Gender & Human Rights

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The Burqa and French Values


PARIS – Many Western media outlets were highly critical of France’s 2010 law banning face coverings, such as burqas that cover a woman’s face and entire body, and local decrees adopted this year banning full-body “burkini” swimsuits on public beaches have drawn further negative attention. French-bashing in the press is nothing new, but those who criticize these measures ignore the historical and sociopolitical reasons for why most French people support them.

For starters, secularism – or laïcité – is a defining principle of French society. Under the French Constitution – which upholds freedom of conscience as well as freedom of speech – all citizens may choose any religion, or none at all; alternatively, they may criticize and mock religious beliefs and customs.

In 2004, the French Constitutional Council deemed the French Constitution to be compliant with the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. In order “to reconcile the principle of freedom of religion and that of secularism,” the Council ruled, “the Constitution forbids “persons to profess religious beliefs for the purpose of noncompliance with the common rules governing relations between public communities and private individuals.”

In France, recent events seem to pose a direct challenge this principle. In 1765, the agnostic French Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire wrote: “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” The Charlie Hebdo cartoonists and journalists who were murdered by two Islamist radicals in January 2015 were carrying on the Enlightenment tradition Voltaire helped start, and that attack had a chilling effect on a distinctly French form of free speech. The death threats against Charlie Hebdo are still rolling in, most recently following its publication of cartoons depicting the burkini debate.

Alongside French secularism is feminism, a principle also enshrined in the Constitution. Since 1999, Article 1 has established a gender balance in all French decision-making bodies, from the National Assembly to local government bodies, boards of directors, and so forth. While the proverbial glass ceiling hasn’t been shattered entirely, there are now more women in high-level leadership positions in France than ever before.

Like secularism, this institutionalized gender parity is at odds with conservative interpretations of Islam, which often call for modest dress and gender segregation in hospitals, swimming pools, and driving schools. And, in many French Muslim communities, conservative imams have more influence in shaping the status of women than do school teachers or other local leaders.

With France’s strong culture of feminism, many French citizens consider gender segregation and face covering to be repressive, even when they are said to be a woman’s choice. France has a history of welcoming immigrants, especially between the two World Wars; but it has never before been confronted with attitudes and behavior that not only violate its constitutional principles, but openly defy them.

French law forbids data-collection based on ethnicity or religion, but it is estimated that 8-9% of France’s 66 million citizens are Muslim – alongside Germany, the largest Muslim population in Europe – and half are believed to be younger than 24 years old. Most French Muslims are not new arrivals, but came during the Algerian, Moroccan, and Tunisian independence movements in the 1960s, meaning that young Muslims today belong to the third generation of that immigration wave. Many have been very successful, especially the young women, who are excelling in an increasingly competitive labor market.

However, many young Muslims feel frustrated with their living conditions and betrayed by the French promise of equality, leading them to question and challenge French principles. As a demographic group, they feel the weight of endemic unemployment, which averages 25% among young people and 40% in the banlieues, the housing estates surrounding many of France’s major cities, where many Muslim families live.

Under these conditions, it is common for young people to blame society, which they believe has given them short shrift, for their poor school performance and other adverse outcomes. For some, alienation finds an outlet in hatred of France, violent anti-Semitism, and rejection of French values, to the point that they come to define their identity more through an extreme interpretation of Islam than through French citizenship.

For decades, French governments have tried to paint over the problem by pouring billions of euros into so-called “urban-policy” programs to fix up dilapidated housing projects. But there can be no painting over the heinous crimes perpetrated in France over the past two years by disenchanted young Muslims who had embraced radical Islam.

The list is alarming. After the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery in January 2015, there was the mass murder committed at the Bataclan theater and other Paris sites in November 2015; the truck attack on Nice’s Promenade des Anglais this summer; the subsequent murder at a Catholic church in Normandy of a beloved priest, whose throat was cut during mass; the attack on a private home outside Paris, where a married couple of police officers were murdered in front of their child; and the stabbing of a Jewish man in Strasbourg this month.

These incidents are reinforcing populist movements in France and throughout Europe. In France itself, such attacks are being used to justify more anti-Muslim rhetoric from politicians such as Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front, who could make it to the second round of next year’s presidential election.

Against this backdrop of collective trauma, many French citizens believe that the survival of the Republic itself is at stake. And they see no reason why France’s characteristic pluralism and tolerance should become the means of its destruction.


Noëlle Lenoir, a former French Minister of European Affairs, is currently President of the European Institute at the Hautes Etudes de Commerce in Paris, and is the Founder and President of Cercle des Européens, a think tank.


By           :              Noelle Lenoir

Date       :               August 25, 2016

Source    :    


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Yes, Muslim women face discrimination – but they’re pushing for change


A British parliamentary committee recently discovered what many people in Muslim communities have known for ages – that Muslim women face discrimination on account of their gender, their ethnicity and their religion.

As the most disadvantaged members of the most socially and economically deprived communities in Britain, Muslim women suffer astronomical levels of unemployment and economic inactivity. In 2015 ONS figures showed only 35% of Muslim women aged 16 to 64 were employed. That compares with 69% of all British women in the same age range. We also learnt that 58% are economically inactive (not looking for work). That compares with 27% of working age women across the British population.

The committee also concluded that while Muslim women suffered a “triple penalty” on account of their gender, ethnicity and religion, it was the latter that poses the most barriers. Muslims face discrimination in many areas of public life but women are held back further because they are seen as passive, uninformed and uninterested in the world beyond their doorstep.

Muslim women, especially those wearing Islamic dress, represent what is considered a backward faith which disrupts western ways of life. Islam is also regarded as a barrier to their advancement outside the home because it stresses women’s role as care givers and homemakers. It apparently compels them to cover their hair and face and excludes them from Islamic thought and governance.

Large numbers of Muslim women in Britain argue that it is the intersecting effects of Islamophobia, including public stereotyping and male-dominated interpretations of Islam from within Muslim communities or assumptions made by non-Muslims, which constrain them.

For some time, they have been seeking to fight back – particularly in the years following 9/11. Muslim communities have come under heavy surveillance and women have had to play different family roles. Wives, mothers, sisters of men charged with or imprisoned for “terrorist” activity have undertaken traditional male responsibilities. Others have been subjected to surveillance themselves.

They have become rapidly politicised and active in public arenas. They are involved in campaigns to counter Islamophobia and also patriarchal attitudes in their ethnic and religious communities.

The British government also courts Muslim women to act as “bridge-builders” between Muslim communities and majority British society.

The Preventing Violent Extremism programme, which ran between 2007 and 2010, for instance, encouraged Muslim women to play a greater role in civic life. The idea was to prevent extremism and promote Muslim integration.

Institutional representation

In 2010, three women identifying as Muslim were elected to the House of Commons. They were joined by another five in 2015. The number of Muslim women in local councils has also increased in the 9/11 era.

These elections marked the culmination of Muslim women’s involvement in party politics in the 2000s. And while most of these women would stress that they represent all constituents regardless of gender, ethnicity, race or faith, many feel they bear responsibility for changing the way in which Muslim women are perceived. They also want to show that that they make a valuable contribution to British society. Some have also challenged the clan-based system within Muslim communities which promotes men as community and political leaders while excluding women.

Far larger numbers of Muslim women also participate in women’s community organisations and NGOs today than 15 years ago. These organisations work not just on issues concerning Muslim women – empowering them to deal with oppressive cultural and religious practices – but also to build capacity among Muslim women. They provide women with the knowledge and skills needed to enter public life and the labour market.

Muslim women have also become active in street politics. In the 2000s, girls and young women were foremost participants in the Stop the War movement and more recently they’ve been involved in support for Syrian refugees.

They are countering male domination within their communities by challenging the way in which mosques are dominated and run in Britain by all-male committees. Some women’s organisations are planning women-only mosques, while others have called for transparency in mosque governance structures. They are pushing for more women to be involved in making decisions.

So Muslim women are working hard to increase their presence in public arenas and break down stereotypes. That said, it is recognised that too many Muslim women still remain on the margins of society and the economy. State support is crucial in bringing them centre stage.

However, it is important to show that Muslim women are not passive or isolated in the way that media representations suggest. They are subjects in their own right.


Khursheed Wadia is a principal Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Safety and Well-Being in the University of Warwick. 


By           :               Khursheed Wadia

Date       :               August 17, 2016

Source    :     

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Scholarly input to a once festering wound


A litany of esteemed scholars hailing from across the world joined some of the brightest Sri Lankan researchers at the International Conference on Human Rights, Citizenship, and Democratization at the Sri Lanka Foundation to discuss how the nation can continue its progress on protecting the fundamental rights of all citizens.

The Centre for the Study of Human Rights (CSHR) convened the conference, which ran from August 26 to 28 to celebrate its 25th anniversary and bring attention to ongoing human rights issues.

Established in 1991 with the help of USAID, the Centre has provided policy advice to the government, helped victims of human rights abuses gain justice, and participated in many other projects to fulfill its mission: “To create a nation with a rights consciousness in which the dignity and rights of all people are respected.”

Director of CSHR Senior Professor Ravindra Fernando opened the conference by welcoming the guests: Justice and Buddhist Affairs Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, Director General Political Affairs at the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Kingdom of the Netherlands, Andre Haspels, University of Colomobo Dean of the Faculty of Law Indira Nanayakkara, Vice Chancellor of the University of Colombo Lakshman Dissanayake, Professor Danielle Celermajer of the University of Sydney, and Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka director Dr. Deepika Udagama.

While noting that the convention would interrogate the status of human rights both in Sri Lanka and internationally, touch on peace building efforts and democratisation and provide a forum to discuss how to ensure the rights of children, women, indigenous groups and LGBT people, Fernando also shared a more expansive vision for the symposium.

“This conference aims to enhance human rights protection and promotion towards entrenching human rights values by providing a platform for academics, civil society, students and participants to share their knowledge, research and related experiences towards creating a human rights culture for all,” he said.

Fernando voiced his optimism about the political direction of the country while also warning that improvements in human rights protections must continue.

“Today, we have a unity government of two major political parties. Post-2015 has seen progress in the field of human rights, rule of law, democracy and good governance. But we have a long way to go. We should take the initiative, as citizens of this country, to ensure that our rights are protected and democracy, as well as the rule of law is upheld,” he added.

Minister Rajapakshe, for his part, spent a good amount of his speech analysing the global history of conceptions and protections of human rights. Invoking Hammurabi’s code of law, analysing several of Aristotle’s proclamations and selections from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, the minister’s erudition was certainly on display as he deftly scrutinised the progression of notions of fundamental rights.

Throughout his speech, moreover, he tied the importance of a properly functioning legal system to the upholding of human rights safeguards.

“We know that protection of human rights is intrinsically interwoven with the principles of rule of law. Unless there is a system of upholding the rule of law in a country, you cannot have any legitimate expectation that your human rights or fundamental rights will be protected,” he said.

He similarly touched on Sri Lanka’s past constitutions, documents that evidently did not defend the law as evidenced by the 26-year conflict. Rajapakshe lamented that, during the creation of the 1972 and 1978 constitutions, the government did not take the public opinion and desire into account.

“When writing the 1972 constitution there was no public dialogue. They didn’t listen to the people of the country. They merely acted on the mandate given. In 1978, the same procedure was adopted and there was no public hearing,” he said.

The minister did say, however, that the new constitution will certainly take into account the populace’s whims and desires.

“That is why, when we are making a constitution presently, we have already established a constitutional assembly. There was a special committee appointed that went to each district. Now we are concerned about public opinion when we are making our constitution,” he said, while adding that the new document, unlike the two older versions, will provide specific protective measures for all people, as well as protocols for complaining about rights violations.

While Fernando and Rajapakshe focused their remarks on the necessity of maintaining a robust and functional legal system, Celermajer, the keynote speaker, presented a convincing argument that improving legal systems and rights protections, though crucial steps, are by no means sufficient to eradicate the environments and cultures that lead to abuses.

“Legal reform is necessary, but certainly not sufficient to transform institutions and relationships that have been saturated by years of injustice and hostility,” she said.

According to her, it is a comprehensive re-imagining of a society’s relation to historically abused groups that allows it to begin a new chapter. “As I will be arguing, altering the basic structure of a society, especially what we might think of as the soft dimensions of culture and relationships between groups, this requires the participation of a great many more people than those in political power,” she added.

It is a multifaceted approach that will allow Sri Lanka and other countries with a history of human rights abuses, to do away with the structural inequalities that have led to the torture and other cruelties suffered by minority groups. “To affect deep and sustainable transformation, we need to be intervening on multiple dimensions at the same time and in a coordinated manner,” she said.

Both institutions and cultures of oppression will have to be overhauled for Sri Lanka to move forward. Countries cannot progress by focusing on one and neglecting the other. To further illustrate this point, Celermajer drew on several examples from her native Australia concerning the treatment of Indigenous people.

Though just 32 percent of the total population of the Northern Territory, Indigenous people constitute 97 percent of young people in detention. She went on to explain that, although protected by Australian law, there is a pattern of human rights abuses against these incarcerated youth.

Beatings, solitary confinement and the forced detention of one suicidal young man in a chair with a hood over his head were just a few examples she gave.

Though the Australian public was outraged by these occurrences, it was soon revealed that many ministers knew of the conditions these young men faced after learning the results of three inquiries made over the past two years.

The outrage deepens when one takes into account a series of laws passed 25 years ago that tried to remedy the causes of similar racial discrimination.

“Those recommendations sought to address the root causes of the problem, including the various factors that led to the radical over-representation of indigenous people in custody in the first place: Police bias, pervasive racial discrimination, bail conditions and sentencing guidelines that have a disproportionate impact on members of socially and economically disadvantaged groups,” she said.

Despite these protections, Indigenous Australians still suffered abuses and did not have the platform or voice to publicise their troubles. Though many local papers picked up on the rights violations, it was only after the large media companies ran stories on the incidents that the country as a whole paid attention.

Celermajer’s point, after all, is that no number of regulations, laws, and procedures can change the social structures that contribute to oppression. It takes an entire society to alter the way it thinks about and acts towards people of different religions, ethnicities, genders, abilities and sexual orientations.

“Discriminatory attitudes are themselves embedded in asymmetrical power relationships and nourished by institutions and practices that fail to accord equal respect to different groups of people,” she said.

An important step in destroying prejudices and intolerance is to include minorities in decision-making processes. “People whose identities are degraded are barred from shaping a society’s cultural values and the types of knowledge and experience that get to count as legitimate and authoritative,” she said.

The tone of Celermajer’s speech was decidedly supportive of Sri Lanka’s continuing efforts. There is no doubt that the country is on the right path, as the creation of the Office of Missing Persons and the Secretariat for Coordination Reconciliation Mechanisms prove. These two bodies will hopefully succeed in righting the wrongs of the war.

Part of her speech, moreover, dealt with the importance of acknowledging the past while looking to the future. “Walking forward through that opening into a different future demands turning back and authentically facing the past. Establishing the foundations for a just and egalitarian future requires bringing those virtues of justice and recognition to the wrongs committed and to their victims,” she said, while adding that Sri Lanka is succeeding in doing this.

As Sri Lanka marches toward enacting more comprehensive rights protections, Celermajer encouraged the government to start thinking about engineering social changes to complement its judicial overhaul.


By           :               Sam Bresnick

Date       :               August 29, 2016

Source    :     

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In male-dominated subjects, hiring favors women—for teachers in France


Few will dispute the enduring reality that women are underrepresented in many fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Gender discrimination in hiring at various academic levels is often put forward as a major reason, but recent studies have sparked controversy by suggesting that gender bias in male-dominated fields, in fact, favors women. Among the latest evidence going in that direction is a new study published in Science this week showing that, in France, the fewer female academics there are in a given field, the better chance women have of being hired as teachers in that subject. The hiring bias also seems to work in the other direction, though to a lesser extent, with aspiring male teachers being favored in fields traditionally dominated by women. However, the relevance of these results to academia and their generalizability to hiring processes in other countries are subject to some debate.

The hiring of teachers in France offers a unique, real-life setting to investigate the role of gender in skill evaluation. Every year, national subject-specific competitions are held at two levels—for teacher candidates to work at a middle or high school, or to gain the highest-level agrégation qualification to work in a high school, college, or university—to determine who will be offered a teaching position. Candidates are evaluated first by written exams, then oral ones. The identities of the candidates, and thus their genders, are only disclosed during the oral phase. Therefore, by measuring how candidates rise or fall in the rankings between the written and oral exams, the researchers could assess how knowing candidates’ genders affected their scores.

One of the main conclusions of the paper, co-authored by Thomas Breda and Mélina Hillionof the Paris School of Economics, is that in fields as diverse as mathematics, physics, economics, and literature, there is no evidence of discrimination against the underrepresented gender. “We rather find that the gender in minority is increasingly favored” during teacher hiring as the level of underrepresentation in academic faculty positions increases, the authors write in a joint email to Science Careers.

In male-dominated fields such as math, physics, and philosophy, the bias worked in favor of women: The hiring advantage gained by female candidates between the written and oral exams was equivalent to an average of 10% of female candidates overtaking all the men. Meanwhile, there was a subtler yet opposite bias at play in female-dominated fields such as literature and foreign languages, equivalent to 2 to 6% of the male candidates overtaking all the women between the written and oral phases. In most fields close to gender equity, including history and literature, no bias against either gender was found. The highest-level biology exam is however an exception, as female candidates faced a ranking loss of 4% compared to males, even though women represent around 46% of academic faculty in this field in France.

The findings are most directly relevant to aspiring middle and high school teachers, but they are also applicable to those pursuing academic research careers, the authors argue. In France, about a quarter of the candidates who pass the highest-level agrégation exam join colleges and universities, where they are hired primarily to teach but are also allowed to conduct research or prepare Ph.D. theses, the authors explain in their email. This is not the traditional entry route for French assistant professors, but a significant number of Ph.D.-holders take the exam to secure full-time teaching positions at universities while waiting to win assistant professorships. Having an agrégation can also improve aspiring academics’ career prospects in some fields, which makes the results more broadly relevant to academia, the authors argue in their paper. “The main message for female students is that they can enroll in the academic tracks traditionally dominated by men without strong fear of discrimination,” they write in their email.

Some however feel that the results aren’t as clearly applicable to academia as the authors are making them out to be. “[T]he authors did a lot of serious number-crunching and came up with some intriguing findings,” says psychologist Virginia Valian of Hunter College in New York City. But the hiring processes and prestige of high school teachers and university faculty members in France are not the same, and a stronger distinction should have been made throughout the article, Valian adds. The fact that only a minority of agrégation-holders go on to an academic career is “a serious limitation to the study.”

Social scientist Kim Weeden, director of the Center for the Study of Inequality at Cornell University, sees another limitation: generalizability to other countries. “In the United States, for example, hiring into professorial positions is based on very local and non-standardized evaluations of candidates’ publications and scholarly potential, teaching record and teaching potential, ‘fit’ with the department, and so forth. Patterns of test scores on standardized exams in France just can’t tell us much about hiring in these systems,” she writes in an email to Science Careers. Even so, Weeden praises the study’s “very rigorous, creative analysis of a unique and high-quality data set.”

The findings are nonetheless in line with recent controversial studies based in the United States. Among them was a 2015 study that found, based on faculty member evaluations of fictitious job candidates, that women are favored 2 to 1 for tenure-track positions in engineering, biology, and psychology. One of the authors of that paper, developmental psychologist Stephen Ceci of Cornell University, thinks the new findings are encouraging for women pursuing STEM. “Young people, particularly young women, should be heartened by these findings because it goes against the common narrative that says the deck is stacked against them from being hired as entry-level professors,” he writes in an email to Science Careers. (Ceci gave Breda and Hillion feedback on their manuscript before submission but otherwise does not collaborate with them.) “If anything, the data reveal that the fields in which they are most underrepresented are the very ones that desire them most. If bias is at work, it is bias in their favor, not against them.”

Valian sees it somewhat differently. “Do their findings suggest that women are going to benefit by being badly represented in a field? Hardly. The authors have to wonder why women continue not to be well represented in math, physics, and philosophy, in universities and research institutes. If the exams are picking those women out at higher levels, why don’t we see them succeeding more?”

The new data don’t provide much insight into the underlying factors behind the skewed hiring. It could be, for example, that rather than reacting to gender underrepresentation across different fields in academia—which, the authors argue, reflects societal stereotypes—examiners were simply trying to redress gender imbalances they saw in the applicant pool, or even in past exam winners. This is unlikely to be the case, however, the authors argue in their paper, because many of the exams were close to parity both among candidates and past winners. The most plausible explanation, they continue, is that examiners were trying to counteract gender stereotypes.

Weeden however thinks that the authors “are a bit too hasty” in concluding an evaluator bias, as “the various checks that they offer against other interpretations aren’t as convincing as the general pattern of results,” she says. In particular, the oral exams seem to be designed to test pedagogical skills as well as subject knowledge, she notes, so one alternative explanation could be that “the very select group of women who pass the written tests in math are better than the very select group of men who pass those tests at explaining complex math concepts, [a scenario in which] they [would] also rank higher on the oral exams in math.”

To help address the continued underrepresentation of women in many fields in academia, in their paper Breda and Hillion call for implementing policies to counteract stereotypes and discrimination at early stages before educational choices are made, and spreading the message to female students that they have equal or even better chances to succeed as teachers and academics in fields where women are the minority—which is an approach that Ceci agrees is the right one. “By forcing the argument back to earlier in development, Breda and Hillion’s results demonstrating that women are not discriminated against in exam scoring and, in fact[,] are advantaged … suggest that hiring-point policies—such as mandating gender sensitivity training for members of hiring committees, or a certain portion of members must be women—are missing the point,” he writes.

But Weeden is only partially convinced. She agrees with the recommendation to counteract stereotypes at early ages, which is consistent with a substantial body of sociology research, including some of her own work, “show[ing] that by early high school, significantly more young men than young women plan to enter engineering, math, and other male-dominated STEM occupations,” she says. But “even among students who show an early commitment to science-related careers, who score well on standardized math exams, and who take high-level math and science courses, young women are much more likely than men to drop out—or be pushed out—of educational pathways that would lead to high-level science careers,” she continues. “Understanding the educational decisions that kids make early in their lives is important, but it’s certainly not the only life stage at which social processes can lead to women’s underrepresentation in science-related occupations.”

Curt Rice, president of Oslo and Akershus University College and head of Norway’s Committee on Gender Balance and Diversity in Research, takes a harder line. On the one hand, he welcomes this large-scale study from France, noting that it is “important to counter the US-dominance of subject pools in this kind of research,” he writes in an email to Science Careers. Also, “[s]tudies which look at significant quantities of ‘real data’ instead of simulations are important and interesting, even though they necessarily will have more variables that have not been controlled for.” But the authors’ recommendation “to bright young women … to study fields in which women are underrepresented … [is] vapid,” he continues. “The test results they discuss tell us nothing about the experience women have in the classroom or workplace when they are severely underrepresented. Of course, I want bright young women to choose STEM subjects, too, but the nuances of the French exam grading system seem to get overplayed in this advice.”


By          :               Elisabeth Pain

Date       :               July 29, 2016

Source    :               Science Magazine

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Earning Less Money Isn’t A Choice That Women Just Make


The pay gap is a complicated cultural stew.

Women don’t choose to make less money than men. But that’s often the criticism leveled when we talk about the gender pay gap, or the fact that women, on average, make only 79 cents for every dollar a man earns.

The argument typically is: Women look for work in lower-paying professions, so of course they make less than men.

Elise Gould, a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, has heard that claim a lot since she published research showing that women earn $4 an hour less than men right out of college. Gould and EPI researcher Jessica Schieder published a paper on Wednesday explaining why the pay gap has little to do with real choice.

“People were not understanding the full picture,” Gould told The Huffington Post.

It’s true that many women do not pursue higher-paying jobs in engineering or science ― fields that are dominated by men. But that’s not the main reason the pay gap exists. In fact, 68 percent of the gap can be explained by the fact that women make less than men within the same occupations, as Gould and Schieder note.

“Leaving aside the fact that women’s career choices are shaped by gender norms and expectations, the fact is that most of the gender wage gap can be explained by the fact that women, on average, are paid less than men in the same occupation,” Gould said in a statement Wednesday morning.

Female doctors, for example, earn $51,000 less than male doctors on average, a study recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine found.

A few enlightened companies are looking at their payrolls to determine if there’s a problem. Recently, the software company Salesforce found a pay gap among its employees and spent $3 million to rectify it. A few other firms have published the results of internal audits. Amazon recently said that it pays women and men equally, though it didn’t explain how it arrived at that conclusion.

Other industries aren’t so forthcoming. The union that represents reporters at The Wall Street Journal recently revealed that women at the paper make 87 cents for every dollar a man earns there. Though the company has pledged to address the problem, there’s been no action announced yet on this front.

“A company can look at their policies, but the vast majority are not,” Gould told HuffPost. “That’s an easy solution but it’s not happening.”

Of course, there’s more to the gap. Women and men do tend to get steered toward certain educational and professional paths. More men than women become engineers, for example, and more women than men choose social work. Those decisions, Gould and Schieder write, are influenced by cultural forces that cry out for further examination.

For example, at a very young age girls are often steered away or discouraged from pursuing math and science. It happens at toy stores where science kits are stocked in the boys’ aisle, and in classrooms where girls receive less attention than boys and teachers underestimate their female students.

Even if women do make it into the higher-paying tech industry later on, they often feel alienated from a male-dominated culture.

One 2008 study found that 63 percent of women who work in science, tech and engineering experience sexual harassment. Women leave these industries at higher rates than men.

“Decisions women make about their occupation and career do not happen in a vacuum,” Gould and Schieder write. “They are also shaped by society.”

The authors also point to a recent study showing that once women do enter a field, wages in that profession actually tend to fall.

When women come onto the scene, “it just doesn’t look like it’s as important to the bottom line or requires as much skill,” Paula England, a sociology professor at New York University, told The New York Times earlier this year. “Gender bias sneaks into those decisions.”

But wait ― there are yet more layers baked into this cake. Because domestic responsibilities are still overwhelmingly coded as female, women often have to work the equivalent of two jobs ― acting as caregivers of children or elderly relatives while also working for an actual salary. That puts them in a bind when it comes to taking on work that demands long hours.

This, in part, helps to explain why there are so few female partners at prestigious law firms and in demanding fields like investment banking. And even at the highest levels of business, women’s salaries tend to suffer more than men’s when times are tough.


By          :               Emily Pleck

Date       :               July 21, 2016

Source    :               Huffington Post

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Gender Policing in Academe


I have graduate school to thank for the years of tension between my queer gender identity and the norms and expectations of academe, writes Eric Anthony Grollman.

Now 31 years old, I am still struggling to figure out my gender identity. I knew by age 5 that I was unlike other boys, even declaring to my mother that I should have been born a girl. I came out as bisexual as a senior in high school, then gay in my freshman year of college. With exposure to feminist and queer theories and activism in college, I found a more fitting identity — queer — to reflect my own sense of gender and attraction to masculinity broadly defined (no matter others’ bodies or sex).

But I have graduate school to thank for my stepping back into the closet, at least in terms of my gender identity and expression — and for nine years of wrestling with the tension between my queer gender identity and the masculinist norms and expectations of academe.

Sociology became a woman-dominated discipline — at least in terms of degrees awarded — before I ever became a sociology major in college. In 2012, women were close to half or more of the faculty in two-thirds of sociology graduate programs in America, representing huge growth over the previous decade. (I imagine this number is much lower for women sociologists at the associate and full professor levels. And gender equity may have stalled, or even reversed, with the over representation of women among adjunct professors.) But in 2012, only 22 percent of graduate departments had more than one-quarter of their faculty specializing in the sociology of gender – and the same number making a genuine commitment to women scholars and the sociological study of gender.

In my own graduate training, I found even some of the faculty members who specialized in gender did not encourage research in this area. The discouragement seemed strongest for those planning to use qualitative methods (too “touchy-feely”), feminist and queer lenses (too “activisty”), and feminist or gender studies approaches (too interdisciplinary). Despite commendable representation of (cis)women in my department and the discipline more generally, I learned that many (men) sociologists appear to hate women and see masculinity as central to good scholarship.

In reading A. W. Strouse’s essay criticizing the inherent heterosexism and queerphobia of American graduate education, I finally realized that I am not alone in struggling with the white heteromasculinist under- and overtones of my graduate training. As Strouse aptly points out, professional (re)socialization of graduate school is centrally a task of eliminating passion, love, creativity and originality from would-be scholars’ lives — or at least presenting ourselves as detached, subdued, conforming — that is, “professional.”

In our writing, we were discouraged from “flowery,” verbose and creative prose, instead getting to the point concisely and speaking with unwavering authority. In fact, it is best to avoid writing in the first person at all costs so as to present arguments as taken-for-granted truths, rather than offered by an individual scholar. There is a reason why the feminist scholarly practice of being transparent about one’s social location never caught on in mainstream sociology; seemingly objective research is the highest form of inquiry, and everything else is suspect.

Masculinist authority was equally valued in how one presents one’s research in workshops, talks and conferences. As one grad school professor warned me, “none of this ‘shy guy’ stuff” — scholarly presentations were not actually spaces to present incomplete projects or uncertainty. (And don’t even think about attempting to shirk male privilege by rejecting an authoritative tone and presence!) Whatever it means to be a “shy guy” was seen as distracting at best, or antithetical to my scholarship at worse. I could not help but assume that this professor’s comment was a more polite way of telling me to “man up.” And, upon comparing notes with a cis gay man in the program, I learned that the professor had, indeed, a reputation for telling queer men students to “man up.” Perhaps I had been pegged as too sensitive for the harsher, more offensive version of this advice.

I have wrestled, more generally, with the demand to strip away all emotion. Well-meaning friends and colleagues have criticized me for becoming increasingly more angry as I present at conferences, that my own rage about oppression and the detriment it has on the health of oppressed individuals is inappropriate for an academic setting. I learned to stop pounding my fist on the podium, but I have not quite mastered the stiff upper lip. Showing emotion is weak; a true scholar would never be so personally invested in the plight of marginalized communities.

To my surprise, the devaluation of femininity is not limited to the erasure of feminine expressions in academics who were assigned male at birth. I have witnessed the policing of femininity in cisgender women academics, even those who are femme presenting.

For example, two weeks in a row in my Preparing Future Faculty course, the cis woman professor chastised cis women students for their “feminine” and “girly” behavior. I agree that beginning a presentation or conversation by apologizing in advance for subpar quality or ideas only serves to undermine what one has to say. But I found it quite troubling that a woman professor so openly, publicly and forcefully berated these women students for their feminine presentation of self, especially in a mixed-gender class. Perhaps a private conversation, wherein the professor could talk more at length about her concerns about the sexist ways in which women scholars are received in the academy, would have been better and less offensive. But, then again, this is the same professor who interrupted my own presentation to ask, “Oh, we haven’t beaten the activist out of you yet?” Clearly, academic training is about beating graduate students into submission and conformity.

I have heard women friends and colleagues note the related practice of rewarding masculinity in women in academe. Short hairstyles and masculine attire appeared to be much more common among my grad department’s most successful women faculty. The more assertive you could be, the better. The more you could do to reject your femaleness and femininity, the more successful you could be in the academy. Women who insisted on having children should calculate pregnancy just right so that they could “pop one out” during a break in the school year. I am often shocked by how openly academics and academic institutions attempt to regulate women scholars’ reproductive choices and sex lives. Some women academics are complicit, unapologetically giving advice to “keep your legs closed,” delay motherhood as long as possible or forgo it all together.

It has taken me three years post-Ph.D. to recognize the role my graduate education has played in stalling my gender journey. I entered the program beginning to embrace a genderqueer identity and reject the restrictive category of “man.” In a different life, I might be well on my way to rocking stylish, colorful outfits, being as fab as I want to be, or at least much more comfortable in my unique skin. But, in this life, I have to first recover from the damage of my graduate training to my sense of self.

I have only recently reclaimed a genderqueer identity, now finding “nonbinary” to better describe who I am as a gendered being. I have slowly dropped the suit and tie as a protective shield and begun to slowly come out publicly as kind of, sort of trans. Another path to my own liberation sadly entails rejecting the femmephobia, queerphobia and transphobia of the academy. Embracing an authentic gender identity and expression entails reconceptualizing what it means to be a scholar. (Why are the two intertwined in the first place!)

No advice to offer to others just yet — my apologies for that. But I hope that more of us will acknowledge, critique and resist the ways in which academe polices the gender presentation of scholars.

Eric Anthony Grollman is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Richmond and the editor of “Conditionally Accepted.” Their research investigates the impact that prejudice and discrimination have on the health, well-being and worldviews of oppressed communities, particularly those who hold multiple marginalized identities (e.g., LGBTQ people of color).


By          :               Eric Anthony Grollman

Date       :               July 29, 2016

Source   :     

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Millions of Women Take A Long Walk With A 40-Pound Water Can


A few years back, while working in Benin, environmental health specialist Jay Graham saw an elderly woman in line at a pump to get water. She looked far too old to carry the water home herself, so he was relieved to see other people helping her — until he realized they were just making sure she had successfully balanced the 40-pound can on her head.

In parts of the world without running water, people must rely on an alternative: walking [to] water.

It’s a physically demanding, time-consuming responsibility and one that almost always falls to females, according to Graham. He and his colleagues from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University have published a new study in PLOS ONE looking at data from 24 sub-Saharan African countries. They found that in all of the countries, in households where a family member had to spend more than 30 minutes to collect water, the primary collectors were women, ranging from 46 percent in Liberia to 90 percent in Cote d’Ivoire. When the chore is a kid’s job, there’s still a major gender gap: 62 percent for girls versus 38 percent for boys.

The research uncovered that in these countries, there are an estimated 13.54 million women (and 3.36 million children) who are responsible for water collection trips that take 30 minutes or longer.

That so many people, particularly children, shoulder this burden is what distresses Graham. “The scale of the problem really sinks in,” he says.

And it highlights the fact that it’s not just the quality of water that’s at issue. The Millennium Development Goal to boost the population with access to safe drinking water was met in 2012. But focusing on safety wasn’t enough, Graham says. “You also can’t be spending crazy amounts of time collecting this water,” he says.

It all starts with who is doing the job. “That’s typically an adult woman, above 15,” Graham says. Because of widespread gender inequality, he explains, females are saddled with most of the unpaid chores.

To collect the water, she likely carries a jerry can, a bright yellow plastic container that was originally filled with cooking oil. It’s been cleaned out and then repurposed for water storage. If it’s full, it holds 5 gallons and weighs about 40 pounds, Graham explains. In many places in sub-Saharan Africa, the woman is probably just holding the can and not using a wheelbarrow or a barrel that could be rolled home.

People ask Graham why more women collecting water don’t simply pick one of these less taxing methods. It’s because they can’t, he explains. “It’s usually uneven terrain” with obstacles along the way, he notes.

The path to the water source may change frequently, adds Ben Crow, a sociology professor at the University of California Santa Cruz, who has researched the intricacies of water collection in Kenya. For one study, he placed GPS units on jerry cans to learn where and how far from home women traveled.

Before setting off, a woman must figure out which pump she can visit to actually acquire water on that particular day, Crow says. There are seasonal shortages and rations that may complicate this decision — and lengthen the trip. “In times of scarcity, the journey time can be quite long. They may spend half an hour coming there and another half hour back,” he says.

Once a woman gets to a water source, she can expect to spend even more time waiting in line. When there’s just a single hand pump, progress is slow. It’s common to leave a jerry can to hold your spot, says Graham, who has seen rows of them stretching out for many feet. If the woman lives close enough, she may return home to do domestic chores. If not, she may just hang out.

Then comes the hard part: taking the water home.

Crow picked up a full jerry can once. “I could just about get it on my head,” he says. “Could I walk with it? No.”

As for Graham, he has lifted a few cans to feel the weight, but that’s it. “It’s hard work,” he says. “If I go backpacking, I can’t go very far with 40 pounds.” And, he adds, he’s a full-grown man who has never gone hungry. Many of the women and girls who regularly carry water are living in poverty.

Long walks with such a heavy load take their toll, notes Jo-Anne Geere, a lecturer at the Norwich Medical School at the University of East Anglia. She has also never hauled a jerry can. As a physiotherapist, she treats neck and back problems, “so I don’t fancy creating my own,” she says.

In her work examining the health implications of water collection in South Africa, Geere has found that carrying these heavy loads on one’s head is associated with a particular pain pattern, with discomfort in the upper back and hands and an increased risk of headaches. (She’s still studying why, although she suspects it’s because of the compression of discs in the neck.) In one survey she collected data from six villages; 69 percent of participants reported spinal pain, and 38 percent complained of back pain.

It’s not necessarily a single trip for water each day that’s causing these consequences. Depending on the size of the family and the household’s needs — like laundry, for instance — women may make this trip multiple times on the same day. If water is available only during a certain window, “they rush, and can’t pace,” Geere says.

Even if a woman finishes her water collection duties without aches and pains, there’s a good chance she’s exhausted, Crow adds. And there are still plenty of other domestic tasks on her to-do list. There usually isn’t enough time to finish it all by bedtime, he says, which is why women often sleep less than men. “There is evidence that women may sleep fewer hours than men in response to the time demands of their various tasks,” he says.

He notes that reducing the time required for water collection has been found to boost women’s economic activity. (One told him that after she had a tap in her home, she was freed up to go to job interviews.)

What Graham hopes people take away from his analysis is that these lengthy water collection times have real impacts on individual lives — typically, the lives of women and girls — and it’s important that they’re considered when measuring progress in access to safe water.

Geere often thinks about one woman she encountered during her research in South Africa. They met at a spring, and Geere asked if she could accompany her — and three kids, ages 9, 8 and 4 — home. The 20-minute walk “was very steep and slippery,” recalls Geere, who was surprised when they were greeted by the woman’s husband and a 3-month-old baby. As the woman explained that she was nursing, another two babies appeared.

“This woman had triplets and was trying to fetch water for her whole family,” Geere says. “She was managing it, but she said, ‘I get incredibly tired.’ I said, ‘Of course you do.’”


By            :               Vicky Hallett

Date         :               July 9, 2016

Source     :               WPSU Penn State



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Beyond Orlando Shooting: Homicides of LGBT And HIV-Affected People Rose 20% In 2015, Study Finds


After the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, over the weekend, many have noted that it was one of the worst mass shootings in American history and have called for stronger gun control and counterterrorism efforts. But as horrific as this incident was, it’s just the latest in a rising tide of killings of LGBT people.

Killings of LGBT and HIV-affected people in the United States have risen 20 percent since 2014, according to a report released by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs this week. The study found 24 reported hate violence homicides in 2015, making last year the deadliest since 2012.

In Orlando, 49 people were killed and 53 wounded before dawn Sunday morning. Even if no other attacks on LGBT people take place this year, the tragedy would make the 2016 figures 100 percent higher than those in 2015, as the Guardian noted.

Identity played a large part in who was targeted, according to the report. People of color, transgender and gender-nonconforming people made up a majority of the victims of hate violence. Of the 24 reported homicides, 62 percent were people of color and 67 percent were transgender or gender-nonconforming individuals.

The most vulnerable group was transgender women of color, who made up 54 percent of the homicides. While transgender people have become more visible in mainstream media and pop culture in the past few years with figures like Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner, they have also experienced a sharp increase in violence. Last fall, the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy group, released a report showing that more transgender people were killed in 2015 than any other year on record.

Among people who survived hate violence, the NCAVP report found that people of color were twice as likely to experience physical violence as their white peers, and undocumented immigrant survivors were four times more likely than other survivors to experience physical violence.

The report likely represents a low estimate of the violence against LGBT people across the country. The NCAVP collected its data from 13 member organizations in 12 states and used information from public sources or directly from survivors.

FBI hate crime statistics can show a larger number of incidents based on prejudice, the Guardian reported. In 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, 1,248 people in the U.S. — or 18.6 percent of all hate crime victims — were targeted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

However, the NCAVP report also notes that low reporting rates can affect the reliability of any hate crime statistics. Just 41 percent of LGBT and HIV-affected people who experienced hate violence reported the incident to law enforcement in 2015, down from 54 percent in 2014. Overall, the trends in the report show that the U.S. has not made progress in stopping anti-LGBT violence over time. The number of homicides has fluctuated over the years, but in 2006, the number of killings was 10 — less than half of what it was last year.


By            :               Abigail Abrams

Date         :               June 15, 2016

Source     :               International Business Times



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Rings fall apart


Official statistics vastly understate Nigeria’s divorce rate

JOSEPH ADUWO reckons he is well shot of his spouse. “My wife…fought with nine persons in a day on our street, wearing only bra and underpants. She is a shameless streetfighter,” he told a Lagos court. It duly dissolved their union.

Official statistics suggest that divorce is exceedingly uncommon in Nigeria. Just 0.2% of men and 0.3% of women have legally untied the knot, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. And well under 1% of couples admit to being separated. Yet such counts exclude the vast majority of Nigerians, whose traditional marriage ceremonies are not governed by modern law, says Chief Robert Clarke, a barrister.

In the mostly Muslim north of the country, men may take up to four wives (so long as they obey the Koranic injunction to treat all equally). Often the younger wives are not yet 18. When a husband wants to trade one of his spouses for a younger model, he need only repeat the words “I divorce you” three times to be freed. In 2008 one pensioner split from 82 of his 86 partners to put himself back on the right side of Islamic law.

Regardless of what the Koran says, politicians in Kano, the north’s biggest city, think divorce is breeding “vices in society”. One former governor came up with an innovative solution. In 2013 he married off 1,111 widows and divorcees in a public ceremony costing just under $1m. Another 2,000 brides were lined up by the state government for marriage late last year.

Couples also marry young farther south, but women there tend to be a little more empowered. Olayinka Akanle, a professor of sociology at the University of Ibadan, reckons that when things fall apart they demand separations more readily than in the north. For instance, one Lagos wife had her marriage dissolved on the basis that her drunken husband confused their cooking pots with the toilet. Another woman complained that her banker spouse spent too long stuck in traffic (hardly his fault, he might reasonably claim; Lagos jams are awful).

Other deal-breakers include a wife’s failure to bring cooking utensils from her father’s house. “How will a woman get married without a grinding stone?” her husband lamented. One woman filed for divorce having found her husband to be rather too well endowed. And a trader complained that his wife was not as buxom as he had thought. “I detest those small-size boobs,” he said after a disappointing three months. “It is better to end the marriage.”


Date         :               July 9, 2016

Source     :               The Economist


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U.N. council creates watchdog for LGBT rights


The top human rights body of the United Nations voted on Thursday to appoint an independent monitor to help protect gay and transgender people around the world from violence and discrimination.

The U.N. Human Rights Council, based in Geneva, creates an “independent expert” charged with identifying the root causes of violence and discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, and then talking with governments about ways to protect them.

The resolution that passed was the United Nations’ most overt expression of gay rights as human rights, and is considered a milestone.

The vote on the 47-member council passed only narrowly, with 23 nations in favor, primarily from Europe and Latin America. Though that was not a majority, six countries abstained, including India, South Africa and the Philippines. The 18 votes against it came from Russia, Africa and most of the Muslim countries on the panel. Albania was the only member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to favor creating an envoy for LGBT issues. The seats periodically rotate, and the United States currently does not sit on the council.

In a bow to the sensitivities of those countries where homosexuality is widely frowned upon, the resolution had a last-minute amendment added noting that “the significance of national and regional particularities and various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds must be borne in mind.” Nevertheless, it adds, “It is the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Randy Berry, the State Department’s Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons, called the decision historic, but expressed disappointment that opponents had succeeded in adding wording suggesting LGBI rights may be a cultural imposition.

“It diminishes very slightly something extraordinary that happened,” he said in an interview. “As we look at what motivates that kind of objection, it’s a misplaced fear that the intent of creating an independent expert is to condemn or criticize. All along, it was clear the dialogue is to be informative, a resource for all countries, including our own, to get better on LGBTI issues.”

The resolution was put forward not by the United States but by several countries in Latin America — Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Uruguay. Latin America has some of the world’s most advanced legal protections for gay and transgender people.

Though the resolution was being prepared before the June 12 massacre in a gay nightclub in Orlando, some human rights activists said they thought the mass shooting played a role in propelling the Human Rights Council resolution forward.

The U.N.Security Council condemned the Orlando shooting in a statement that made headlines because for the first time the body had specifically mentioned sexual orientation as a factor, saying 49 victims they had been targeted because of who they are.

“Orlando became part of the conversation around the resolution,” said Jessica Stern, executive director for Outright Action International, a U.S.-based human rights group. “I think it caused some governments on the fence to stop and take their decision much more seriously. You can’t keep your head in the sand after what happened at the Pulse nightclub.”

Under the resolution that passed, all the members of the United Nations are expected to cooperate with the expert, like the experts who already exist to investigate human rights abuses in countries or around themes. The countries are asked to facilitate the expert’s visits, and consider any recommendations that are made.

Shawn Gaylord, an advocacy counsel with Human Rights First, said the position has symbolic and practical value.

“It makes clear that LGBT rights are human rights,” he said. “That’s an essential part of the U.N. moving forward. On a practical level, there are resources that will flow and more staffing for LGBT issues to be researched, reviewed and recommendations made.”

Gaylord said an expert can find room for common ground, even in countries where gay and transgender people face social ostracism.

“If you’re talking about whether LGBT people should be protected from violence, a lot of countries would speak up for that,” he said. “Some countries are more challenging than others. But there’s always room for debate.”

Homosexual activities are illegal in 70 countries, 10 of which treat it as a capital offense.


By            :               Carol Morello

Date         :               June 30, 2016

Source     :               The Washington Post

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