Gender & Human Rights

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Afghanistan’s Forgotten Half

 

WASHINGTON, DC – When Zalmay Khalilzad was appointed as the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation in September 2018, an end to America’s longest war seemed finally to be in sight. Now, following President Donald Trump’s sudden announcement in late December that the United States will withdraw 7,000 of its troops from the country, the pressure on Khalilzad to secure a deal with the Taliban by spring has increased dramatically. Many now fear that Trump wants to leave Afghanistan regardless of the consequences, least of all for the country’s women.

Afghan women’s progress is essential to that of Afghanistan as a whole. Yet women are suddenly as invisible in international press coverage as they are in much of Afghan society. Privately, many diplomats concede that women’s rights are simply not a high priority in talks with the Taliban: nice but not necessary, and, given the Taliban’s horrific treatment of women when they ruled the country in the 1990s, probably a non-starter anyway.

This line of thinking is wrong. The Taliban leadership know that they have a potentially disastrous image problem. The international community ostracized their government in the 1990s, owing in part to their treatment of women. To be accepted as a legitimate political movement and a viable partner in any future power-sharing deal, Taliban leaders believe they must demonstrate that they have changed their views.1

And so they have – if ever so slightly. They now say that girls can attend school in the nearly 60% of the country under Taliban control, so long as gender segregation is enforced. This is a modest improvement from a generation ago, when their government prevented nearly all girls from attending school and women from working outside the home.

While Afghan women have made huge strides since the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001, their gains are at risk, and much more remains to be done. In a recent survey of 15,000 Afghans, women said their biggest problems were lack of education and illiteracy. Investing in education and income-earning opportunities for women is vital. So, too, is redoubling efforts to improve women’s access to health care.

Afghan women face a one in ten chance of dying in childbirth. The situation is so dire that Taliban commanders have been known to request the government and NGOs to deploy more midwives to areas under their control. The number of girls in school is falling, legal protection for women is being rolled back, and women in public life are increasingly subject to harassment and violence. Addressing these issues is essential not only for Afghan women, but also for their children, their families, and the country.

The best way to ensure that women’s interests are represented in the peace talks is to include women at the negotiating table, giving them an equal role in the negotiation, design, and implementation of any peace process. While most foreign-policy professionals dismiss this suggestion as superfluous, or even frivolous, including women is a matter not only of principle, but also of effectiveness. Peace processes in which women participate are on average much less likely to fail, and any agreement reached is more likely to last.

Some might argue that the Taliban would never negotiate with an Afghan woman. But they already have. A group of Afghan women, all high-profile government officials and activists, met with representatives of the Taliban in Oslo in 2015. The Taliban explicitly requested and initiated the meeting, and later said they participated specifically to address concerns about their policies.

Shukria Barakzai, the Afghan ambassador to Norway who attended the dialogue and ran an underground girls’ school under the Taliban regime, says the women had no qualms about holding the Taliban to account for their past treatment of women. “It will be unbelievable to most people how tough we were on the Taliban,” Barakzai says. “But they listened patiently and respected what we were saying, and it was clear that this was not the same Taliban we faced in the 1990s.”

Since that meeting four years ago, however, little else has been done to facilitate dialogue between Afghan women and the Taliban. Western governments may publicly emphasize the importance of women’s rights, but they have done shockingly little to back up their rhetoric. The Trump administration, in particular, will not listen to these concerns, as Trump himself evinces little concern for women’s rights in the US, let alone Afghanistan.

The international community can and must step in. Under the current NATO mission, 39 countries have troops on the ground and many others provide substantial aid to Afghanistan. Their commitment will be required to support any peace deal. They should use this leverage to ensure that women are at the negotiating table, their issues are on the agenda, and their rights are upheld in any deal.

If that proves impossible, these countries could launch and support a parallel Track II dialogue, focused exclusively on women’s rights, that could inform the broader negotiations. They should also increase aid expenditures in critical areas such as women’s health and education.

To be sure, any peace deal with the Taliban is likely to include difficult and distasteful compromises. But an agreement that lacks guarantees regarding the treatment of half the Afghan population is not worth having. And a peace that is not partly negotiated by women is much less likely to hold. Women’s rights, in Afghanistan and elsewhere, are not a foreign policy “extra.” They are essential to any serious efforts at conflict resolution.

 

Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former director of policy planning in the US State Department (2009-2011), is President and CEO of the think tank New America, Professor Emerita of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University, and the author of Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family.

Ashley Jackson is a Research Associate with the Overseas Development Institute.

 

By: Anne-Marie Slaughter & Ashley Jackson
Date: January 18, 2019
Source: Project Syndicate
https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/taliban-peace-talks-in-afghanistan-must-include-women-by-anne-marie-slaughter-and-ashley-jackson-2019-01

 

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More than unpopular. How ParentsNext intrudes on single parents’ human rights

 

ParentsNext is to be the subject of a Senate inquiry, with submissions closing on February 1.

The program has been widely criticised for making parents’ lives more difficult and for unfairly stopping payments.

But that wasn’t how it began, and it wasn’t what was trialled.

The program trialled from April 2016 provided intensive job-readiness training (and parenting programs) for single parents “at risk”, often Indigenous, to help prepare them to enter the workforce when their youngest was ready for school.

An announcement in the 2017 budget declared the trial a success and said that from July 2018 it would be expanded to an extra 20 locations with “a significant Indigenous population”, and to the entire country, less intensively.

The expanded program would place participation requirements on parents such as reporting to a service provider and would lead to loss of benefits for non-compliance. This was supported by a new so-called Targeted Compliance Framework also introduced last year.

The ParentsNext that was implemented from July 1 made parenting payments and other benefits conditional on taking part in the program for targeted groups of vulnerable parents.

Parents have had their parenting payments docked for failing to attend “story time sessions”, and domestic violence survivors have been retraumatised by being made to retell their stories (sometimes in front of their children) in order to keep receiving payments.

Even ParentsNext providers are unhappy

ParentsNext service providers’ representative, Jobs Australia, has begged Jobs Minister Kelly O’Dwyer to disentangle ParentsNext from the compliance requirements, saying it is doing the opposite of what was intended.

It said that the compliance aspects of the program are adding to parents’ stress and financial hardship.

Examples of problems include: rural parents without smart phones or enough data are being suspended for not reporting if they can’t travel to providers in other towns to report. Parents are being referred to emergency relief on a Friday to buy food because payment suspensions can’t be lifted until Monday. A pregnant woman had payments suspended after she was rushed to hospital for a premature birth and was unable to report.

A key consideration for the Senate inquiry ought to be whether this violates human rights.

It threatens human rights

Australia is signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which establishes social security as a human right.

Social security is an entitlement provided by a society to members who are in need due to circumstances such as illness, disability, unemployment, old age and caring responsibilities.

That right, as with others in the International Covenant, must be “exercised without discrimination”, including on the basis of sex, race, language and national or social origin.

And leads to discrimination

Since a disproportionate number of people automatically enrolled in ParentsNext and facing payment cuts are Indigenous, the program appears to discriminate on the basis of race.

It might also discriminate against disadvantaged parents who are new to Australia and face language and cultural barriers making compliance a challenge.

Almost all of the participants – 96% – are women, meaning conditions attached to their social security payments could lead to gender discrimination in their access to social security rights. Selected mothers are being punished for undertaking the unpaid care work necessary to raise children, in a context where affordable child care and appropriate employment is often not available.

It might also discriminate against children on the basis of their family type. Children in disadvantaged sole parent families face discrimination as a result of the withdrawal of payments – which is less likely to affect children in families with lower vulnerability.

The United Nations is watching

Conditionality itself may be at odds with Australia’s obligations.

One interpretation of international human rights says that, to the greatest extent possible, states should refrain from imposing co-responsibilities or conditionalities on receipt of social protection, and instead should channel financial and human resources into improving the level of benefits provided and the quality and accessibility of social services available.

Withholding entitlements cannot be a correct response to structural challenges such as lack of jobs and childcare.

The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights has already expressed concern about the effect of cuts to the payments available to single parents.

These cuts, together with the compliance requirements attached to ParentsNext, raise questions about Australia’s stated commitments to its international human rights obligations.

When Australia joined the International Covenant in 1976 it promised to use its social security system to promote rather than chip away at human rights. The Senate committee provides an opportunity to ensure this does not continue.

 

By: Beth Goldblatt (Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law, University of Technology Sydney)
Date: January 16, 2019
Source: The Conversation
https://theconversation.com/more-than-unpopular-how-parentsnext-intrudes-on-single-parents-human-rights-108754

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Indonesia’s Rights Struggle: Deciding Which Candidate Is the ‘Lesser Evil’

 

A debate showed that neither candidate in Indonesia’s presidential race has any plans to address human-rights abuses.

JAKARTA—Standing on a stage in the Hotel Bidakara’s ballroom in downtown Jakarta during a presidential debate, Indonesia’s incumbent leader, Joko Widodo, meekly defended what has been, at best, a checkered record on human rights.

Widodo, popularly known simply as Jokowi, denied having overseen any rights violations; he pledged, as he did four years ago when he first ran for the presidency, to reshape the justice system; and he promised, as he had four years ago, to push for land reform. And, in the course of the 73-minute back-and-forth on Thursday evening—the first of five such debates ahead of elections in April—he showed how little has really changed here during his time in office.

When Jokowi came to power in 2014, he did so articulating nine priorities, a program he called the Nawa Cita. Among them was a promise to resolve past human-rights injustices. His pledge held out the prospect of at least acknowledging, if not addressing, decades of army abuse, authoritarian overreach, and suppression of minority rights. In a part of the world often beset by a form of moral relativism—Our country is fine; others are worse—it appeared to be a significant step forward.

Little tangible progress has materialized, though. While Jokowi has not been directly linked with any human-rights infractions, his presidency has been characterized by a lack of improvement on the issue (rights groups would go further, saying he has in fact presided over a worsening of conditions). An inquiry into an attack on an anti-corruption investigator has gone nowhere; Jokowi’s administration has walked back suggestions that he would formally apologize for a decades-old government massacre; and it has declined requests from international bodies to visit a restive region that wants independence. Though Jokowi now says he wants to address past injustices, human-rights advocates are downbeat about the prospect that he will follow through. And this election has little chance of yielding change: The incumbent is ahead in the polls, and his lone challenger has an even worse track record.

“Jokowi won’t dare to solve human-rights issues,” said Rivanlee Anandar, a Jakarta-based researcher at the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence, a rights group here known by its acronym in Indonesian, Kontras. “His administration has displayed a regression on human rights.”

Indonesia has a long history of trampling on individual rights. Its first leader, Sukarno, was initially a forceful advocate for liberty as he led the movement that eventually won the country independence, but over his time in power he made more and more authoritarian moves (at one point, he made himself Indonesia’s president for life). Sukarno was eventually ousted in a military coup led by Suharto, a general and someone who, like his predecessor and many other Indonesians, goes by only one name. Suharto’s decades-long authoritarian rule began and ended in violence: In a tumultuous period between 1965 and Suharto finally capturing power in 1967, huge numbers—estimates vary from hundreds of thousands to 1 million—of Communists and suspected Communists were killed, and his resignation in 1998 came in the face of mass demonstrations and riots that left hundreds dead.

Since Suharto’s departure, some progress has been made: New laws were enacted, treaties were signed, and ad-hoc human-rights trials were held, “albeit unsatisfactorily,” said Andreas Harsono, the Indonesia researcher for Human Rights Watch, the international monitoring group. One of Jokowi’s predecessors, Abdurrahman Wahid, pushed for greater official acceptance of Indonesians who were ethnically Chinese, a minority group that faced persistent discrimination during Suharto’s rule, and apologized for the massacre that brought Suharto to power (he remains the only Indonesian president to do so). Wahid was, however, later impeached over an array of other scandals and following a power struggle with his successor. Since then, progress on the rights front has languished.

Jokowi had promised to change all of that. While campaigning for president in 2014, he promised, for example, to lift restrictions on international human-rights investigators and on the foreign press visiting the Indonesian region of Papua, where an independence movement has agitated for decades.

In office, it has been a different story. His government has declined to allow the United Nation’s human-rights chief to visit Papua, where rights groups accuse the military of violently suppressing the independence movement, and has restricted access for foreign media there.

And for years, Jokowi eschewed meeting with demonstrators taking part in the “Kamisan” rally, a weekly peaceful protest held in front of Jakarta’s presidential palace calling for the authorities to address past human-rights abuses, before finally relenting this past May (that he attended only in the final year of his term was interpreted as a political move, and drew criticism).

Kontras, in a report released in October assessing Jokowi’s time in office, said Indonesia had fallen backwards on an array of rights-related issues, from the use of the death penalty and extrajudicial killings to disability rights and the persecution of indigenous peoples and minorities. Defamation lawsuits—often used to suppress critical reporting or criticism of those in power—have spiked in the past four years, while frivolous prosecutions, such as the jailing of an ethnically Chinese Indonesian woman for blasphemy after she complained about the volume of sound from a nearby mosque, have proliferated.

Among the most troubling cases has been that of Novel Baswedan. The senior anti-corruption investigator was in the midst of a wide-ranging inquiry in 2017 when someone threw hydrochloric acid at his face. Baswedan had to be rushed to Singapore for treatment, and after undergoing four operations, he still remains almost entirely blind in his left eye. Yet no one has been arrested or prosecuted for the assault.

Concerns have also been raised about the company the Indonesian leader keeps. Among his ministers is a retired general who was placed on a visa watch list by the United States in 2004 and who has been indicted by the UN over his alleged involvement in a series of abuses, including murders, surrounding Indonesia’s withdrawal in 1999 from East Timor, a province it had controlled. Jokowi’s current running mate, Ma’ruf Amin, is a leader of Indonesia’s top clerical body, an organization that under his leadership issued religious declarations in support of female genital mutilation and condemned religious minorities.

Jokowi’s “record on the preservation of human rights, his regard for core democratic principles, his commitment to transparent and accountable government, and his support for a meaningful anti-corruption agenda are all highly dubious,” Tom Power, a researcher specializing in Indonesian politics at the Australian National University in Canberra, wrote in a recent analysis.

There is, if anything, a feeling among some Indonesians that these issues are being given short shrift by a leader who had promised to promote them. “Human-rights tragedies,” Maria Catarina Sumarsih, whose son died in the 1998 riots and who has since become a prominent activist, told me, “are just a political commodity, used to get more votes.”

Jokowi has at least one thing going for him, though: He is not his opponent.

Facing off against the Indonesian president is the same person who challenged him in 2014, the former military commander Prabowo Subianto. Subianto, who was once married to one of Suharto’s daughters, was dogged by allegations of human-rights violations during the previous campaign. A recently declassified U.S. diplomatic cable alleges that the one-time head of Indonesia’s special forces ordered the kidnapping of dissidents in 1998. He has threatened clamping down on the media, and has warned that if he loses the upcoming poll, Indonesia could “go extinct.” (Subianto has, however, appointed former members of Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights to be part of his new campaign team.)

According to Debbie Stothard, the secretary-general of the International Federation for Human Rights, ordinary voters were beginning to realize that in this election, “it’s a question of who is the lesser evil.”

 

By: Stanley Widianto
Date: January 18, 2019
Source: The Atlantic
https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2019/01/indonesia-president-human-rights-jokowi-subianto/580762/

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Shaping the new world order: The battle for human rights

 

China is leading the charge in a bid to undermine accepted concepts of human rights accountability and justice.

The Chinese effort backed by autocrats elsewhere has turned human rights into an underrated, yet crucial battleground in the shaping of a new world order.

China is manoeuvring against the backdrop of an unprecedented crackdown on Turkic Muslims in its north-western province of Xinjiang, the accelerated rollout of restrictions elsewhere in the country, and the export of key elements of its model of a 21st century Orwellian surveillance state.

The Chinese effort, highlighted in Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2019, is multipronged.

It involves proposals to alter the principles on which United Nations Human Rights Council operates in ways that would enable repressive, autocratic regimes.

To achieve its goal, China is employing its financial muscle and infrastructure and energy-driven Belt and Road initiative to economically entice countries that are financially strapped, desperate for investment and/or on the defensive because of human rights abuses.

China is also seeking a dominant role in various countries’ digital infrastructure and media that would allow it to influence the flow of information and enable its allies to better control dissent.

China is waging its campaign at a crucial juncture of history. It benefits from the rise of ethno- and religious nationalism, populism, intolerance and widespread anti-migration sentiment across the world’s democracies.

The campaign is enabled by the emergence of presidents like Donald J. Trump in the United States, the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Hungary’s Victor Orban and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro who have either deemphasized human rights or gone as far as justifying abuses in addition to seeking to limit, if not undermine, independent media that hold them accountable.

The timing of the Chinese effort is significant because it comes at a moment that predictions of the death of popular protest, symbolized by the defeat of the initially successful 2011 popular Arab revolts, are being called into question.

Mass anti-government demonstrations in Sudan demand the resignation of President Omar al-Bashir. Anti-Chinese groups march in Kyrgyzstan while protests in Zimbabwe decry repression, poor public services, high unemployment, widespread corruption and delays in civil servants receiving their salaries. The past year has also seen widespread anti-government agitation in countries like Morocco and Jordan.

The protests and what Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth describes in his foreword to the group’s just published, 674-page World Report 2019 as “a resistance that keeps winning battles” suggests that China’s campaign may have won battles but has yet to win the war.

“Victory isn’t assured but the successes of the past year suggest that the abuses of authoritarian rule are prompting a powerful human rights counterattack,” Mr. Roth wrote.

Nonetheless, Human Rights Watch’s China director Sophie Richardson warned that “people outside China don’t yet seem to realize that their human rights are…increasingly under threat as Beijing becomes more powerful… In recent years, Beijing has…sought to extend its influence into, and impose its standards and policies on, key international human rights institutions—weakening some of the only means of accountability and justice available to people around the world,”

Ms. Richardson noted that China had last year successfully pushed a non-binding resolution in the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) that advocated promotion of human rights on the basis of the People’s Republic’s principle of win-win, a principle that cynics assert means China wins twice.

In a sign of the times, the resolution garnered significant support. The United States, in a twist of irony, was the only Council member to vote against it with countries like Germany and Australia abstaining.

China is not the only country that would like a globally accepted approach to be altered to the detriment of human rights. Muslim nations, with Saudi Arabia in the lead, have, for example, long sought to have blasphemy criminalized.

The resolution “gutted the ideas of accountability for actual human rights violations, suggesting ‘dialogue’ instead. It failed to specify any course of action when rights violators refuse to cooperate with UN experts, retaliate against rights defenders or actively reject human rights principles. And it even failed to acknowledge any role for the HRC itself to address serious human rights violations when ‘dialogue’ and ‘cooperation’ don’t produce results,” Ms. Richardson said.

“If these ideas become not just prevailing norms but also actual operating principles for the HRC, victims of state-sponsored abuses worldwide—including in Myanmar, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen—will face almost impossible odds in holding abusive governments accountable,” Ms. Richardson cautioned.

In a separate interview, Ms. Richardson described the resolution as “the start of a process to wither away the UN human rights eco system.”

She said human rights groups were concerned “about what China will try to do next, whether it will more aggressively try to change the council’s mandate or nibble away at language in treaties or roll back the role of civil society. China wants inter-governmental cooperation instead of accountability, government officials discussing among themselves with no discussion of accountability for abuses and no participation of independent groups.”

China’s efforts are both an attempt to rewrite international norms and counter sharp Western criticism of its moves against Christians and Muslim and its crackdown in Xinjiang.

Up to one million Turkic Muslims have reportedly been incarcerated in re-education camps that China projects as vocational training facilities. To maintain its crackdown, China depends on a fragile silence in the Muslim world that is fraying at the edges.

In addition to attempting to change the operating principles of the UN Human Rights Commission, lobbying UN and foreign government officials to tone down criticism and invited foreign diplomats and journalists on choreographed visits to Xinjiang, China has at times successfully employed its economic and financial clout to buy either support or silence.

Pakistan, the host of the Belt and Road’s US$45 billion crown jewel, has curbed its initial criticism of the crackdown in Xinjiang.

Similarly, China is pressuring Myanmar to revive the suspended US$3.6 billion Myitsone dam project, which if built as previously designed would flood 600 square kilometres of forestland in northern Kachin state and export 90 % of the power produced to China.

China has reportedly offered in return for the dam to support Myanmar that has been condemned by the United Nations, Western countries and some Muslim nations for its repressive campaign against the Rohingya, some 700,000 of which fled to Bangladesh last year.

In a bid to pacify, criticism of its Xinjiang policy in Central Asia where anti-Chinese sentiment has been rising, China agreed this month to allow some 2,000 ethnic Kazakhs to renounce their Chinese citizenship and leave the country.

The decision follows testimony in a Kazakh court of a former employee of a re-education camp detailing three facilities in which up to 7,500 Kazaks and Chinese nationals of Kazakh descent allegedly were being held. The testimony prompted sharp criticism in parliament and on social media.

China and the West’s diametrically opposed concepts of human rights are part of a larger contest for dominance over the future of technology and global influence.

Freedom House, a Washington-based freedom watchdog, reported last year that China was exporting to at least 18 countries sophisticated surveillance systems capable of identifying threats to public order and has made it easier to repress free speech in 36 others.

“They are passing on their norms for how technology should govern society,” said Adrian Shahbaz, the author of the report.

Added Nadège Rolland, a senior fellow at the National Bureau of Asian Research, a Washington think tank, speaking to Bloomberg: “There’s a 1984 component to it that’s kind of scary.”

 

Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title, Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored with Dr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and three forthcoming books, Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africaas well as Creating Frankenstein: The Saudi Export of Ultra-conservatism and China and the Middle East: Venturing into the Maelstrom.YOU.

 

By: Dr. James M. Dorsey
Date: January 20, 2019
Source: Modern Diplomacy

Shaping the new world order: The battle for human rights

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Want less poverty in the world? Empower women.

 

A new book explains why gender equality is key to economic prosperity.

The single greatest antidote to poverty and social stagnation is the emancipation of women. Wherever this has been tried, wherever women have been empowered to do as they wish, the economy and the culture have been radically improved.

A new book by Augusto Lopez-Claros, a senior fellow at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, and Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, an Iranian writer and novelist, is among the first to comprehensively test this proposition by surveying data from 189 countries. Titled Equality for Women = Prosperity for All, the book shows how gender inequalities — in education, income, law, employment, and wages — lead to instability and chaos at almost every level of society.

I called Lopez-Claros to talk about the links between gender inequality and political instability, how discriminatory laws hold women back, and what we can do to push societies toward more gender equality.

A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.

Sean Illing

What happens to a society when women are deprived of their rights?

Augusto Lopez-Claros

One useful starting point to answer your question is to look at how discriminations are embedded in countries around the world — in constitutions, civil codes, family law, tax codes, labor codes, and every legal instrument that you can imagine having an impact on how the law treats women compared to men.

The World Bank did this for 189 countries, accounting for 98 percent of the global economic output, and we discovered that, as you might expect, discriminatory laws lead to highly unequal societies, especially in terms of income and employment and property ownership. They also discourage women from joining the labor force and from engaging in civil society, so you get not only unequal societies but also huge gaps in participation rates — in the job market, in politics, in education — of women relative to men.

This is terrible for social progress and for the economy, but one of the worst things this does is poison the future, because you get fewer women in school relative to boys and the effects of that spill into the next generation, and so you end up in this spiral of poverty and dysfunction that is hard to escape.

Sean Illing

Can you give me a sense of some of the more common forms of discrimination you found?

Augusto Lopez-Claros

Access to the labor market is huge. Many occupations are simply forbidden to women precisely because they’re women. In many places, you find that women have to obtain authorization from their husbands to obtain a bank account or even to travel. And then there’s the issue of property rights. Often the law treats women and men fundamentally different in terms of what they’re entitled to and on what basis.

Does the tax system provide benefits to men that it doesn’t provide to women? What about access to credit? In some countries, for instance, the law gives control of household assets to the man, and this very much restricts the ability of women to use the property as collateral to access the financial system.

These are the sorts of things we looked at, and we wanted to know how they impacted the societies in which we found them.

Sean Illing

Let’s talk about that. What is the direct link between gender inequality and political instability?

Augusto Lopez-Claros

The biggest impact of gender inequality is on income inequality. We have data that shows that countries that make it more difficult for women to access the labor market have higher levels of income inequality. And if you think about the intuition behind this, it makes sense. If you’re discriminating against half the population, how can that not worsen income inequality?

Political scientists have long understood how corrosive income inequality can be to political stability. There is pretty clear evidence that democracies with large gaps in income have a much higher probability of breakdown than those with a more egalitarian income distribution. So this gender inequality feeds directly into political instability.

Sean Illing

Does the data show that gender disparities disappear as societies become wealthier? Or that societies become wealthier as gender disparities disappear?

Augusto Lopez-Claros

The data suggests overwhelmingly that gender equalities lead to more wealth and less poverty, and of course, equal access to education is a huge component of that. More education leads to lower birthrates because women have more knowledge about family planning and more opportunities to enter the labor force and earn money.

Lower fertility levels help reduce child mortality, and they expand the range of educational opportunities that are available to the next generation. All of these factors combine to boost economic growth and higher income per capita.

On the other hand, to address the other half of your question, we have several examples of high-income countries, especially in the Middle East, that have very high levels of discrimination against women. So it doesn’t automatically follow that as countries become richer, all of a sudden, gender equality improves.

Sean Illing

When you look around the world, is the gender gap shrinking, however slowly?

Augusto Lopez-Claros

If you look at the whole world, there are something like 30 countries with 10 or more such discriminations embedded in their laws, in their national legislation. And most of these are located in the Middle East and North Africa region and, to a lesser extent, in sub-Saharan Africa.

A couple of years ago, the World Bank did a 50-year comparison of the laws for 100 countries (from 1960 to 2010) to get a sense of the progress made, and they found that there was progress made pretty much everywhere except in the regions I just mentioned above. And in some countries, like Iran, women were actually worse off in 2010 than they had been in 1960.

Sean Illing

And fundamentally this is about a lack of political power, right?

Augusto Lopez-Claros

Absolutely. In each case, you find that women have not been politically empowered. That’s what keeps these restrictions in place. The voices of women simply are not heard in many of these countries. The men in these societies have largely appropriated for themselves the making of the rules and the content of the laws. They are the ones who sit in parliamentary committees, who are finance ministers, who are governors, and so on.

Just consider this incredibly revealing statistic: We have nine female heads of government in the world among 193 members of the United Nations. That’s astonishing, and really puts the problem in perspective.

Sean Illing

Part of the solution to this, as you argue in the book, is to establish quotas for women on corporate boards and in parliaments. What’s the case for this policy?

Augusto Lopez-Claros

First of all, quotas are becoming more and more popular. Something like 40 percent of the countries in the world have introduced some kind of quota for women in terms of participation in national parliaments and local government.

There are also attempts underway to increase the participation of women in corporate boards, largely because a number of studies have found a positive correlation between companies with women on their boards and their financial success.

There was actually a very interesting study in the United Kingdom a couple of years ago looking at the gender composition of company boards that showed that companies with greater female participation on their boards were less likely to be hit by corporate governance scandals involving bribery, fraud, and other factors, which can depress business confidence and therefore hinder economic growth.

Now, having said that, there is a lot of very encouraging evidence when you compare countries that have quotas with countries that don’t. Let me give you two or three examples, which I think illustrate this very nicely.

One of them is that those countries that have introduced quotas for women in parliament show higher levels of participation of women in the labor force. So the presence of women in parliament seems to encourage women to strive and to enter the job market, probably because they feel like the playing field is more leveled.

Quotas also seem to have an effect on government spending priorities. A number of studies have shown that where quotas exist, either at the level of parliament or at a lower government level, there is more spending going to social services and the kinds of infrastructures that are more helpful for women — and you can see this across the world.

So there’s a growing body of evidence showing that having greater participation of women is not just a victory for human rights; it’s actually a big boost to the economy.

Sean Illing

Apart from the policies you just laid out, are there other reliable ways to push societies toward more gender equality?

Augusto Lopez-Claros

One of the problems we face is that we have deeply ingrained prejudices that have led many people in many parts of the world to essentially pass on to succeeding generations beliefs about gender roles that are no longer in keeping with empirical evidence or the kind of 21st-century world we live in.

There was a great, interesting book written a couple hundred years ago called A Vindication of the Rights of Women, by Mary Wollstonecraft, which we quote in the book. She made a very clear and simple point: Women are not inferior, and their apparent lack of accomplishment has nothing to do with intrinsic inferior capacities but has everything to do with lack of opportunity and access.

So it seems to me that one of the challenges we face is how do we change deeply ingrained attitudes and create a more open, tolerant, and just world?

Sean Illing

As you know, there are some people who push back against arguments like yours, and say that different cultures have different values and we should not impose our values on them. What’s your response to this?

Augusto Lopez-Claros

Our response to this is simple: Who is speaking for whom in these places where women are being repressed? Is it men or women? Because what you often find is that men have appropriated for themselves the right to speak on behalf of women.

Did anyone in Afghanistan, for example, ask the 11 million Afghan women whether they wanted to be able to work or to send their daughters to school? Or was it the Taliban who imposed this on them?

So basically our argument is about spokesmanship — who speaks on behalf of whom, and what is asserted on the basis of force rather than freely granted popular support. When leaders hold on to power at the cost of the rights and freedoms of others, their legitimacy is most likely to be self-serving and less likely to be freely given. So that’s essentially the argument that we make.

Sean Illing

As you look around the world at this moment, what forces or institutions pose the greatest challenge to the empowerment of women?

Augusto Lopez-Claros

We live in a world in which, at the moment, we have roughly 800 million people who live on less than a $1.90 a day. That’s the poverty line that is used at the World Bank for extreme poverty. We have close to 800 million people who are illiterate, who can’t read and write; in other words, they don’t have access to the most important tool in the 21st century for coming out of poverty. And then we have roughly another 800 million or so children who are malnourished.

Women are overwhelmingly represented in each of these three groups. In most cases, they account for two-thirds of these populations. So there is a huge scope here to allocate scarce resources more efficiently and to improve the quality of governance.

I think there is also a role for international organizations, such as the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and the World Bank to consider using the great leverage they have, especially in the developing countries where many of these restrictions are located, to press countries to be more proactive in the elimination of these kinds of discriminations, which continually hold women back.

We believe that eliminating these restrictions is actually a win-win for everybody. There is no downside for the international community pressing governments where there are widespread discriminations against women, or ethnic minorities, or religious minorities. This is an unambiguous good for human beings and for the international economy, and we should fight for these changes.

 

 

By : Sean Illing
Date : November 5, 2018
Spurce “ Vox
https://www.vox.com/2018/11/5/18037688/gender-equality-poverty-human-rights

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Gender-based violence: Most prevalent human rights violation

 

Gender-based violence and violence against women and girls is one of the most prevalent human rights violations in the world.

It knows no social, economic or national boundaries.

Worldwide, an estimated one in three women will experience physical or sexual abuse in her lifetime.

Gender-based violence undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in a culture of silence.

Victims of violence can suffer sexual and reproductive health consequences, including forced and unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, traumatic fistula, sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, and even death.

The Chief Director of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Dr Afisah Zakariah, buttressed these statements at a workshop in Accra when she described gender-based violence as a grave violation of the fundamental human rights and freedoms of its victims, mostly women and girls.

She said despite leaving victims with traumatising effects, gender-based violence had been internalised by societies in such a manner that it was considered a private matter that should not be discussed outside the home.

That, she said, led to the protection of perpetrators who got away with such criminal acts, warning that gender-based violence was criminal and should be handled as such.

The chief director made the statement at a workshop organised by the Domestic Violence Secretariat of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection in Accra to sensitise religious leaders and heads of schools to sexual and gender-based violence.

Statistics

Dr Zakariah said gender-based violence still persisted, with cases of rape, defilement, domestic violence and assault on the rise.

Statistics from the Domestic Violence and Victims’ Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service indicate that reported rape cases reduced from 316 in 2015 to 236 in 2016, but increased to 311 in 2017.

Defilement cases also reduced from 1,198 in 2015 to 722 in 2016 but increased to 793 in 2017, while cases of assault also reduced from 5,494 in 2015 to 4,190 in 2016, but increased to 5,019 in 2017.

“Resource DOVVSU”

In his presentation, a clinical psychologist, Mr Adolf Awuku Bekoe, said cultural beliefs and values in some communities that discriminated against women and girls was a leading cause of sexual and gender-based violence.

Mr Bekoe, who is also the National Coordinator of the Coalition on Domestic Violence Legislation, said the enforcement of the patriarchal arrangement in the Ghanaian society gave males inherent superiority in the home, with the misinterpretation of some religious beliefs also compounding the problems, “making men more powerful than women”.

Consequently, Mr Bekoe, who is also a lecturer at the Methodist University College, said considering the fact that gender- based violence had serious implications on an individual that could ruin one’s life, there was the need for people to make personal commitment to stop the act, adding that “do not be a perpetrator or a victim”.

While society also had the responsibility to eschew domestic violence, Mr Bekoe said the State also needed to take the issue seriously by providing the needed resources for the Police Service to enforce the laws against domestic violence.

“The Domestic Violence and Victims’ Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Police Service which deals with domestic violence issues is 20 years and they still do the basic things they used to do.

The unit is understaffed and doesn’t even have shelter to keep a mother and her children who are being abused,” he lamented.

 

 

By : Salomey Appiah-Adjei
Date : November 7, 2018
Source : Graphic Online
https://www.graphic.com.gh/news/general-news/gender-based-violence-most-prevalent-human-rights-violation.html

 

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Misogynist Apartheid — Saudi Arabia’s Original Human Rights Sin

 

The murderous brutality of the Saudi regime is rightly condemned for the killing and dismembering of courageous dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the merciless Saudi war in Yemen. Many observers correctly call for the U.S. to reform or even end its alliance with the Saudi government unless there is accountability and justice for Khashoggi’s murder and an end to the Yemen conflict that is causing one of the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophes. Yet the Saudi crime with the greatest number of victims — the state-sanctioned repression of more than 15 million Saudi women and girls — is almost never included in the list of Saudi human rights atrocities that must end. All too often, the suffocation of women’s rights is treated as an issue that may be important enough to mention but not important enough to be stopped.

How bad is it? Saudi women are not free to go where they want to go and do what they want to do without permission from a male. Saudi male “guardianship” laws for women require that every woman have a male guardian, and that women get permission from men (or boys, because male children can be guardians) for everyday activities — college, work, travel, marriage. A divorced or widowed woman can be ruled by a son who can refuse to let her remarry.

The U.S. State Department concluded that the Saudi system caused “violence and official discrimination against women” and that courts are “occasionally upholding a guardian’s right to obedience from his female dependents.” A woman can go to jail for disobeying a man, and a man can report a woman if she ventures out without permission. This stifles political dissent as well as women’s freedom — a women’s rights activist was imprisoned in 2017 for three months for leaving her house without her male guardian’s approval.

There are no women judges in Saudi Arabia, of course, and Saudi law requires judges to give women’s testimony half the weight of men. The 22 percent of Saudi women who work is among the world’s lowest (placing the country just above war-torn nations like Syria and Yemen). That so few Saudi women work is unsurprising given how much permission they need for daily activities.

Saudi sexism leads to physical violence, too. Human rights groups and the U.S. State Department agree that Saudi women are inadequately protected against sexual and other violence. A United Nations report blamed violence against women on male guardianship and gender segregation, which limit women’s ability to escape or report violence.

Saudi women are equal to men in one terrible way — the regime will kill them or throw them in prison when they have the courage to speak out for human rights. Israa al-Ghomghan, a female activist, is sentenced to beheading for protesting in marches and on social media. Many Saudi women who led the successful campaign for the right to drive—and who call for more sweeping reform to give women full equality – are themselves jailed.

Here is how some victims of Saudi apartheid described it to the New York Times:

“My experience as a female is very sad. I cannot go out of the house unless my older brother gives me permission, as if I were a prisoner.”

“I am subjected to violence and beatings and am denied the most basic rights, including the ability to go to a hospital. I have been insulted and cursed in ways that are anathema to Islam.

“I have been denied the opportunity to study or work. I am forced to wear the black abaya and to cover my face and eyes. I am forced to remain inside the house. I am prevented from going out even to buy my essential needs.”

“Only in this room I am allowed to do what I want to do . . . My father owns me.”

“I don’t remember the last time that I saw the light of the outside world. I am giving myself one year. If life doesn’t change, there is no solution except suicide, as many other girls have done.”

To call this gender apartheid is too polite. The Saudi system is misogynist apartheid. Yet there is an inexplicable silence about Saudi suffocation of women’s rights. For example, over two days in the Washington Post, a U.S. Senator, an academic foreign policy expert, and a former senior Bush administration official rightly demanded accountability and action against the Saudi government for human rights atrocities — without a single mention of its state-sanctioned second-class citizenship for women. A prominent foreign policy commentator, while alluding to  the arrests of women’s activists in a link, failed to include in his list of Saudi wrongs the nationwide discrimination and violence against women that the activists were protesting. To be fair, a Washington Post op-ed included discrimination against women among the reasons for ending American deference to Saudi human rights violations.

The Trump administration will not demand equal rights for women in Saudi Arabia. Trump considers arms trade with the Saudi regime a higher priority than keeping the regime from killing people or suffocating their lives. Awful as this is, Trump is not the first American to value Saudi money and oil above human life and moral principle.

Leaving Trump aside, other Americans — Congress, human rights groups, and citizens — should demand that the Saudi regime honor women’s rights and aspirations. This would benefit Saudi society as much as the women who live in it by tapping their enormous talent and potential.

Some might favor restraint in challenging Saudi repression of women by noting that some Saudi women prefer restrictions on rights and dress. Others may characterize demands for reform and gender equality as colonial-style imposition of Western norms that risk destabilizing a society in which restrictions on women reflect deeply held religious and cultural traditions.

But there is nothing about guaranteeing equality that would stop women from dressing conservatively, living restrictively, or even following the direction of men, if some women choose to do so to express their religious or social preferences. There are women wearing the hijab in the trendiest neighborhoods in London and others who live very conservative lives all over the world. Equal rights would simply afford women the freedom to make other choices.

As to cultural-relativist arguments to delay or stop reform completely, these arguments have been made about racial equality in South Africa, democracy in South America, even capitalism in China. Indeed, opponents of civil rights for African Americans criticized the movement for going too fast. All of these countries managed societal transition that was broad and deep, and so would the Saudis if they had allies at home and abroad in promoting women’s rights.

More than that, it is the right thing to do. Women and girls should not live in a state-constructed prison. The brutal suppression of half the human beings in Saudi Arabia is not a peripheral issue to be put on the back burner. Human rights violations on this scale aren’t usually compartmentalized. It is not surprising that a regime that denies basic human rights to half its citizens will also kill dissident journalists or innocent civilians caught in the crosshairs of its wars.

In the fleeting time when there was hope that Khashoggi had not been killed, one expert rightly wrote, “It is impossible to look away from Khashoggi’s disappearance.”  But for decades it has been all too possible for America to look away from the Saudi regime’s marginalization and abuse of women.

Not everyone ignores the plight of Saudi women. One observer in America spoke the truth plainly: “Women today should have the same rights as men.” The writer was Jamal Khashoggi. In September 2017, he wrote, “I can speak when so many cannot.” Now that his brave voice has been horrifically silenced, the rest of us should speak for him and for the rights of Saudi women.

 

By : Charlie Martel
Date : November 13, 2018
Source : Just Security

Misogynist Apartheid — Saudi Arabia’s Original Human Rights Sin

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How sex and gender influence how we vote

 

Leading up to the recent midterm elections in the United States, pundits predicted women voters and candidates would alter the race.

There were, in fact, historic changes as more women than ever gained seats in U.S. Congress, breaking the 100-seat barrier. The winners included two Muslim women and a Native American woman, both historic firsts.

However, as we unpack and explain voting patterns, the narrative must move beyond stereotypical and biologically grounded explanations that focus on men and women as voting blocs. Instead, we must ask how gender orientations condition men’s and women’s politics.

Several lessons from our ongoing research are instructive: First, gender strongly conditions the impact of sex on the vote. By “gender,” we mean the extent to which men and women identify with masculinity and femininity as sets of roles, traits and ideals.

The impact of gender on the vote differs from the effect of sex alone, in part because sex does not determine where you place yourself on a masculinity/femininity continuum.

Why some men are more liberal

Our work on measuring sex and gender in survey research, published last year in Political Behavior, shows that men who do not strongly identify with hypermasculinity are equally or more liberal than women on various issues, from same-sex marriage to social spending.

This implies that moderately masculine men, so to speak, are not in the Republican orbit because they do not share the party’s positions on the issues that defined the 2018 midterms: Immigration, gun rights, Brett Kavanaugh and the backlash against so-called “identity politics.”

In fact, all respondents whose gender self-placement veers from the most masculine or feminine endpoints of the scale tend to be more politically moderate than the hyper-masculine and hyper-feminine identifiers.

This means that highly feminine women — those who possess very traditional gender identities — are more conservative on some issues, including workplace discrimination, and are indeed open to the Republican platform.

The general message here is not novel in its recognition of multiple and cross-cutting identities and their importance to voting. Race, socioeconomic status and religion, for example, are other important influences on the vote.

What is novel about our research is that it identifies the patterns from an overlooked aspect of identity — gender. Sex and gender tend to be treated as synonymous both in “real life” and in research. Disentangling them is revealing the ways that our biology affects our behaviour less than previously thought.

Gender not a factor for some

The second big message coming from our research is that we must stop automatically treating gender as a “first-order” or “meta” identity that eclipses all other identities. For some voters, gender is not a strong pull on the vote or on political attitudes. Our research published last year in the Canadian Journal of Political Science finds that there are few male-female gaps in attitudes, and presumably voting, among people for whom gender is not important.

It’s only among those for whom gender is highly salient (and this is the case for a lot of people) that sex and gender have the potential to create gaps in attitudes and votes, producing a chasm in the electorate.

In the context of the 2018 midterms, a key observation is that sex and gender are more prominent in some campaigns than others.

Sometimes gender-based issues are at the top of the agenda, or high proportions of women candidates run. This can cue voters to think about gender issues when making their vote choices, a process called priming.

This helps explain the large partisan gaps between men and women and the unprecedented showing of women candidates in 2018. A record number of women candidates ran and won, and media, think tanks, researchers and political parties spent a lot of time discussing the anticipated “pink wave.”

#MeToo movement in play

What’s more, voters went to the polls soon after a Supreme Court confirmation process fought nearly exclusively over allegations that nominee Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted several women. And this came after a year of intensive public action by the #MeToo movement, which has illuminated the widespread sexual violence and harassment faced by women.

It’s clear the electoral environment contributes to the politicization of social divisions. When campaigns focus on other issues or other types of candidates, different electoral divides define the vote, and sex and gender may take a back seat to partisanship, race or religion.

Traditionally, we talk about women voters as if they are unique and act as a bloc. But not all women vote the same, and women don’t uniformly feel the same about issues, parties or candidates over time.

Context matters. It activates identities in the minds of voters, and campaigns provide cues for the types of considerations that will influence voters at the ballot box. The 2018 midterm election campaign activated sex, but it also activated gender, and the strength of a voter’s masculinity and femininity no doubt had a discernible impact on how they cast their ballots.

 

 

Elizabeth Goodyear-Grant, Associate Professor, Political Studies; Director, Queen’s Institute of Intergovernmental Relations; Director, Canadian Opinion Research Archive, Queen’s University, Ontario

Amanda Bittner, Associate Professor, Memorial University of Newfoundland

 

By : Elizabeth Goodyear-Grant and Amanda Bittner
Date : November 14, 2018
Source : The Conversation
https://theconversation.com/how-sex-and-gender-influence-how-we-vote-106676

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Why Latin America Should Recognize Venezuelans as Refugees

 

Latin America has one of the world’s most advanced approaches to refugees, yet it is reluctant to apply it to Venezuelans. Expert Luisa Feline Freier argues that the Venezuelan displacement crisis is a crucial test for the Cartagena Declaration

An estimated 3 million Venezuelans have fled their country in recent years. According to their refugee laws, most Latin American countries ought to recognize these Venezuelan migrants as refugees. Yet they have been reluctant to do so.

The region developed one of the world’s most advanced approaches to refugees in a 1984 declaration in Cartagena, Colombia. Going beyond the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention, the Cartagena Declaration defines refugees as people who flee their country “because their lives, security or freedom have been threatened by generalized violence, foreign aggression, internal conflicts, massive violation of human rights or other circumstances which have seriously disturbed public order.”

The Cartagena definition, then, not only focuses on the well-founded fear of being individually persecuted but also includes adverse circumstances that a country may go through that would cause large groups of people to flee.

Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay have all included the Cartagena refugee definition in their national refugee legislation.

In private conversations, many officials and representatives of international organizations share the assessment that the forced displacement of Venezuelans falls under the Cartagena definition. Yet the political cost of being the first and potentially only country to recognize this publicly is high. Governments fear this could lead to a further influx of Venezuelans to their countries, putting more stress on already underperforming public services and stirring xenophobic sentiment.

There thus exists an official consensus in the region that Cartagena does not apply to the Venezuelan displacement crisis. “The situation in Venezuela is not as bad yet,” a high-ranking official of Peru’s refugee department declared at an event in Lima on World Refugee Day on June 20.

Somewhat surprisingly, only a small fraction of Venezuelans have filed asylum claims. Many do not know that they can apply for asylum, while others do not want to be recognized as refugees because they feel it comes with a stigma attached.

Even so, asylum applications by Venezuelans have almost tripled each year since 2014. Numbers worldwide rose from 3,975 in 2014 to 113,428 in 2017. In 2018, 126,998 Venezuelans had applied for asylum in Peru by mid-June, 72,722 in the U.S. by the end of June and 57,575 in Brazil by the end of July, according to the latest data compiled by UNHCR.

However, Latin American governments are processing only a small number of applications. For example, from 2014 to 2017, Peru decided only 971 cases, accepting 239 and rejecting 548. The large number of claims left pending – whether through lack of capacity, deliberate policy or both – leaves Venezuelans without adequate protection.

The low levels of refugee recognition come despite Venezuela’s socioeconomic, political and humanitarian crisis meeting three of the Cartagena criteria: generalized violence, massive violation of human rights and other circumstances that have seriously disturbed public order.

Regarding generalized violence, according to the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence (OVV), Venezuela is the second most violent country in the world, with a homicide rate of 89 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2017. While the Venezuelan government did not release any official figures on crime for 2017, unofficial statistics indicate that most categories of crime increased that year.

The government’s countermeasures of militarizing public security and the increasing participation of civilians in armed groups and “colectivos” have worsened the situation. According to the Committee of Relatives of Victims (COFAVIC), the number of extrajudicial executions grew by 37 percent in 2015 and by 70 percent in 2016. According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the deployment of the military and armed civilian militias seriously compromised the state’s duty to ensure its citizens’ security and safeguard their human rights.

Concerning the massive violation of human rights, the government led by President Nicolas Maduro represses any form of opposition. Those who disagree with the government run the risk of reprisals, including arrest and dismissal from public office. IACHR has declared that Venezuela’s practice of requiring authorization for any public demonstration is incompatible with inter-American standards, violating the right to protest and freedom of expression.

Thousands of people have been arrested without a warrant based on the mere suspicion that they are supporters of the opposition. Protesters have been prosecuted under military criminal jurisdiction and prisoners have become victims of torture and sexual violence. The right to freedom of expression is further curtailed by censorship and the shutdown of media outlets, harassment of journalists and criminalization of information opposing the regime.

Finally, regarding other circumstances that have seriously disturbed public order, as referred to in the Cartagena Declaration, Venezuela is going through a severe humanitarian crisis. At the end of 2017, 87 percent of the population in Venezuela lived in poverty, with 80 percent affected by food insecurity. In December, aid group Caritas said there were close to 300,000 malnourished children at risk of starving, with six dying every week in the Venezuelan capital Caracas alone. Ninety percent of households could not afford children’s daily meals, and 33 percent of children showed irreversible mental and physical developmental delays, according to the charity.

Meanwhile, the Venezuelan health system has collapsed, with a severe lack of medicine and materials for medical treatment. Venezuela’s education system has also been compromised by the lack of teachers and materials.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the IACHR consider that the broad circumstances leading to the outflow of Venezuelans fall within the definition of Cartagena and see its application as a potential solution to the Venezuelan displacement crisis.

Given the potentially high cost of being the first or only country to apply Cartagena, regional cooperation is essential to reach a joint response and adhere to the spirit of Cartagena.

This would be the first time that Cartagena is applied as a definition to groups of people prima facie and would significantly strengthen the region’s progressive protection framework. If countries continue to resist applying Cartagena, they run the risk of reducing their heralded legislation to mere words and window dressing.

 

Luisa Feline Freier is assistant professor of social and political sciences at the Universidad del Pacifico in Peru. She holds a PhD in government from the London School of Economics. Her research focuses on immigration and refugee policies in Latin America.

 

By            :               Luisa Feline Freier

Date         :               September 28, 2018

Source     :               NewsDeeply

https://www.newsdeeply.com/refugees/community/2018/09/28/why-latin-america-should-recognize-venezuelans-as-refugees

 

 

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Are women the last line of defence against Brazil’s authoritarian shift?

 

In a matter of days, 2.5 million Brazilian women had gathered on Facebook to discuss how to best present their case against Bolsonaro and how to take their action offline and organise themselves locally.

In the world’s most celebrated footballing nation – where ‘the beautiful game’ is akin to religion – it’s almost no surprise that this week’s general elections have looked more like a football match than a democratic process that will shape the future of Latin America’s largest country.

A sizeable number of Brazilians are behaving more like football fans, following the polls as if they were league scoreboards and supporting or opposing candidates out of passion rather than reasoned analysis of policy positions. One important distinction, however, stands out: while football and politics are both male-dominated games in Brazil – only two out of the thirteen presidential candidates are female – the outcome of this particular match may very well be in the hands of women.

On October 7, in a “celebration of democracy” – a commonly used expression in Brazil that serves as a reminder of the country’s not-so-distant dictatorial past (1964-1985) – voters will cast ballots for the presidency and the House and Senate as well as state leadership. If no candidate wins 50% of votes cast, runoff elections for president and state governors will be held on October 28.

The current political environment provides a textbook example of a fertile breeding ground for far-right populists taking advantage of dissatisfaction and despair to propose deceivingly simple solutions to very difficult problems. In 2016, following a traumatic presidential impeachment process, the Workers’ Party’s (PT) Dilma Rousseff was succeeded by Michel Temer, a very unpopular president whose aggressive austerity and pro-market measures left a staggering 13 million Brazilians unemployed, including 30% of youths.

Although the corruption investigations that sealed the fate of the previous administration are still ongoing, distrust in politics and institutions have only grown among a citizenry that overwhelmingly believes that the machinery of corruption benefitting parties and politicians of all stripes, will not be dismantled. Neoconservatives have been quick to seize the opportunity.

For several months, the polls were consistently led by former president Luiz Inácio ‘Lula’ da Silva, PT’s then-presidential candidate, despite the fact that he was in prison following a politically motivated corruption trial. Given that Lula’s conviction could still be overturned following appeals, the UN Human Rights Committee had urged the government to guarantee his right to run for president, a call echoed by the Coordination Bureau of National NGO Associations and Networks of Latin America, among many others.

In record time, however, Brazil’s Supreme Court decided that the UN request could be in conflict with national legislation and on September 11, PT had to replace Lula with the largely unknown former mayor of São Paulo, Fernando Haddad.

Enter Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right candidate who has been both decried and hailed as the Brazilian version of Donald Trump. Now leading the polls with close to 30%, Bolsonaro’s racist, sexist and homophobic views have set the tone of the election campaign. The 27-year Congress veteran has advocated for Brazil to leave the UN, the Paris climate agreement and any international human rights mechanism that could be deemed a nuisance. A defender of torture and military rule, his running mate is an Army general who said a new constitution could be drafted without popular participation, if the new president so decides.

Worryingly, the view that repression might be required to get the country back on track is becoming widespread. Since President Temer took office in August 2016, Army officers have been increasingly vocal about their preparedness to seize power if necessary – a stark contrast with neighbouring Uruguay, where a military officer was recently served with an arrest order for making political comments publicly.

Equally worryingly, ‘fake news’ has effectively spread the anti-rights views held by Bolsonaro and his circle, which appear to have resonated with about one third of voters, according to polls. In Brazil, as in the US, these tactics have led to the relative normalisation of the idea of violence as a means for conflict resolution and change.

Amid the incendiary rhetoric, policy discussion has taken a backseat. Besides the two successive PT candidates, only Guilherme Boulos and Vera Lucia, a couple of left-wing presidential nominees with no prospects of election, have taken a progressive stance on issues such as the criminalisation of human rights defenders, the use of the controversial Antiterrorism Law against civil society, and the need to shift the debate on migration from security to human rights.

Boulos, Haddad and Marina Silva, an environmentalist with also little chance of winning, are the only candidates that mention the need for protection measures to counter the increasing violence and human rights violations that make Brazil the most dangerous country in the world for indigenous, land rights and environmental rights defenders.

With hopes looking slim for progressive contenders in a climate of regressive, reactionary campaigning, a fiery challenge to Bolsonaro has unexpectedly come from a demographic well under-represented in Brazilian politics. While they account for 52% of the country’s population, women currently make up only 30% of all candidates to elected positions.

Brazil holds the worst record in South America for female congressional representation, with only 10% in the House and 16% in the Senate. No election campaign has put women at the center – unless misogynistic attacks count. But if something has shaped the climate more than anything, it has been Bolsonaro’s violent discourse, frequently targeting women. His and his supporters’ attacks have been instrumental in sparking a loud feminist response.

Building on Brazil’s recent Feminism Spring – powerful national campaigns that saw millions of women publicly protest gender-based violence, harassment and discrimination – an online feminist movement has mushroomed, overflowing the web and out onto the streets. Using the hashtag #EleNao (#NotHim), Brazilian women are urging other women, and men, to vote for anyone but Bolsonaro.

In a matter of days, 2.5 million Brazilian women had gathered on Facebook to discuss how to best present their case against Bolsonaro and how to take their action offline and organise themselves locally. When, a week later, their online group was hacked and renamed in support of Bolsonaro, some three million angry women harnessed public support against the cyberattack, amplified their voices with the backing of several well-known artists and celebrities, and summoned a massive day of protest in late September. Dozens of events were planned abroad to accompany the hundreds taking place throughout Brazil.

Will this be enough to swing the vote against Brazil’s Trump? It’s unclear – any prediction on the election’s results is premature. But what is certain is that women will play a key role in it. If anything can stop Bolsonaro, it is the higher-than-average proportion of women that outright reject his candidacy – more than half of those polled.

When there is no other choice than to resist, women have raised their voices. For them, there is no going back to the obscurity of home or second-class citizenship, regardless of who the next president will be.

A day will come when these elections are remembered for the role played by women against hate and for democracy. In a game in which they’ve been forced to sit on the bench for so long, Brazilian women are scoring goals that count, regardless of what the final score turns out to be.

 

 

By            :               Ana Cernov and Inés M. Pousadela

Date         :               October 6, 2018

Source     :               OpenDemocracy

https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/are-women-last-line-of-defence-against-brazil-s-authoritarian-shift

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