7-11-19 The sex scandal at the heart of the Afghan government
Afghanistan has been rocked by allegations of sexual harassment at the highest levels of government. Officials deny wrongdoing but a BBC investigation has heard from women who describe a culture of abuse. In a house near the foot of the dusty mountains that surround Kabul, I meet a former government employee. She asks to remain anonymous because she fears a backlash. But she wants the world to hear her story. She says her former boss, a senior minister in the government, repeatedly harassed her, and one day when she went to his office, tried to physically assault her. "He directly asked me for a sexual favour. I told him I'm qualified and experienced. I never thought you would say such things to me. I stood up to leave. He grabbed my hand and took me to a room at the back of his office. He pushed me towards the room and told me, 'It'll take only a few minutes, don't worry, come with me.' "I pushed him by his chest and said enough. Don't make me scream. That was the last time I saw him. I was so angry and upset." Did she file a complaint after the incident? "No, I resigned from my job. I don't trust the government. If you go to the court or to the police, you will see how corrupt they are. You can't find a safe place to go and complain. If you speak out, everyone will blame the woman," she tells me. The former government employee says that two other women have told her that the same minister raped them - a claim the BBC has not been able to independently verify. "He's doing this brazenly, without any fear because he's an influential man in the government," she says. Afghanistan consistently ranks as one of the worst countries in the world to be a woman. A UN report released in 2018 detailed how women who are victims of sexual crimes and violence are pressured to withdraw their complaints. In many cases, they are blamed for the offences committed against them.
7-5-19 Norway ex-minister Svein Ludvigsen guilty of sexually abusing asylum seekers
A Norwegian ex-cabinet minister has been given five years in jail for sexually abusing three asylum seekers. Svein Ludvigsen, 72, was found guilty of abusing his position as a regional governor and exploiting the vulnerable situation of the three young men. They said they believed their response to Ludvigsen's demands for sex could either result in being deported or securing permanent residency. Ludvigsen has maintained his innocence and vowed to appeal. The ruling was handed down on Wednesday but only made public the following day. The events took place in Troms, a county north of the Arctic Circle, between 2011 and 2017. The men, now aged 25, 26 and 34, told the court that they first met Ludvigsen when he was Troms governor and that he offered them housing and jobs in exchange for sexual favours. The abuse took place in Ludvigsen's home and country house, in hotel rooms and in his office, they said. One was aged just 17 at the time, while another was said to have a "mild intellectual disability". Ludvigsen was ordered to pay the men damages totalling 743,000 Norwegian kroner (£69,000; $87,000). During the trial, the former politician admitted to having sex with one of the men but said it was consensual. He also admitted to lying to police about it. However, he denied having sex with the two others. In its verdict, the court said the defendant had deliberately taken advantage of his status to have sexual intercourse. He knew that there was a fear that as county leader (Ludvigsen) he could revoke an asylum seeker's citizenship.
7-2-19 Virginia bans 'deepfakes' and 'deepnudes' pornography
Virginia has become one of the first places to outlaw the sharing of computer-generated pornography known as deepfakes. The US state has done so by amending an existing law which criminalised so-called revenge porn - the malicious sharing of explicit photos or videos without the victim's consent. It now makes clear that the category includes "falsely-created" material. The move coincides with a report critical of the UK's own laws. The study, published by Durham University and Kent University, highlighted that artificial intelligence software had made it much easier to create deepfakes and at the same time the imagery was becoming more difficult to identity as having been manipulated. "We must overhaul our out-of-date and piecemeal laws, including criminalising the paralysing and life-threatening impact of threats, and recognising the significant harms of fake porn," said one of the authors, Prof Clare McGlynn. The report said the lack of specific laws covering the issue in England, Wales and Northern Ireland meant the police were often only able to give an informal warning. However, it noted that the law in Scotland was better at covering cases involving altered imagery. Last month, the Ministry of Justice asked the Law Commission to review the issue in England and Wales. However, the independent body is not due to report back until the summer of 2021. "While I welcome the Government's recognition of the need for a comprehensive review of the law, we know that deepfake pornography is harming people right now and any delay means justice delayed," commented Prof McGlynn. Fake pornography had initially been dominated by "photoshopped" stills which had been created by hand. But last year, some developers applied machine learning techniques to the task, to make it relatively easy to create videos. To make a deepfake, the software involved needs to be fed photos of the subject taken from different angles. An algorithm then uses this information to replace the face of another person in a video with a computer-generated version of the target's, mimicking the original's expressions.
7-1-19 India arrests after mob attacks female forest officer
Sixteen men have been arrested after a female forest official was brutally beaten with sticks by a mob as police officers watched in the southern Indian state of Telangana. The mob, led by a member of the state's ruling party, was protesting against a tree plantation drive on Sunday. A video of the incident has gone viral, and the party has condemned the attack on Twitter. The forest officer is being treated in hospital for severe injuries. A video of the incident shows the mob attacking the officer with bamboo sticks, as she stands on a tractor and tries to placate them. She is repeatedly hit with the sticks until forest officials and local police step in to disperse the mob and contain the attack. The footage has gone viral in India and led to outrage across the country. This prompted a high-ranking official of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) party, Kalvakuntla Taraka Rama Rao, to condemn the incident on Twitter. The leader of the mob has been identified as Koneru Krishna Rao, a local official who is the brother of a TRS lawmaker. The party confirmed that he has also been arrested. In his defence, Mr Rao told local media that he was trying to "ensure justice for tribal farmers as forest officials were destroying their crops". "The forest department is terrorising tribal farmers and confiscating their land forcefully", he alleged, adding that the attack was "accidental". Two police officers, who were at the scene at the time of the attack, have been suspended for failing to protect the officer, BBC Telugu confirmed. The incident occurred in the town of Kagaznagar, where the state's forest department has been authorised to carry out a plantation drive as part of the Kaleshwaram project - a large irrigation scheme, which was inaugurated last week. Opposition parties in the state, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress party, have strongly condemned the attack.