Friday news roundup February 19, 2021
Nepal proposed a new law that bans women from traveling abroad without permission from their families and local government officials. Activists say the new anti-trafficking law is evidence of the country’s “deep-rooted patriarchal mindset.” The proposals, introduced by the Department of Immigration last week, would mean that all women under the age of 40 would have to seek permission before visiting Africa or the Middle East for the first time. Hundreds of Nepali women gathered in Kathmandu on Friday to protest against the proposals as part of a “women’s march” to highlight rape and other abuses of female rights in the country. Following criticism of the proposed law, the Department of Immigration said it would only apply to “vulnerable” women; they stressed it had yet to be finalized.
High levels of air pollution may significantly increase the risk of infertility, according to a new study of Chinese couples. The research finds that people living in areas of China with worse air quality are less likely to conceive. The researchers say the findings could explain a recent rise in unexplained infertility. The study looked at particulate matter, which has possible links to strokes, asthma, and cancer. According to the study, the particles may also be partly responsible for fertility problems. The study’s lead researcher, Qin Li, from the Centre for Reproductive Medicine at Peking University Third Hospital, said that around 30% of infertility—defined as the failure to conceive after 12 months of trying—is unexplained. Other risk factors like age, weight, and smoking have a significant effect, Li said, but the research now suggests that small-particle pollution could also be an “unignorable risk factor for infertility.”
The White House announced a sweeping new immigration bill. On Thursday the Biden administration announced it would create an eight-year path to citizenship for millions of immigrants already living in the US and provide a faster track to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children. The bill faces a narrowly divided Congress and a struggle in the Senate where it needs 60 votes to pass, which cannot be achieved with Democrat support alone. Administration officials have said the legislation is an attempt by President Joe Biden to restart a conversation on overhauling the US immigration system and believe he is open to negotiating.
From 2024 the Saudi government will only contract with firms that have regional headquarters in the Kingdom. International firms will still be free to work with the private sector. The move aims to encourage foreign firms to open a permanent, in-country presence that will help to create local jobs. International companies that want to participate in the Saudi government’s investment opportunities “will have to make a choice” and establish regional headquarters in the kingdom as of 2024 or they will not win government contracts, the Saudi finance minister, Mohammed al-Jadaan, told Reuters on Monday. Saudi Arabia is the region’s largest economy and the world’s largest oil exporter; it also has the largest population in the region. However, its share of regional headquarters sits at just 5%. Foreign firms have previously used the neighboring United Arab Emirates as a springboard for their regional operations, including for Saudi Arabia.