Gender & Human Rights

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When women lead, everyone prospers


In the 21st century, something in politics went terribly sour.

It is clear, now more than ever, that the toxic dynamic in the American political landscape needs to change. The dialogue has become unhealthily vitriolic, full of hyperbolic hatred and, increasingly, personal attacks — some of which, alarmingly, have turned physical. The attack on the Congressional Republican baseball team is just one jarring and recent example.

The good news is that the first step in changing the level of political dialogue is as simple as helping more women, particularly diverse populations of women, become leaders.

The better news is that Maine is leading the charge in doing just that.

Powerful women have been getting things done in Maine for decades. Beginning with Margaret Chase Smith — who historically took a principled stand against McCarthyism and Sen. Joseph McCarthy himself in 1950 — and continuing with both Sen. Susan Collins and former Sen. Olympia Snowe, the Pine Tree State has consistently sent its best — including its best women — to Washington.

The aim to encourage women’s leadership is something of a bipartisan bonding agent, bringing together Democratic and Republican lawmakers in one of the most divided periods in American political history.

Maine is an incredible example of how nonpartisan women’s leadership training can make a difference. Both major political parties offer rigorous campaign training to Maine women, while Maine NEW Leadership — held each June at the University of Maine — offers a week-long, intensive leadership experience for 28 college students from every political background. It wouldn’t be a stretch to argue that these programs are part of why the Maine Legislature is 34.4 percent women, roughly 10 percent above the national average.

Women bring something special to the table nationally, too, specifically in Congress. Congressional women consistently bridge ideological divides, making huge strides in issues from education to immigration, while some of the Senate’s most “persuadable” partisans remain its female members.

The resolution of the 2013 government shutdown is largely attributed to the hard work of bipartisan women, while congressional women made headlines in early 2016 for running the show during Winter Storm Jonas. Such willingness to listen, coupled with an incredible sense of personal accountability ( Collins has yet to miss a single vote) is what allows for at least some compromise among intensely polarized parties, even when it can appear that common ground is entirely absent.

Look no further for evidence of the pragmatism of female lawmakers than the recent “defectors” from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act: three Republican women recently profiled by the New York Times — Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Shelley Moore Capito.

Female staffers on the Hill also form uniquely long-lasting relationships. It’s not uncommon to find staffers who specifically seek out other women for mentorship and development. Frequently, female interns also find friendships with one another. Common experiences and hardships bond interns of different political backgrounds — making lunch between women in the Capitol something of a bi — or even tri — partisan affair.

Strong women make for a strong republic. Strong, diverse women make for an unassailable republic. Because it has such a strong history of female leadership, Maine is uniquely equipped to lead the charge — empowering women to get involved in corporate, federal, state and municipal leadership in a way that empowers us all.


Allyson Eslin is pursuing a dual master’s in economics and global policy at the University of Maine. Maine NEW Leadership is co-directed by Mary R. Cathcart, who served four terms as state senator and three terms in the Maine House of Representatives, and Amy Blackstone, a Scholars Strategy Network member and professor in sociology and the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at UMaine. Both contributed to this column.


Date : August 6, 2017
By : Allyson Eslin
Source : Bangor Daily News

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

When women are surrogate mothers: Is that work?


A recent Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) news article reported that the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society (CFAS) has called for the federal government to reconsider the ban on payment for surrogacy in Canada. The article suggests that industry professionals and academics alike are coming around on compensation for surrogacy, with support growing all the time.

Although the CFAS statement was released in May, the CMAJ article reminds us that concerns about paying women for their reproductive labour are never far from the headlines.

In Canada, payment for surrogacy, egg donation and sperm donation is banned under the 2004 Assisted Human Reproduction Act. Under the Act, surrogates (like egg donors and sperm donors) can be reimbursed for receipted expenses. With a note from their doctor, surrogates can also receive some money for lost work-related income during pregnancy.

The Act states that this reimbursement of expenses must follow the relevant regulations. Until now, however, these regulations have never been drafted. After more than a decade, Health Canada is now in the throes of making them. This is occurring as surrogacy in Canada is expanding to accommodate more and more people from countries where surrogacy is more expensive, harder to access or banned completely.

It is in this context that the CFAS (which is a part-medical association, part-industry organization representing the fertility industry and its doctors, lawyers, scientists and ethicists) has called for the government to reconsider the ban on payment.

A profitable market

It is important to know that the market in surrogacy in Canada is a profitable one. Doctors, lawyers and other professionals charge large fees for assisting intended parents and surrogates.

There are many perspectives on paying surrogates, and they differ even among the authors of this article. Some argue that it is only fair that women who act as surrogates be paid. It is easy to think that the hard work and sacrifice of being pregnant and giving birth for someone else deserves at least some reward. Others think that Canadian law should allow only for the reimbursement of expenses — to avoid commercialization.

Why “compensation” and not “payment”?

Regardless of these varying ideas, the word “compensation” raises red flags. Talking about payment for surrogacy as “compensation” — rather than as work — perpetuates class-related assumptions about who “good surrogates” should be. And about how surrogacy relates to other forms of gendered and reproductive labour.

First, the language of “compensation” relies on underlying assumptions about who can, and should, be a surrogate. One of the many things that has worried critics in the past is that payment for surrogacy might lead to exploitation. The idea here is that money might serve as too great an incentive to participate, becoming women’s sole or primary motivation to be a surrogate.

This concern is based on the idea that compensation is something that is minimal, intended only to offset the time and risks involved in becoming a surrogate. This idea — borrowed from clinical trials with healthy volunteers — implies that by offering “compensation” we can recognize the challenges of participating without encouraging people to do it for the money.

In this way, payment is legitimate when people don’t need the money (but could use it) and potentially coercive when they do.

Can’t poor women be good surrogates too?

In the case of surrogacy, the rhetoric of “compensation” implies that poor women might be coerced or exploited, their consent unwitting. It implies that women with more economic resources can consent freely.

However, surrogates — like nurses, like teachers, like care workers — can participate for both altruistic and economic reasons at once. This is not to say that having a cadre of surrogates who are in it for money alone is desirable. But framing the work that surrogates do as “compensation” suggests that money is never a legitimate reason to partake.

It makes it impossible for women to participate who might, in fact, need the money.

Surrogacy as gendered, intimate and reproductive labour

Second, the word “compensation” distracts from the relationship between surrogacy and other forms of gendered, intimate and reproductive labour. Surrogacy produces real live people and this should not be overlooked. Surrogacy is of course different from the kinds of labour that midwives and nurses and caregivers do.

But recognising that surrogacy is a form of work draws attention to the broader spectrum of women’s work that exists at once inside and outside of well-regulated, well-valued work.

In an ideal world, women’s equality would be uncontested. Reproductive labour in the home, in schools, in hospitals and daycares would be seen for the important work that it is. In this world, surrogacy could perhaps be part of a paid, legitimate economy. However, in a context where gendered and reproductive labour continue to be undervalued, surrogacy will likely be undervalued too.

As the CFAS urges Health Canada to move beyond the current regulatory process to consider compensation for surrogacy, we need to think carefully about what “compensation” is and does.

Speaking about “compensation” is a way of avoiding difficult conversations about payment to surrogates. If we are going to move forward, we will need to have those conversations.

Date : July 25, 2017
By : Alana Cattapan (Assistant Professor, Johnson Shoyama, Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Saskatchewan)
Angela Cameron (Associate Professor of Law, University of Ottawa)
Vanessa Gruben (Associate Professor of Law, University of Ottowa)
Source : The Conversation

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

Preschool are rife with ‘heteronormativity,’ prof claims


A graduate student who teaches sociology at the University of Michigan recently published an article declaring that preschool classrooms are rife with “heteronormativity” that perpetuates inequalities related to gender.”

Heidi Gansen asserts that “preschool is a good place to begin this examination, because practices that facilitate heteronormativity in classrooms become more engrained in later years of schooling.”


University of Michigan instructor recently claimed that preschool classrooms are rife with “heteronormativity” that perpetuates “inequalities related to gender.”

Heidi M. Gansen, a Ph.D. student who teaches sociology at UMich, advanced these claims in a July 14 article that examines the prevalence of “heteronormativity” in a set of nine Michigan preschool classrooms she visited.

Defining “heteronormativity” as a culture in which “heterosexuality is always assumed, expected, ordinary, and privileged,” Gansen then argues that the issue is especially important to her research because preschools contribute to the “reproduction of inequalities pertaining to gender and sexuality,” such as gender roles and gendered feelings.

“Preschool is a good place to begin this examination, because practices that facilitate heteronormativity in classrooms become more engrained in later years of schooling,” she explains.

Accordingly, Gansen spent ten months observing childhood behavior at a set of nine Michigan preschools, finding numerous ways in which heterosexuality is “produced” and “enforced” by students and teachers.

Playing “house,” for instance, is one area in which Gansen observed “heteronormativity” in the in the preschool setting, noting that only girls would imitate mothers while only boys would play fathers. If a girl asked to be the husband of the household, she would be quickly rebuffed by her peers, Gansen observed, lamenting that “children did not allow cross-gender roles.”

Gansen also cited the reading of “traditional fairy tales,” engaging in “heteronormative play,” and teachers suggesting that a boy has a “crush” on a girl as other ways in which gender-roles are perpetuated.

Meanwhile, teachers apparently make similar mistakes when they refer to “same-gender signs of affection or homosocial behaviors as friendly” as opposed to romantic, with Gansen arguing that  the teacher’s interpretation of the friendship makes no concession for the fact that some students might be gay or queer.

As a solution, Gansen concludes by outlining “disruptive” approaches teachers can take, which include talking about the legality of gay marriage and showing “acceptance” when students participate in “actions that interrupt heteronormativity.”

Gansen finishes by complaining that even in the preschools with the most progressive teachers of all the ones she observed, “children still engaged in heteronormative practices with peers,” adding that “these findings demonstrate the importance of teachers actively working to disrupt heteronormativity, which is already ingrained in children by ages 3 to 5.”

Campus Reform reached out to Gansen for additional comment on her research, but did not receive a response in time for publication.


Date : August 1, 2017
By : Toni Airaksinen
Source : Campus Reform

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

Married priests and female deacons? What the Pope’s politics look like from Latin America


Priests are Catholicism’s greatest figures: shepherds who manage the relationship with the divine. But their numbers have been dwindling worldwide since the 1930s.

In Argentina, the Church lost 23% of its priests and nuns from 1960 to 2013. France and Spain have also seen a dramatic reduction in clergy. In Europe, the number of priests declined 3.6% between 2012 and 2015 alone.

The demands of the job are a killer combination today. Between restrictions on sexuality and the loss of priests’ social status, there are ever fewer seminarians and, consequently, ever fewer men of the cloth, particularly in remote regions of the world such as the Amazon, where there is one priest for every 10,000 Catholics.

Responding to this challenge, Pope Francis recently suggested that the Church might allow married men to be ordained. Many Church officials believe the requirement of celibacy is the main reason fewer men are joining the priesthood, though there’s no single cause for the fall in numbers.

Female deacons, married priests?

Rethinking celibacy was discussed by the Second Vatican Council (1965-1968), but advocates for abandoning the vow did not win out. Like many other questions about the Church’s regulation of its adherents’ lifestyles (clergy or otherwise) – from opposing contraception to prohibiting communion for divorced people – celibacy was set aside for further deliberation.

In truth, the Pope’s recent statements are not aimed at undoing an historic pillar of the sacred institution of the priesthood, as some headlines have imprecisely indicated, but rather at considering exceptions. The pontiff was referring to potentially allowing married Catholic men to assume certain church duties in far-flung regions, invoking the figure of the viri probati, or men of unquestionable faith, virtue and obedience.

In other words, the Pope suggested something markedly similar to an existing institution, the diaconate. Deacons are men who, after completing a two- to four-year course, are ordained to assist priests and bishops. They can baptise, marry, preach and administer the Eucharist, but they cannot take confession.

Though the concept is as old as Christianity itself – the Church traces it to the apostles – the diaconate has garnered renewed interest in recent years as priests become scarce.

Deacons don’t have to remain chaste, but, like the priesthood, this ministry disallows women. In August 2016, at the request of the Synod of Bishops, the highest Catholic decision-making body, Pope Francis established a commission to study female deacons.

Thus, his recent statements about easing the celibacy requirement are converging with an ongoing conversation about allowing women in the diaconate. Ordained female deacons supporting an all-male ministry does not entirely fulfil progressive Catholics’ demands to allow women in the priesthood, but it has calmed some anxiety and indicated a potential path forward.

The view from Latin America

How has this news been greeted in Argentina, the Pope’s home country, and in Latin America, home to 40% of the world’s Catholics?

To paraphrase Émile Poulat, the great Church scholar, Catholicism is a world. And in Latin America, as in other Catholic places, this world is comprised of diverse groups, all of which have received the papacy of their old acquaintance Jorge Bergoglio in different ways.

Progressive Latin American Catholics were leery of this Pope early on, given his origins in the conservative pastoral-theologian tradition. When he was Bishop Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, this group did not have the best relationship with him.

Unexpectedly, they’ve now been seduced by the open-minded pontiff who listens to concerns about the Church’s restrictive view on sexual diversity, abortion and convicted criminals. When the Pope was a cardinal, issues such as women in the priesthood, the celibacy vow and contraception were not on his agenda.

Works with the poor, on the other hand, were his strong suit; in Argentina, the ecclesiastical word on poverty is authoritative. Holding masses with cartoneros (rubbish-pickers) in the squares and train stations of Buenos Aires and doing ministerial work in its shantytowns? Very Cardinal Bergoglio.

Conservative Latin American Catholics, who celebrated Francis’ assumption in Buenos Aires’ main square, the Plaza de Mayo, have run an inverse course. They expected that the Argentinean Pope would continue in the same vein as before: moderate, and in constant dialogue with all sectors of the Church, as well as with government.

Such is the character of Pope Francis, a refined and intelligent man educated in the turbulent waters of Argentinean ecclesiastic politics, which have always been linked to national politics. After decades of political acrobatics, the Pope has learned an operating style that plays with the divide between public statements and what’s said in private, between the general rule of mercy and actually engaging with personal suffering.

A sharp shepherd

Every papacy is political but the politics depend on nuances of the international scenario. Pope John Paul II came infused with anti-communist charisma, (which later hastened his fall), and Pope Benedict XVI demonstrated the continued preeminence of European academic theological thinking.

As Pope, Bergoglio, the pastoral theologian who hews closely to the faithful and the marginalised, is seeking to reify his commitment to society’s most vulnerable – immigrants, the poor, peasants – without changing the Church in any fundamental way.

Bergoglio is a son of the Catholicism that has dominated in Argentina since the 1930s: plebeian in its social leanings, with strong government relations. This kind of Catholicism does not limit itself to personal belief; it has something to say to all society, is willing to recognise modernity and even, at times, to have a dialogue with it.

A sharp shepherd of his flock, the Pope has mastered the art of containing people without making structural changes. Argentina is full of stories about his papal calls: the time he called a divorced woman to comfort her with the possibility that she might one day again receive communion, for instance, or the human rights NGO director to whom the Pope committed his support for public political actions.

Much like these anecdotes, Francis’s recent declarations about married viri probati are an extension of his conservative, people-centred pastoralism, rather than a sign that he’s turned progressive on the moral question of sex. This is the Catholicism in which Father Bergolgio was raised, and Pope Francis continues to be its beloved son.


Date : August 3, 2017
By : Veronica Gimenez Beliveau (Researcher-Program Coordinator, Habib University)
Source : The Conversation

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

Unsettling realities of care – especially for pregnant women – in U.S. Jails


The U.S. has an incarceration problem. Draconian drug laws, longer sentences, a safety net in disarray, shifts in the labor market, and institutionalized racism have combined to propel this country’s overreliance on imprisoning people as a supposed solution to many social ills. Although scholarship across many disciplines has explored various aspects of mass incarceration, the experiences of pregnant women behind bars have received minimal attention. Yet thousands of pregnant women pass through U.S. jails and prisons every year.

My research among women and workers at the San Francisco jail specifically explores the ways that jail serves, at the same time, as both a safety net institution and a punitive agency. By learning about the intimate, daily realities of jails – especially for pregnant women – researchers can see that jails are not only spaces of violence and punishment, but can also serve as some of the only places where women on the margins of society can access needed care. As Evelyn, a pregnant woman in jail, told me, “People say I got arrested, but I got rescued.” Many people cycle in and out of local jails repeatedly, and such high rates of recidivism enable unique relationships between incarcerated persons and jail workers, relationships full of contradictory elements of punishment and care. Kima, another pregnant woman in jail expressed this complexity when she told me she hated jail, but also that “My worst day in jail is better than my best day on the streets. . . We actually live here and survive out there.”

Caregiving in a Locus for Punishment

Jails are in constant flux. These institutions house people who have been arrested but not necessarily convicted of a crime, as well as people serving short sentences for minor offenses. With high turnover, people generally return to their communities within a few days, weeks, or months. If there are health needs unaddressed in jail, these become issues for the community’s health infrastructure. And if there are health needs unaddressed in the communities, the jails are often confronted with those problems. As many as 70%-80% of people released from jail will return, but this is more than a statistical reality: this recidivism means that relationships can build over time between jail workers and people who come in and out of jail. Women therefore know that when they come to jail they will not only be subject to deprivations and punishments, but also receive shelter, food, medical care, and other social services offered by the jail.

This is especially notable for medical care. The 1976 Supreme Court Case Estelle v. Gamble determined that prisons and jails are constitutionally mandated to provide health care to people behind their walls. This creates a paradox: jailed people are stripped of most of their rights, yet gain a right to health care. But because there are no mandatory standards or oversight, medical care in jails can range from dangerously deficient to robust and superior to community care.

Dilemmas for Jail Workers

Keeping separate the goals of medical care and custody in jail – what has sometimes been called the “dual loyalty” problem – means that jail health care workers must constantly negotiate boundaries. Should they view their patients as patients or prisoners? Treat them with compassion or indifference? And how should they relate to jails’ disciplinary routines, such as controlling access to mundane resources such as ice and Tylenol? Jail guards also face cross pressures. Although they are not medical personnel, they are the gatekeepers to incarcerated people’s access to medical staff, and, for security reasons, accompany people to hospitals during health emergencies. Their guard duties can lead them to invade inmates’ privacy, deride their medical conditions, or ignore medical requests. But within their authority positions, some guards provide tender care and support, for example, comforting women experiencing miscarriages in jail.

Motherhood in Jail

Most women in jail are young, and two thirds of them are already mothers. Some enter jail pregnant, often first learning they are pregnant while behind bars. Although pregnant women’s experiences vary among individuals and from jail to jail, they can be full of contradictions. The jail I studied provides prenatal care, access to abortion, and programs such as parenting classes, Mother’s Day celebrations, and contact visits and breastfeeding support for mothers who give birth while in custody. At other jails, pregnant women may give birth in their jail cells, and suffer from isolation and neglect.

For some of these mothers, their lives on the streets are characterized by unstable housing, drug addiction, or heavy involvement with the courts and child welfare services. While jail creates an obvious physical separation between mothers and children, some jails facilitate visits and other connections with children that, for some mothers, contrast to the minimal contact they have with their children outside of jail. One woman explained that “Jail brings me back to what being a mother is.” Kima hung pictures of her infant, to whom she gave birth while in custody, on the walls of her jail cell – walls she did not have in her unstable life on the streets. For some incarcerated women in confinement, jail can further a sense of identity as a mother.

Implications and Next Steps

Of course, even though jail may fill voids for some – providing care, relative safety, and an opportunity to cultivate maternal identity – the ways that it does these things are problematic and incomplete. Jails should not be relied on to be people’s safety net, to be their primary mental health and medical care provider; yet that is what happens when government neglects the material and emotional needs of so many disadvantaged people, including those suffering from addiction or mental illnesses.

Investing in alternatives to incarceration – especially for pregnant women and mothers – is one place to start to better help many people cycling in and out of jail. Policing strategies and sentencing laws need to be reformed, and community infrastructure strengthened – including services like child care to help parents develop workforce skills and seek stable housing and employment. In addition, universal standards and oversight are needed to ensure that all pregnant women and new mothers behind bars get adequate medical care and services, and to value the care that all women and mothers in this country receive.

Read more in Carolyn Sufrin, Jailcare: Finding the Safety Net for Women Behind Bars (University of California Press, 2017)


By            :               Carolyn Sufrin (Johns Hopkins University)

Date         :               May 2017

Source     :               The Scholars Strategy Network

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

Most countries score an F on our LGBT human rights report card


June is Gay Pride Month, but the sobering reality is that most countries, including the U.S., do not protect sexual minorities.

Our research gives most countries in the world a failing grade in LGBTQ rights, reflecting widespread persecution of sexual minorities. Only one country in 10 actively protects the human rights of sexual minorities.

From persecution to protection

The Franklin & Marshall Global Barometer of Gay Rights (GBGR), started in 2011, ranks countries based on 29 factors that quantify how much a country protects human rights.

It looks not only at constitutional protections, but also societal indicators, political opinion, civil society and economic factors. For example, we look at whether the majority of citizens are accepting of sexual minorities and if gay rights organizations can peacefully and safely assemble.

Countries are then graded on a five-point scale, from F (“persecuting”) to A (“protecting”).

The extremes are stunning. In 2017, 23 countries have legalized same-sex marriage, yet 71 countries still criminalize same-sex acts.

Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Syria and Yemen score lowest on our scale, with an overall GBGR score of 3 out of a possible score of 100, while Luxembourg, Malta and New Zealand score highest, with 100 percent. A score of 100 percent doesn’t mean a country is perfect in its treatment of LGBT individuals, but it does mean they protect LGBTQ rights.

South America shows the most striking variation in protection or persecution of sexual minorities. Uruguay is a leader in protecting sexual minorities, as the second South American country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2013, preceded by Argentina in 2010. Meanwhile, gays are largely not legally protected in Paraguay, Peru or Bolivia.

The African continent has the least variation. Every country, with the exception of South Africa, is considered a persecutor. Although South Africa is one of the first countries to approve same-sex marriage, in 2006, it resists assuring LGBT human rights – particularly in the violence toward sexual minorities, such as “corrective rapes.”

How do we account for such variation between countries and regions?

Our initial findings suggest that higher income, lower rates of religiosity, higher life expectancy, a higher freedom rating by nonprofit Freedom House and having a democratic political system are the best predictors of how much a country respects or abuses the rights of sexual minorities.

This suggests that a country’s attitude toward gay rights is strongly related to its level of socioeconomic development, political development and religiosity. That makes the U.S.‘ low score an even greater anomaly.

The US lags behind

While the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right to same-sex marriage in 2015, we do not consider the U.S. a nation that’s protective of gay rights.

We class the U.S. as “rights-resistant,” putting it in the same category as nations like Albania, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Italy, Mexico and South Africa.

Examples of resistance to gay rights are abundant in the U.S. For example, last year in Mississippi, a Picayune funeral home refused to provide cremation services to a gay man because “we don’t deal with their kind,” and claimed a right to refuse service based on religious freedom.

As a nation, we found the federal government falls short on workplace and housing protections and joint adoption rights for sexual minorities. As a society, hate crimes against sexual minorities are a persistent problem.

Some may believe the U.S. is accepting and supportive of sexual minorities, but the reality is that we are behind most developed nations, which consistently earn a protecting or tolerant grade.

While we may be more tolerant of gay rights than in places like Indonesia, where gays can be caned, or like Nigeria, where gays can be stoned to death, we believe the U.S. needs to do far more to protect the rights of sexual minorities.

Americans tend to believe that individual rights and freedoms are more important here than they are in any other nation in the world.

Yet even though global trends indicate an overall improvement in GBGR scores, incidents like last year’s Orlando shooting underscore the unfortunate reality that the world, even the U.S., is far from a safe place for sexual minorities.

Our tool is a reminder of how far we have to go as a nation to secure basic human rights for our own sexual minorities.


By            :               Susan Dicklitch-Nelson, Berwood Yost and Scottie Thompson

Date         :               June 9, 2017

Source     :               The Conversation


Susan Dicklitch-Nelson (Professor of Government and Chair of the Government Department, Franklin & Marshall College)

Berwood Yost (Director of the Center for Opinion Research, Franklin & Marshall College)

Scottie Thompson (Project and Data Specialist, Franklin & Marshall College)


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

Filipino women suffer gender gaps in labor participation – PIDS study


Despite being listed by the World Economic Forum as the best performer in gender outcomes among the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member-states, the Philippines exhibits wide gender disparities in economic opportunities, according to a recent publication released by state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies.

Authored by Senior Research Fellow Jose Ramon Albert and Research Assistant Jana Flor Vizmanos, the policy note looked at trends in selected Sustainable Development Goals indicators and observed that women are mostly at a disadvantage in labor participation, including in employment rate, wage, and vulnerable employment.

In the Philippines, fewer women are part of the labor force, according to the study.

“About four in five working-age Filipino men are part of the labor force, while only half of women aged 15 years and over are in the labor force,” the authors said, adding that this is noticeable across the entire ASEAN region.

Furthermore, while unemployment rates for women dropped faster than those for men, the rates are still higher among women aged 15-24 than among men belonging to the same age group.

The authors, however, warned that looking solely at the unemployment rate can be deceptive as this may lead to the perception that “women in the Philippines who join the labor force have similar economic opportunities as men.”

Latest data show working women are predominantly in the services sector (71%) while the rest of them are in the industry (10%) and agriculture sectors (19%).

Albert and Vizmanos also revealed that more females than males are involved in vulnerable employment, which is characterized by inadequate earnings, low productivity, and poor working conditions. Statistics show that about 8 in 20 women are in vulnerable employment compared to 7 in 20 men.

“This means a bigger share of employed women in the country are engaged in jobs lacking decent working conditions,” thus limiting their opportunities for labor benefits, the authors explained.

However, in the Philippines, women slightly earn more than their men, according to the study. Statistics revealed that high-level positions generally have wages favoring women. However, they are less compensated than men when they work as technicians and associate professionals, clerks, service workers, and shop and market sales workers, despite them having the bigger share in employment.

On the contrary, in areas where men have a higher share of employment, such as in trades, plant and machine operation, labor and unskilled work, and special occupations, they are more compensated than women.

To address these gender gaps, the government needs to examine the reasons why one gender dominates the other in particular occupations, the authors suggested. There is also a need to look into persistent gender wage gaps in some sectors and occupations.

Moreover, the gender-based barriers that hinder opportunities for capacity development and career advancement need to be addressed. More social protection, especially for those in vulnerable employment, should also be provided.

Albert and Vizmanos also urge the Philippine Statistics Authority to conduct a national time use survey, to examine unpaid house work and the extent of time poverty among women and men. The said survey can measure the allocation of time to different tasks by different individuals on a daily or weekly basis, which can then be used for generating estimates of gross domestic product by gender.

Private and public sectors should also examine their respective labor practices that may contribute to gender biases in the workplace.

Finally, the authors remind readers that everyone has the responsibility to push for gender equality, so that no woman or man will be left behind in all aspects of development. (PIDS)


Date         :               May 25, 2017

Source     :               Philippine Information Agency

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Argentina movement mobilizes to fight violence against women


On Christmas Eve of 2011, Maira Maidana lit a candle to the patron saint of Argentina and closed her eyes in prayer – just like she did every time she feared a brutal beating by her partner.

But this time, instead of the usual blows, she felt her whole body catch on fire. When she turned around, she saw him staring at her with a bottle of alcohol in one hand. Ablaze, she ran to three faucets, but not a single drop of water came out.

Fifty-nine surgeries later, Maidana has finally found the courage to tell the truth about what happened to her that awful night. She says she owes that courage to a grassroots movement of tens of thousands of people across Argentina who have mobilized to fight violence against women. Called Ni Una Menos, or Not One Less, the movement has spread rapidly worldwide and now has branches in New York, Berlin, Italy, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador and more.

“With Ni Una Menos, women are no longer hiding,” says Maidana, 29, who is scarred in her neck and chest and speaks in whispers. Maidana marched for hours during the latest Ni Una Menos protest earlier this month, holding a banner and beaming with pride.

“Before, we wouldn’t talk,” she says. “I don’t know if it was fear or shame, or feeling that justice was not on your side…I like it that it’s now out in the open.”


In 2016 alone, 254 Argentine women died from gender-based violence, according to a report released last month by the Supreme Court. That amounts to one woman killed every 34 hours. In 60 of those cases, the women had previously reported attacks, and some even had a restraining order.

Maidana feared the day would come when her partner would try to kill her.

They met in school in 2003, when he was 14 and she was 15. The first time he beat her up was in 2005. They were playing with schoolmates and he got jealous.

When they got back to her home, he punched her in the face. She went to school the next day with a bruise in one eye. A friend told her to break up with him, warning her that it would happen again and only get worse.

She was right. Over the course of the next eight years, he beat her up regularly, except when she was pregnant with their two children. He did drugs and would often come back home drunk or high.

When their children were young, they witnessed the fights. She would let him beat her up just so that he wouldn’t go after them. When he realized that Maidana no longer loved him, he threatened to kill himself. One day, he grabbed a kitchen knife and began cutting his wrists in front of the kids.

“I was scared,” she says. “The fear would not let me ask for help or escape.”

On the day he would set her on fire, she was helping her mother decorate a ballroom to celebrate her younger brother’s 17th birthday. His friends had been planning a hip-hop dance presentation, and she was excited about wearing a new white dress she had picked out with her partner.

But when he arrived back from work, he was drunk and no longer wanted to attend the party. She insisted, saying she had worked on the decorations the whole day. As soon as they arrived at the ballroom, he began telling her that her dress was too short. He was jealous and wanted to pick a fight.

Halfway through the party, he decided he wanted to leave. She gave in to avoid a scene in front of her family and friends. They called a cab and went back home with their two young children.

When they arrived, he asked his sister to lock the children in a room. He began screaming at Maidana.

The argument got heated. At one point, he threatened to leave her. But for the first time, after years of enduring his beatings, she confronted him and told him to go. She felt empowered.

It didn’t last.


One in three women worldwide has experienced physical or sexual violence, according to the United Nations. In most countries, fewer than 40 per cent of those abused sought help of any sort.

In Argentina, there were 2,384 femicides between 2008 and 2016, according to La Casa del Encuentro, a local women’s rights group. While there are no accurate country-by-country numbers, violence against women in Costa Rica, Mexico and Guatemala is thought to be even higher, said Ada Rico, the head of La Casa del Encuentro.

The machismo culture is strong in Argentina, where women are often catcalled, hissed at and harassed on the street. Back in 2014, when he was the Mayor of Buenos Aires, Mauricio Macri said in a radio interview that “all women like to hear pickup lines,” among other sexist comments. He was heavily criticized, and since being elected Argentina’s president in 2015, he has pledged support for the Ni Una Menos movement and the protection of victims.

After she told her boyfriend to leave that night, Maidana went to the bathroom to remove her makeup. Then, with trembling hands, she lit a candle in the small altar to the Virgin of Lujan. It was about 2:45 a.m.

All of a sudden, she felt heat.

“I didn’t know what was going on,” she says. “I was in flames.”

Desperate, she tried the shower first, then the bathroom sink, and then the kitchen faucet. No water came out anywhere. He had either closed the taps or let the water run dry.

He followed her with a blanket in one hand and a bottle of alcohol in the other. The children heard her screaming.

She was on fire for maybe just minutes, but it seemed like hours. Finally, she ran to the garden and jumped into a kiddie pool filled with dirty water and mud. She felt like she was burning up inside.

Some minutes later, he told her the water was running again. She took a shower. By then, the ashes from her flowered dress — which she wore only to sleep because he complained about the cleavage — had melted into her charred chest.

He didn’t want to call an ambulance, but agreed to call police. He told them he was just a neighbour.

They took her to a small clinic, where she lost consciousness. Hours later, she was transferred to a hospital that treats severe burns.

She was at the hospital for four months, while her mother took care of her children. But one day, her partner picked them up from school. He kept them for more than 10 months, until Maidana got a lawyer’s help to bring them back home.

Even after dozens of surgeries and skin grafts, Maidana’s chest and parts of her face remained scarred. She had lost most of her hair, hearing in her right ear and sight in her left eye. She was down to 66 pounds (30 kilograms), less than half her usual weight, and looked skeletal. Her throat was badly damaged, and it was too painful to talk.

She slowly had to learn to eat and walk again with the help of her mother. Yet, fearing for her children’s lives, she never reported her boyfriend. Instead, she told family and police that she had doused herself with alcohol and set herself ablaze.

Her parents always doubted that she had tried to take her life. But she kept her story to herself — until the Ni Una Menos march.


Ni Una Menos was created by 20 artists, journalists and activists in 2015, after simmering outrage over a brutal spate of murders. The name came from a poem about a massacre of women in Ciudad Juarez by Mexican writer Susana Chavez, who was killed in 2011.

They began by organizing public readings about gender-based violence with family members of victims. But when Chiara Paez, a 14-year-old pregnant girl, was killed by her boyfriend in May 2015 and found buried in his family’s yard, they decided enough was enough.

The first call to protest started with a tweet by local radio journalist Marcela Ojeda: “Women: are we not going to raise our voices? THEY’RE KILLING US!” The public outcry that followed on social media inspired the first march on June 3, 2015.

The organizers thought it would be small. But on that day, millions of demonstrators flooded the streets of 70 cities across Argentina, demanding an end to the killings. The protests made headlines and prompted discussion throughout the country.

Maidana joined the march in front of the Congress building in Buenos Aires because she wanted to “feel alive” after so much pain. When she saw how the protests had united everyone, from women in strollers and schoolchildren to politicians from opposing parties, the tears began to roll down her cheeks. She embraced her mother and told her she was finally ready to tell the truth.

“I felt such an immense pain at seeing so many mothers, fathers, friends demanding justice for those girls who were gone,” she says. “And at the same time, I was demanding it for myself.”

The next day, she woke up and wrote a heartfelt letter thanking the demonstrators.

“I can’t stop crying,” she wrote. “Yesterday, I finally let out the anguish…Today, I’m thankful that I’m not just a banner, a photo, a name – and that I can fight for them. Today, I thank God that I can fight and scream: Not one less!”

The march grew quickly into a global movement, with the protest echoed by millions of women throughout Latin America. Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi joined the campaign with a message against femicides published on his Twitter account. During a visit to Buenos Aires, Michelle Obama praised the efforts by the Argentine women to fight against violence.

This year, Ni Una Menos helped organize a strike for International Women’s Day on March 8, drawing women from Thailand to Chile and Poland to South Korea. In some countries, members of Ni Una Menos have also joined forces with existing feminist movements, such as Vivas Nos Queremos in Mexico – We Want to Stay Alive.

Ni Una Menos’ demands range from the publishing of official statistics on sexual assaults and the protection of women to the inclusion of gender violence in school curricula. It has had some success. The Supreme Court announced that it would launch a task force to collect data on violence against women. Some months later, the government passed legislation to protect women who are verbally or physically abused on the streets. And the Reef clothing company ended the Miss Reef best buttocks contest, a 23-year-old summer tradition in the coastal city of Mar del Plata.

“Femicide is the tip of the iceberg, and it’s not solved with more police,” says Marta Dillon, a journalist and one of the founders of Ni Una Menos. “The movement seeks to be revolutionary.”

Argentina’s long tradition of feminist activism and its strong women have contributed to the movement’s success, Dillon said. She mentioned Evita Peron, the combative former first lady who helped get women the right to vote, and the human rights group Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo.

Maidana is no longer with her boyfriend, but she has not yet garnered the courage to report him to the police. Still, she has kept the charred flowered dress she wore that night and the bottle of alcohol inside a plastic bag, in case one day she needs them as evidence.

“This is not something that is happening to one person,” she says. “It can happen to you, to your cousin, to your daughter. To everyone.”


By            :               Luis Heano and Debora Rey / The Associated Press

Date         :               June 19, 2017

Source     :               Times Colonist

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

Refugee or migrant? Sometimes the line is blurred


A dozen years before the influx of refugees and migrants to Europe’s shores would force policymakers to take heed, Michael Winterbottom’s 2002 docudrama In this World brought the inside story of international migration to the big screen.

In charting the risky, clandestine journey to Europe of two Afghans – the teenage Jamal and 30-something Ineyatullah from the Shamshatoo Refugee Camp in Pakistan’s northwest – the film demonstrates the simple but not uncontroversial truth: Jamal and Ineyatullah are at once refugees and migrants.

Like so many immigrants, they simply seek a better life, one of freedom, opportunity and dignity. At the same time, these Afghans are also refugees – people displaced by conflict and poverty – seeking a better life.

From languishing in Peshawar and nearly suffocating in the back of a truck during the crossing into Europe, to working without papers in London, theirs is a story of displacement, struggle and marginalisation.

It’s also a story of the economic and political borders that fence people in. Transcending these invisible frontiers requires taking inordinate risks. For Ineyatullah, doing so cost his life.

Jamal’s tale has a happier ending: after applying for asylum in England, he was adopted by a British family who’d seen Winterbottom’s film, finally giving the boy a place to call home.

World Refugee Day

June 20 is World Refugee Day, a time to reflect on not just refugees but on those people who, like Jamal and Ineyatullah, are both refugees and migrants.

The day of commemoration comes at a historic moment: for the first time ever, all United Nations member states are working together to develop two new global compacts. The first is on shared responsibility for refugees and the second on more humane, coordinated and dignified approaches to governing global migration.

The project began in September 2016, when the UN adopted the landmark New York Declaration to forge a coordinated architecture for global governance of both refugees and migrants within two years.

Both compacts are scheduled for completion by 2018. For them to work, policymakers must consider the many millions of people currently in transit whose situations confound the conventional demarcation between refugee and migrant.

Under international law, the rights of refugees – those forced to leave their country because of war, persecution or natural disasters – are enshrined in the 1951 Convention for Refugees and its subsequent 1967 protocol.

People who are perceived to have pulled up stakes by choice, on the other hand, lack any comprehensive global rights or protections. Migrants do benefit from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was signed in 1948 to respond to the refugee flows resulting from the second world war.

But beyond some basic protections, many displaced people today defy the parameters used by policymakers to define who is entitled to what rights. And this legal limbo puts many migrants in grave danger.

Migrant or refugee?

All people who cross international borders without papers, whether they are Central Americans riding the trains through Mexico to get to the United States or Ethiopians escaping hunger in unseaworthy dinghies, face myriad risks. They include the underworld of smugglers, inhumane treatment by authorities and the mental and physical dangers of invisibility and exploitation.

A recent article in the Guardian, for example, reported that criminal gangs in Libya have been holding hundreds of migrants to ransom.

Since 2015, the waters of the Mediterranean have been replete with such traumas, as migrants and refugees from sub-Saharan Africa, Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea to Pakistan, Bangladesh, Syria and Afghanistan try desperately to get to Europe.

Some of these people may well fit the legal definition of a refugee. Others have set off on their dangerous journeys as economic migrants, in pursuit of jobs and opportunities.

Too many never make it. In 2016, it’s estimated that over 5,000 people died crossing the Mediterranean, highlighting the dire need to offer some form of humanitarian protection to migrants, legal status aside.

Children on the road

Minors are among the most poignant examples of this quandary.

Take Abdallah, now 19. In February 2017, he was being supported at the Bayt al-Thaqafa Foundation in Barcelona, an organisation that helps resettle young immigrants.

A decade ago, when he was just nine years old, Abdallah’s family in Morocco made a choice for him about his future. His uncle smuggled him from a village in the Rif mountains into the Spanish colonial city of Ceuta.

Abandoned on the streets, Abdallah begged for several weeks until he was picked up by local authorities. After spending some time in a centre for minors, he was sent to Barcelona, where he lived the next nine years in a residence for children who, like him, who had crossed an international border without papers.

Over time, peers and mentors there replaced Abdallah’s family back home. He learned Spanish and Catalan, learned computer skills and earned a high school degree.

On his 18th birthday, time ran out. His residency permit allowed Abdallah to stay in Barcelona, but not to work. It was Spain’s legal right to send Abdallah back “home” to a family he no longer remembered well.

But where is home, really, for someone like Abdallah, who spent his formative years far from his birthplace through no choice of his own? And what obligations do countries have to protect these young people?

Just “ordinary immigrants”

As Hannah Arendt, the preeminent political theorist and herself a refugee, wrote in her 1943 essay We Refugees:

In the first place, we don’t like being called ‘refugees’…. We did our best to prove to others that we were just ordinary immigrants…. We wanted to rebuild our lives, that was all.

That same idea fuels the struggle of displaced persons today. Whether driven by hunger, violence or poverty, they arrive in their host country hoping to become ordinary – different in ethnicity and culture, perhaps – productive citizens.

As the UN and its member states aim to tackle the policy needs of human mobility in its entirety, developing one compact each for refugees and migrants, let them not forget that millions of migrants and refugees experience blurred and interconnected situations, and everyone is just seeking a place to call home.


By            :               Parvati Nair

Date         :               June 20, 2017

Source     :               The Conversation

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

Same-sex marriage legalised in Taiwan, but there’s still work ahead to ensure equal rights


Software engineer Cindy Su and her partner of three years are among many same-sex couples who are celebrating after Taiwan’s top court declared on Wednesday (May 24) that same-sex marriage should be legal, a landmark decision that paves the way for Taiwan to become the first in Asia to allow these unions.

Under the island’s Civil Code, an agreement to marry can be made only between a man and a woman. But the Constitutional Court has ruled that this definition of marriage violates constitutional guarantees of equal protection.

The court ruled that the laws have to be revised within two years to allow same-sex marriage, but stopped short of suggesting how to go about doing it.

Indeed, while gay marriage has scored its first victory in Asia, there is still much work to be done when it comes to legislation to ensure equal protection for same-sex marriages.

Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan will have to decide if it is better to change the civil code, which governs family law, or create a separate new law for gay and lesbian couples.

Gay and rights activists are pushing for the civil code to be revised as enacting a separate law will be deemed discriminatory. But their suggestion is likely to meet fierce resistance.

Even though Taiwan is seen as one of the most gay-friendly places in Asia, the same-sex marriage debate has highlighted deep divisions in society. Conservative and religious groups have argued that allowing same-sex unions would destroy family values.

A 2016 poll by the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation think tank found the public evenly split on the issue.

A wrong move may be costly for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the upcoming 2018 mayoral and local elections.

While President Tsai Ing-wen, who leads the DPP, has openly supported marriage equality, many in her party worry about incurring the wrath of their constituents.

In the landmark ruling, the Constitutional Court had ruled that even if Parliament does not make the change within two years, same-sex couples could register to marry nonetheless, based on its interpretation.

However, observers say that even if same-sex couples can register their marriages, it does not mean that the rights of these couples and their children will be protected.

Legislative changes on this issue cannot be taken for granted, given that previous efforts to push for marriage equality, which date back to the 1980s, have progressed in fits and starts.

The latest proposals to amend the Civil Code, for instance, have not progressed further after passing the first of three readings in December 2016.

Ms Su, for one, believes the battle has not been completely won.”There will still be a lot to sort out and convince people that this is the right thing to do,” she said.

National Tsing Hua University sociology expert Shen Hsiu-hua, who heads The Awakening Foundation, a women’s group, said: “It will take a lot of guts and political will to push through a legislative change but it is an important step forward to do right by those who have been marginalised for far too long.”


By : Jermyn Chow
Date : May 24, 2017
Source : Straits Times

Posted in Gender and Human Rights, Policy | Leave a comment
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