News Roundup

Official investigation finds police complicity in religious lynching in India

Over the last five years, India has seen an outbreak of religious hate crimes, with an average of one happening every week. While some of them have drawn mass protests, social media outrage, hashtags and even a response from the government, others have gone almost unnoticed.

In April this year, 55-year-old Prakash Lakda, a member of a Christian tribe, was lynched by a mob of Hindu villagers who suspected him of slaughtering a cow in the central Indian state of Jharkhand. Three other tribals from his village were also attacked, leaving them grievously injured.

Now, a police investigation has shown that Lakda’s death might have been as much a result of police complicity as it was of the violent mob. Last week, the investigation revealed how Lakda and the three other victims were ignored by the police for over an hour and a half, as they lay on the street, writhing in pain, after having been attacked for over four hours.

The police, however, have now gone on to charge the three victims on charges of cow slaughter, an  offense under local laws that can lead to 10 years of imprisonment, or a fine of 10,000 rupees ( €126). The complaint against them was lodged by the mob that lynched Lakda.


Attacks on church buildings will become more common, warns priest

Catholics will suffer more attacks on their local churches, a Tipperary-based priest has warned after Nazi swastikas were painted on a Catholic oratory in his parish. The warning follows three attacks on churches in the midlands as well as numerous other acts of vandalism on religious buildings and statues.

Fr Michael Toomey told the Irish Catholic newspaper that Christians in Ireland are “going to be open to more and more criticism and perhaps sadly attacks” on their churches.

He added that nowadays churches are viewed as public buildings without any sacred quality to them, which leads to people chewing gum and drinking coffee at Mass.

“It is actually the House of God and it’s not that people are being disrespectful deliberately, it’s just the society we live in they see it as just another public building perhaps,” he said, adding that “we need to bring ourselves back to the sacredness of it”.


Citizens’ assembly on gender equality to commence in October

The Citizens’ Assembly on gender equality will be established by the end of October this year. According to the World Economic Forum, Ireland is already the eighth most gender-equal nation in the world, ahead of countries such as Denmark.

Earlier this month, the Dáil and Seanad passed legislation to allow the electoral register be used to select 99 voters to participate in the assembly which will have six months to complete its work.

The assembly on gender equality will ask members to consider the importance of early years parental care and co-responsibility for care, especially within the family.

Once its work is completed the chairperson, who has yet to be appointed, will report back to the Government with specific proposals on gender equality.

When the decision was formally made by Cabinet last month to establish a citizens’ assembly, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he wanted Ireland to be the “first country in the world where men and women are truly equal“.


Parishioners feel ‘violated’ after second attack on Longford church

A parish in Longford has been left feeling “violated” after their church was vandalised for the second time in as many years, a parish priest has said.

A stained glass window, depicting the Sacred Heart, over the altar at St Michael’s Church in Shroid was destroyed in the latest attack. Three other plain glass windows were also smashed. The church is one of the oldest in the diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois.

Fr Tony Gilhooly, parish priest, voiced his upset: “It would make you cry, really. It is the second time this little church has been vandalised. There was nothing of value, other than sentimental or religious value, to be taken.”

Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois Francis Duffy said it was “not a victimless crime”.

“Vandalism of this kind is profoundly disrespectful to people of faith and to places of worship. It is threatening and distressing. In a truly pluralist society these examples of vandalism are of concern to our whole community.”

An editorial in the Longford Leader called the vandalism “sickening” and a “sad reflection of the society we live in”.


Full implementation of Child and Family Relationships Act postponed again

Sections of the 2015 Children and Families Relationship Act, allowing same-sex couples to both register as parents, will not come into effect as promised this summer.

The Department of Health told LGBT Ireland that the law would now not be commenced for another year. It has been postponed multiple times already.

Minister Simon Harris said the delay in bringing the law into effect is to prevent “unintended consequences” for couples currently undergoing fertility treatment.

The Department recently discovered that there are thousands of eggs and sperm in storage by people currently undergoing fertility treatment or those planning to undergo treatment in the future.

The eggs and sperm won’t be in compliance with the new laws and therefore couples won’t be able to use them once the laws change.

The Department says the delay in enacting the legislation will allow individuals and couples to decide what to do with the gametes that they’ve bought and stored for future use.

Even if those problems are addressed, other couples still would not be covered by the legislation.

One female couple who conceived their children using reciprocal IVF, meaning one woman provided the eggs while the other carried the pregnancy, told RTE that only female couples who’ve used an Irish fertility clinic, with an identifiable donor will be eligible under that new legislation.

“So, if you’ve gone abroad for fertility treatment, if you’ve done reciprocal IVF, which is what we did, if you’ve done an at-home insemination, or if you are a male couple, all of these people are going to be excluded from this bill”, said Ranae Von Meding.


UK plans to allow married couples change their status to civil partnerships

The UK Government plans to allow heterosexual married couples change the legal status of their relationships to a civil partnership. The move is consequent upon the legalisation of same-sex marriage in 2014 and a recent court ruling that both gay and non-gay couples should be able to equally avail of either legal union.

The move has been criticised by the Coalition for Marriage (C4M).

Calling marriage the “gold standard”, Colin Hart said that all the studies “show it’s best both for adults and for children. In marrying, couples at least have an intention to stay together for life. People need that stability.”

On the other hand, “opposite-sex civil partnerships provide no foundation for long-term commitment. They are ‘marriage-lite’ unions. All of the rights of marriage but none of the responsibilities that come with an exclusive lifelong commitment”.

He said the Government claims it wants to promote marriage, yet ministers seem intent on making it easier to end a marriage, either through no-fault divorce or downgrading to civil partnership.

“By allowing people to downgrade their marriage, the Government is creating new instability, a halfway house to family breakdown. Just because a tiny minority of people want the rights of marriage without the commitment.”


Minister John Halligan still intent on legislation for assisted suicide

Independent Alliance Minister John Halligan is lobbying colleagues in the Dail to legislate for euthanasia in the next Dail term. Critics say euthanasia and assisted suicide always target the most vulnerable.

Halligan, the junior minister for skills, has approached several opposition TDs with a view to having them introduce a private member’s bill, as his position as a minister means he cannot do this himself. He vowed that legislation would be tabled “one way or the other” after the summer.

The Waterford TD said a number of TDs had indicated that they would back a bill.

Halligan introduced a private member’s bill on assisted suicide in the last Dail but it fell when the 2016 general election was called. It would have enabled euthanasia in cases when a person was terminally ill, over the age of 18, and had been living in Ireland for at least a year. “Terminally ill” was defined as someone who had been diagnosed by a doctor as having an “incurable and progressive illness that cannot be reversed by treatment, and the person is likely to die as a result of that illness or complications relating to it”.


Birth rates in England and Wales at lowest since records began

The birth rate in England and Wales has fallen to a record low at the same time that abortion rate reached its highest ever.

Official figures show there were 657,076 live births last year or 11.1 per 1,000 people, the lowest rate since records began in 1938.

Separate figures showed there is one abortion for almost every three live births, giving an abortion rate of almost 1 in 4 according to the usual way of calculating the rate that excludes still births and natural miscarriages.

Earlier last week, Prince Harry announced he and his wife Meghan would have no more than two children to limit their environmental impact. Robin Maynard, director of campaign group Population Matters, said the declining birth rate was “good news for the UK”.

“People understand that a higher population means more pressure on the NHS and schools, more land being consumed for more housing that is more difficult for people to afford, more traffic and a lower quality of life. They recognise that it puts our environment under threat,” he added.

Record low birth rates are also occurring in other countries around the world. The number of births in Italy last year was the lowest since records began in 1861. Also last year, Japan produced the smallest number of births since records began in 1899.

China also saw the lowest number of births since 1961, when the country was in the last year of the three-year Great Famine precipitated by Mao’s Cultural Revolution, in which up to 30 million people died and birth rates crashed. The Chinese figures occurred despite the communist authorities in 2015 doubling the number of children couples could have and launching a campaign to incentivise having more children.


Nearly 1 in 4 babies were aborted in England and Wales in 2018

Newly released data from England and Wales show 1 in 4 of all pregnancies, excluding natural miscarriage and still birth, ended in abortion.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) showed there were 657,076 live births in England and Wales in 2018, and 205,295 abortions over the same time period according to the Department of Health.  Therefore, 23.8% of all pregnancies* (almost one in four) in England and Wales ended in abortion. In 2012, however, 20.7% of all pregnancies ended in abortion*. The 2018 figure therefore represents an increase from approximately 1 in 5 pregnancies ending in abortion to almost 1 in 4 ending in abortion.

In 2018, in Northern Ireland, there were 1,097 abortions (including abortions that occurred in Northern Ireland and women that travelled to England and Wales). This figure represents less than 1 in 20 pregnancies (excluding stillbirths and natural miscarriages) ending in abortion in Northern Ireland.

Catherine Robinson, spokesperson for Right to Life UK, said: “It is a national tragedy that almost 1 in 4 pregnancies (excluding still births and natural miscarriage) in England and Wales ended in abortion in 2018.

“On the other hand, these figures show the dramatic difference that laws surrounding abortion make. In 2018, for women resident in Northern Ireland, less than 1 in 20 of all pregnancies* ended in abortion (including the women who travelled to England and Wales for abortions), whereas in England and Wales, almost 1 in 4 of all pregnancies ended in abortion*.”

“If the new abortion regime that Westminster is imposing on Northern Ireland comes into force on the 21st October, there will likely be a rapid increase in the number of pregnancies ending in abortion in Northern Ireland. This will likely be made worse by the fact the law being introduced is so extreme – permitting abortion up to 28 weeks with no legal safeguards.


Rise in reports of sexually harmful acts by children

Harmful sexualised behaviour in children is increasing and is a “very significant and disturbing problem”, according to a leading children’s therapeutic service.

The Cari Foundation said there were 62 callers to its helpline reporting sexually harmful behaviour on children by children.

Of these, 39 were carried out by children aged 12 and under, while 23 involved assailants aged 13-17.

Sexually harmful behaviour is at the less severe end of the sexual abuse spectrum, which includes sexual assault and rape.

The figures, provided to the Irish Examiner and not revealed publicly before, also show that 38 callers reported children being sexually assaulted by children and a further 35 raped by children.

The organisation said early intervention was key as the figures showed that the older the child, the “more severe” the presentation.

“Harmful sexualised behaviour in children is a very significant, increasing, and disturbing problem and we are seeing it present through all our services in Cari,” said Eve Farrelly, Cari Support Services manager. She described the most recent figures they had compiled as concerning.