Wednesday, September 9, 2015

S&P cuts Brazil to 'junk' stattus; India Muslim clerics call IS 'un-Islamic'; Women's prospects limited by law in 155 countries

1 S&P cuts Brazil to ‘junk’ status (BBC) Brazil has lost its investment-grade credit rating following a downgrade by Standard & Poor's to "junk" status. The US rating agency said mounting political turmoil and the difficulties faced by President Dilma Rousseff's government in tackling growing debt was behind the decision.

Brazil was awarded an investment-grade rating by S&P in April 2008, when the country's economy was on the rise. However, sliding commodity prices and austerity have created a recession. Ms Rousseff's left-wing government had imposed austerity measures in a bid to avoid such a downgrade.

S&P downgraded Brazil - Latin America's largest economy - sooner than had been expected. S&P cut Brazil's rating from BBB-minus to BB-plus, which denotes substantial credit risk. The outlook on the new rating remains negative, which means further downgrades could soon follow.

2 India Muslim clerics call IS ‘un-Islamic’ (Dawn) More than 1,000 Muslim clerics in India have ratified a religious ruling condemning the self-styled Islamic State, calling the extremist group's actions "un-Islamic."

Religious leaders from hundreds of mosques, education institutions and civic groups across India have signed the edict, or fatwa, saying the actions of the Islamic State group went against the basic tenets of Islam. The edict was issued by a leading Mumbai-based cleric, Mohammed Manzar Hasan Ashrafi Misbahi, and has been signed by the leaders of all the main mosques in India.

"The acts of the Islamic State are inhuman and un-Islamic," said Abdul Rehman Anjaria, a Muslim leader. India's 172 million Muslims mostly follow a moderate version of the religion and have opposed the extreme practices of IS and Al Qaeda.

3 Women’s prospects limited by law in 155 countries (Liz Ford & Mark Anderson in The Guardian) About 155 countries have at least one law that limits women’s economic opportunities, while 100 states put restrictions on the types of jobs women can do and 18 allow husbands to dictate whether their wives can work at all, according to a World Bank report that paints a stark picture of the enduring obstacles women face in achieving economic empowerment.

Of the 173 countries studied for the report, entitled Women, Business and the Law 2016: Getting to Equal, 32 require women to get permission from their husbands to apply for a passport and 22 do not allow married mothers to confer citizenship on their children. Thirty states have legislation that designates men household heads, while women in 19 countries are legally obliged to obey their husbands.

More positively, over the past two years, 65 countries – the majority developing states – have made 94 reforms to their statute books to improve gender parity. There has also been progress in tackling violence against women: 127 countries now have laws on domestic violence, compared with just seven 25 years ago.

Countries including Canada, Peru and Namibia, were among 18 found to have no legal restrictions on women in the seven areas studied. The report coincides with the 20th anniversary this month of the landmark Beijing platform for action, which committed 189 countries to address gender disparities in 12 critical areas. The Beijing declaration in 1995 promised a world where women could earn equal pay for equal work, live free from violence, have access to decent healthcare and education, and have a say in decision-making.

Countries in the Middle East and north Africa had the most discriminatory laws, particularly around women’s ability to work or move freely. But south Asian countries, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, were also found wanting, having made the fewest reforms over the past two years.

In countries that restrict a woman’s ability to make economic decisions, girls are less likely to finish secondary school and their prospects of running or managing a business are diminished, which is bad economics, says the World Bank. If a woman does manage to get a job, she is likely to earn less than a man.

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