Tanzania's president, a coronavirus skeptic, died.
There are suspicions that John Magufuli, aged 61, had died of coronavirus. The president, a devout Christian, had urged his citizens to "pray coronavirus away", claiming that "virus can't live in the body of Jesus Christ". The official announcement indicated that Magufuli had died of a heart ailment.
Unfortunately, the personal agendas of some religious and political leaders have led to grave consequences. In the United States, ring-wing Christian preacher Landon Spradlin died from COVID-19 after publicly dismissing the virus. On the other hand, former Gambian president Yahya Jammeh once claimed that he can heal HIV with his home-formulated herbal cure and spiritual healing techniques.
Yet some are hoping that the death of Magafuli would prove to be a turning point for Tanzania. Magufuli was efficient in building up the country but was also quick in bulldozing over his critics and destroying the free press. Furthermore, Magafuli's party, the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), has held power since Tanzania's independence in 1961, and every president of Tanzania has represented the party.
Magafuli's vice-president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, has been sworn in and made history to become Tanzania's first female president. But she is not the first female head of state in Africa. That honor goes to Sylvie Kinigi, who served as Burundi's Acting President from October 1993 to February 1994, after the incumbent President Melchior Ndadaye was assassinated.
Olympics to be held with no international fans.
The global pandemic has also taken away the chance for international fans to travel to Tokyo to see the Olympic Games this year.
The Olympic Games were originally scheduled for the summer of 2020 but have since been postponed until the summer of this year. But it has now been further decided that international fans would not be allowed into Japan to attend the festivities to reduce the risk of a coronavirus outbreak. This is not only a disappointment for the fans, but also for many of the athletes who were eager to represent their countries in front of the world.
But this is a better option than cancelling the Games together. The modern Olympic Games had been cancelled three times (1916, 1940, 1944) in its history due to the World Wars. In 1920, in spite of the Spanish Flu pandemic, the Olympic Games was held as usual.
Unfortunately, the locals would miss out on an invaluable chance to see and interact with cultures from all over the world.
A district court in Japan rules that it is unconstitutional to bar same-sex marriage.
A district court in Japan also made international headlines this week. The court in Sapporo ruled that Japan's constitution, which defines marriage as one between "both sexes", is denying equality to the LGBT community. Japan is currently the only country in the G7 group of developed nations that does not recognize same-sex marriage.
But Japan is far from the norm in Asia. So far, Taiwan is the only Asian state to have legalized same-sex union, as the issue remains divisive across more-conservative Asian cultures. There is strong support for legalization in Japan and Thailand, but support for LGBT rights remains low in other Asian countries. Even in Taiwan, homophobic fake news was used in the 2020 Presidential Election against the incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen, who supported legalization.
Despite the court's ruling, the Japanese parliament is unlikely to change the country's laws in the near future. Legislation may come sooner in Thailand, as there are two separate legal proposals in front of the Thai House of Representatives, and a court ruling is expected on the topic. It looks as if 2021 may yet be the year that history is made and same-sex union is recognized in Thailand.
Lastly, in this week also.
A number of environmental awareness campaigns are held this week. March 18th marks the annual Global Recycling Day, while March 21st marks the International Day of Forests. We discuss the environment by introducing a new history lesson about how mother nature is cursing at us all, and how a Bhutanese man is trying to fight this curse by planting 100,000 trees.
This article is part of the Making History This Week series.