05, January 2018

  1. Countries of Particular Concern (CPC)

Source: The Hindu

The US State Department has unveiled its list of countries designated as the worst offenders against religious liberty. These countries are labeled as “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPC).

The list includes Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.


  • A country is labeled as a CPC after it engages in “systemic, ongoing, [and] egregious” violations of religious liberty. This declaration is in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.
  • The governments that have been designated as CPCs are subject to ‘Presidential Actions’, such as sanctions, which may include economic or political measures directed against a government to encourage it to improve the state of religious freedom in its country.

Significance of this move:

  • The designation of these countries is a key step in ensuring continued U.S. engagement in support of international religious freedom. Also, these designations are aimed at improving the respect for religious freedom in these countries.

  1. US puts Pakistan on Special Watch List

Source: The Hindu

The US has placed Pakistan on a ‘Special Watch List’ for “severe violations” of religious freedom, making it the only country to be put under the newly-formed list.

Special Watch List

  • The Special Watch List is for countries that engage in or tolerate severe violations of religious freedom but may not rise to the level of the ‘Countries of Particular Concern’ (CPC). The Special Watch List designation is being seen as a step below designating it as Country of Particular Concern, which would have automatically kicked in economic and political sanctions.


  • Special watch list is a new category created by the Frank R Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2016. The 2016 Frank R Wolf International Religious Freedom Act amended the IRF Act to require the President to designate a ‘Special Watch List’ of countries deemed not to meet all of the CPC criteria but who engaged in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom. IRF stands for International Religious Freedom.

Why Pakistan was placed in this list:

  • As per the US, Pakistan was placed in this list because the country continues to harass its religious minorities, has state-sanctioned discrimination against groups such as the Ahmadis, and tolerates extra-judicial violence in the guise of opposing blasphemy.

  1. Iceland becomes first country to legalise equal pay

Source: The Hindu

A new law making it illegal to pay men more than women has taken effect in Iceland. The legislation makes Iceland the first country in the world to legalise equal pay between men and women.

Key facts:

  • Under the new rules, companies and government agencies employing at least 25 people will have to obtain government certification of their equal-pay policies. Those that fail to prove pay parity will face fines.
  • The move is part of a bid to eradicate the gender pay gap by 2022 in the Nordic nation where 38% of parliamentarians are female – above the global average – including Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir.


  • Iceland, an island country in the North Atlantic Ocean that is home to approximately 323,000 people, has a strong economy, based on tourism and fisheries. For the past nine years, it has been ranked by the World Economic Forum (WEF) as the world’s most gender-equal country.

WEF – Global Gender Gap

  • The WEF Global Gender Gap Report uses markers such as economic opportunity, political empowerment, and health and survival to gauge the state of gender equality in a country.
  • According to the latest WEF report, the top five best performers in the global gender gap are Iceland, Norway, Finland, Rwanda and Sweden. Yemen, on the other hand, is currently the lowest-ranked of the 144 countries measured in the report. India is ranked 108.
  • Fifty-two countries fell below the global average in 2017, including China, Liberia and the United Arab Emirates, while 60 saw their overall gender gap decrease. Hungary was the only European country to be ranked lower than the global average, having scored poorly on political empowerment.

  1. Jal Mahotsav

Source: The Hindu

India’s biggest water carnival through ‘Jal Mahotsav’ is organised every year in Hanuwantiya Island in Madhya Pradesh. The third such ‘Jal Mahotsav’ concluded this year on January 2.

About Jal Mahotsav:

  • The festival, held between October and January, is a celebration of Madhya Pradesh’s natural beauty and its culture. It is also a great place to try out a variety of adventure sports like parasailing, paramotoring, water zorbing, and many others. The festival also represents the culture of Madhya Pradesh – a culture that stands for rich skill set of its artisans and rich heritage.
  • Hanuwantiya island, located on the banks of the Indira Sagar dam in Madhya Pradesh, plays host to India’s largest water carnival – Jal Mahotsav.


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