: It includes captioning and sign language interpretation which can further improve access to communication and education for those with hearing loss.
- Increasing Investments: WHO calculates that governments can expect a return of nearly USD 16 for every USD 1 invested.
- Increasing Immunisation: In children, almost 60% of hearing loss can be prevented through measures such as immunisation for prevention of rubella and meningitis, improved maternal and neonatal care, and screening for, and early management of, otitis media - inflammatory diseases of the middle ear.
- Maintaining Hygiene: In adults, noise control, safe listening and surveillance of ototoxic (having a toxic effect on the ear) medicines and good ear hygiene can help maintain good hearing and reduce the potential for hearing loss.
Right To Education
The Delhi High Court has ordered the Central government to respond to a petition alleging that the authorities have failed to decide whether to extend free education to children from the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) beyond Class 8 and up to Class 12 in school under the Right To Education (RTE) Act.
➤ Constitutional Provisions for Right To Education:
- Originally Part IV of Indian Constitution, Article 45 and Article 39 (f) of DPSP, had a provision for state funded as well as equitable and accessible education.
- The first official document on the Right to Education was the Ramamurti Committee Report in 1990.
- In 1993, the Supreme Court's landmark judgment in the Unnikrishnan JP vs State of Andhra Pradesh & Others held that Education is a right flowing from Article 21.
- Tapas Majumdar Committee (1999) was set up, which encompassed insertion of Article 21A.
- The 86th Constitutional Amendment in 2002, provided Right to Education as a fundamental right in Part-III of the Constitution.
- It inserted Article 21A which made Right to Education a fundamental right for children between 6-14 years.
- It provided for a follow-up legislation Right to Education Act 2009.
➤ Feature of Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009:
- The RTE Act aims to provide primary education to all children aged 6 to 14 years. o Section 12(1)(c) mandates that non-minority private unaided schools should reserve at least 25% of seats in entry-level grades for children from economically weaker and disadvantaged backgrounds.
- It also makes provisions for a non-admitted child to be admitted to an age appropriate class.
- It also states about sharing of financial and other responsibilities between the Central and State Governments.
- Education in the Indian constitution is a concurrent issue and both centre and states can legislate on the issue.
- It lays down the norms and standards related to: Pupil Teacher Ratios (PTRs), Buildings and infrastructure, School-working days, Teacherworking hours.
- It also provides for prohibition of deployment of teachers for non-educational work, other than decennial census, elections to local authority, state legislatures and parliament, and disaster relief.
- It provides for the appointment of teachers with the requisite entry and academic qualifications.
- It prohibits
- Physical punishment and mental harassment.
- Screening procedures for admission of children.
- Capitation fee.
- Private tuition by teachers.
- Running of schools without recognition.
- It focuses on making the child free of fear, trauma, and anxiety through a child-friendly and child-centered learning system.
➤ Argument for Extension of Free Education under RTE beyond Class 8 for EWS:
- The parents of children must pay hefty fees to unaided private schools in classes 9 and onwards that they can not afford.
- Changing school from unaided private to government after class 8 may affect the children's state of mind and education and thus, an extension of the RTE benefits will ensure continuity in the education.
➤ Reservation for Economically Weaker Section in Higher Education
- 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act introduced an economic reservation (10% quota) in jobs and admissions in education institutes for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) by amending Articles 15 and 16.
- It inserted Article 15 (6) and Article 16 (6).
- It was enacted to promote the welfare of the poor not covered by the 50% reservation policy for SCs, STs and Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC).
- It enables both Centre and the states to provide reservation to the EWS of society.
Freedom in the World 2021 Report
The Freedom in the World 2021 report has downgraded India's status from 'Free' to 'Partly Free'.
- Pointing to a decline in global democracy over the last 15 years, the report said that nearly 75% of the world's population lived in a country that faced deterioration over the last year.
- The most free countries in the world, with a score of 100, are Finland, Norway and Sweden, while the least free with a score of 1 are Tibet and Syria.
➤ About the Report:
- Published by:
- USA based human rights watchdog Freedom House, which is largely funded through USA government grants, has been tracking the course of democracy since 1941.
- Scores are Based on:
- Political rights indicators such as the electoral process, political pluralism and participation and government functioning.
- Civil liberties indicators related to freedom of expression and belief, associational and organisational rights, the rule of law and personal autonomy and individual rights.
- Countries are declared as "free", "partly free" or "not free".
➤ India's Score:
- India's score was 67, a drop from 71/100 from last year (reflecting 2019 data) downgrading it from the free category last year (i.e., based on 2020 data).
➤ Reasons for India's Fall:
- Freedom of Media:
- Attacks on press freedom have escalated dramatically, and reporting has become significantly less ambitious in recent years, citing the use of security, defamation, sedition and contempt of court laws to quiet critical media voices.
- Elevation of Hindu Nationalist Interests:
- India appears to have abandoned its potential to serve as a global democratic leader, elevating narrow Hindu nationalist interests at the expense of its founding values of inclusion and equal rights for all.
- Internet Freedom:
- In a year when social media censorship has been hotly seated, while the government shut down Internet connectivity in Kashmir and Delhi's borders, India's Internet freedom score dropped to just 51.
- Covid Response:
- Response to Covid-19 included a hamfisted lockdown that resulted in the dangerous and unplanned displacement of millions of internal migrant workers.
- It added that Muslims were disproportionately blamed for the spread of the virus and faced attacks by vigilante mobs.
- Crackdown on Protesters:
- The government intensified its crackdown on protesters opposed to a discriminatory citizenship law and arrested dozens of journalists who aired criticism of the official pandemic response.
- Uttar Pradesh's law prohibiting forced religious conversion through interfaith marriage was also listed as a concern.
Road to Gender Equality: UNDP
In its most recent study, "Protecting Women's Livelihoods in Times of Pandemic: Temporary Basic Income and the Road to Gender Equality," the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) proposed a Temporary Basic Income (TBI) for vulnerable women in developing countries.
- The proposal comes ahead of the International Women's Day (8th march) celebrations.
➤ Gender Inequality:
- Unpaid Labor:
- On an average, women spend 2.4 more hours per day than men on unpaid care and domestic work.
- Among people who participate in the paid economy, women spend an average of four hours more per day than men on paid and unpaid work combined.
- Discriminative Policies:
- Beyond complex gendered norms, some of the economic vulnerability imposed on women also comes from policy and political decisions that have persistently deprived them of compensation in the form of equal pay, paid maternity leave, universal health, unemployment and care benefits.
- Effect of Covid:
- Women have been hit harder than men by the pandemic, losing income and leaving the labour market at a greater rate.
- This vulnerability is due to gender inequality.
- Women are 25% more likely than men to live in extreme poverty.
- Only one in ten countries and territories, however, have policies addressing women's economic security needs, according to the Covid-19 Global Gender Response Tracker.
- Covid-19 Global Gender Response Tracker is an initiative of UNDP and UN Women which shows that social protection and jobs response to the pandemic has largely overlooked women's needs.
➤ Major Proposals:
- Temporary Basic Income:
- A TBI for millions of the world's poorest women, to help them cope with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and alleviate the economic pressures they face every day.
- A monthly investment of 0.07-0.31% of a developing countries' Gross Domestic Product (GDP) could provide reliable financial security to 613 million working-aged women living in poverty.
- The benefits of such a meaningful investment could help women and their families absorb the shock of the pandemic and empower women to make independent decisions about money, livelihoods, and life choices.
- Policies Favouring Women:
- A set of policies should be aimed at recognising the needs of all workers, men and women, to reconcile their household obligations with paid work and allow for a more even distribution of care and domestic work by institutionally acknowledging it as a shared responsibility.
- Such policies include guaranteed paid maternity leave, extended paternity leave and the enforcement of its take-up.
- Establishing flexible arrangements such as parttime work or the provision of breastfeeding facilities in the workplace that allow parents to return to the workforce shortly after having a child should also be encouraged.
- Reform Labour Market:
- Beyond reconciling paid work and family responsibilities, governments must address other sources of the gender pay gap such as horizontal and vertical segregation in the labour market. The response should include anti-discrimination laws and affirmative action initiatives.
- Horizontal segregation can be broadly defined as the concentration of men and women in different kinds of jobs.
- Vertical segregation denotes the situation whereby opportunities for career progression for a particular gender within a company or sector are limited.
➤ Related Initiatives of Other Countries:
- Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act, 2009.
- Introduced reforms to its Social Security Law allowing men to access childcare services.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina and Bolivia:
- They have allowed parents to reduce work hours for Covid-19 family care.
- Cape Verde, North Macedonia and Trinidad and Tobago:
- They have enabled employees with care responsibilities to perform their work remotely.
➤ Indian Provisions to Promote Gender Equality:
- Ministry of Women & Child Development:
- A separate ministry was established in 2006 to boost employability of Women.
- Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017:
- It allows for pregnant women to take leave for a total of 26 weeks out of which up to 8 weeks can be claimed before delivery.
- The woman is also supposed to get paid a benefit at the rate of her daily wage for three months before she goes on maternity leave.
- Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013:
- It has been enacted covering all the women, despite their age and employment status, and protects them from sexual harassment at workplaces, in both the public and private sectors of the industry where the women are employed.
- Social Security Code, Code on Occupational Safety, Health & Working Conditions Code, and Industrial Relations Code, 2020:
- Under the new codes, women have to be permitted to work in every sector at night, but it has to be ensured that the employer and consent make provision for their security of women is taken before they work at night.