This Week Around the World

April 29 Icheon, South Korea: A construction site fire left at least 38 dead and an unknown number still trapped in the building. Out of the known 10 injured individuals, eight were in critical condition as of April 29, according to The New York Times. “We presume that an ignition of oil mist caused an explosion and the sudden combustion gave the workers no chance to escape,” said Seo Seung-hyun, head of the Icheon fire department, in a statement. Authorities are still investigating the cause of the blaze to confirm the explosion theory. President Moon Jae-in requested all available resources be redirected to the scene of the accident; approximately 335 firefighters responded to the emergency. 


April 29 Kent, England, United Kingdom: Freddy McConnell, a transgender man who gave birth a year after obtaining his gender recognition certificate from the British government, lost a court appeal to be registered as his son’s father or parent instead of as his mother. McConnell argued the government requiring him to be registered as the child’s mother is a violation of his and his child’s rights under the Gender Recognition Act of 2004. “Being a ‘mother,’ while always associated with being female, is the status afforded to a person who undergoes the physical and biological process of carrying a pregnancy and giving birth,” ruled Sir Andrew McFarlane, the judge who dealt with the initial court hearing in September 2019. McConnell said he plans to appeal the case and take it to the British Supreme Court. 


April 30 Sudan: A law banning female genital mutilation was approved and enacted by the members of Sudan’s sovereign council on April 30 after the council of ministers approved the law on April 22. Female genital mutilation is the partial or complete removal of external female genetalia, and can have long-term, potentially fatal health and reproductive issues for women who undergo the process. According to The New York Times, the United Nations estimated approximately nine in every 10 Sudanese women will experience genital mutilation in their lives, typically between the ages of 5–14 years old. Any individual who performs female genital mutilation now faces up to 3 years in prison and monetary fines under the new law. 


May 1 Geneva, Switzerland: The World Health Organization reported scientists researching COVID-19 determined the virus was “natural in origin,” despite United States President Donald Trump’s claims to have seen concrete evidence linking the development of COVID-19 to a lab in Wuhan, China. WHO scientists and researchers believe the virus began in animals before evolving to make the transition from infecting animals to infecting humans in late 2019. “What is important is that we establish what the natural host for this virus is [and] how the animal-human species barrier was breached,” said WHO emergencies chief Michael Ryan in a statement on May 1. “The purpose of understanding that is that we can put in place the necessary prevention and public health measures to prevent that happening again anywhere.”


May 2 Cauca, Colombia: Local community leader and social activist Uenseslao Guerrero was killed in his home by a group of unidentified gunmen on May 2; Guerrero is the 84th social leader to be killed in Colombia since Jan. 1, 2020. The murder rate of social activists in Colombia is among the highest in the world, with an average of one death every two days. Guerrero was the fifth social leader to be killed in less than a week, as Alvaro Narvaez and three family members were killed on April 29. Cauca Mayor Mercaderes Fernando Díaz called for a stop to the killing of social leaders following Guerrero’s death, according to TeleSUR

May 3 Sinai, Egypt: Egyptian security forces killed 18 armed individuals suspected of being involved with a deadly explosion claimed by the Islamic State that killed at least 10 people on April 30. “National security received intelligence about terrorist elements hiding out in a home in bir al-Abed, where they were planning to launch hostile operations,” Egypt’s Interior Ministry said in a statement according to Al Jazeera. The security forces found 13 automatic weapons and five explosive devices at the house where the 18 armed individuals were killed.