Gender & Human Rights

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The Female Resistance

 

WARSAW – Antagonism is mounting between today’s right-wing populists and a somewhat unexpected but formidable opponent: women. In the United States, much like in Poland, women’s rights have been among the first targets of attack by populist leaders. Women are not taking it lying down.

Traditional conservatism in the West has largely come to terms with the need to grant women broad reproductive freedom. Today’s right-wing populist administrations, by contrast, are downright pre-modern in this regard, attempting to reverse reforms championed not just by the left – and long accepted by the conventional right.

It is no secret that the mainstream consensus is a source of contempt – and success – for the modern populist, and not just on women’s rights. Donald Trump’s first acts as US President show an eagerness to reject longstanding norms in many other areas as well, including foreign affairs and economic policy.

But it is the attack on women’s rights that is receiving the most powerful pushback. Poland’s de facto leader, Jarosław Kaczyński, has retreated politically only once since his party’s return to power in 2015. Last October, when thousands of women of all ages took to the streets in the “black protest,” his government was forced to withdraw from its plan to introduce a total ban on abortion. (Under the current law, abortion is allowed in the event of rape, severe fetal defects, or a threat to the health of the mother.)

Similarly, of all the sources of opposition to Trump, only women have been able to organize quickly and efficiently. Last month’s Women’s March on Washington boasted a turnout some three times larger than Trump’s own inauguration the previous day. In other words, Trump began his term with a symbolic defeat at the hands of American women.

Trump’s subsequent reinstatement of the “global gag rule,” which undermines women’s health in developing countries by defunding organizations that provide abortion counseling, could not obscure that loss, nor could his pledges to defund Planned Parenthood, which offers reproductive-health services in the US. Instead, women continued to resist – for example, by creating the #DressLikeAWoman hashtag on Twitter, to shine a spotlight on Trump’s sexist demand of female staffers.

As women have stood in the path of the populists, mainstream political leaders and parties have practically cowered; unsurprisingly, they continue to lose ground. But women have not been entirely alone. NGOs and other kinds of social movements have also stepped up. Even the media have helped the cause; though they are not accustomed to such a blatantly political role, circumstances – such as Trump’s “war” on them – have forced their hand.

The composition of the resistance actually makes considerable sense. Right-wing populism is, at its core, an attack on liberalism, not necessarily on democracy. Separation of powers, a free press, an independent judiciary, and free trade are liberal ideals; they are not democratic. Women have stood above the rest in the opposition, because they are, in many ways, the antithesis of right-wing populism, support for which comes primarily from poorly educated white men – the demographic cohort with the least comprehension of feminism.

The question now is whether women can win the battle against the populists. While the answer is not yet clear, they do have a few powerful weapons in their arsenal.

For starters, women are more numerous than any other single social group, including blacks, Latinos, the left, the right, liberals, conservatives, Catholics, and Protestants. There are more women than there are white men in the US – or in Poland, for that matter. And, most important, women far outnumber populists. (Women must fight for their rights as if they were a minority, though they are a majority, and as if they lacked human capital, though, in the West, they tend to be better educated than men.)

Moreover, women are everywhere, and discrimination, to varying degrees, is part of all women’s experiences. This makes women something of a revolutionary class, in the Marxist sense.It also makes it relatively easy for women to build solidarity.

During Poland’s black protest, thousands more people protested in solidarity, from Berlin (where several thousand took to the streets) to Kenya (where about 100 people demonstrated). During the Women’s March on Washington, up to two million people marched in solidarity around the world. Clearly, women are a global force. Who better, then, to resist the likes of Trump, Kaczyński, and other right-wing populists, as they launch an assault on globalism?

Perhaps the most important weapon in women’s arsenal is that they are unashamed. While the twentieth century was characterized by discipline through fear, the twenty-first century has been characterized by repression through shame. Unlike fear, shame can be hidden – and that’s the point.

Whereas one can feel fear without losing one’s dignity, shame arises from feelings of inferiority. That is what women are rejecting in their anti-populist protests. Defending the rights of women to choose whether to have an abortion – particularly in places where abortion is still relatively accessible – amounts to defending women’s dignity and autonomy.

Mainstream political parties, however, still experience shame, as do other traditional organizations like trade unions. They have scruples, and are concerned about how they are perceived. That makes them poorly equipped to stand up to the most shameless group of all: the populists.

The likes of Kaczyński and Trump have benefited massively from their lack of shame, saying and doing whatever wins them the support of their political base. But women aren’t having it. They are throwing off the shackles of the shame that has long been used to repress them, and fighting fire with fire. Can the populists take the heat?

 

Sławomir Sierakowski, founder of the Krytyka Polityczna movement, is Director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Warsaw.

 

Date       :               February 7, 2017

Author    :               Sławomir Sierakowski

Source    :               Project Syndicate

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/populist-war-on-women-resistance-by-slawomir-sierakowski-2017-02

 

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Gender Empowerment: Re-Writing The Agenda And Changing The Narrative

 

All over the world, numerous campaigns and interventions have been instituted by government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to fight gender inequality. Gender inequality affects women the most and spans across different spheres of human life: education, work, health care, sexual violence, representation in political and economic discourse, opinion, marriage, social status and access to property among many others.

The latter indeed justifies the need for carefully-thought “women/girls’ empowerment” initiatives.

It is undeniable that women have a critical role to play in sustainable development. However, over the years, the narrative for the “women empowerment” movement has been one-sided. Men are merely regarded as chauvinists and anti-women. Women empowerment campaigners and various government interventions have failed to see men as collaborators. But how far could we go with this same old narrative of inequality against women where men are regarded as chauvinists and anti-women instead of collaborating with them to push forward this issue of women’s rights?

Women’s rights are human rights – and for that matter everybody’s right. Gender equality is a human right and achieving it means doing away with society’s rigid ideas and notions about what it means to be a woman. That also means getting rid of the limitations that surround what it means to be a man.

The United Nation’s Development Program’s Gender Inequality Index (GII) shows that some good strides have been made in women/girls’ education. About two thirds of countries in the developing regions – that is to say much of Africa – have achieved gender parity in primary education. In the area of women’s representation in parliament, many African countries lag behind but for Rwanda, Senegal and Angola being somehow the exceptions, recording 57.5%, 42.7% and 36.85% of the parliamentary seats being held by women, in that respective order.

Other Numbers To Watch

In Southern Asia, only 74 girls were enrolled in primary school for every 100 boys in 1990. By 2012, the enrolment ratios were the same for girls as for boys. Women in North Africa hold less than one in five paid jobs in the non-agricultural sector. The proportion of women in paid employment outside the agriculture sector has increased from 35% in 1990 to 41% in 2015. In 46 countries, women now hold more than 30 per cent of seats in national parliaments in at least one chamber.

The numbers indicate some success, though somewhat limited. But sadly the feminist agenda has more or less now been reduced to an attack on gender roles and lacking in the idea that men could be partners in building a consensus towards fighting gender inequality. Feminist movements and women campaigns must begin to rethink what gender equality means. They must endeavour to involve men in their fights against women and girls’ marginalisation.

Some Recommendations

It’s about time we did more than joining in the women empowerment choruses and campaigns. A comprehensive approach is needed to increase women’s participation in power and decision-making processes. The media could be used as a platform where women constructively take part in crucial policy discussions by writing, speaking and engaging in dialogues that contribute to policy making.

A good example is The Stanzers, a not-for-profit media organisation focusing on gender policy, research and public awareness and is working towards bridging the gender gap in media. This online media platform assembles African women’s insights and perspectives mainly in writing on the following themes: business and economy, politics and governance, science and technology, culture and society. This shows some progress in getting women’s voices heard.

We also need to have more women in politics and governance. Let’s offer constructive criticism rather than destructive ones that discourage women from contesting political as well as public offices. “The idea of being a feminist: so many women have come to this idea of it being anti-male and not able to connect with the opposite sex, but what feminism is about is equality and human rights. For me that is just an essential part of my identity,” as US actor Lena Dunham said.

We ought to also move away from the conventional thinking that it isn’t for women to own property or invest in businesses unlike their male counterparts. Women should begin to see having a business as a future investment to make life better. And so I implore that their access to loans and other forms of capital be made easy and simple.

In addition, government should make business registration processes much simpler than they currently are. I suggest the whole process be made digital so that everyone – both men and women, nursing mothers and even young girls alike, are more enthused about starting a business.

To achieve all of the above, there is a need for a paradigm shift in the entire educational system. The contents need to be redesigned such that from the very onset, people appreciate the need for equal opportunity for all without any prejudice or being gender biased.

 

Date         :               February 8, 2017

Author      :               Elorm Esi Abusah

Source     :               The Huffington Post

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New Book: Cross-National Public Opinion about Homosexuality

 

Examining Attitudes across the Globe

Author             :           Professor Amy Adamczyk (John Jay College of Criminal Justice)

Publisher         :           University of California Press

Date                :           January 2017

Source             :           University of California Press

http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520288768

Public opinion about homosexuality varies substantially around the world. While residents in some nations have embraced gay rights as human rights, people in many other countries find homosexuality unacceptable. What creates such big differences in attitudes? This book shows that cross-national differences in opinion can be explained by the strength of democratic institutions, the level of economic development, and the religious context of the places where people live. Amy Adamczyk uses survey data from almost ninety societies, case studies of various countries, content analysis of newspaper articles, and in-depth interviews to examine how demographic and individual characteristics influence acceptance of homosexuality.

Reviews

“Conversation around the topic of diversity has never been more timely on college campuses, and Professor Adamczyk takes up the important subject of sexual diversity, offering a wide-ranging portrait of attitudes about same-sex relationships on a global scale. For graduate and undergraduate students interested in gay rights and sexual identity, Adamczyk’s new book offers an essential window into how religion, politics, and economic development affect public opinion on these topics, and will surely spark passionate campus conversation about her findings.”
—Donna Freitas, author of Sex and the Soul

“In this groundbreaking book, Adamczyk has undertaken the daunting task of unraveling the complex dynamics shaping public opinion about same-sex relationships. She provides a rich theoretical understanding of the macro forces influencing attitudes and impressively integrates multiple types of methods and data to assess these ideas. A major contribution to cross-national public opinion research that I highly recommend.”
—Christian Smith, University of Notre Dame

“Few studies have explored change in attitudes toward homosexuality on a global scale. Adamczyk’s mixed-methods approach and breadth of case studies, as well as her original and stimulating treatment of her materials, make for an ambitious and timely work that offers an important contribution to the scholarly community.”
—Phillip M. Ayoub, author of When States Come Out

“Adamczyk has written the most comprehensive contemporary study on disapproval of homosexuality. She takes into account multidisciplinary theoretical insights on individual as well as contextual determinants to provide a worldwide readership with enlightening overviews on controversial issues.”
—Peer Scheepers, Radboud University

“Drawing from a wealth of quantitative and qualitative cross-national data, Adamczyk provides an illuminating analysis of cross-national patterns in attitudes toward homosexuality. This highly informative book is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the societal roots of sexual prejudice and tolerance in the twenty-first century. I strongly recommend it.”
—Gregory M. Herek, University of California, Davis

“True cross-national studies of public opinion are rare, and even rarer still are those that take religious differences seriously.  Adamczyk explores the diversity and sources of opinions among Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, and Confucian/Buddhist majority countries.  I recommend this book highly to those interested in the intersection of religion and the politics of sexuality, and of those interested in comparative public opinion more broadly.”
—Clyde Wilcox, Georgetown University

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100 Women: How South Korea stopped its parents aborting girls

 

For every 100 baby girls born in India, there are 111 baby boys. In China, the ratio is 100 to 115. One other country saw similar rates in 1990, but has since brought its population back into balance. How did South Korea do it? Yvette Tan reports.

“One daughter is equal to 10 sons,” was the message desperately being promoted by the South Korean government.

It was some two decades ago and gender imbalance was at a high, reaching 116.5 boys for every 100 girls at its peak. The preference for sons goes back centuries in Korean tradition. They were seen to carry on the family line, provide financial support and take care of their parents in old age.

“There was the idea that daughters were not regarded as part of their own family after marriage,” says Ms Park-Cha Okkyung, the executive director of the Korean Women’s Associations United.

The government was looking for a solution – and fast.

In an effort to reduce the incidence of selective abortions, South Korea enacted a law in 1988 making it illegal for a doctor to reveal the gender of a foetus to expectant parents.

At the same time women were also becoming more educated, with many more starting to join the workforce, challenging the convention that it was the job of a man to provide for his family.

It worked, but it was not for one reason alone. Rather, a combination of these factors led to the eventual gender rebalancing.

South Korea was acknowledged as the “first Asian country to reverse the trend in rising sex ratios at birth”, in a report by the World Bank.

In 2013, the ratio was down to 105.3, a number comparable to major Western nations such as Canada.

 

Rapid Urbanisation

Monica Das Gupta, research professor in sociology at the University of Maryland who has studied gender disparity across Asia, says factors other than legislation are likely to be the most significant in accounting for this change.

A legal ban can “dampen things a bit”, but she points out that “seven years after the law [was instituted] sex-selective abortions continued”.

Rather she attributes the change to the “blistering pace” of urbanisation and industrialisation in South Korea.

While the country was predominantly a rural society there was great emphasis on male lineage and boys staying at home to inherit their fathers’ land.

But in just a few decades a large part of the population has moved to living in apartment blocks with people they don’t know and working in factories with people they don’t know, and the system has become much more impersonal, Dr Das Gupta says.

China and India, though, still have a stark gender imbalance, despite India outlawing, and China regulating against, sex-selective testing and abortions. So why is that?

Dr Das Gupta believes that in China this may be because until last year, the rule that your household registration – known as the hukou system – remained in the village where you were from, regardless of the fact that you might work in the city, meant that there was still an emphasis on male lineage and land ownership, but that this should now start to shift.

But she also stressed that the change is not always linear. As people gain economic advantage they have better access to sex-selective testing and have fewer children, which actually then puts greater emphasis on their gender.

In India in 1961, there were 976 girls for every 1,000 boys under the age of seven. According to the latest census figures released in 2011, that figure had dropped to a dismal 914 and campaigners say the decline is largely due to the increased availability of antenatal sex screening, despite the fact that both the tests and sex-selective abortion have been outlawed since 1994. They say that in the past decade alone, 8 million female foetuses may have been aborted in the country.

But she argues that several factors in India are slowly having a trickle-down effect on attitudes to women including media representation of women functioning in the outside world, and legislative changes enforcing equal inheritance rules and requiring one-third of elected positions be reserved for women.

While South Korea may have rebalanced its population, this does not necessarily equate gender equality, Ms Okkyung argues.

“Even though Korea has a normal gender ratio balance, discrimination against women still continues,” the 47-year-old says. “We need to pay more attention to the real situations that women face rather than just looking at the numbers.”

Women in South Korea face one of the largest gender wage gaps amongst developed countries – at 36% in 2013. By comparison, New Zealand has a gap of some 5%.

“Nowadays women go to university at a higher rate than men in South Korea. However, the problem starts when women enter into the labour market,” Ms Okkyung explains.

“The glass ceiling is very solid and there is a low percentage of women at higher positions in offices.”

One of the reasons it is harder for women to compete in the workplace is because they are expected to devote their time to both work and family.

“One example is that working mothers have a dilemma, as children in elementary schools come home early after lunch. Therefore, mothers who cannot see a sustainable future in the workplace tend to quit their jobs,” says Ms Okkyung.

Dr Hyekung Lee was one of the few Korean women in her generation that did find workplace success.

“I have been very lucky that I was brought up in a very enlightened family. My family had three girls and two boys, and all were given the same support for education,” says 68-year-old Dr Lee, who is the chairperson of the Korea Foundation for Women, the country’s only non-profit organisation for women.

“But when I became a full-time faculty member in my university, I had to be the only woman professor in my department throughout my 30 years there.”

 

Moving ahead

Generally, attitudes towards women have improved as today’s Korean men become more educated and exposed to global norms.

They also inevitably mix with women across all spheres of life, in workplaces, schools or social circles, something that perhaps was not so common decades ago.

It is amongst the older generation that many still cling on to the preference for sons.

Emily [not her real name], 26, recalls that growing up as an only child, she was always treated equally by her grandparents – until her step-brothers were born.

“I only noticed the difference when my brothers came,” she said. “Then I realised that they would never do stuff like the housework.”

“My birthday is also one day before my father’s so my grandparents didn’t allow me to celebrate it because as they said: ‘How dare a girl celebrate a birthday before her father?'”

“I think Korea is at that transitional phase that people are more aware now than previous generations, but it’s still not quite equal compared to Western countries,” she says.

“I’ve had friends tell me I can only keep my career if I stay single, and others tell me I’ve chased away men because I was too bossy on the dates and took the initiative.”

She also notes that there is also a substantial difference in attitudes towards women in bigger cities and smaller towns.

“Cities like Busan are more traditional. I’ve had friends from Busan get a culture shock when they come to Seoul,” she says. “In the capital, things are more progressive.”

Yet she believes change will come.

“Women in Korea need to be aware that there is gender discrimination,” says Emily, who is now studying in the Netherlands. “I didn’t know until I left – I thought the way things were was just how they were.”

“It’s not until you expose yourself to other cultures that you start to question your own. I think things will change, but it will take a lot of time.”

 

Date         :               January 11, 2017

Source     :               BBC

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-38362474

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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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