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What The Fuck Is Going On In Politics: The Weekly Rundown

This week we report on France’s measures against domestic abuse, updates on the protests in Iraq and Hong Kong and more on the UK’s national security and plastic consumption.

By Julie Ngalle and Lavinia Troiani

Trigger warning: this article contains content about sexual assault, rape and domestic violence.

National Politics: 

General Election update: 

With two weeks to go before the election, here is an update on the campaign trail: 

Conservatives: 

Opinion polls suggest the possibility of a majority for the Tories, yet the party needs to be cautious and not act as though they’ve already won. Indeed, polls cannot properly take into account every local factor and how the Brexit issue is perceived by a member of every constituency, which means the outcome they predict might be way off. Nonetheless, the party seems to benefit from the inability of other political parties to form some sort of coalition against the idea of ‘getting Brexit done’. 

Labour: 

The Labour party has finally chosen to express its positioning on Brexit: the party is more in favour of leaving than staying in the EU. They have changed their campaigning strategy accordingly and shared that although wanting a new referendum, this should not be considered as an attempt to stay in the EU. It is simply a political decision ensuring the people’s opinion is respected. The option to leave will remain a genuine one and one that Labour supports. 

Lib Dems: 

Liberal Democrats have majorly emphasised their will to cancel Brexit during campaigning. Yet, this is still seen as an extreme political move. Also, their priorities seem to have shifted a little bit: being realistic about Jo Swinson’s actual chances of becoming Prime Minister, they’re instead focusing on winning as many seats in as many constituencies as possible to avoid a Conservative victory. 

SNP: 

The SNP’s priorities are Scottish independence and stopping Brexit.  The party are confident about their ability to increase the number of seats they gained in the 2017 General Election, as they occupy second place in every Scottish constituency they do not currently hold. 

Brexit Party: 

Nigel Farage has decided to pull out of Tory seats. However, support for the Brexit Party is still quite strong across the country. Their influence and popularity could still rise, especially in Labour-held areas that support Brexit, which the party is very much targeting.  

What was recently revealed about the UK’s plastic consumption?  

Earlier this month, Greenpeace published a research report that found that the sales of plastic from supermarkets had increased extensively in 2019. Although many retailers have claimed they were reducing the amount of plastic packaging for their own brand products, the use of plastic bags is still a major issue. Indeed, many customers treat so-called ‘bags for life’ plastic shopping bags distributed in supermarkets as single-use ones. This resulted in an overall increase in the use of plastic and in supermarkets’ plastic footprint. The report also suggested prices for those ‘bags for life’ should rise to 70p to dissuade people from continuing to buy them every time they go shopping. Of course, they also mentioned the most effective solution to lower the production of plastic would be to ban them altogether. 

Another item for which the purchase is becoming highly problematic is water bottles.  The sale for single-use water bottles increased by 21.4% between 2017 and 2018 in three of the biggest UK supermarkets. All establishments were urged to install water dispensers to reduce this amount. 

What happened at London Bridge on Friday? 

As most of you will have heard by now, a terrorist attack took place in London yesterday, Friday 29th of November. Outside the London Bridge station, a man stabbed five people, two of whom died from the attack. He was later shot dead by the police who realised he appeared to be wearing an explosive belt, which turned out to have been a hoax device. Since then, it has been confirmed that this was indeed an Islamist terrorist attack, which, unfortunately, is far from being the first to hit the country and Europe in the last couple of years. This followed the government’s decision to lower the national terrorism threat level earlier this month, something that had not been done in five years.

International politics:

What has been the reaction to the French government’s tackling of domestic violence issues in the country?  

Since the beginning of the year, the number of victims and deaths of women due to domestic violence has increased massively in France. Indeed, 4 days ago, it was reported that 138 women had died due to domestic violence since January 2019, averaging out to approximately one death every three days. This is an issue that more people are bringing attention to in the media, on social media platforms, and even lately the government. In a press conference closing three months of negotiations and discussion about the issue, an announcement was made on Monday by French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe about measures that would be taken by the government to tackle domestic violence, from the seizing of firearms from abusive spouses to the better training of police officers when it comes to domestic abuse. 

However, this announcement was not met with only positive reactions, as many argue that although whatever measures are in place will help, the government has still failed to unlock sufficient budget to help create effective and considerable change for women’s safety and support. One main cause of disappointment laid in the fact that one of the main goals of many charities and organisations fighting against domestic violence was to recognise sexist assaults in the French penal code, which still hasn’t been done. Another major issue that was pointed out is that no measure that would require to unlock budget in the tackling of domestic violence was put in place. In a country with one of the highest rates of fatal domestic abuse in Europe, many believe that the lack of funding would limit the effectiveness of any proposal. Marches and events were organised and supported by many French influencers all throughout the week to raise awareness, money and the government’s attention to the very real and urgent issue that is domestic abuse. 

If you are or know someone who is in an abusive relationship, be aware that there are many resources available to help get someone out of such a situation; this is not something that has to be resolved and dealt with alone. A few are listed at the end of this article. 

What have we learnt about the sexual abuse of students by figures of authority in Afghanistan? 

It all started with a fourteen-year-old boy reporting that one of his teachers had demanded sexual favours from him in exchange for keeping his grades up. Following this confession, another boy from the same school confessed to having received similar treatment from a figure of authority at the school. Both those boys, who were threatened if they did not speak, felt the urge to share this trauma within a child advocacy group in Kabul. This group later revealed that these two boys were some of the many victims they had heard from in the area. In just three schools, it was reported that more than 165 boys had accused their teachers and directors of sexually assaulting and/or raping them. 

As more attention is brought to the matter, which is a scandal that Afghanistan has been in the middle of before, the general public has come to realise that this is indeed a major societal issue within the country, and has been for generations. Representatives of different child advocacy groups have tried to speak up before, but in several cases were silenced by police forces, sometimes even through orders of the government. What has shocked the world most about this case, is that it seems to be a known and common issue within the country, and something that does not shock citizens, the justice system or the government to try and break this culture where powerful men hold “Bacha Bazi” (translated to boy play) as sex slaves all around the country. 

What does the Iraqi Prime Minister’s resignation mean for the country? 

Incite covered the political unrest in last week’s rundown, which you can get caught up on here. The extremely violent protests that the country has undergone have ultimately resulted in Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi announcing his resignation from his position yesterday. Although this comes as game-changing news to Iraqi citizens who have been protesting against the current government over issues like corruption or Iran’s influence in the country, it has also been pointed out that this will leave the country entering a period of heavy political uncertainty and potentially more unrest. The country is also very much aware that this is only a first step and that any considerable change in the political and governmental structure of Iraq will not be seen anytime soon. 

What are the latest updates on the protests in Hong-Kong? 
Once again, the protests in Hong-Kong are something we at Incite have wrote about before: you can read about it here. Following days of confrontation between protesters and police forces at the Polytechnic University of Hong-Kong, the institution had been put under siege for two weeks. Finally, on the 29th of November, this siege was ended and control of the university given back to school officials. This had a very important significance within the city as it is the first sign of more peace and communication between both sides that the world has witnessed since the protests first started in June and heavily escalated earlier this month.

Useful links:

Victims Support: help with any victim of any crime, including of course domestic abuse(24/7): https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/help-and-support/get-help

Safeline: specialises in victims of rape or sexual assault (24/7): https://www.safeline.org.uk/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI1L6ioriS5gIVzbTtCh08gwQgEAAYAyAAEgKX1_D_BwE

National Helpline (24/7) specialised in all domestic abuse: http://www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk/ https://www.refuge.org.uk/get-help-now/phone-the-helpline/

Samaritans are a helpline that offer a listening ear with regards to any life issue you may be having, including again domestic violence:https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help/contact-samaritan/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIj9no1LmS5gIVhbHtCh1lmw7MEAAYASAAEgIWCPD_BwE

You can also contact the University if you are currently a student or a loved one you trust that will help you through the process.

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