Gender & Human Rights

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Research: 95% Gender Sociology Papers Deny Biological Differences

 

Despite years of research documenting biological differences between men and women, only 5 per cent of the most cited gender sociology papers acknowledge differences exist, a senior sociologist has found.

This, political writer Ivar Arpi argues, is politically motivated in order to push endless social engineering projects. The result of biological differences being almost universally ignored by gender sociologists has a huge effect on the mainstream media, he says.

Sweden’s public broadcaster has even aired as “science” claims that women are shorter than men because parents subconsciously feed their daughters less.

The 2002 release of Stephen Pinker’s The Blank Slate, which reviewed decades of scientific literature, brought the realities of biological differences between the sexes to a huge audience. Despite this, research published last month by Econ Journal Watch (EJW) shows just one out of 20 of the most heavily cited gender studies papers in recent years acknowledges these differences.

Charlotta Stern, deputy chair of Stockholm University’s sociology department, says her findings show gender sociologists exist in “insular communities of highly dubious sacred beliefs and causes”.

These sacred beliefs of gender studies scholars, Stern asserts, revolve around there being only minor biological differences between the sexes, and that any differences in men and women’s behaviour and choices are the result of oppressive social structures.

This is despite researchers from a range of fields including the neurosciences, genetics, anthropology, and developmental psychology having, she writes, “amassed findings of differences in competitiveness, aggression, sexual interest, risk behavior, and many other traits, and differences in brain physiology and neuroimaging, by many different methods and approaches”.

Writing in Svenska Dagbladet about Stern’s research, Arpi points to a documentary aired on public service television as having resulted from sociologists’ blinkered approach to biology.

“Therefore women are shorter than men” was shown on SVT’s flagship science programme and claimed researchers had discovered women were shorter than men, on average, because sexist parents unknowingly give their daughters less food than their sons.

The article accompanying the broadcast claims “new theories suggest that power imbalances and discrimination are behind height differences”.  Anthropologist Paola Tabet is quoted as saying: “It is incredible that we have not discovered this before.”

It argues: “Biologically, the evidence suggests that it should be the opposite, ie that women should be larger than males.” The “evidence” the piece presents is that larger women would mean fewer childbirth risks, and that female blue whales are the largest creatures on Earth.

Arpi contacted Stern to ask why she thinks most people believe differences between the sexes come about almost entirely as a result of culture and social interactions.

The professor replied: “In general, I think that the idea of biological differences has become overly controversial. People have a tendency to be very ‘dichotomous’ in their thinking; when I say there are biological differences, people think that means I am excluding social influences.

“But my point is that we must [study the effects of] both biology and social influences. Sociology has everything to gain from the inclusion of biology in knowledge making.”

Arpi suggests that the reason for ignoring biology is that it might affect policy-making attempts at social engineering.

He writes: “If genes and biology affect people, it also puts some limits to what the policy can hope to achieve. If there is a biological basis for several observable differences between the sexes then one cannot reduce everything to a question of discrimination or power.

“And then that compromises the radical feminist project. The political aim is therefore allowed to obscure scientific achievements in other fields of research.”

Arpi refers to his correspondence with the professor, who told him: “We are stuck in a mindset where our vision of an egalitarian society is one where women and men do all the same things, work in the same occupations, in identical ways, and take equal responsibility for housework and child rearing.”

Given this vision, he says “it’s perhaps not surprising that ideas about biological differences are perceived as a threat”. If the science was taken into account, Arpi concludes that society would be “better able to distinguish between differences and inequality”.

 

By: Virginia Hale
Date: October 26, 2016
Source: Breitbart

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The Case for Legalizing Sex Work

 

Sex work is, as the saying goes, the world’s oldest profession – except that the saying uses “prostitution” instead of “sex work.” The change to a less pejorative term is warranted by a shift in attitudes toward sex workers that contributed to Amnesty International’s decision in May to urge governments to repeal laws criminalizing the exchange of sex for money by consenting adults.

Amnesty International’s appeal was met by a storm of opposition – some of it from people who were evidently failing to distinguish between the sex industry as a whole and the human trafficking that, in many countries, is a tragic part of it. No one wants to legalize coercion, violence, or fraud in the sex industry, or the use of sex workers who are not adults. But some organizations campaigning against trafficking understand that when sex work is illegal, it is much riskier for sex workers to complain to the authorities when they are enslaved, beaten, or cheated. For that reason, the International Secretariat of the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women applauded Amnesty International for supporting decriminalization.

There was also opposition from some feminist organizations, which accused Amnesty of protecting “the rights of pimps and johns.” Instead, they argued, we should “end the demand for paid sex” – but without explaining how this is to be done.

In species that reproduce sexually, sex is, for obvious reasons, one of the strongest and most pervasive desires. Humans are no exception in this respect. In every modern society, humans exchange money or other valued items for things that they desire and could not otherwise obtain. For various reasons, a significant number of people cannot get sex, or sufficient sex, or the kind of sex they want, freely. Unless at least one of these conditions changes, demand for paid sex will continue. I find it hard to see how any of them will change sufficiently to eliminate that demand.

If demand for paid sex is likely to continue, what about the supply? Another response to proposals to decriminalize sex work is that we should instead change the conditions that lead people to sell their bodies. This assumes that only those who lack any other means of supporting themselves would engage in sex for money.

That assumption is a myth. Leaving aside sex workers who want money because they have expensive drug habits, some could get a job in a factory or a fast-food restaurant. Faced with the prospect of monotonous, repetitive work for eight hours a day on an assembly line or flipping hamburgers, they prefer the higher pay and shorter hours that the sex industry offers. Many may not make that choice, but should we make criminals of those who do?

It’s not a crazy choice. Contrary to stereotypes of paid sex, work in a legal brothel is not especially dangerous or hazardous to one’s health. Some sex workers view their profession as involving greater skill and even a more human touch than alternative jobs open to them. They take pride in their ability to give not only physical pleasure, but also emotional support, to needy people who cannot get sex any other way.

If sex work is not going to disappear anytime soon, anyone who cares about the health and safety of sex workers – not to mention their rights – should support moves to make it a fully legal industry. That is what most sex workers want as well. In the same month that decriminalization became Amnesty’s official policy, the conservative government of New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, decided not to regulate that state’s previously legalized sex industry. Jules Kim, the CEO of Scarlet Alliance, the Australian Sex Workers Association, greeted the news with relief, saying that decriminalization had delivered “outstanding outcomes for sex workers’ health and safety.”

The Sex Workers Outreach Project agreed that decriminalization led to better health for sex workers, and enabled them to be covered by the standard features of the labor market, including insurance, occupational health and safety programs, and rules of fair trading. A majority of Australians now live in states that have legalized or decriminalized sex work.

This is consistent with the growing recognition in recent years that the state should be extremely reluctant to criminalize activities freely entered into by consenting adults. Laws against sodomy have been abolished in most secular countries. Physician-assisted dying is legal in an increasing number of jurisdictions. In the United States, there is widespread support for the legalization of marijuana.

The repeal of restrictive legislation has practical benefits, in addition to extending individual liberty. In Colorado, the desire to tax the marijuana industry was a major motivation for legalization. The original impetus for the legalization of the sex industry in New South Wales was an inquiry into police corruption that showed that the sex industry was a major source of police bribes. Legalization ended that in a single stroke.

Countries that criminalize the sex industry should consider the harms these laws cause, as Amnesty International has done. It is time to put aside moralistic prejudices, whether based on religion or an idealistic form of feminism, and do what is in the best interests of sex workers and the public as a whole.

 

By: Peter Singer
Date: November 14, 2016
Source: Project Syndicate
https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/case-for-legalizing-sex-work-by-peter-singer-2016-11

Peter Singer is Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University and Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne. His books include Animal Liberation, Practical Ethics, The Ethics of What We Eat (with Jim Mason), Rethinking Life and Death, The Point of View of the Universe, co-authored with Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek, The Most Good You Can Do, Famine, Affluence, and Morality, and most recently, One World Now and Ethics in the Real World. In 2013, he was named the world’s third “most influential contemporary thinker” by the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute.

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Rethinking care work key to closing gender pay gap

 

Imagine a society where women are not recognised as people. It seems remote from us in Australia, but women’s recognition before the law is relatively recent — particularly the recognition of married women.

Before the late 19th century married women could not hold property. They had no legal standing to sue, and were subject to their husband’s rule over their financial standing and their very bodies. Indigenous women’s full civic participation has been even more recent: where non-Indigenous women made strides in civil rights, Indigenous women remained for a long time subject to state oversight.

For non-Indigenous women, the Married Women’s Property Acts in the 1880s changed everything by recognising married women as people before the law. The Acts were seen as liberating for women, and as a measure of women achieving economic equality with men.

Sadly however, in 2016, women’s economic standing continues to lag behind that of men. This is the case not only for those who can afford to acquire property, but for women in all parts of society. Despite women having the right to education, participate in paid work, and hold property in their own right, several factors stand in the way of women’s economic independence, and consequently, their liberation.

There is a persistent gender pay gap — women across the board earn less than men. Industries in which women work pay less than those in which men work, and in other industries men tend to take higher paid positions where women take lower paid positions.

The gender pay gap flows through to superannuation — if you earn less, you save less super. Time taken out of work for having a child — with paid leave diminishing rather than growing — interrupts women’s progression and inhibits their ability to improve their job prospects, keeping wages down.

Compounding the effect of women’s generally lower pay is their disproportionate unpaid care work. Child rearing and caring for the elderly or infirm leave women less available for paid work. Women therefore tend to take part time or casual jobs, which allow some flexibility to fit in their caring responsibilities.

Otherwise, women rely on childcare or respite care to free them up to work. Of note, childcare remains a ‘women’s issue’, emphasising the nature of caring work as women’s work but also the reality that it predominantly affects women. The workplace has come some way to accommodating the realities of home life through carer’s leave, but generally paid work is based on a model of full time presence.

Where women have fewer economic resources, especially if they have dependent children, they must rely on a partner or the state.

Social change

Civil society requires care work. All of us, at various stages of our lives, will be dependent on others for our daily needs. Most of us will likewise care for others at some point. The challenge is how to allocate caring responsibilities throughout society, while allowing also for the paid work that secures economic independence. At the moment the tacit expectation that women will do unpaid care work — and that men (theoretically) are unburdened by care work — contributes to economic inequality.

There have been attempts to equalise women’s economic outlook. Anti-discrimination laws or sometimes affirmative action laws have attempted to deliver opportunities for women in the workplace. But these laws have done little it seems to address the care work/paid work imbalance. What we need is a fundamental shift in how we allocate care work that shares the burden more effectively.

What if, for example, both men and women worked a maximum number of hours per week in paid employment, and a minimum amount per week in unpaid care work. What if we established social norms, supported by government policies, that changed the way we allocate paid work and caring work. This is the proposal of Canadian legal philosopher, Jennifer Nedelsky.

As the nature of work is itself changing, a transformation that equalised responsibility for caring would even out hierarchies in our outdated model of working life. As Nedelsky argues, care would become explicitly valued, policy-makers would experience caring to understand the issues at stake (and therefore develop better and more responsive policy), and our relationships would be enhanced.

The role of the state in promoting this change is important, requiring various policy measures we currently lack. For example, providing successive parental leave for both parents, including tax breaks for employers, would encourage men and women to take leave. Extended leave would ensure care for babies and small children, and meet the threshold for care work. In Sweden for example, nearly 90 per cent of fathers take paternity leave. It has become a social norm that men are actively engaged in caring for their babies.

While there may be few risks for the affluent of cutting their paid work, those in low paying jobs would suffer, presumably, from a drop in their paid hours each week. For this reason, the state needs to establish a guaranteed minimum income. This is a threshold amount of money, paid regardless of one’s employment status or circumstances. The amount paid would ensure a baseline living standard that supports caring work, and which can be supplemented through paid work.

There are arguments that measuring or putting a value on caring might somehow devalue it as an expression of altruism or love. I reject these arguments. Even as men are increasingly contributing to housework, they still carry the benefit of higher pay and the economic advantages that brings. Until we significantly redistribute care work, and provide recompense for that work, we will not see the economic liberation of women. Nedelsky’s proposal, as radical as it seems, is one way to do that.

 

By: Kate Galloway
Date: November 24, 2016

Kate Galloway is a legal academic with an interest in social justice. This is the latest article in our ongoing series on work.

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Gender pay gap could take 170 years to close, says World Economic Forum

 

Global economic disparity between men and women found to be rising, with levels now similar to during 2008 financial crisis

The authors of a new report forecasting that it could take 170 years to eradicate the disparity in pay and employment opportunities for men and women have called for urgent action to close the gender equality gap.

The report by the World Economic Forum – best known for its high-profile gathering each year in Davos, Switzerland – found that economic disparity between women and men around the world was rising even though the gap was closing on other measures, such as education.

When measured in terms of income and employment, the gender gap has widened in the past four years; at 59%, it is now at a similar level to that seen in the depths of the financial crisis in 2008.

Last year, the WEF predicted it would take 118 years for economic parity to be achieved. This year, the Geneva-based institution has calculated the gap would take until 2186 – 170 years – to close.

Now in its 11th year, the report measures the relative discrepancies between women and men across four key areas: health, education, economy and politics.

The report says: “More than a decade of data has revealed that progress is still too slow for realising the full potential of one half of humanity within our lifetimes.”

The authors, Richard Samans and Saadia Zahidi, said they hoped the report “will serve as a call to action for governments to accelerate gender equality through bolder policymaking, to business to prioritise gender equality as a critical talent and moral imperative, and to all of us to become deeply conscious of the choices we make every day that impact gender equality globally”.

The economic gap is caused by a number of factors, including women being paid almost half of what men receive, working on average 50 minutes a day longer and having a much slimmer chance of reaching senior roles.

Zahidi blamed slower economic growth for keeping women out of the workforce and added that, after making some progress, “we’re now hitting a bit of a wall” in terms of policy changes to help women in the workplace. Automation is affecting jobs in sales and administration – sectors with relatively high levels of female employment.

On an overall scale, including health, education and politics, the gender gap could be closed in 83 years across the 107 countries included in the report since it was originally published in 2006 – which is “just within the statistical lifetime of the baby girls born today”.

Gender gap

Within that overall measure, the education gap could be closed in 10 years, while the inequality in politics – which has the widest gap, despite having closed by 23% – should end in 82 years because of the fast pace of improvement since 2006, when it stood at 14%.

This year, 144 countries are included. Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden are in the top four, while Rwanda makes it in to the top five.

The UK has risen to 20th from 18th place in the overall rankings, well below its top 10 position in 2006.

The UK’s rankings were compiled before Theresa May became prime minister following the vote for Brexit and are affected by a change to the way income is measured, which lifted the cap on estimated income from $40,000 (£32,800) to $75,000. This pushed the UK down in the economic parity ranks by 10 places to 53. As a result, the US is also ranked as less gender equal, falling 17 places to 45.

 

By:           Jill Treanor

Date:        October 25, 2016

Source:    The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/oct/25/gender-pay-gap-170-years-to-close-world-economic-forum-equality

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Why there are no quick economic fixes for women in developing countries

 

Micro loans help small borrowers start or continue enterprises, even if the borrowers cannot put up collateral. Giving such loans to women in developing countries has been widely touted as a way to help them and their families economically – and also boost the social status of women in societies where relations between men and women are very unequal. Do micro loans work to achieve these goals?  Our research looked at this issue in Bangladesh and discovered that it takes more than increments of economic help to improve the social status of women.

Results of a Project Meant to Help Women

Our recently completed research project analyzed data collected as part of the Chronic Poverty and Long Term Impact Study in Bangladesh. Various development initiatives over a 10 year period were examined in this study, which used panel surveys, life-history interviews, and focus groups to learn how programs have influenced family decision making and the control of resources by various household members. Our research focuses specifically on women’s participation in the “fishpond program,” an economic development project implemented in the Jessore District of Bangladesh.

The fishpond program aimed to improve economic wellbeing and nutritional standards for women and their families, and at the same time hoped to empower women and improve their social status. Women in a dozen different villages were offered both technical training and credit to help them develop group fishponds using innovative techniques. The female recipients were selected by a non-governmental organization based on economic need.

As the program unfolded, it was evaluated by researchers who interviewed husbands and wives shortly after the project was launched and again ten years later. Of course the researchers wanted to see if the fishponds improved the economic and nutritional status of families, but in addition they probed how the new economic activities of women grantees influenced their social status. Would their marriages improve as a result of the program?  Would the women report less domestic violence?  Would women come to own a greater share of the marital property after they became more important economic providers?  Would both spouses report that women were more equal partners in their marriage?

The simple answer to the key questions about women’s social status is “no,” it did not visibly improve. In fact, women who participated in the fishpond program actually reported that they ended up with less power in their families – at least as measured by the gap in resources owned by the women compared to men in the same households. There were exceptions. Households that had more equitable relations between men and women before the fishpond program did not experience an increase in male dominance as a result of wives’ participation in the development initiative. Households that were more equitable at the start remained so, while households that entered the fishpond program with higher levels of male-dominance saw a further increase in that male dominance. Not only did the fishpond program fail to change the gender balance of resource ownership; it also had little to no effect on the nutritional status of participating households.

Why Gender Inequalities are Hard to Change

As feminists, we fully share the fishpond program’s aspiration to empower women, but our research suggests that economic interventions alone are insufficient to achieve this goal. We should have anticipated this result, because both of us study gender inequality and one of us (Risman) has done theoretical work illuminating the many ways that gender inequalities are reinforced in all social activities. Gender identities are so socially salient that children are socialized into masculine and feminine selves from birth. By the time they marry, young people have developed a strong sense of what it means to be a good wife or a good husband. In most countries, men learn that being a good husband entails dominance, while women learn that being a good wife requires deference to the “man of the house.” Such dynamics were especially true in our research on Bangladeshi villages. In our data, nearly a quarter of the women reported that their husbands beat them at least occasionally.

Furthermore, gender is more than a set of socially taught personality traits. Widely accepted stereotypes and cultural expectations provide scripts for what it means to be a good wife or a good husband and to act appropriately as a man or woman. Even if women entrepreneurs develop new and more directive personal styles, they are still expected to act like good wives, or else face disapproval from family members. In addition, gender is also culturally embedded in larger belief systems and in widespread cultural practices that establish men’s power and control over resources. In sum, gender inequalities are rooted in complex social systems. Relations between men and women are grounded in the identities boys and girls learn from birth, expectations about how people should interact with one another, and the official rules and cultural norms governing who has control over resources and decision making in every major social institution.

Our research on the fishpond program reveals that if nongovernmental organizations want to empower women in the developing world and improve their overall social status, projects will have to take the realities of socially embedded gender relations far more seriously. There are no magic bullets or easy quick fixes. A project cannot just offer modest new economic resources or opportunities to women and hope thereby to change gender power relations. Women are embedded in marriages where the men may have the acknowledged right to assume control over whatever extra resources come into the household, spending them as they see fit. What is more, husbands may very well resent any gains in economic independence by their wives – and thus redouble their efforts to maintain overall control in the household and marriage.

Does this mean that funding agencies and reformers in developing countries should ignore women’s economic status?  Of course not, but to be effective they need to pay attention to gender identities, marital expectations, and the cultural logics and rules that inhibit women’s full participation in society. Attempts to empower women cannot take shortcuts. Gender equality has to be front and center in any development project. Economic development efforts must be deliberately designed to counter gender inequalities, taking into account the myriad ways those inequalities are produced and reinforced in each social setting and culture.

 

Read more in Barbara J. Risman and William J. Scarborough, “Agricultural Technology and Gender Structure Theory: The Case of Women’s Group-Fishponds in Bangladesh,” (with Catherine Meola), to be presented at the International Sociological Association Forum of Sociology, Vienna, Austria, July 13, 2016.

 

By:           Barbara J. Risman & Wiliam J. Scarborough (University of Illinois at Chicago)

Source:    http://www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org/brief/why-there-are-no-quick-economic-fixes-women-developing-countries

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After Hurricane, Haitian Women Ready to Lead

 

Hurricane Matthew has devastated Haiti, but women are at the forefront of the recovery

The devastation in Haiti following Hurricane Matthew is extreme. According to recent estimates, the hurricane left more than 900 people dead and 2.1 million affected. Ninety percent of some areas of southern Haiti are reportedly destroyed, and the lack of clean drinking water carries threats of a cholera crisis.

Although international media has largely shifted its focus, local, grassroots, women-led groups are actively surveying the situation, working quickly to address the immediate needs of women and children, and standing ready to lead recovery and relief.

“There is so much damage and destruction—houses, plantations, livestock. Everything has disappeared and many people died,” explain Mikelita Jean and Malia Jean, Coordinators of Global Fund for Women grantee partner Association des Femmes Haïtiennes Infectées et Affectées par le VIH (Association of Haitian Women Living With and Affected By HIV, or AFHIAVIH), which was founded in 2007 to empower and meet the unique needs of women and children affected by HIV in Haiti. “People are in the street because even the shelters have been destroyed. Women and girls are the most vulnerable.”

Addressing Immediate Needs

Women on the ground in Haiti emphasize the urgent need for shelter for women and children. They say that children are in the streets naked and exposed to the extreme sun, and women are getting vaginal and bladder infections due to a lack of sanitary conditions, clean water, or clean underwear and clothing.

Evelyne Denis, a nurse who works with Groupe d’Appui au Développement du Sud (Support Group for Development of the South, or GADES), spoke with us from Les Cayes, one of the towns in southern Haiti hardest hit by Hurricane Matthew. In addition to shelter, the biggest need right now, she says, is food and clean drinking water. Evelyne and others are trying to treat the wounded as best they can, with limited medical supplies.

The looming spread of cholera is bringing renewed fear that the situation could worsen. “We face another potentially catastrophic threat, cholera, as the drinking water supply is not clean,” says Elvira Eugene from Global Fund for Women grantee partner Association Femmes Soleil D’Haiti (Sun Women’s Association of Haiti, or AFASDA), which has been building a powerful grassroots movement to advance women’s human rights in Haiti since 1997.

Importance of Grassroots Women’s Groups

Despite the severe destruction from Hurricane Matthew, women in Haiti are ready to lead recovery. Global Fund for Women’s grantee partners are already acting to fill gaps in immediate relief.

These local, women-led groups with deep roots in their communities are in a unique position to assess the damage and effectively address the unique needs of women and children. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, much international aid was misused. But the money that went directly into the hands of local, grassroots women’s groups helped them not only fill gaps in immediate relief but rebuild their communities and empower women in the years that followed.

Women and children are disproportionately affected by crises and can be at increased risk of violence in the aftermath of disasters. Relief workers often overlook women’s health-care needs—like access to sanitary napkins and contraception, and maternal, newborn, and post-natal care..

In Haiti, as after the 2010 earthquake, disaster can pose a severe risk to women in terms of increased sexual violence and erosion of women’s rights. But local women’s groups are able not only to provide women with information on accessing services and shelter, but to educate and empower them about their human rights.

Global Fund for Women’s experience—including over 20 years of grant-making in Haiti—has shown how critical it is that women play leading roles in immediate crisis relief and response, as well as in long-term recovery and rebuilding. Investing directly in local women’s groups in Haiti is absolutely critical following Hurricane Matthew.

Women as Leading Actors

Global Fund for Women’s grantee partners are already on the frontlines of immediate relief and recovery, with an eye toward the acute needs of women and children.

“We have collected a list of cases to help KOFAVIV members find their families in extremely difficult circumstances,” explains Josie Philistin from KOFAVIV, the Commission of Women Victims for Victims, which a group of rape survivors formed in 2004 to meet the needs of thousands of women and children who have survived sexual violence and slavery. “Through our call center, a free national hotline, we receive calls requesting aid for prevention and control against cholera and violence, as well as for assistance with hygiene kits and basic supplies.”

These women activists are developing plans of action to ensure that funding is used most effectively to get services and assistance to those who need it most. For instance, Nadine Louis, executive director of Foundation TOYA, which operates a girls club in Les Cayes, shared that they are focusing on girls’ needs, ensuring their safety, and helping them to get back to school, as most schools have been damaged and remain closed.

“Girls, after any disaster, are usually the last to receive the help or attention they need. All too often, they become victims,” expressed Nadine. “Funding will help us ensure that girls have access to [Foundation TOYA’s] girls’ center in Les Cayes, have school supplies, and have safe spaces to go as rehabilitation efforts begin.”

Filling the Gap

It is critical to fill the gap in funding to ensure that money and attention goes directly to these grassroots women’s groups—and that they are trusted to use the money as only they know best. Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere and largely dependent on international aid, which often does not reach the grassroots or women’s groups.

“Women’s groups desperately need funding,” explains Global Fund for Women’s advisor Tania Pierre-Charles in Port-au-Prince. She added that money will “make a world of difference for grassroots organizations to be able to recover their work space and resume the provision of their vital services to women and girls at this critical time.”

Courageous women in Haiti are ready to lead short-term relief, and they’ll be there rebuilding long after international aid efforts have left. It’s time for the international community to spotlight the courage and resilience of women in Haiti, and invest in them as the powerful leaders and changemakers they are—now more than ever.

 

Anna Tenuta is the campaigns & communications manager for the Global Fund for Women.

 

By:           Anna Tenuta

Date:        October 18, 2016

Source:    Foreign Policy in Focus

http://fpif.org/hurricane-haitian-women-ready-lead/

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On Egypt border, mixed gender troops fight old ideas and new foes

 

With nightly drug smugglings and threat of IS, the women and men of the Caracal Battalion are on alert for anything coming from Sinai

While the country’s — and world’s — eyes have been focused on Israel’s borders with Syria, Lebanon and Gaza, it is the Sinai border that is unequivocally the most active.

On an almost nightly basis, Egyptian smugglers, most of them Bedouin, come to the 125-mile (200-kilometer) border fence to toss bags of contraband to their Israeli counterparts, who collect the goods in ATVs or — on a big night, in trucks — and bring them back for distribution, soldiers serving on the border told The Times of Israel.

But while stopping drug runners is almost routine, the real threat from Sinai is the Islamic State group, which is currently occupied in a vicious war with Egyptian forces, but is expected one day to turn its eyes to the Jewish state.

The people addressing that threat on the Sinai border are the men and women of the Caracal Battalion, one of the IDF’s three — soon to be four — mixed-gender combat battalions.

While the smugglers they face on an almost daily basis generally do not have ties to terror groups, they are often far from peaceful. They have routinely opened fire indiscriminately when confronted by Israeli troops, forcing them to take cover while the smugglers make their escape.

Earlier this year, Sgt. Anna Zagoda’s unit learned that lesson all too well. Her squad had suspected something was up when a Land Cruiser SUV zipped past their jeep near the border fence at 8:30 p.m. on the night of Holocaust Remembrance Day, May 4, miles from the closest town.

“It was clear to me that this wasn’t normal,” she said.

After the SUV sped by them, the unit’s vehicle — a lightly armored vehicle known as a David — was suddenly sprayed with “massive” machine gun fire from the Egyptian side of the border.

Judging by the size of the SUV on the Israeli side of the border, it seems the squad from the co-ed Caracal Battalion had interrupted a large smuggling attempt.

It wasn’t entirely a surprise. They’d gotten some advanced intelligence telling them that something might happen that night.

As the squad was pounded with bullets, the soldiers took cover and radioed in the details, she said.

She passed along the message to the unit’s control center in Nitzana, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of the Gaza Strip, which contacted the Egyptian side, said Zagoda, who has since gotten out of the army.

Egyptian police promptly sped over and arrested the criminals.

According to Lt. Shir Shachar, who leads a team of tatzpitaniyot, or watchers in Hebrew, that monitors the border through closed circuit security cameras placed along the fence, these smuggling attempts happen “something like five times a week,” if not “once a day.”

Some of these occur before Israeli forces can make it to the area in order to prevent them, while others play out much in the same way as the Caracal unit’s encounter — a “shower” of bullets, but everyone coming out unscathed.

Though not all of them end without injury. In October 2014, a different Caracal patrol, commanded by Cpt. Or Ben-Yehuda, came under fire from both machine guns and an anti-tank missile. Ben-Yehuda, along with another soldier, were wounded in the attack. Three of the assailants were killed.

Ben-Yehuda, who continued to command her troops after she was injured, was later awarded with a citation from the then-head of the Southern Command Maj. Gen. Sami Turgeman.

The first line of defense are those tatzpitaniyot, who have to be constantly vigilant and mentally strong, Shachar said. They scan the border for terrorist infiltrations and smuggling attempts, and they watch other soldiers confront the attackers and criminals — like in the case of Ben-Yehuda’s unit — while incapable of directly affecting the outcome.

“It’s not easy in the beginning,” Shachar said. “It’s not easy in the end either.”

 War on Drugs

For nearly a decade, the men and women of the Caracal Battalion have been guarding the Sinai border.

Up until 2013, the Egyptian-Israeli border was something out of the Wild West — a sprawling desert with ample room for the smuggling of drugs, weapons, cigarettes and sex slaves.

The base at Nitzana still fits that Wild West backdrop. It’s dusty and full of flies. A stray dog sleeps in the shade of the stairwell in the building where Shachar’s tatzpitaniyotoperate.

Today, the situation on the border is tense and active with drug smuggling, but it’s been free of terror attacks for more than four years, after a number of incidents in the years prior.

Following an insurgency in the Sinai, terrorists carried out multiple attacks against Israel in 2011 and 2012. In one multi-staged attack in August 2011, six Israeli civilians, an IDF soldier and a counter-terrorism police officer were killed.

Prior to 2013, African migrants, many of them fleeing oppressive and violent regimes, also entered Israel by the thousands through the porous border.

In response, Israel constructed the nearly 20-foot tall barrier, which was completed in January 2013.

The new steel fence sent the price of hashish in Israel soaring and stemmed the flow of African migrants almost completely, from thousands each year to dozens.

But while vast quantities of marijuana and other drugs could no longer make it across the border, some intrepid entrepreneurs from Sinai still smuggle illicit products — like heroin — into Israel.

A video released on Arab media in late July shows the ease with which this can be accomplished.

Smugglers on the Israeli side arrive at the scene. Their Egyptian counterparts come up to the fence and toss over bundles of contraband. The Israelis grab them and then hightail it out of there.

On Tuesday, Egyptian security forces believed that 15-year-old Nimer Bassem Abu Amar, a civilian contractor who had been working on the security fence between Israel and Sinai, had been such a smuggler and shot him dead, according to an initial investigation.

If an IDF patrol can stop a smuggling attempt, it does. But it’s not the army’s main goal, that’s the domain of the Israel Police. And commanders like Zagoda are neither inclined — nor expected — to sacrifice their soldiers’ lives over heroin.

“I don’t want a soldier to die for drugs,” the sergeant said.

Fighting terrorists

But of course drugs aren’t the real risk on the Sinai border — terrorists are, according to Maj. Shachar Nachmi, deputy commander of the Caracal Battalion.

In August 2012, a group of terrorists from Sinai ambushed an Egyptian base, killing some 16 soldiers and making off with two armored personnel carriers, which they used to ram through the Kerem Shalom crossing.

One APC exploded near the crossing, while the second made it approximately 1.25 miles (2 kilometers) inside Israel, sustaining attacks from infantrymen and tanks, before it was stopped by an Israeli Air Force missile.

A month later, three Egyptian terrorists from Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, which would later become the Islamic State’s affiliate in Sinai, attacked a group of Israeli soldiers stationed near Mount Harif, the area along the border where Nimer Bassem Abu Amar, the 15-year-old contractor, was killed Tuesday.

They were armed with explosives, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and AK-47 assault rifles. In the resulting firefight, the three terrorists were killed, along with an IDF soldier. A second Israel trooper was moderately wounded.

Since then Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, which renamed itself Wilayat Sinai in 2014, has been engaged in a vicious war with the Egyptian military, resulting in relative calm along the border. However, the bombing of a Russian airplane last year, for which Wilayat Sinai claimed credit, showed that the group was not to be discounted. The IDF has said it expects the terrorist group will eventually take another shot at Israel.

“The border is now threatened by Daesh,” Nachmi said, using the Arabic term for the Islamic State.

Another Israeli official, speaking to the British Telegraph newspaper last month, warned: “It could happen today, tomorrow, in a month but within the next six months we will come into an engagement with Wilayat Sinai.”

And that is precisely what the Caracal soldiers are preparing to defend against.

“The reason why we deal with smugglings so much is so they won’t become terror,” Zagoda said. “A place that can be used for smuggling is a place that can also be used to infiltrate.”

In addition, something that starts out as a criminal smuggling attempt can easily turn into a much more serious security threat, as Capt. Or Ben-Yehuda discovered in 2014.

“You don’t know how it will develop. In an HTA (hostile terrorist activity), the letters H-T-A aren’t going to be written on their foreheads,” Zagoda said. “So you always need to be ready. You need to be ready for the time their sacks are full of explosives and not just drugs.”

Accepting female comrade in arms

The Caracal Battalion has been guarding on the Egyptian border since 2007. Last year another mixed-gender battalion, the Lions of the Jordan Battalion, or Ariyot Hayarden in Hebrew, took up positions along the Jordan Valley.

Within the next year a third co-ed battalion, known as Cheetah, or Bardelas, which was first created in 2015, will guard the borders of the Arava Desert in southern Israel.

The mixed-gender units are approximately 65 percent female and 35% male, Nachmi said.

Soon the country’s two longest borders — with Egyptian and Jordan — will be defended almost exclusively by these mixed-gender, but mostly female, battalions. This is part of a growing trend of female combat soldiers taking over duties that were previously carried out by the IDF’s infantry brigades — Golani, Paratroopers, Givati and others.

Under IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, the IDF has been working to cut away its inefficiencies and hone itself into a lean, mean fighting machine.

One place it found to streamline was on the borders, where lighter combat units, which have lighter physical demands and less training, could replace the more “valuable” heavy infantry units, which could in turn focus on the more imminent threats to national security coming from Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank.

This move has not been without controversy.

There are some very real concerns about replacing infantry units, which have objectively higher degrees of training and physical requirements, with combat units that have some lower standards. The army has responded by noting that while there is some impact on operational capability, it only has a finite number of resources and needs to use them to their fullest effect.

But much of the criticism against these units also deals with more tenuous and subjective issues like morale and group dynamics.

“The men who are assigned to these units lose their morale. They take off the tags identifying their unit when they come home because they’re embarrassed to serve there,” Raz Sagi, a former IDF officer and researcher who speaks often against the concept of female combat soldiers, told Israel National News.

However, male soldiers serving in Caracal on the border denied any discomfort from having female comrades in arms.

“I can totally trust my female comrades who I was with in training and on the border. There’s no difference. Just like I can carry for them, they can carry for me,” a male soldier, who served under Zagoda during the incident on Holocaust Remembrance Day, said.

Nachmi, the deputy commander of Caracal, agreed with his male soldier’s view, saying the unit had no real morale problems related to gender.

The soldier, who asked not to be named for privacy reasons, said that while he was initially skeptical of female soldiers, once he actually started training alongside them he was “surprised” to see how physically capable they were and now thinks that men and women should always train alongside one another.

The concept of female combat soldiers predates Eisenkot, but has been ramped up since he took over as army chief in early 2015.

Caracal was formed in 2004, expanding on an experimental company formed in 2000. Until 2012, the number of female soldiers serving in the mixed-gender combat unit hovered at approximately 500. In 2013, it jumped up to nearly 900.

When the army opened the Lions of the Jordan Battalion, which meant additional positions were available, the number of women serving in combat units reached 1,365. And with the creation of Cheetah Battalion last year, the number of female combat soldiers passed 2,000, and it is soon expected to reach 2,100, the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported in August.

That represents a 400% increase in the number of female combat soldiers within four years, and it’s not over yet.

A fourth co-ed battalion is slated to be created in the next year. Its name has yet to be revealed, but considering the names of the other three mixed-gender units are all cats native to the Middle East, a Panther Battalion certainly wouldn’t be out of the question.

 

By:           Judah Ari Gross

Date:        October 30, 2016

Source:    The Times of Israel

http://www.timesofisrael.com/on-egypt-border-mixed-gender-troops-fight-old-ideas-and-new-foes/

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The Human Right That Keeps on Giving

 

NEW DELHI – In Côte d’Ivoire, I once met a boy working on a cocoa farm whose only dream was someday to taste the rich brown chocolate he helped produce. And in Pakistan, I once rescued a boy who sewed footballs and wished only to play with the product of his work.

In the course of more than three decades of defending children’s rights – including rescuing tens of thousands of children from bonded labor and slavery, among them little girls who were trafficked from their homeland for sexual exploitation – I have met young people from many backgrounds. But, whether they are child laborers or victims of war who have lost everything, all have something in common: an indomitable urge to study. They want nothing more than to pick up a book, go to school, and improve their lives through education.

According to UNESCO, every additional year of schooling a young person receives increases their average future earnings by 10%, and can boost countries’ average annual GDP growth by 0.37%. Education doesn’t only break the shackles of human slavery; it can also fuel social, economic, and political change.

Recognition of education’s importance is enshrined in many United Nations treaties and international declarations, and in the constitutions of its member countries. Education is not just a fundamental human right, but also an enabling right – essential for the exercise of all others. With such a powerful tool available to us, we should be doing whatever we can to use it.

To that end, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Malawian President Peter Mutharika, and UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova have convened the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity.

Chaired by United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown, the Education Commission (as it is more widely known) brings together a committed and diverse group of experienced individuals who share a belief in the importance of accessible schools for all. I am both proud and humbled to be a member of the Commission, which has developed a bold agenda to turn today’s global youth into a “learning generation.”

Currently, millions of children are being denied quality education, and 263 million children are out of school worldwide – including 63 million in conflict zones and another 30 million who have disabilities. Millions cannot go to school because they are trapped in child labor and slavery, fueling a lifelong cycle of poverty and illiteracy. Poor children who are forced to perform unskilled repetitive tasks fail to learn anything else, which erodes their future employability and puts them on a path toward continued hardship in adulthood. Only education can stop this cycle and give children the means to secure a future free from exploitation.

Meanwhile, 600 million children who are in school are missing out on the full benefits of education because they are not learning basic skills. Young people who haven’t learned the skills they need to participate in the global economy are becoming disillusioned, which makes them more likely to find outlets in extremism or crime.

These numbers tell a story of education in crisis. But it’s worth mentioning that in 2000 the total number of out-of-school children was almost one-quarter higher, at 374 million, than it is today. This improvement proves that we can still build a better, more equitable, and sustainable world through education.

Fortunately, many countries are now implementing sound policies to do just that, including abolishing school fees, starting school meal programs, and using cash transfers to provide educational opportunities in poor communities. Moreover, at the international level, the fourth UN Sustainable Development Goal encapsulates a new commitment by member countries to ensure inclusive, quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all people by 2030.

SDG 4 is ambitious, but achieving it is imperative if the world is to meet the other 16 SDGs. The Education Commission’s new report, “The Learning Generation: Investing in Education for a Changing World,” recommends a targeted approach and greater investment aimed at the hardest-to-reach children – those who are in child labor, suffering from disabilities, affected by conflicts, or excluded from education simply because they are girls.

The Education Commission proposes a strategy that fosters empathetic, compassionate, and respectful youth leaders who can show their peers that peace and innovation are worthy alternatives to fundamentalism and extremism. And, because education is ultimately a public good furnished by states, we advise governments to increase their investment in schools, either with domestic resources, international support, or private-sector partnerships.

The Education Commission’s report was presented to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at this month’s UN General Assembly summit, and we hope that world leaders will take notice and begin to translate its recommendations into action.

A childhood without education isn’t a childhood at all, and every youth who is out of school is one too many. We must act urgently to provide universal primary education by 2030. Creating a “learning generation” is a moral responsibility we all share – and a legacy all subsequent generations will carry on if we can just take the first, crucial steps.

 

Kailash Satyarthi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is Honorary President of the Global March Against Child Labour and the founder of Bachpan Bachao Andolan.

 

By           :               Kailash Satyarthi

Date       :               September 21, 2016

Source    :               Project Syndicate

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/education-child-labor-human-rights-by-kailash-satyarthi-2016-09

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Gender pay gap to remain until 2069, report says

 

The gender pay gap in the UK will not close until 2069 based on current salary progression, research suggests.

Accountancy firm Deloitte said the hourly pay gap between men and women of 9.4%, or about £1.30, was narrowing by just two-and-a-half pence a year.

It also found men were paid more than women at the start of their careers.

It said more women should be encouraged into science and technology jobs, where salaries are more balanced but women make up just 14.4% of the workforce.

The Deloitte analysis, based on data from the Office for National Statistics, found women earn an average of 8% less in graduate starting salaries than their male counterparts across all science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects combined.

This compares with 9% less across all other industries.

Career paths

Among those professions with the most pronounced difference was health care, where women earned £24,000 on average in graduate starting salaries, compared with £28,000 for men – a difference of 14%, the report said.

But the Deloitte report showed there was no pay gap in starting salaries across medicine, dentistry, engineering and technology.

It added it was “too simplistic to explain the gender pay gap in terms of pay inequality”, and that it was party due to differences in career paths, which are affected by academic choices and the subjects that each gender studies.

Emma Codd, managing partner for talent at Deloitte, said it was known that jobs demanding a “blend of cognitive, social and technical skills” were typically among the most highly paid, with pay inequality less in STEM-related roles.

“Therefore, if more women study STEM subjects and pursue related careers, they will increase their earnings potential in the early years of their working lives and, should they remain in their careers, the later ones,” she said.

“This in turn should serve to reduce the gender pay gap. A great deal of progress has been made in the past half century, but we should not wait another 53 years for full parity.”

Role models

Speaking to BBC Radio Four’s Today programme, Helen Byrne, a mathematical biologist at the University of Oxford, said it was important for women to have role models in the STEM professions.

She added: “I think often children in schools don’t really understand what it’s like to be a maths professor.

“How can you use your maths, physics, chemistry, different disciplines, what does that look like?

“What I do isn’t what I imagined a mathematician did when I was at school. It’s much more fun.”

A government spokeswoman said: “The gender pay gap is the lowest on record but we are committed to eliminating it completely in a generation.

“We’re taking action to require businesses to publish their gender pay gaps for the first time ever from April next year and we agree that getting more girls into STEM subjects can play a part.

“We are continuing to encourage more girls to study these subjects and last year, 12,500 more girls sat A-Levels in STEM subjects compared to 2010.”

 

Date         :               September 24, 2016

Source     :               BBC

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-37460778

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Somali elections: much at stake for gender representation

 

“The clan-based formula will be used in the October elections, and is a real risk that the constitutional 30% gender threshold might be undermined.”

In May this year, Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud issued a decree legalising the presidential elections set to take place on 30 October, after the elections for the lower and upper houses of Parliament, which take place on 24 and 25 September.

The electoral process is based on the provisional constitution, which was adopted in 2012, and aims to ensure that the terms of the current president and Parliament are not extended. Although the current presidential term expired on 10 September, it seems an extension has been agreed upon up to the time of elections.

Universal suffrage – based on one vote for every voting-eligible man and woman – will not be used in the upcoming election. Rather, the so-called 4.5 clan-based formula will be used to determine the delegates who will vote for the lower House, while the regional states will select the members to the upper House. The collegiate system, which combines the traditional clan-based system and geographical voting, means that the process can be more accurately described as a selection, rather than an election process.

The constitution currently stipulates that women need to make up at least 30% of the seats in Parliament. There are no policies or laws in place to protect this quota, however, and the upcoming elections therefore place women’s representation at risk.

A number of National Leadership Forums (NLF) of Somali national and regional leaders took place earlier this year to determine modalities for the elections. The latest one was held in August in Mogadishu. Some of the issues discussed included the need to finalise the constitutional review process, and to establish political parties as a future alternative to the clan-based formula. Integrating women in elections and public affairs was also part of the agenda, with traditional leaders and electoral colleges being urged to ensure that women comprise 30% of the delegates to elect the lower and upper houses.Each of the four main clans – the Hawiye, Darood, Dir and Rahanwein – were urged to ensure that they each had 18 female representatives, while the fifth clan – made up of a coalition of minority clans – should have nine. It was also proposed that clans’ nominations to the Upper House comprise 50% women. In addition, a 50% reduction of candidates’ fees for women was also recommended as an affirmative action initiative meant to break barriers for women and to encourage female candidates.

If these propositions were to be implemented, Somalia would have a commendable gender representation of about 81 women in Parliament. However, these are mere proposals, and their validity and authority remain doubtful given that real power continues to be held by traditional clan and religious leaders.

Although the provisional constitution allows for universal suffrage, implementing it has been hindered by failure to reach agreement on the election formula. Elites in Mogadishu favour the clan-based formula, which is advantageous to the current president – while the regional authorities support a district-based election formula, which favours the Darood clan in particular.

There are looming fears that even with a set date, the possibility of polls being delayed cannot be ruled out. To date, the 30% gender quota stipulated in the provisional constitution has not been realised. Women currently hold 39 out of the 275 parliamentary seats; a meagre 14%. This has largely been attributed to the lack of a mechanism to implement the quota system, combined with male-dominated traditional cultural norms.

This has been made worse by the excessive powers vested in the traditional leaders and religious scholars under the framework of the 4.5 clan formula – in which a group of elders elect members of the bicameral legislature at the National Constituent Assembly.

To be successful, candidates need to lobby for endorsement from not only the four main clans, but also the clan elders and religious scholars who wield immense traditional and cultural powers. It is during this process of lobbying that voter manipulation is bound to arise; including the side-lining of women.

The system has been criticised for its vulnerability, lack of transparency and lack of consideration for women and minority clans. Coupled with the need for viable institutions and a persistent failure to reach agreement on the rules of the game, it is easy to see how many factors work against the 30% gender quota.

Regardless of these challenges, Somali women remain optimistic and resilient. There is even a female presidential candidate, Fatumo Dayib, who has vowed to soldier on in the face of death threats and other challenges.

Fatumo even said she would enter into dialogue with al-Shabaab if elected. She is an example of how Somali women have played a significant role throughout their country’s history – even if in the background. Somali women have taken part in the various peace processes; from Arte in Djibouti to Mbagathi in Kenya, yet they continue to be victims of certain damaging cultural practices.

Women have particularly borne the brunt of the protracted conflict in the country, but continue to play a strong role as mothers, caregivers and protectors in their families.

Their resilience in the face of adversity makes them critical actors. Somali society should acknowledge this, and not allow women to be subjugated to the whims of clan and religious leaders.

Despite criticism, the election model to be used offers more diversity and inclusivity. The number of clan leaders who participate in the selection process has increased; along with greater inclusion of women, diaspora members and minority clans. This has created a sense of optimism about the upcoming elections, given the country’s long history of conflict and the general lack of democratic governance institutions and structures.

Achieving gender equity and equality remains a primary goal. The adoption of the national gender policy albeit with criticism from religious scholars, is a positive initiative. Public debate and awareness campaigns should be conducted to challenge negative traditional cultural narratives, and misinterpretation of Islamic teachings that lock women out of elective public and political leadership roles.

Given that the clan-based formula will be used in the October elections, there is a real risk that the constitutional 30% gender threshold might be undermined. Consolidating the constitutional gains for women in Somalia requires bold resolve to adopt enabling policies. President Mohamud ought to decree these in order to leave a legacy for the empowerment of Somali women. – ISS

 

Hawa Noor, Research Consultant and Peter Aling’o, Office Director and Senior Researcher, Governance, Crime and Justice Division, ISS Nairobi

 

Date         :               September 25, 2016

Source     :               Mail & Guardian Africa

http://mgafrica.com/article/2016-09-25-somali-elections-much-at-stake-for-gender-representation/

Posted in Gender and Human Rights, Latest Post, Politics | Leave a comment
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