Gender & Human Rights

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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

Why Higher Education is a Must for Low-Income Mothers


More than ever a college degree divides the haves and have-nots in American society. College graduates earn wages 56% higher than those of high school graduates, according to recent data from the Economic Policy Institute. Equally important, employment stability increases with a college degree. A 2017 Hechinger Report found that following the 2008 recession over 95% of renewed employment went to workers who were college educated. By 2020 at least two-thirds of all jobs in the United States will require a level of education beyond high school – widening the already considerable income gap between those with and without such educational attainments. People without degrees will fall further behind, especially low-income mothers and their families.

Low-Income Mothers in the Labor Market

For decades, low-income mothers have found themselves restricted to chasing opportunities in the low-wage labor market, which offers insufficient wages and few opportunities for advancement to workers and their families. In the United States, children living in poverty or just above the poverty line suffer as much because of low wages earned by their parents as because of any lack of jobs.

And why are so many of America’s low-income mothers stuck in dead end jobs? That fact can be traced not just to blind economic forces, to expanding low-wage jobs, but also to intentional policy choices. Congress’s enactment of “welfare reform” in 1996 explicitly discouraged states from offering poor mothers chances to pursue post-secondary education. The new law called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families called for “work first,” requiring states to push poor mothers into immediate employment. Impoverished female heads of households, among the most vulnerable in our country, were suddenly told to “become self-sufficient” – and were prodded to do that without access to the college ladder. This work first drive ignored decades of research showing that college attainments – not low-wage jobs – are the best route out of poverty.

Despite this history and the obstacles they face in the current U.S. welfare system, millions of low-income mothers are tenaciously trying to complete a degree and escape poverty. Over the past 10 years, the number of student parents has increased by more than 30%. A 2017 report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that nearly five million undergraduate students, a quarter of all undergraduates, are parents of dependent children – and more than seven in ten of these are women. In fact, about 43% of the total student-parent population consists of single mothers. But the road to degrees is difficult. Try as they may, only a little more than a quarter of single parents in college are able to complete their degree within six years of enrollment. They graduate at less than half the rate of other students.

A Model for Providing Services to Students with Children

Recognizing the growing importance of helping student parents continue and finish their studies, some universities have established programs to meet the specific needs of this population – much as they have for veterans, international students and students of color. One leading model of support is the program called Services for Students with Children at Portland State University. This program provides counseling, childcare subsidies, lactation rooms, family-friendly study space and a place where student parents can connect with one another as they juggle complicated lives. In a 2016 interview at Portland State, a 35-year old mom said the program “made all the difference between giving up and keeping on.” Other parents in the program talked about how the climb to graduation is much steeper if you are bringing children along. At the same time, though, some say children are “what keeps me going” as the interviewers heard again and again. Student-parents question why state policies are still focused on pushing mothers into “lousy jobs” rather than supporting efforts “to try to build your future” (as one mother of two put it). Support really matters. As a 28-year-old student confided, “There is no way I will ever be able to support my daughter if I don’t get this degree” yet she was taking the next semester off, because “I’m in debt now, I can’t borrow anymore and I can’t pay for childcare.” Interruptions like this often lead student-parents to drop out.

Lisa Wittorff, the director of the Services for Students with Children program, has watched hundreds of student-parents struggle to graduate: “I see parents who are doing everything possible. They are running from classes to daycare, to jobs and back to the library. At the very least states could count college effort as work effort – and provide fulltime childcare support.” Yet recent research from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research reveals that funding for day care centers has declined since 2002 at universities and community colleges. “It makes no sense,” Shanda a thirty-four year old mother declared after losing childcare support. “This is my fourth try going back (to get a college degree). I want my sons to see that you can succeed. But if I don’t have a safe place to leave them, how am I supposed to show them that?”

Supporting Mothers in College Builds Social Equity

A college education is the surest pathway out of poverty, especially as the demand for a more educated workforce accelerates. Of equal value to American society, attending college gives low-income students the chance to explore and develop their talents and interests, helping them set a positive example for their children and pass on new connections and skills.

Yet these valuable effects are not possible unless poor parents who undertake college studies can gain access to reliable family support services. Childcare and income supplements to pay costs of housing and food are essential to the success of these doubly burdened student parents. Providing the necessary supports is a short-term cost to society, but this kind of social investment stretches far into the future. Beyond providing immediate help to individual students and their families, supporting poor students who study for a better future builds a more educated and equitable nation for all Americans.


By : Lisa Dodson (Brandeis University) and Luisa S. Deprez (University of Southern Maine)
Date : May 2017
Source : Scholars Strategy Network

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

Relying on Women, Not Rewarding Them


New study suggests female professors outperform men in terms of service — to their possible professional detriment

Women shoulder a disproportionately large workload at home in ways that might disadvantage them professionally. But are female professors also “taking care of the academic family” via disproportionate service loads? A new study says yes and adds to a growing body of research suggesting the same.

“We find strong evidence that, on average, women faculty perform more service than male faculty in academia, and that the service differential is driven particularly by participation in internal rather than external service,” the study says. “When we look within departments — controlling for any type of organizational or cultural factor that is department specific — we still find large, significant differences in the service loads of women versus men.”

All that matters because service loads “likely have an impact on productivity in other areas of faculty effort such as research and teaching, and these latter activities can lead directly to salary differentials and overall success in academia,” the paper says. “In the urgency to redress not only differences in time use but compensation imbalances, as well, the service imbalance is one that deserves to rise to the forefront of the discussion.”

“Faculty Service Loads and Gender: Are Women Taking Care of the Academic Family?” published in Research in Higher Education, was written by Cassandra M. Guarino, professor of education and public policy at the University of California, Riverside, and Victor M. H. Borden, professor of educational leadership and policy studies at Indiana University at Bloomington. The authors considered data from the 2014 Faculty Survey of Student Engagement, a web-based national survey related to the National Survey of Student Engagement. The faculty survey included responses from nearly 19,000 faculty members at 143 colleges and universities, and asked about how faculty members spend their time (in addition to professors’ views on student engagement).

Guarino and Borden limited their analysis of the national survey to responses from tenured or tenure-track faculty members at four-year colleges and universities, or about 40 percent of the sample. The national survey asked only how many hours a week faculty members spent on service, not which kinds of service they did or how departments were run. So the authors supplemented that data with those from much more detailed yearly faculty activity reports from two research-intensive campuses (one flagship and one “urban”) of an unnamed Midwestern university. The latter data set, from 2012, pertained to about 1,400 tenured or tenure-track faculty members. They reported whether their service was “internal,” performed on campus, or the  more visible “external” kinds of service performed off campus for professional associations and other groups or communities.

Women Do More

In a first, basic crack at the data, the authors determined that women in the national sample performed 30 more minutes per week of service than men and 1.5 more service activities per year than men in the local sample, and that the difference was statistically significant in both cases.

To glean more meaningful results and control for a number of factors, they proceeded with a multiple regression analysis. In the national sample, women reported 0.6 hours more service per week than men, controlling for rank, race and discipline. Female full professors, in particular, reported significantly more time spent on service than male full professors — though full professors of both genders spent the most time on service over all. Faculty members in business and some sciences appeared to spend less time on service than those in the arts and humanities.

Results for the local data mirrored those for the national set. Controlling for rank, race, department and campus, female professors reported performing, on average, 1.4 more service activities per year than their male counterparts.

The difference was driven largely by internal service, the study says, with women performing approximately one more internal service activity annually than men.

Associate professors in the Midwest university sample reported performing more internal service than other ranks, but full professors exceeded them in terms of external service. “There was some evidence to suggest that that Asian female faculty performed more service than Asian male faculty, and that women in various fields performed differently than their male counterparts,” the paper notes. “Women in the public policy faculty performed significantly more service than men on that faculty, and women in law and, to a lesser degree, education performed less.”

Regarding external service, women reportedly perform more service than men in the categories of community service and national service.

Why Does It Happen?

The authors had some specific hypotheses as to why gender differentials in service exist, so they looked at the STEM, social science and liberal arts fields (their categories) separately. One hypothesis related to “proportionality,” or whether women are called on to do more service when there are fewer of them in an academic unit. They also considered the importance of gender in departmental leadership, to see if women with male supervisors do more service.

They found some evidence for both the proportionality and leadership hypotheses, varying by discipline. In STEM, having a female department chair was strongly correlated with female faculty members’ external service, which, the authors say, is driven by service to professional organizations and the international community. Within the social sciences, having a male department chair correlated with women doing more department-based service. Interestingly, in the liberal arts, having female chairs correlated with women doing more service, especially within the department — “a finding that would go against the hypothesis that women are asked to do more service or less likely to refuse requests by male chairs,” the study says.

Guarino and Borden also explored whether women might have a heightened perception of the presence of an ‘‘internal’’ track into paid administrative roles via internal service. But there was little evidence to suggest that, at least in the limited local data, since women tended to be proportionately or underrepresented in such roles. One final explanation — a gender difference in self-report bias — proved difficult to assess.

Over all, the study says that the data sets “corroborate” each other, leaving “little doubt as to the existence of a gender imbalance in faculty service loads,” both in number of activities and amount of time spent on service.

Achieving Balance

Yet in the effort to achieve greater gender equity in academe, it continues, “service has often been overlooked as a factor in the quest for parity,” and “merits close attention.”

The authors assert that service is an area of inequity that can be addressed relatively easily, via careful monitoring of service requests and allocations. Female faculty members, it says, “could be mentored to show more selectivity in their service-related choices and cultivate their ability to say no to requests.” Department chairs and deans, meanwhile, “could be made to be more fully aware of how service assignments are being meted out. A simple increase in overall awareness of this issue may improve overall attitudes toward service loads, remove traces of gender bias from service expectations and enable both women and men to accept or decline service requests with equal ease and impunity.”

Guarino in an interview underscored the concept of awareness, saying that women don’t necessarily know they’re doing or — as the case may be — being asked to do more until they see objective proof of service imbalances between male and female faculty members.

“There’s no woman who loves this stuff more than men,” she said of service. “But until we see evidence and we can really help women say no, it’s just going to keep happening.”

Guarino also emphasized institutional accountability for fixing gender service imbalances, saying it’s now virtually nonexistent. “There needs to be more internal monitoring of this,” from the department level to the provost’s office, she said.

Joya Misra, a professor of sociology and public policy at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (and an Inside Higher Ed columnist) who has studied the gendered nature of faculty work, said she’s found “dramatic service differentials between men and women,” particularly among associate professors.

Despite the fact that women’s service work “is necessary for the institutions to survive,” she added, the “daily grind of service and leadership rarely carries the respect and reputational benefits of disciplinary service, while it actively limits women’s research time.”

As to righting the imbalance, Misra said that it may seem like “women simply need to become more protective of their research time, as men are.” Yet they face “grave consequences if they are not perceived as team players,” she said, while men usually don’t.

Laura Perna, James S. Riepe Professor and executive director of the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy at the University of Pennsylvania, said the new study sheds critical light on faculty workloads, especially with the suspension of the federally-funded National Study of Postsecondary Faculty in 2004.

More broadly, the study raises important questions about “what it is we are valuing in our reward system,” she said. Service, not always rewarded like other kinds of faculty work, “is really oriented toward advancing [an institution’s] collective mission.”


By            :               Colleen Flaherty

Date         :               April 12, 2017

Source     :               Inside Higher Ed

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

Saving Asia’s Mothers


BANGKOK – With all the talk about the impending “Asian century,” one might imagine that the region had moved beyond what are often viewed as poor-country health challenges, like high rates of maternal mortality. The reality is very different.

In 2015, an estimated 85,000 women died of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth across the Asia-Pacific region – 28% of the global total. Up to 90% of those deaths, which were concentrated in just 12 countries, could have been prevented through quality antenatal, obstetric, and perinatal care.

In the absence of such care, the average maternal mortality rate (MMR) in the Asia-Pacific region is extremely high: 127 per 100,000 live births, compared to the developed-country average of 12 per 100,000. The 12 countries with the highest MMRs, exceeding 100 deaths per 10,000 live births, are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and Timor-Leste.

These countries, together, accounted for about 78,000 known maternal deaths in 2015. The actual figure is probably higher. In fact, MMRs are notoriously difficult to estimate, with conflict, poverty, poor infrastructure, weak health systems, and inadequate resources causing many deaths to go unreported.

MMR data do, however, provide an indication of general trends, which are not promising. Indeed, if they persist, hundreds of thousands of mothers in those 12 high-MMR Asia-Pacific countries alone could lose their lives by 2030.

To be sure, substantial progress has been made in the last 15 years, and efforts are being made to sustain it. The United Nations development agenda, underpinned by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), aims to reduce the MMR to 70 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2030. If that target is met, up to 100,000 lives could be saved across the Asia-Pacific region.

Achieving the goal presupposed faster progress, with annual rates of MMR reduction particularly low (2%) in Papua New Guinea and the Philippines. On current trends, only four of the Asia-Pacific region’s 12 high-MMR countries will be able to meet the SDG target for maternal mortality. The remaining eight will require an average of 26 years.

At a time when family-planning policies are becoming increasingly restrictive, accelerating the pace of progress could prove difficult. Indeed, for some countries, progress is at risk of slowing.

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) is working hard to counter this trend. We are committed to ensuring that all pregnancies are safe and wanted, and that all women and girls are empowered not just to make their own choices about their own families and bodies, but also to contribute more to poverty reduction and economic development.

In the 12 high-MMR Asia-Pacific countries, the UNFPA advocates the development of responsive and inclusive health systems with sufficient numbers of trained personnel, from midwives to community-health workers. And we are already working to advance that objective.

In Afghanistan, the UNFPA and its partners have supported the expansion of community health services, including the creation of 80 family health houses and nine mobile support teams. Those initiatives had reached more than 420,000 people by 2015.

In Lao PDR, the UNFPA has helped the Ministry of Health train midwives and village health volunteers to provide basic sexual and reproductive care, providing the information that women need to avoid unwanted pregnancies. This contributed in a steep drop in the MMR, from 450 to 220 per 100,000 live births, between 2005 and 2015.

In Fiji, the UNFPA, with the support of the Australian government, pre-positioned thousands of dignity and reproductive-health kits. Following the devastation caused by Cyclone Winston in February 2016, these strategically placed supplies help to address women and girls’ immediate reproductive-health needs, saving the lives of mothers and children.

But, while such initiatives are already having a powerful impact, more investment must be channeled toward ensuring that comprehensive health services are available and accessible to all, especially the most vulnerable groups. In particular, additional resources must be allocated to sexual- and reproductive-health services – and to ensuring access to them. Strengthening the provision of antenatal care, ensuring safe delivery through skilled birth attendance, and expanding emergency obstetric care are all key interventions that can reduce MMRs across the region.

Of course, women also need access to family-planning services, to help them avoid unwanted pregnancies and reduce the number of unsafe abortions. The rights of all women and their partners to choose the family-planning method that is appropriate for them must be respected, and a full range of quality contraceptives must be readily available to all.

When women have full control over their sexual and reproductive health, society as a whole reaps enormous benefits. In fact, every $1 invested in modern contraceptive services can yield as much as $120 in social, economic, and environmental returns. Such investment should come partly from international development assistance, which must place a higher priority on sexual- and reproductive-health services, and partly from national governments.

But money is not all governments can offer. They can and must develop inclusive policies that address the needs of vulnerable and marginalized groups, including in ways that go beyond the health sector. This includes fighting harmful practices such as child marriage and gender-based violence; removing legal barriers to contraception; and working with communities to address misconceptions around sexual and reproductive health.

Safe pregnancy and childbirth should be a top priority for all societies, as it is for the UNFPA. If we are to meet the SDG target for maternal mortality, we must work together to advance targeted, tailored interventions that respect the rights of women and girls to make decisions about their sexual and reproductive health.


Anderson Stanciole is a Health Economics Advisor at the United Nations Population Fund’s Asia-Pacific Regional Office.

Federica Maurizio is Health Economics and SRHR Fellow at the United Nations Population Fund’s Asia-Pacific Regional Office.


By            :               Anderson Stanciole & Federica Maurizio

Date         :               April 14, 2017

Source     :               Project Syndicate

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

How female university protesters in Seoul sparked Park’s ouster


When the Constitutional Court removed South Korean President Park Geun-hye from office last week, there were waves of social media messages thanking students at a university in Seoul for sparking the historic change.

Last summer, months before the public learned about a shadowy adviser behind Park, Ewha Womans University students gathered on the Seoul campus to protest something that initially seemed unrelated to national politics: the school administration’s decision to create a new degree program.

Ewha, considered the country’s top women’s university, soon withdrew the plan, but the students did not stop there, pressing on with their sit-in to urge the school president’s resignation. The efforts to topple the university president ended up uncovering a crucial piece of the puzzle in the political scandal that eventually brought down the country’s leader: the school’s favoritism to an equestrian athlete who turned out to be the daughter of Park’s secretive confidante, Choi Soon-sil.

The extent of Ewha’s favors to Choi’s daughter, Chung Yoo-ra, was further investigated by South Korea’s parliament and a special prosecution team. Seven school officials, including its former president and several professors, were indicted on criminal charges, and Chung’s admission to the university was canceled.

The episode struck a nerve in the country, where many young people work hard to get into a prestigious university, and unleashed the massive popular movement that would help unseat Park, who was impeached by parliament in December and formally removed from office by the court on Friday. Park is accused of colluding with her confidante to extort money from businesses while allowing Choi to pull government strings from the shadows.

“It was a total surprise for us to discover Choi Soon-sil’s link to the school,” said Kim Ji-Eun, a 1994 graduate of Ewha who joined thousands of students and alumni to rally against the university’s president.

Although the student protesters may not have intended to force out Park, experts said their movement would be remembered as the opening chapter in the political saga that ended her presidency. It also highlighted a new protest culture by those who were raised after the 1987 end of authoritarian rule, growing up with YouTube and K-pop.

“Ewha protests were the key to the impeachment,” said Lee Taek-gwang, a professor of cultural studies at South Korea’s Kyunghee University. Without them “things would not have moved so quickly,” he added.

Students who participated in the protests declined to be interviewed for this story, some fearing reprisals and others still undergoing treatment for injuries sustained when they were forcefully dragged away by police during the demonstrations.

The police action happened last July, in the early days of the protests, when some 1,600 officers entered a building occupied by a group of students that reportedly numbered around 200.

The students, covering their faces with baseball caps and masks and standing arm in arm, burst into the popular K-pop song “Into the New World.” The choice of the song — the debut single by Girls’ Generation, a South Korean girl group — surprised many former student activists, who had memories of rallying against the country’s authoritarian leaders with protest songs as police fired tear gas at them.

The scenes last summer of the young students singing the song, about a woman venturing into an unknown world, ahead of the police crackdown were widely viewed and shared on Facebook and YouTube, along with what happened next: students getting forcefully dragged out by the police amid screams of pain.

The police intervention convinced many Ewha graduates to join the protest movement. It also triggered larger questions about what made Choi Kyung-hee, the Ewha president, call for the police action, and caused the students to dig deeper into her possible wrongdoings. In October, Choi stepped down. But suspicions that Chung, the equestrian athlete, had received special favors from the school grew.

“When I saw the police crackdown, I realized there was something very violent in the university’s policies and this wasn’t simply about injustice on campus,” said Kim, the Ewha alum.

Kim, who attended the university while pro-democracy student activism was still alive in the 1990s, said she understands why, even after the outpouring of messages thanking Ewha students following Park’s ouster, many of them remain anonymous.

“I felt that the students in their 20s today were afraid that expressing dissent can take a toll on their career and life,” Kim said.

For previous generations of student activists, their activism against South Korea’s former authoritarian government was nothing to hide, and sometimes was even an asset in their search for a job. But younger South Koreans are more familiar with stories of activists who are stigmatized by their dissent even though freedom of speech is protected as a constitutional right.

Park’s former presidential aides were indicted for allegedly blacklisting journalists, artists and politicians for their critical views of the government and denying them government funds.

Before Choi Soon-sil’s Ewha link emerged, the student protesters were not always welcomed by the public or the media. Some saw them as students at an elite university trying to protect their exclusive community by urging the cancellation of the new degree program, which the protesters said had been introduced secretly without consulting students.

Lee, the Kyunghee University professor, said such an evaluation is unfair and reflects the tendency to belittle organized activities by women.

“People have a prejudice against Ewha graduates because they are women, that women are not politically active and are consumeristic,” he said. “The reason that their resistance was seen as selfish is partly due to those prejudices against women.”

Even though Park, the country’s first female president, saw a disgraceful exit, South Korean women saw her fall as a victory for women in the country because the movement that forced her out was started by the Ewha students.

Kim said she would never forget the special bond among the women during the sit-in, with students from across generations calling each other “friend” — something that she and others did not experience during earlier protest movements, in which hierarchy and leadership structure were rigid.

“There were a lot of discussions,” Kim said. “It was meaningful to see how students around age 19 and 20 gradually realized the systematic problems behind what they thought was wrong with the school. But seeing even some liberal intellectuals deriding us, I felt that there was certainly a gender issue here.”


By           :               AP

Date       :               March 15, 2017

Source    :               The Japan Times


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

Will Nepal give equal citizenship rights to women?


Nepali women are treated as second-class citizens, due to discriminatory nationality law. 

“Is it my fault that I don’t have a nationality?” a young Nepali girl asked recently on one of the country’s prime-time talk shows. “No it is not. It is your mother’s,” replied the male authority figure. The girl is one of countless women, men, girls and boys in the country who are classified as stateless, despite being born in Nepal to Nepali mothers.

Nepal remains one of twenty-six countries that denies women the equal right to confer nationality on their children, and one of roughly fifty that denies women the right to pass nationality to their spouses and to even acquire and retain their own nationality.

We recently travelled to the country, on behalf of the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights to increase government authorities’ and legislators’ awareness of the significant harm done by this discriminatory nationality law to individuals, families, and indeed to the country’s economy and reputation.

We witnessed a country striving to write a new chapter marked by stability and a shared prosperity. Ten years after its historic peace agreement, one year after the establishment of its new Constitution, and still recovering from the devastating 2015 earthquake, this young democracy is considering how to lay the foundation for a fairer society that transcends the political conflict and economic hardship of the past.

Like too many countries though, it is trying to do so having tied one of its own hands behind its back.

The impact of gender discrimination in nationality laws is significant and wide-ranging: from denied access to education and healthcare, to the inability to own property, hold a bank account or drivers license, vote, or run for public office. Many end up statelessness, not considered citizens by their own countries, or indeed, any other country in the world.

Denied equal rights, the child of a Nepali woman whose father is ‘unknown’ (a term with great stigma attached) should, according to the Constitution, have access to citizenship. In practice, such children can only apply for naturalized citizenship – which is citizenship not by right, but at the discretion of state authorities, most of whom are deeply conservative. The child of Nepali woman and a foreign man may only apply for naturalized citizenship if the child has not acquired any other citizenship and is a permanent resident of Nepal. Even when it comes to securing one’s own citizenship, Nepali girls must do so through their father and married Nepali women through their spouse.

This year, laws that conflict with the new constitution, including the nationality law, are expected to be amended. This presents an opportunity to advance the nationality rights of Nepali women and their children in some circumstances – an opportunity that, if leveraged, would benefit the country and further gender equality. However, to achieve equal nationality rights for Nepali men and women, a Constitutional amendment is urgently needed.

The cost of exclusion

“If my daughters become refugees in another country, will they then be able to get a nationality?” This was the question being asked by Deepti Gurung, a Nepali woman unable to secure Nepali nationality for her children born in Nepal, despite trying everything possible for many years. That an educated woman would even fleetingly consider refugee status in a foreign country as a ‘solution’ to securing her children’s future, points to a profound sense of helplessness.

When we visited Deepti and her family, sitting in her living room and eating her expertly made samosas, we could feel the deep sadness, frustration, and desperation of this mother who would do anything to give her daughters the opportunity to succeed in life. She knew that, despite all her efforts, the list of opportunities that her daughters would be denied was long and the burden heavy.

When speaking with her daughter, what struck us was not just that here was an intelligent young woman who would never become the doctor she dreamt of being, or whose plans to be a lawyer were indefinitely put on hold until she got citizenship. Here also was a country heavily dependent on its next generation, but missing out on some of its best and brightest young talent due to an ill-conceived and discriminatory law that most countries have relegated to the history books.

Though ‘lucky’ is never a word Deepti would use to describe her family’s situation, many affected families face situations that are far more dire. Sapana Pariyar’s husband abandoned her and their two children, refusing to grant his citizenship to his wife or daughters. Single mothers who were married before applying for citizenship have little chance of securing theirs or their children’s. Lacking the documents needed for formal employment, Sapana does hard laborto try to put enough food on the table for her children. The  meager salary was not enough, however, to pay primary school fees or rent in their modest home. As a result, the family is homeless and the two young daughters cannot go to school.

The personal cost of statelessness is well-documented and wide-ranging, but states are not necessarily motivated into action by this alone. However, the cost of statelessness is not only individual. States also pay a price: an opportunity cost of a growing disenfranchised population with no means to support itself or contribute to the formal economy; the development cost of not being able to benefit from the full potential of all its people; the socio-political cost of ever-increasing inequality and tension.

The link between gender equality and sustainable economic development is not groundbreaking. Development experts and human rights actors have emphasized the connections for years. That is why the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include ending discrimination against women as a stand-alone goal (Goal 5), while also integrating gender indicators throughout the other sixteen goals. Nepal and countries with similar laws will not be able to reach targets on nine of the seventeen SDGs, as long as they retain gender-discriminatory nationality laws. These include targets related to achieving peace, justice and strong institutions (Goal 16), quality education (Goal 4), the eradication of poverty and hunger (Goals 1 & 2), and the reduction of inequalities (Goal 10).

We have all been patriarchal societies and continue to be, to varying degrees. No country has a monopoly on that history. But it is a legacy that is holding every country back – notably so when gender discrimination is sanctioned by law and prevents access to citizenship. Discriminatory nationality laws provide insight into the state’s position that despite whatever else is written, rights and responsibilities are ultimately defined (and denied) by gender. They show that all citizens are really not equal before the law.

Nepal will be drafting a new citizenship law in the coming year. Like other countries with discriminatory nationality laws, it will also be establishing a national action plan to realize the Sustainable Development Goals. And so, well into the 21st century, it has a dual opportunity to finally end one of the great exclusions of the 20th century and to set its course on the path to equality, justice, and sustainable development for all. For the sake of its people, its future, we can only hope that this is an opportunity it will take.


Amal de Chickera is a co-founder and co-director of the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion.

Catherine Harrington is Campaign Manager of the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights – an international coalition led by organizations including the Women’s Refugee Commission, the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. It is housed at the Women’s Refugee Commission and includes the Nepal-based Forum for Women, Law and Development.


By           :               Catherine Harrington and Amal de Chickera

Date       :               March 9, 2017

Source    :              OpenDemocracy

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To change torture practices, we must change the entire system


The question of whether or not to engage with perpetrators of human rights violations is an extremely tricky one. In my own recent experience of trying to work with police and military personnel in Nepal and Sri Lanka, two countries where state officials routinely use torture and violence, I found myself deeply conflicted.

Coming from a background of “name and shame” human rights advocacy, this project was difficult for me and my team. As one of my Sri Lankan colleagues put it, he had seen police and military as evil for so long that he found it deeply disturbing to develop relationships with individuals within these institutions and discover that he actually liked them. All of us engaged in the field research had occasion to enjoy meals, outings, visits to family and leisure time with people who, if not themselves directly responsible for torture, were certainly part of an institution that condoned and practiced it. This certainly complicated our positions; if these were ordinary—even likeable—people much like us, then how could we be sure that we weren’t ourselves capable of violence if operating within the same environment? At the same time, not everyone within these institutions did engage in violence. We met army and police personnel who had left precisely because they could not condone the use of torture. This suggested that the environment was not determinative. There was room for human agency too.

What this experience highlighted for me was the importance of the type of ethnographic work that we and people like Rachel Wahl, along with a number of others (e.g., Beatrice Jauregui, Julia Hornberger , Andrew Jefferson and Steffen Jensen, and Mika Haritos-Fatouros) have sought to do. Without this work, we cannot formulate effective strategies that might actually reduce or prevent violations in the future. Instead, we will continue to reproduce the same responses that might make us feel like we are doing something, and give us the satisfaction of righteous indignation, but in fact will lead to little real change.

At the same time, and perhaps somewhat paradoxically, while I advocate for the importance of conducting this research, I do not believe that activists should focus their energies on perpetrators. Coming out of the project, I am convinced that trying to work directly with torturers—potential or actual—is a flawed approach for a number of reasons.

For human rights activists to focus on working with perpetrators means we believe that the way to achieving justice is for us to intervene on behalf of others and convince people with power to act more benevolently. This is a deeply depoliticising project. It keeps power in the hands of “experts” and authorities and leaves victims of violations passive objects to be saved rather than empowering them to speak for and protect themselves.

It is therefore vital for the focus of human rights activism to remain on working to ensure that those who have long been excluded and oppressed are able to access the power to claim and defend their own rights. It is not incidental that in both Nepal and Sri Lanka the vast majority of torture is committed against the most marginal members of society: street children, drug users, sex workers and the rural poor. Our own research, as well as my work with Vidura Munasinghe and that of the Asian Human Rights Commission found that the people most frequently subjected to police violence and ill-treatment were those who the authorities felt no one cared about—or at least no one with any influence; or worse, the victims were people that the police felt community pressure to punish. For example, in 2014, footage of a police officer publicly beating a sex worker in a small town in southern Sri Lanka went viral. When human rights lawyers helped the woman file a fundamental rights case against the police, the police officer was suspended. This led to protests in the streets of the town by “concerned decent citizens” in defence of the police officer. This suggests that while there may be condemnation of police torture, it is far from universal and may well depend on whether the alleged victim evokes sufficient public sympathy.

The torturer and his (or her) environment represent the tip of the iceberg: the extreme end of a continuum that makes their violence possible—the key to prevention does not lie in changing their minds. To focus on this extreme end in fact detracts attention from the more mundane, less-remarked-upon pervasive cultures of violence that lead to or at least permit this kind of behaviour. It also too easily lets the rest of us off the hook through the creation of the “bad guy” who is separate from the rest of society.

In fact, a key finding of our research was that while the concept of “human dignity” is often invoked to explain why torture is wrong, there has rarely been discussion of what people mean when they talk of “dignity”. In the case of both Nepal and Sri Lanka, it was a widely held belief—not just among police and military but many members of society – that certain sections of the community had less or even no dignity depending on their backgrounds, actions and behaviour. Moreover “instilling dignity” was in some cases seen as a legitimate reason for the use of physical force. To understand why the police used violence we also needed to understand why parents, religious leaders, school teachers, and even nurses in maternity wards, used insults, humiliation, threats and sometimes physical force against those in their care. It is pointless trying to convince police that using violence against suspected criminals is wrong within a context that does not question the beating of a child to make him/her a “good person”. Instead it suggests that we need to start by countering the everyday beliefs that facilitate the development of violence-permissive attitudes and environments.

Meanwhile one senior retired army officer I interviewed in Sri Lanka remarked, “If the world tells people that a terrorist is an inhuman bad guy who has done all this terrible stuff, this is drummed into their heads, when [soldiers] catch a terrorist they can’t see this person as human, as fit to live. How can we then say he should be treated okay?” The demonization of particular groups—a process for which we are all responsible—makes them more vulnerable to ill treatment.

Researching and understanding the perspectives of perpetrators is a necessary if extremely challenging task. But for activists, our commitment must be broader and more ambitious. Trying to shift the beliefs and practices of a few perpetrators—actual or potential—will not work on its own, nor will it change the status quo. To live up to the utopian claims of the human rights project requires more of us: working to create a society in which all members are not just said to have equal dignity and worth as human beings but in practice have equal ability to assert and protect these. This may not see the complete end to practices like torture, but it would be a good start.


Kiran Grewal is a senior research fellow at the Institute for Social Justice, Australian Catholic University. Her current research focuses on the relationship between international law and grassroots social justice struggles in post-conflict settings.


By           :               Kiran Grewal

Date       :               March 15, 2017

Source    :              Open Democracy

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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

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

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

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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