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Asia Through the Lens
South Asia
Visual Story Header - Northeast Asia
Sri Lanka

Bangladesh

Fending off chronic food crisis
Sri Lanka

 

24 October 2022Food insecurity has always been a prime problem in Bangladesh, made worse in recent years by the planet’s certain march toward climate breakdown. But the country’s policies have remained lame and reactive, and its markets have grown increasingly dependent on agricultural import. Amid global supply chain disruptions and runaway inflation, the government is starting to push “good agricultural practice” and “farmer-friendly policies.” Whether these campaigns will end with sloganeering or translate into actual, concrete measures that will help reverse the crisis is anybody’s guess. (Photo: Mamunur Rashid/Shutterstock.com)

Sri Lanka

Afghanistan

Muzzled media
Sri Lanka

 

17 October 2022As part of the Taliban’s bid for international recognition, the de facto government has proposed a media and information access law. Press organizations and media outfits are hopeful the policy will address concerns over restrictions as journalists continue to grapple with often too-strict rules and the risk of retaliation. But who might such a law really serve in a country like Afghanistan, where economic difficulties, censorship, and attacks on journalists are par for the course? Will this law be the key to media freedom and protection — or a tool to tighten the muzzle? (Photo: Angel Simon/Shutterstock.com)

Sri Lanka

Pakistan

The hidden toll of climate change
Sri Lanka

 

10 October 2022Pakistan’s disastrous flood showed that the dangers of climate change go beyond extreme weather conditions. Months have passed yet the raging waters that devastated communities continue to make people suffer – physically and psychologically. Many flood victims remain displaced. Without food, water, or dignified shelter, these victims are exposed to the elements and whatever sickness it brings. Just as urgent are the mental health ramifications of the crisis, leaving victims to suffer from symptoms of depression and trauma. As environmental, economic, and human toll mounts, poor nations like Pakistan are increasingly raising howls of desperation about to the overwhelming responsibility of the wealthy countries for global warming. (Photo: Asianet-Pakistan/Shutterstock.com)

Sri Lanka

Nepal

Election countdown begins
Sri Lanka

 

3 October 2022As Nepal gears up for its elections in November, election authorities are grappling with new and emerging security risks. Whereas previous polls have been marred by violence and the threat of boycotts, the upcoming election will additionally have to contend with rampant online disinformation, inter-personal feuds, and intra-party conflicts. Reflecting the widespread discontent with the entrenched political parties, many voters are now rallying behind an increasing number of independent candidates, signaling hopes and dreams for better governance — and a better life. (Photo: Krish Dulal, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Sri Lanka

India

Looming food insecurity
Sri Lanka

 

26 September 2022With one botched crisis after another, the Modi administration’s incompetence is in full display. After its catastrophic management of the COVID-19 pandemic and complicity in religious violence across the country, India’s government is now struggling to contain the country’s inflation. Measures like rice export bans and imposing levies have largely failed. Food prices have shot up by 40-50%, leaving the country’s most poor struggling even more to put food on their tables. (Photo: Shutterstock.com)

Sri Lanka

Bangladesh

Restoring voter confidence
Sri Lanka

 

19 September 2022Bangladesh is set to hold its general elections on 2023, a state affair that has always been tarnished with accusations of vote-rigging, manipulation, and intimidation of opposition leaders and their supporters. Since the country’s return to a democratic system in 1991, only the 2008 polls have been considered by many to be fair, with no egregious signs of irregularities. In an effort to restore the confidence of the people and political parties, the national election committee has made public not only the challenges they face, but also their plans to resolve the issues, before the poll season starts. (Photo: HM Shahidul Islam/Shutterstock.com)

Sri Lanka

Afghanistan

Crisis upon crisis
Sri Lanka

 

12 September 2022Ravaged by war and the Taliban’s ruthlessness, thousands of Afghans now also face the aftermath of a catastrophic earthquake and floods. Meanwhile, isolated from the international community due to its atrocious human rights record, the de facto government struggles to find its footing financially, and is unable to provide aid to its people. Desperate for support, the Taliban has no other choice but to appeal to state donors — who are less than eager to engage with a brutal regime. (Photo: Michal Knitl/Shutterstock.com)

Sri Lanka

Pakistan

Facing the flood's aftermath
Sri Lanka

 

5 September 2022Pakistan’s poor and displaced have to deal not only with losing their homes and livelihoods to the flood, but also now with the threat of a major health crisis. Cramped in tight, often unsanitary evacuation centers, these people, including women, are now falling ill with various water-borne and other transmissible diseases. To make the most out of the situation, feminist groups have started raising awareness around menstrual hygiene, breaking down long-held taboos about the topic in the country. Meanwhile, the United Nations has called for emergency humanitarian funding for the flood victims. (Photo: Asianet-Pakistan/Shutterstock.com)

Sri Lanka

Nepal

Catch-22 in health care
Sri Lanka

 

29 August 2022Nepal’s nurses are abuzz over their country’s recent bilateral health partnership with the U.K., which promise better-paying opportunities. For years, nurses in the South Asian nation have endured long working hours, high occupational stress and hazards, and paltry salaries. While the U.K. deal could open up much better lives for nurses and their families, it also further endangers Nepal’s weak healthcare system, already on the brink of crisis. Indeed, medical equipment and facilities throughout the country remain unused due to a lack of trained professionals. The situation is only further aggravated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the impending threat of a dengue outbreak brought about by the rainy season. (Photo: Binod Prasad Adhikari/Shutterstock.com)

Sri Lanka

India

India's new religious battlefront
Sri Lanka

 

22 August 2022 — Religion continues to be a fraught battlefield in India. The ruling Hindu-dominated Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has recently set its sights on the Christian community, levelling allegations of forced conversions against pastors. The sitting BJP local government of Himachal Pradesh state has recently filed a bill that, under the guise of religious freedom, bans mass conversion through force or fraud. But as with many laws meant to repress, provisions in the BJP’s bill remain vague, open to punitive interpretation and implementation. Meanwhile, the BJP itself is known to be religiously repressive, abusing its majority in government to stifle, often violently, religious minorities in India.

Sri Lanka

Bangladesh

Tea workers’ frustration boiling over
Sri Lanka

 

15 August 2022A dollar-pay per day, coupled with the rising inflation, is more than what Bangladesh’s tea plantation workers can take. Crushed by economic hopelessness, almost 15,000 laborers across 200 tea farms took to the streets this week, calling for a 150-percent wage hike. The massive demonstration not only laid bare the dire working conditions, but also how central but underpaid workers are for Bangladesh’s second largest cash crop. The government has since promised to uplift working conditions in tea plantations, but the protests continue. Years’ worth of hardship, after all, weigh heavier than the words of leaders who backed exploitation in the industry to begin with. (Photo: Sm Akbar Ali PJ/Shutterstock.com)

Sri Lanka

Nepal

Syringe shortage, stalled shots
Sri Lanka

 

25 July 2022Amid the growing threat of the more infectious sub-variants of COVID-19 Omicron, Nepal and its South Asian neighbors have intensified efforts to contain the pandemic. But not all has been smooth sailing, unfortunately. Vaccination drives for children throughout the country, including the capital of Kathmandu, have stalled due to lack of syringes. High levels of vaccine hesitancy have also kept inoculation rates in Nepal meager. Though these problems are nigh-universal — they have hamstrung public health measures in other developing countries, too — these also reflect the failure of the Nepalese government to learn from its past shortcomings. (Photo: gorkhe1980/Shutterstock.com)

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

When children suffer
Sri Lanka

 

18 July 2022UNICEF has sounded the alarm on Sri Lanka, urging the international community to take notice of children’s welfare in the South Asian nation. The economic meltdown, triggered by a dangerous depletion of its foreign reserves, has led to a critical shortage of rice, lentils, milk, and other essential goods, leaving thousands starving — and dooming children to acute malnutrition and its negative impacts on growth and development. Sri Lanka, as with other countries in crises, show how easily those in power overlook the most vulnerable in times of hardship. (Photo: Natalia Davidovich / Shutterstock.com)

Sri Lanka

Nepal

Too little, too late
Sri Lanka

11 July 2022 — After strong public pressure, Nepal’s parliament filed a proposal to increase the statutes of limitation for the criminal prosecution of rape. If passed, victims may file charges for up to two years after the assault, up from the current limit of one year. Questions have been raised regarding the value of such a small adjustment, given that victims, especially children, often take decades to work through the trauma before coming forward. Women’s rights activists also paint the proposal as a band-aid solution, especially in light of Nepal’s pervasive culture of prejudice against victims of sexual violence and patriarchal law enforcement.

Sri Lanka

India

A powderkeg ready to explode
Sri Lanka

4 July 2022 — From arresting journalists and activists to online media censorship, Narendra Modi’s administration has it all worked out. To outwardly project a sense of calm and control over India’s domestic problems, the government has turned to the tried-and-tested method of suppressing civil rights and severely limiting the freedom of expression and of the press. Compounding these issues and pushing India’s democracy to the limit is the increasingly violent religious divide between Hindus and Muslims, often swept under the rug—sometimes even fueled by—the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Sri Lanka

Bangladesh

Perennial flooding
Sri Lanka

27 June 2022 — Every year, from June to October, strong rains submerge huge swaths of Bangladesh, forcing people from their homes and causing food and water shortages—and exposing government inadequacy. This year is no different: Floods have ravaged entire districts and cities, while aid remains stuck in government storehouses, frozen amid a painful lack of planning and suitable equipment. Meanwhile relief distribution has fallen to volunteers, who risk their own lives to fulfill this task of the state. Unfortunately, the perennial flooding problem will only get worse, aggravated by the climate crisis and the ever-growing corruption in government.

Sri Lanka

Afghanistan

Twice forsaken
Sri Lanka

20 June 2022 — The burdens of war always weigh heaviest on the people’s shoulders. After the U.S.’s disastrous withdrawal allowed the Taliban’s dangerous resurgence to power, Afghanistan’s erstwhile senior leaders fled the country and found refuge in their offshore luxury homes. Left behind are ordinary Afghan folk who are languishing amid the country’s bank assets being kept frozen by former occupiers, compounded by staggering poverty, debilitating hunger and constant threats of violence from the de facto rulers. A siren call for a truly responsive and inclusive government that respects human rights grows louder each day.

Sri Lanka

Pakistan

A nation in deeper turmoil
Sri Lanka

13 June 2022 — The political fallout since the ouster of former Prime Minster Imran Khan is far from over in Pakistan. In the days that followed, allegations and controversies, including around the country’s nuclear arsenal, were hurled across the increasingly tense political divide. In his most recent tirade, Khan dragged the country’s military and nuclear program into the political fray, warning that the impending economic crisis could lead other world powers to push Pakistan to denuclearize. As Pakistan’s elite continue to bicker, the country’s economy continues to dip dangerously, leaving the common citizens struggling to make ends meet.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

Medical aid for an ailing country
Sri Lanka

6 June 2022 — Not only has Sri Lanka’s economic crisis meant food and fuel shortages, but also a near-complete collapse of its public health and medical systems amid a pandemic that refuses to abate. And even as huge swathes of the country struggle to secure the necessary medicines and pharmaceutical supplies, the Rajapaksa administration continues to disburse only small fractions of its COVID-19 fund, fueling more national outrage. While the recent World Health Organization effort to assist in acquiring medicines may alleviate the lack of medical supplies in government hospitals, a global response remains vital.

Sri Lanka

India

A big win for India's sex workers
Sri Lanka

30 May 2022 — In a landmark decision, India’s Supreme Court has ruled that “prostitution is a profession and sex workers are entitled to dignity and equal protection under law.” In a highly patriarchal country where the stigma against sex work remains strong — and in the absence of a law explicitly protecting sex workers — this ruling would effectively protect thousands of women from undue criminal charges and abuse, while also affording them access to the appropriate medical and social support and other government services.

Sri Lanka

Nepal

The stubborn glass ceiling of poisonous patriarchy
Sri Lanka

23 May 2022 — On paper, Nepal has progressive laws and constitutional provisions that promote women’s participation in governance. But in reality, gender equality in politics remains a pipe dream in the South Asian country, where misogyny is as toxic as it is deeply entrenched. Nepal’s patriarchal politics was in full display during the recent election cycle, where fewer women were expected to win top local seats — most women, instead, were allowed by their parties to run only as deputies for male mayoral candidates.

Sri Lanka

Bangladesh

Security or surveillance?
Sri Lanka

16 May 2022 — Earlier this week, the draft Data Protection Act drew criticisms from experts, who say that instead of protecting people’s privacy, the law further enables government surveillance. This is merely the next logical step in the government’s weaponization of the law. In 2018, the Digital Security Act came into effect and has since severely hampered the work of journalists in the country. Such developments are worrying but not surprising in a country where civic space has been rapidly shrinking.

Sri Lanka

Afghanistan

Failed aid, failing government
Sri Lanka

9 May 2022 — Conflict upon conflict, back-to-back invasions, and corrupt leaders have left more than 24 million Afghans hungry and in dire need of humanitarian aid. Since the Taliban’s takeover in late 2021, billions of dollars’ worth of assistance has poured into Afghanistan, but ineffective distribution has failed to dent massive poverty. Plunged into deep and profound economic crisis, more and more young girls are being forced by their families into marriages in exchange for dowries that could stave off hunger. provide temporary relief.

Sri Lanka

Pakistan

Defying the IMF, but at what price?
Sri Lanka

2 May 2022 — Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has ordered to retain unfunded subsidies to the oil and power sectors, effectively preventing price hikes amid a global increase in petroleum cost. However, such a move goes against recommendations by the International Monetary Fund, which could hurt Pakistan’s chances at securing additional loans. In a precarious balancing act, the government has promised to find ways to raise petroleum prices for elite class while sustaining support for motorcyclists at the same time.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

Teetering on the edge
Sri Lanka

25 April 2022 — Under the widely perceived inept and corrupt leadership of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his brother Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka’s economy has dipped to historic lows, leading to skyrocketing prices of essential goods—and a near collapse of the health system amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, anti-government protests calling for the president’s ouster have been met with punitive police brutality, leaving one demonstrator dead and dozens more wounded.

Sri Lanka

India

Rabid religiosity
Sri Lanka

18 April 2022 — India’s growing and increasingly violent religious divide was on full display during the recent Rama Navami, a Hindu festival celebrating the deity Rama’s birthday. Processions across the country were marked by hate speech and outright assaults by the Hindu majority against the Muslim minority, particularly in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and West Bengal. Many believe that the worrying rise in hate in India is driven by the divisive politics of Prime Minister Naredra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.

Sri Lanka

Nepal

In the throes of yet another crisis
Sri Lanka

11 April 2022 — Nepal’s long-standing reliance on imports has now brought its economy on the brink of collapse. The country’s foreign reserves have dropped dangerously low, and now Nepal can only afford to import essential goods that wouldn’t even last for a year. In turn, prices of the most basic commodities have skyrocketed, bearing down heavy on farmers and consumers alike. Meanwhile, leaders from across the political divide have focused on squabbling about solutions and pouncing on each other’s weaknesses.

Sri Lanka

Bangladesh

Women and girls under siege
Sri Lanka

4 April 2022 — In step with the global rise in physical and sexual assaults against women, Bangladesh is seeing a worrying wave of gendered violence, most of which has been directed at children and Indigenous women. Feminist activists and religious groups have expressed outrage at the widespread lenience toward rapists, which increasingly have been allowed to marry their victims. Making the problem worse is the cruel public stigma against victims and the country’s fraught and tedious legal journey towards justice.

Sri Lanka

Afghanistan

Clamping down harder on girls' education
Sri Lanka

28 March 2022 — When women activists and even young girls took to the streets of Kabul Earlier this week to assert their right to education soon after Afghanistan’s de facto government backtracked on its pledge to re-open schools for girls, they seemed undeterred by risks of redress from the Taliban, which is known to be a vicious suppressor of women’s rights. The extremist group had earlier promised that it would grant equal education to girls, only to close girls’ high schools just hours after reopening them. Schools for girls, they said, would have to wait until further preparations were completed, leaving Afghan girls in limbo.