KCL Politics Society
is a nonpartisan forum for discussing pressing political issues across the national as well as the international spheres. Our Events Team organise on average two events per week and our ongoing conferences, debates, workshops, socials and networking sessions cover a wide range of topics relating to current affairs. We started the year by hosting the Egyptian Ambassador to London, amid the political turmoil in Egypt. Since then, we have hosted numerous policymakers and experts, including most recently Ed Miliband: the Head of the Opposition. Likewise, our editorial team at Dialogue continues to ambitiously expand this journal as a platform for students and experts to share their commentaries. What started two years ago as a small initiative at Kingâ€™s has now expanded to engage over two thousand readers across fifty countries! Politics Society has worked hard to bring experts and students ever closer in order to promote an atmosphere for constructive discussion, but without the presence of our active members, none of our projects would have been so successful. We are incredibly grateful for your support and we look forward to bringing you more exciting opportunities in the future! Webpage www.kclpolitics.org.uk
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(Women in War and International Politics) is an initiative that seeks to support and make more visible the role of women from KCL who are active in the fields of War Studies and International Politics, whether as students, researchers, or practitioners. We also hope to promote and encourage exploration of the question of gender and its implications in war, conflict, foreign policy, and security practices. We seek to promote opportunities for women interested in pursuing a career in the field of foreign and security policy and support the employability of female graduates. WIWIP brings together women throughout the foreign and security studies community for academicrelated events, such as lecture series and workshops. WIWIP also organizes smaller workshops wherein members can meet to discuss their personal research activities, bringing together students, teachers, and alumni who share similar research interests, such as conflict resolution, intelligence, humanitarian intervention, and counterinsurgency. WIWIP is also a great opportunity to have fun and build friendships with like-minded women. WIWIP plans and host social events throughout the year. Webpage www.kcl.ac.uk/sspp/politics/wiwip
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In this issue... p.15
Women’s Path Towards Gender Equality
For Whom Does the Silence Roar?
The Border to a Woman’s Right to Choose
Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting
Female Politicians and the Media
Gender-based Affirmative Action in British Politics
Increasing Female Representation in Parliament
Feminism and the Arab Spring
India’s red Brigade
The Paradox of Protection
The Missing Women of Asia
The Paradox of Women and Development in Latin Ameria
Women’s History Month
This March we are celebrating Women’s History Month by releasing a special report jointly with KCL Women in War and International Politics (WIWIP). This special report covers a range of topics. From a health perspective, Kimberly Murphy argues that “abortion is an individual decision”, while Eugenia Caracciolo-Drudis discusses how to tackle female genital mutilation. On the topic of politics, we look at media, sexism, female representation and women’s ongoing struggle to assert themselves in the political realm. Finally, we cover women’s status in society in different corners of the world. Feminism and the Arab Spring, Women in Indian Society, The Missing Women of Asia and The Paradox of Women and Development in Latin America all share a common theme: despite significant achievements, the struggle for equality continues to be incredibly challenging. Indeed, with this special report we hope to remember women’s achievements throughout history as well as discuss the way forward for the women’s movement.
Dialogue is published with the generous support of the Department of Political Economy at King’s College London (www.kcl.ac.uk/sspp/departments/politicaleconomy ) as well as King’s College London Student Union (www.kclsu.org). This issue has been made possible with the help of the following individuals: Ramtin Hajimonshi, Linnea Strand, Angela Buensuceso, Alvina Hoffmann, Eric Klopfer, Fernanda Águila-Marín, Maria Ferraz, Jonathan Han, Gustave Kenedi, Lorin Raychinova, Naomi Roba, Helene Løken Eiklid, Jacinta Ruscillo, Tom Wilkinson, Ami Abou-Bakr, Isabelle Anstey, Anette Bastivken, Petra Dolata, Alexandra Gallovicova, Susan Martin & Ellen Renman
By Sophie Stammers
hilst employment equality laws should protect people from deliberate discrimination on the basis of their gender, recent results from the cognitive sciences document a more complex kind of prejudice against that which the law does not clearly protect. This is the phenomenon of implicit bias.
“The Implicit Association Test (IAT), which measures how quickly participants are able to associate one set of concepts with another, reveals that people are significantly faster to pair male names with career concepts than female names, as well as being significantly slower to pair female names with science concepts than they are with male names.” A person is implicitly biased when they harbour an associative stereotype relating to members of a racial group, gender, or other socially defined category, of which they are not consciously aware, but which influences their actions nonetheless. A number of experiments reveal how implicit bias might modify behaviour so as to worsen discrimination. The focus of this article will be discrimination against women, although results that reveal the extent of implicit bias against people of colour and other socially defined groups should both disturb and inspire action at least as much as the following results. The Implicit Association Test (IAT), which measures how quickly participants are able to associate one set of concepts with another, reveals that people are significantly faster to pair male names with career concepts than female names, as well as being significantly slower to pair female names with science concepts than they are with male names. Another study which asks participants to rate the suitability of two candidates for a job reveals that whilst participants rationalise their choices by referring to their chosen candidate’s skill-set, the majority have a preference for the male over the female candidate - even when the skill-sets are reversed across the two genders.
Relatedly, when information on a candidate’s gender is not available for assessment, women are selected at a rate that significantly exceeds the norms established when such information is available. For instance, significantly more women were hired when orchestral musicians auditioned ‘blind’ - behind a curtain. Similarly, following the introduction of anonymous submission, the representation of women authors in the journal Behavioural Ecology increased by 33%. Whilst employers, editors and referees might very well intend to judge candidates impartially, it seems that awareness of a candidate’s gender can activate implicit attitudes that nevertheless result in discriminatory decisions. Equal opportunities legislation in the UK is somewhat out of step with these findings. Whilst the Equality Act of 2010 acknowledges that discrimination need not be intentional, the guidance that the act offers still trades on whether employers perceive candidates to be suitable for the job. Employers are not required to hire a candidate from an underrepresented group if they perceive that the candidate in question is not as suitable for the job as a candidate from an already represented group. However, as the results above suggest, the extent to which employers perceive the competence of a candidate may be clouded by an undetected implicit bias. So current legislation is not nuanced enough to protect women from implicit discrimination. Implicit constructs not only permeate the attitudes of those judging women, but, in environments in which sexist stereotypes are salient, they may be activated in such a way so as to actually hinder the performance of women. This is a phenomenon known as ‘stereotype threat’. One study found that when women are told, prior to taking a maths test, that success in
the test correlates with gender, they perform markedly worse than men who are told the same thing. Women who are not told this perform just as well as men. Another study reveals that when female students are asked to report their gender before a calculus exam, their performance is reduced by a third. The thought is that if women have internalized stereotypes which hold their gender as less able, merely reflecting on being female can activate the internalized information in a way that undermines their own performance. Women who are not made to reflect on or refer to their gender prior to participation suffer no such impairment. In light of these results, it would seem important to understand how we become implicitly biased in the first place. A number of theorists adhere to what might be called the ‘passive internalisation hypothesis.’ Human beings are very good pattern recognisers. An ability to remember the occurrence of a property - say, a sweet flavour, with that of an object - say, a particular fruit, has an obvious evolutionary advantage. Research reveals that unconscious processes are both more effective and more efficient at internalising and representing patterns observed in the environment. Perhaps implicit bias is like this. Exposure to media and advertising which consistently portray women with certain characteristics and not others may well contribute to the unconscious internalisation of implicit biases, even in someone who sincerely disavows sexism. Other passive internalisation theorists have suggested that implicit bias is resistant to the conscious intentions a person might have, even about their implicit biases: consciously intending to appear less biased might even increase the expression of implicit bias. If passive internalisation explains how implicit biases are acquired and maintained, then it would seem as if tackling implicit bias requires the enormous and problematic task of dismantling the industries and customs which propagate sexist stereotypes of women. Whilst a great number of researchers seem to tacitly consent to the passive internalisation hypothesis, a number of others present data, which would appear to count against the idea that passive internalisation is the only mechanism relevant to the manifestation of implicit bias. For instance, an experiment from Patricia Devine reveals that participants who are already motivated to refrain from
prejudice because they regard it as inherently valuable exhibit less implicit bias than participants who profess to thinking that refraining from prejudice is valuable because they are worried about how they are perceived. Devine suggests that the more a person sees egalitarian values as important in and of themselves, the more successful they will be at responding consistently with such values, even on implicit measures, to the extent that they might eliminate the manifestation of implicit biases altogether. So, whilst simply asking people to consciously intend to be less sexist does not result in their being less implicitly sexist, promoting understanding of why it’s important to be less sexist - thereby encouraging people to fully identify with the significance of the egalitarian project - could well produce such a result. This is not to say that tackling the propagation of stereotypes in a sexist culture is not still a worthwhile project - not at all. Rather, it is not the only project: we should take the internal egalitarian motivational project as seriously as external sexist meme reduction.
“(…)we should take the internal egalitarian motivational project as seriously as external sexist meme reduction.” Such a project ought to be handled with care and sincerity, since merely talking about implicit bias might have the effect of reinforcing problematic stereotypes. However, it has been acknowledged that, on balance, the benefits of educating people about this relatively unknown yet highly pervasive phenomenon are likely to outweigh the detriments. After all, if you appreciate how prevalent and harmful implicit bias is, you have a very good reason to check your own behaviour for such biases, to anonymise where possible, and to adjust future practice to reduce its likely effects. Readers may explore the extent to which they are implicitly biased by participating in Harvard’s Project Implicit here: http://implicit.harvard.edu SOPHIE STAMMERS is a Philosophy PhD candidate at King’s College London.
By Liana Minkova
owadays, it seems natural to most of us to consider gender equality as something that was always there. It is difficult to imagine that not that long ago this was not the case. For example, we can consider the adoption of female suffrage as an indicator of acknowledging the rights of women, however, it did not take place sooner than 1883 and it took almost a century for it to spread through most of the European countries. Therefore, women have had to walk a long way to become equal to men. Even though it may be obvious to us now that the attitudes during that process of recognition were influenced by prejudices and biases, it was certainly not obvious then. We can examine that process by looking at the work of modern political philosophers, as they are the ones that developed the discussions of political and social human rights. By doing so, a question comes to mind – where are women to be found in their accounts and ideas? Why do philosophers, when talking about citizenship and the freedom of such citizens, exclude the female part of the population from the equation? There are two reasons for that. Firstly, women have been considered as somewhat mysterious and therefore dangerous. For example, Machiavelli goes as far as comparing fortune itself to a woman – it is inconsistent and loves the young and virtuous. The influence of women over men was regarded as a reason why their power should be “contained.”
“(…)the female population was educated in a way that did not allow it to develop into something more than a wife and a mother.” Secondly, women were considered inferior to men in their qualities and virtues, as they are naturally weaker. Based on that, women were thought to be unable to defend themselves and more fearful than men. If we consider the idea that women cannot take care of themselves without the protection of men/husbands, it is logically sound to conclude that women are also unsuited for making political and social decisions such as voting, let alone par-
ticipating in political life themselves. Because of their natural differences, men and women were considered to have different roles. Thus Rousseau argues that the primary role of a woman is that of being a wife and a mother. This drives the distinction between the “physical” capabilities of women and the “intellectual” capabilities of men who have the capacity to reason and whose role in society is to govern and pursue progress. These assumptions resulted in three types of domination of men over women: social, legal and political. In A Vindication of the Rights of Women, Mary Wollstonecraft highlights the role of social domination over women. In her account, this type of arbitrary power execution may be very dangerous as it is based on prejudices and biases, which continue throughout generations and make it harder for women to gain moral standing as individuals. This factor, in combination with the improper character of women’s educational system in those days, explains why women were incapable of taking part in social or political processes. On one hand, the female population was educated in a way that did not allow them to develop into something more than a wife and a mother. On the other hand, due to social biases and prejudices, many of the women themselves did not want a different social role and were satis-
being that it was not a result of the mutual consent of the wife and the husband. On the contrary, women were most of the time coerced by social biases to enter into a marriage. Once a woman was married, she had no legal protection whatsoever, not even from domestic abuse. Furthermore, when married, a woman had no right to private property, where the term private property extends to all types of personal possessions, including a woman’s earrings, for example. The Enfranchisement of Women by Harriet Taylor Mill highlights the importance of the ability of women to be able to earn their own living; only through financial independence can a woman feel free and equal to a man. Finally, women were politically dominated as well. They had neither a right to vote, nor to participate in politics. Consequently, they did not have their interests represented at all. The reasons to exclude women from politics overlap with the social biases mentioned above. As a result, women had no property, no suitable education and no income of their own – all of which were for a long time considered requirements for an individual to have the rights to vote or participate in decision-making processes. In fact, one of the reasons why women’s enfranchisement happened so late is considered to be the belief that giving women the right to vote would just result in doubling their husbands’ votes.
fied with the one they had. Mary Wollstonecraft argues that it is not enough to acknowledge that women have the same capacity of reason as men do, they should have the same opportunity to develop that capacity and to acquire virtue as well. The only way this could happen is through equal education for men and women. Men should recognize women as equals and not as inferior creatures, and women should stop accepting the dominated position in their relationship with men.
“Once a woman was married, she had no legal protection whatsoever, not even from domestic abuse.” This social domination over women was also related to the economic and legal forms of domination. On one hand, the society left women little choice but to marry. On the other, once a woman married she no longer had a legal standing as an individual; women were completely dependent on their husbands. However, the marriages at that time were different in many aspects from the contemporary ones. For example, in The Subjection of Women, John Stuart Mill describes marriage as a kind of “domestic slavery.” The reason
Yet, history has proven that, when given the chance, women can make excellent rules. In this case, why did the assumption that women were incapable of such activities rule social beliefs for such a long time? The answer lies in a vicious cycle of domination and lack of rights. As noted before, due to social domination women did not get the education men got. In addition, resulting from their legal domination women did not have property. This was used to justify the lack of political rights, which led to the final and third form of domination. In effect, due to the lack of political representation of women’s interests, it was next to impossible to come up with reforms in the educational system and the law. One may ask: what helped break this circle? The answer is the change of the state of mind of society as a whole. The enlightenment incentivized not just men, but women as well to pursue their rights and liberties. It also brought the idea of social equality. Nothing sustains a regime as well as people’s perceptions and prejudices. Once they change, determination and hope for brighter future take the place of fear and subordination. LIANA MINKOVA is a second year International Politics BA student at King’s College London.
By Mary Carman and Desiree Lim
n 2002, “Ashley X”, a six-year-old girl with static encephalopathy, underwent a number of controversial medical procedures, including sterilisation. Such a procedure takes place in a loaded context. As Tilley et al discuss in a 2012 overview of the reproductive rights of women with cognitive disabilities, even during the twentieth century, many women (and men) with cognitive disabilities of varying degrees were sterilised without giving their consent. Even though sterilisation is not as rife as before, Tilley et al argue that the consequences of such practices are still woefully present but ignored - a “roaring silence” - and call for further study into the way in which reproductive decisions are made. We agree that more empirical data relating to current practice must be gathered, but also believe that there is a lack of ethical analysis in the existing literature as to why such sterilisation is morally problematic. Our article is a brief and introductory attempt to tease out some of these ethical issues. Broadly, reasons for objecting to the sterilisation of cognitively disabled women might fall into three categories. (a) Firstly, perhaps such sterilising is always wrong in itself. This we shall dismiss as implausible. (b) Secondly, perhaps the decision process through which sterilisation has been performed - that is, without the valid consent of the individuals involved - is impermissible. (c) Thirdly, perhaps we disapprove of the underlying
reasons with which sterilisation is performed; if, for example, the sterilisation is not performed in the interests of the individual. Focusing on the relationship between claims (b) and (c), we shall note that “cognitively disabled women” is not a monolithic category, and conclude that further ethical analyses of the permissibility of sterilisation must make sharp distinctions between different types of cognitive disability. Intrinsically wrong The view that sterilising cognitively disabled women is intrinsically wrong makes two claims. It is not only always harmful to deprive a cognitively disabled woman of her reproductive ability, but always wrong regardless of other harms or benefits. But it is not obvious why we should think this. It cannot only be that the operation violates her body or exposes her to medical risk, as many other operations involve the same issues and are morally acceptable. So the issue is something specific to sterilisation itself. As there does not seem to be a general human right to reproduce, which would implausibly support the state-funding of individuals to have as many children as they want, the relevant wrong must lie in permanently taking away the capacity to reproduce. Yet many non-disabled people also undergo sterilisation and it is counter-
intuitive that they are harming themselves, or worse still, always doing something wrong. Perhaps it is not sterilisation in itself that is wrong but the sterilisation of cognitively disabled individuals. What, then, is the relevant difference between cognitively disabled and non-disabled individuals? It might help to think about two necessary conditions for permissible sterilisation for non-disabled people. Firstly, it could be that the person in question must readily consent to the procedure. Secondly, they must also undergo the procedure for selfregarding reasons. The problem could be that these necessary conditions are absent in most cases involving the sterilisation of cognitively disabled women. This leads our discussion to points (b) and (c). Ethical decision processes and reasons In their overview, Tilley et al discuss interviews with women who have been forcefully sterilised, many of whom were told they were undergoing an appendectomy. The interviewees clearly comprehend what has happened to them and what capacity has been forcefully taken away; many of them are upset about not being told what was really being done, let alone asked for consent. While it is clear that consent has been wrongfully denied to these women, we cannot conclude that all cases are like this. Some women with serious cognitive disabilities, like Ashley used as an example in Tilley et al, might be incapable of giving consent. Consequently, a clearer framework of what consent involves, and what capacities are required in order to give meaningful consent to this kind of decision option, is needed. Such a framework requires being more specific about the cognitive disabilities in question. Assuming that some individuals cannot give meaningful consent, is sterilisation without consent ever a permissible course of action? There are three parties whose interests we might wish to consider: the woman herself, her caregivers, and her future children. While we do not have the space to spell out our reasons, we do not think that “future children” should play any role in the discussion at this stage. We shall hence focus on the first two. With regards to the woman herself, we might want to protect her from trauma wrought by her own body, such as from menstruation and associated cramps. However, as has been argued in the feminist literature, the female body should not be treated as “other” and diseased. Regardless, we also need to beware of overromanticising womanhood. Menstruation can be a distressing and painful experience even for many non-disabled women who do comprehend what is happening with their body. We require further information about how the individual is likely to cope in order to reach a conclusion. When it comes to the caregivers, we may approve of sterilisation in order to prevent the conception of unwanted children. For example, Pauline, as discussed in Tilley et al, had her daughter sterilised in part to avoid looking after any children that may result.
Aside from children, the physical and psychological trauma of pregnancy or menstruation, experienced by a cognitively disabled woman, might create additional stress for the caregiver. However, preventing conception or reducing stress are not, on their own, sufficient reasons for sterilisation. There are other less controversial options to explore, such as other means of contraception or providing financial or extra care assistance to the caregivers. Furthermore, while it might be argued that modifying cognitively disabled individuals for the benefit of their caregivers is ethically impermissible because it instrumentalises them and compromises their agency, it does not follow that all interventions do this. The key seems to be that what benefits the caregiver must be equally, if not more, beneficial for the disabled person. For example, unlike Pauline who makes no mention of her daughter’s well-being, Ashley’s parents do not justify the treatment as a mere measure of convenience but, rather, as one that will enhance their relationship with her. Sexual maturity is not the only value at stake, and ensuring that Ashley’s current relationship with her caregivers is able to flourish in one way in which her humanity can be respected. What will be best for any one person will depend on the particular situation and the cognitive disabilities at stake. Conclusion While the considerations we have discussed in this paper are not novel and are already considered in current practice, very little attempt has been made to engage with exactly why sterilisation of cognitively disabled women - with or without consent - is morally problematic. As we have hoped to show in this brief and introductory attempt to tease out various issues, the moral status of such a procedure is not straightforward and both sides of the debate risk being too heavy-handed. We agree that we need to be careful of treating disabled people as subhuman in some way; on the flip side, we also need to be careful of overplaying and romanticising the value of sexuality at the expense of other areas of their lives. In contrast, a principled ethical framework sensitive to the type of cognitive disability the person has is imperative, in order for us to fairly assess when such a procedure would be permissible. MARY CARMAN and DESIREE LIM are both PhD students in gender and philosophy at King’s College London.
By Kimberley Murphy
he political tides have changed dramatically in Spain since legislation reforms in 2010 granted easier abortion processes to Spanish women, in line with the rest of Europe, by the Workers Socialist Party (PSOE). Three years later, new legislation limiting abortion was presented to the Spanish Parliament by the Partido Popular. These alterations would permit the conduction of abortions in only two scenarios: cases of rape and instances in which giving birth represents risk of serious mental or physical harm to the mother. Spain would be the first country in the European Union to move backwards on abortion provision, which has sparked opposition amongst those on the left as well as moderate politicians and citizens closer to the right of the political spectrum.
So what are the consequences of limits on reproductive rights for women and the society they live in?
The champion of the Bill, Justice Minister Alberto RuizGallardĂłn, hopes that the new law will balance womenâ€™s rights with a wish to reduce the number of abortions in Spain. Contrary to this justification, the deputy leader of the PSOE Elena Valenciano has stated, "If this goes ahead, the number of abortions in Spain will [still] rise and many of them will be more dangerous abortions for women.â€?1
A further issue which has been raised by activists within Spain and its surrounding countries is that of abortion tourism, which will drive Spanish women abroad to terminate unwanted pregnancies. The term refers to travel undertaken in order to access safe abortion care, and is something familiar to those in Spain who were unable to access sanitary medical abortions in the past. The Global Safe Abortion Conference found that in highly restrictive situations, socio-economic status has an impact on the ability of women to access safe abortion. 2 Whilst some women are fortunate enough to be able to travel to undergo safer abortions, this option is not always available. Lack of access to abortion disproportionately affects young, vulnerable women including those from ethnic minorities and less advantaged backgrounds; they are forced to carry on with a pregnancy or resort to unsafe backstreet clinics. The devastating effects of an unsafe and illegal abortion can be observed in Argentina, a rapidly developing Catholic nation. Human Rights Watch found that unsafe abortions are the leading cause of maternal mortality in Argentina.3 Whilst the new
The debate surrounding abortion in Spain is reflective of the divide between those who have welcomed Post-Franco democracy with open arms, and those who resent this modernisation. Whilst Spain may seem to have evolved beyond recognition, the strength of the ever-present Catholic Church looms in the cultural mind set. This religiosity, combined with the conviction of politicians on the far right, appears to have toppled public opinion and urged calls for the government to reconsider. Whilst some adaptations in the Bill are likely, restrictions will indeed come into force.
Not only does the change in law signify a reduction in the privacy of women, as those under 16 will not be able to access abortion without parental consent, it also places already vulnerable women, such as sexual assault survivors, in the position of having to prove their eligibility for any procedure. Whilst proponents of the law seek to better protect the right of the embryo to a potential life, the question of when life begins is clearly a matter of personal and moral consideration which cannot and must not be prescribed by state officials in a free and democratic society.
Spanish law seeks to protect the life of a foetus, it has the potential to endanger the lives of pregnant women. In itself, the denial of abortion provision is an essential attack on the right of a woman to control her choices and her body. In Spain, religious and non-religious, male and female, old and young have backed demonstrations against the changing of the law. The platform, Decider Nos Hace Libres (Deciding Makes Us Free), has inspired in the collective action of women registering their bodies as property in large-scale protests. The symbolic move attempts to question the commodification of women’s bodies by the proposed law and their essential right to make choices. May Serrano, a representative from Mujeres Imperfectas, sees the change as a deliberate impediment to the progression of women, and politicians as effectively saying, “Ladies, go back home, have children.”4 The attack on the rights of women to choose whether to carry a pregnancy to term cannot be separated from the wider attitudes towards the role of women in society.
“In itself, the denial of abortion provision is an essential attack on the right of a woman to control her choices and her body.” Many in Spain see these governmental actions as a diversion tactic to take attention away from unemployment and economic concerns. Whether it is a distraction or ideologically driven, the Bill has very real consequences for the Spanish population. The change in abortion rights may do little to reduce the number of abortions or unwanted pregnancies in Spain. Instead, abortion
restrictions serve only to “undermine women’s dignity, their right to control their own futures and to participate in community and national development.”5 The Partido Popular has been accused of using abortion to both placate the far right and to distract the public from economic and political frustrations. Moral issues, such as contraception and access to abortion, are wielded as political weapons to the detriment of the essential human rights of women. Abortion is an individual decision, which should therefore be made individually. Its existence should not be subject to manipulation by the state. One may choose to have a child, and it would appear a violation of a civil liberty if this decision were dependent on the arbitrary will of political forces. Equally, once the alternate choice is removed, women have their hands forced in a decision which infringes upon their essential rights to control their body and decide their future. KIMBERLEY MURPHY is a second year International Politics BA student at King's College London.
By Eugenia Caracciolo-Drudis
he practice of female genital mutilation or cutting — which of strong, cohesive policy and legal frameworks to prevent FGM/ is to 'intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital C from taking place. Additionally, it should be noted that since organs for non-medical reasons' — has deep religious and socioFGM/C was deemed illegal under the 1985 Act on the Prohibition cultural roots in African culture, particularly in the swath of land of Female Circumcision, and even with the updated 2003 Female spanning from Western Africa to the Horn of Africa. The percentGenital Mutilation Act, there has yet to be a single conviction of age of girls who have suffered from FGM/C is extremely high in anyone involved in the practice. Under such legislation, it is not countries such as Somalia (98 percent), Guinea (96 percent) and only illegal to mutilate girls, but also to aid in their mutilation via a Egypt (90 percent), where the vast majority of procedures take third party (i.e. a cutter or medical professional), and to aid said place at home with some form of blade, and are undertaken by mutilation outside the UK. It is estimated, however, that there are “cutters” with no medical training. Due to how ingrained genital 66,000 victims in England and Wales, with an additional 24,000 mutilation and cutting is in these societies, there is a general lack girls under 15 at risk of undergoing FGM/C. The reason behind of understanding of the potentially life-threatening medical and this absolute lack of conviction, despite the European Institute for psychological consequences of such practice. All the same, a Gender Equality (EIGE) having laws in place that make the pracUNICEF report from 2013 revealed that in fact, practical support tice illegal, is that the UK’s “toughening of the law, but at the for the practice in the countries same time being careful not to “Due to how ingrained genital mutilation and mentioned was not as high as offend practising communiexpected. In a country such as cutting is in these societies, there is a general ties,” creates a paradox. The Burkina Faso, with a 76 percent challenges faced by the UK lack of understanding of the potentially cutting rate, an overwhelming 90 stem also in part from its legal life-threatening medical and psychological system and the strict proof it percent of girls and women disagree with the practice and see demands in order for an act to consequences of such practice.” social acceptance from their be deemed illegal in Court. Not community as its only derived benefit. This same trend can be only is this made more difficult by the nature of FGM/C risk observed throughout the region, with public support for FGM/C identification, but also by the unreliable testimony of the young in Africa on the decline as globalisation, health and human rights girls and family members involved. awareness increase. What we do see in the UK is a large number of guidelines Commonly referred to as a “hidden phenomenon”, FGM/ and initiatives to increase awareness of the issues with female geniC’s being a cultural attribute makes it a controversial issue to take tal mutilation and cutting, and to better educate medical and eduon, given the need of respect for cultures other than our own. cation professionals in order for them to be able to report genital However, with the increase in immigration levels from Africa to mutilation and cutting crimes when they see them. For example, Europe, beginning in the 1970s, genital mutilation or cutting has the latest have been the “Female Genital Mutilation Community expanded into large parts of Europe, particularly the United KingEngagement Initiative 2014,” as implemented by the Home Ofdom and France. What is also being seen is a surge in “FGM/C fice, with the aim to raise awareness and provide a platform for tourism” to countries like the UK, as the rising costs of air travel the discussion of FGM/C, along with a statement issued by Her prevents many families from sending their daughters home to Majesty’s Government on the illegality of FGM/C as recently as Africa to have the procedure done in their community (both for February 2014. But the bottom line is, no matter how many initiasocial and legal reasons). tives and educational programs are put into place, without notification from medical and education professionals, these crimes will The reason behind the UK being the preferred “FGM/C simply pass unnoticed. These guidelines and initiatives lack legititourism” location for immigrants in Europe is not only the relative macy as they are not in any way statutory, and there has yet to be ease with which it can be reached, but more importantly, its lack any evidence of the Courts to criminalise FGM/C. Furthermore,
without a Metropolitan Police central database to report such crimes, education and awareness can only do so much to increase the conviction rate. On the other hand, there have been 29 trials in the past 34 years in France, with over 100 people convicted of active participation in FGM/C — both parents of the victims and the cutters themselves. This is a result of France’s slow but steady approach towards the criminalisation and prosecution of genital mutilation or cutting, beginning with the first case in 1979. Although the case was mistakenly ruled as “unintended homicide” (EIGE), it marked the first in many steps to bring the message across the migrant community of the dangers and seriousness of FGM/C. Since then, legislation has been strengthened at regional levels and additional considerations have been made for the nationality and status of the girls affected. Moreover, as a part of their citizen protection and support policy, France has a very strong support system in place for women and children with the Maternal and Infantile Protection programme (PMI). Through this programme, not only are education schemes put into place for medical and education professionals, but it also provides a safe and comfortable environment for women to report crimes themselves or simply voice their fears of victimhood. Through the implementation of these legislative and community measures, the number of FGM/C cases in France has reduced greatly.
It becomes clear when investigating France’s policy towards female genital mutilation and cutting that the most influential aspects of said policy in decreasing FGM/C is the clear criminalisation of the practise and the strong support system in place for women and children at risk through the PMI. In a report issued by the Intercollegiate Group in the United Kingdom, nine key recommendations for the prevention of FGM/C were laid out. Of these, many simply mirror what has already successfully been done in France, however, an interesting parallel is pointed out by the Group, likening the campaigns against HIV/AIDS and domestic violence to what the campaign against FGM/C should look like. If such a determined stance were to be taken against female genital mutilation and cutting in conjunction with following France’s example in prosecution and support, the UK would no longer be a “FGM/C tourism” destination and it would get closer to eradicate this inhumane and disrespectful practice altogether. EUGENIA CARACCIOLO-DRUDIS is a first year Politics, Philosophy and Law LLB student at King’s College London.
By Frederike Engeland
n 15 December 2013, Angela Merkel announced that she will appoint former labor and social affairs minister Ursula von der Leyen as the new German defense minister. The decision came as a surprise to many in the public sphere, not only because the post, which includes acting as supreme commander of the forces, has never been held by a woman. The media responded by issuing several articles that questioned Ursula von der Leyen’s suitability for the position. Arguably, Mrs. Von der Leyen lacks experience in the field of defense, as she did not serve in the army, and women have only been allowed to enter the German military since 2001, nor did she come into contact with defense issues throughout her political career before her appointment. While it is very common for German politicians to get appointed to minister positions based on leadership competencies and potential rather than on previous contact with the field, one can understand the objections of the journalists to some degree in this regard.
“Some journalists have gone so far as to claim that she should have gotten the Cross of Honor of the German Mother instead, which was given to women with more than eight kids during the Nazi period in Germany.” However, her apparent lack of experience remains the only objective criticism of Mrs. Von der Leyen’s appointment as defense minister. Next to this, the German and international media reacted by evoking sexist stereotypes to report on her appointment, including the publishing of an image of Mrs. Von der Leyen in a Lara Croft uniform by the biggest German TV channel ARD. Headlines ridiculed Von der Leyen as a German “Jean D’Arc”. She has been labeled ‘the mother of the troops’ by almost all German news channels, hinting at the size of her own family (Von der Leyen has eight kids with her husband, Heiko). Often before, she
has been portrayed as a “Rabenmutter”, a mother who leaves her children behind, an expression is now being brought up again in the discussion of whether she is the right choice for the job. Some journalists have gone so far as to claim that she should have gotten the Cross of Honor of the German Mother instead, which was given to women with more than eight kids during the Nazi period in Germany. While the media mocks Von der Leyen for her “concretelike hairstyle”, labelling her a Christian version of Marilyn Monroe, one could ask what the personal relations and appearance of the new German defense minister have to do with whether or not she is the most suitable politician for the position. As a matter of fact, these kinds of comments are not only utterly distasteful, but have also proven to be harmful for an equitable, democratic society. A recent study by political science researchers at Louisiana State University has shown that media coverage of women in politics focuses far more on personality traits rather than political content, as compared to their male counterparts (Dunaway et al., 2013). More than often, articles focus on commenting on the appearance and clothing choices of a female politician. The result is a trivialization of the actual political substance that female politicians produce, which lowers the chances of women being re-elected into office. Moreover, this kind of media output also discourages women from entering politics in the first place. In the end, women are being marginalized effectively in public life, which translates into the unbalanced representation of men and women in politics that can be seen today. In this light, the media has a responsibility in that it constantly reinforces this pattern in contemporary society through its output. In order to achieve gender equality and equal political representation, media coverage has to become more balanced. Female politicians should be assessed according to their political ideas, rather than their personal characteristics. It is commonly acknowledged that young girls need to be encouraged to become more engaged with political affairs and the media image is an im-
portant part of this effort. Publishing interviews and articles about successful women in politics that portray them as tough and powerful, without evoking gender stereotypes, can be a positive signal. It establishes the role models that young girls truly need to be inspired towards more engagement with politics.
“Female politicians should be assessed according to their political ideas, rather than their personal characteristics.” Ursula Von der Leyen has been in office for two months now. She has taken on the job of defense ministers in difficult times for the German military. Not only does she have to deal with the current reform of the military service, having to deal with problems sych as a lack of staff and finances, but also the envisioned Afghanistan exit of the German forces by the end of 2014. Discussions that go beyond a political solution to these matters seem inappropriate at times like these.
Von der Leyen is known to be ambitious and determined. Whether she can convince the German and international media of her suitability for the job remains to be seen. Already now, she is being considered a possible candidate for succession of Angela Merkel - when the time comes. The post as defense minister can then be seen as some kind of a test of her capabilities and determination to go further. Many of her predecessors have failed in this position. Let’s hope that Von der Leyen does well, for the sake of all young girls, and not only those in Germany, in need of a political role model. FREDERIKE ENGELAND is an International Peace and Security MA student at King’s College London.
By Katherine Gray
n the United Kingdom today, more than 400 Members of Parli- derstanding that men were more likely to vote Labour than women ament, 62 percent of the total number, are white males over the due to their work and lifestyle at the time, formulated the idea of age of forty. In 2010, women made up only 22 percent of the all-women shortlists. This made the selection of female candidates House of Commons, a vast increase on previous years, but accor- for the party compulsory in many constituencies, hoping to ding to some organisations and comachieve a result of one hundred female mentators such as the National Democra“(…)women do not need the aid of MPs in the Commons following the tic Institute, it still remains highly undecount. This decision was met with mixmen to help them succeed. Indeed, ed opinions, but plenty of criticism. mocratic and inconsistent within a representative democracy. The purpose how is it a victory for women when a The largest complaint was that of the of this article is not simply to critique undemocratic and antifemale gets elected to parliament inherently this stance, but rather to evaluate the meritocratic nature of the process and solely due to the assistance of legitimacy of the method put forth to its slight on the virtue of competition. “correct” this imbalance. This method Actively disallowing men from compemale intervention? ” being, of course, affirmative action, the ting with women regardless of whether practice of attempting to provide equality by increasing the num- they possessed a better skill set, experience or commitment to the ber of opportunities available to “disadvantaged” candidates. job became a major recognised flaw of the all-women shortlists (hereby known as AWS). But is there indeed merit behind this In the 1990s, several decades after the success in achieving argument? women’s suffrage, the number of female MPs was at a critical low, standing at less than 10 percent of the overall makeup of the I perceive the argument from two interlinked perspectives; House. The Labour Party, backed by gender polling and un- that of the aforementioned issues with competition and de-
mocracy, and a second meritocratic argument that has been paraded in front of the Labour Party in protest of the AWS policy, that we are seeing more women in parliament, and they’re getting there by themselves. In a recent interesting article for the Tribune, the LSE-based Shan Aman Rana broke down the process as follows: “Affirmative action programmes…enjoy legitimacy to paradoxically create inequality with the long-term aim of creating equality of opportunity and rights for all. It is a kind of distributive justice…”
and prior experience in regional politics. He finds himself passed aside for a woman not from the local area, with little experience within the community and a long-term public sector career, who has been parachuted with an AWS into the seat because it is a) winnable and b) she is female. A loss for him merely because he has the misfortune of being male. But who has really lost out here? The businessman, of course, but also the local community that should have the right to vote for the best candidate for them, which empirically speaking, is the man.
“(…)is being a woman more of a so-called “disadvantage” than being from a low-income background, and thus worthy of affirmative action when the other is not?”
The use of gender-based affirmative action presents another crucial inequality issue. If we use quotas for gender, why don’t we use quotas for other “disadvantaged” groups in society? Ethnic minorities, the disabled, the non-private school educated and so on. Inequality in the House of Commons spreads much further than gender imbalance in the chamber. The existence of quotas for women surely validates the necessity for these other quotas to aid other “disadvantaged” groups in accessing parliament. Around 90 percent of MPs currently sitting in the house are university educated. Would it be fair or promoting of equality to select an AWS university-educated candidate instead of a male candidate who hadn’t had the opportunity to go to university due to a low-income background who has worked hard to have the chance to be selected? And is being a woman more of a so-called “disadvantage” than being from a low-income background, and thus worthy of affirmative action when the other is not? These problems are all deeply theoretical issues with the existence of AWS that need to be examined.
Rana makes a valid point here; affirmative action is essentially paradoxical, especially in a state such as the UK which places little respect on the ”any means to an end” philosophy. The idea of competition in a meritocracy centres on the idea that the best candidates will rise to the top. Take the case of Jacqui Smith, the former Labour Home Secretary selected to run by an AWS, who following Alan Johnson’s brief stint in the office was succeeded by Theresa May, a female Conservative MP who was selected to her seat on the basis of her own merit. Currently in the House of Commons sit 303 Conservative MPs (adjusted for by-elections post-2010). There are also 56 Liberal Democrat MP. Of these, 48 Conservative MPs and 7 Liberal Democrat MPs are female . Neither party uses AWS or any form of it. Whilst still clearly disproportionate, the number of women in the Commons not as a result of AWS is steadily increasing, even though it can inflate and deflate in small increments similarly. This shows that female representation can be reached without the aid of AWS, a “fast track” to equal representation over an “incremental track”. While the claims that parliament is still an old boys club remain somewhat painfully true, successes such as this for women, without the help of AWS, do well to present the case that women do not need the aid of men to help them succeed. Indeed, how is it a victory for women when a female gets elected to parliament solely due to the assistance of male intervention? “Every woman MP has to be able to look every male MP in the eye and know that she got there on the same basis as they did. Neither Margaret Thatcher nor I needed this kind of help to get into Parliament.” – Ann Widdecombe MP. Another argument that is frequently raised is that the process of parties allocating women to seats based on their gender can deprive a constituency of the best candidate for them, thus further hindering democracy. Imagine a case in which a competent local businessman wishes to be selected for a seat in a constituency he has lived in since childhood, he has knowledge of the local issues, relationships with the businesses and people within the community
While there is still a long way to go for women in British politics, the arguments against the use of affirmative action are overwhelming. The undemocratic nature of removing competition from the process, the disregarding of meritocracy and the inherent inequality of placing one “disadvantage” above another serves to render gender-based affirmative action in British politics fraught with theoretical and practical holes. When we do have close to a fully representative House, years from now, the supposed “feminist” supporters of all-women shortlists will have to ask themselves what the bigger victory is: the fact that we have women in parliament, or the fact that those women got there on the basis of their own merit? KATHERINE GRAY is a third year International Politics BA student at King’s College London.
By Jonathan Andrews
t is widely agreed that women’s representation in parliament is too low and should be increased. Secondly, it is also widely agreed that it is harder for a woman to be elected than a man. What is less agreed upon is why. All manner of things are blamed: sexism within political parties, differing gender roles and behaviour; individual women’s choices. Rarely, though, are the effects of different electoral systems examined. Yet they should, because these systems play an important role. They decide the rules of the game that women must play to achieve election. And some games are harder than others. One common criticism of First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) is that it makes it very difficult for new MPs to gain a foothold. Incumbents benefit from it disproportionately, so, naturally, challengers lose out. And as most incumbents are men, it follows that it might not be the best system for increasing female representation in parliament. Proportional Representation (PR), on the other hand, is widely seen as more progressive in this regard, especially under a list system, where incumbency is not nearly as important – whoever the party votes for goes top of the list. But how true is this assumption? There is circumstantial evidence to suggest that elections run under PR produce a more even gender balance. Within the House of Commons, elected under FPTP, female representation
remains low: women make up just 147 of MPs (22 perent). Yet 24 of Britain’s 73 MEPs are women (33 percent). Within other EU countries the same holds true; France’s National Assembly, elected via a two-round FPTP, contains 155 female MPs out of 577 (26.7 percent), not much higher than the Commons, yet women make up 33 of their 74 MEPs (44 percent). Yet push this theory further, and cracks begin to emerge. Within the UK the reverse seems true at local level. Since 2007 Scottish councils have held elections under Single Transferable Vote, one of the most proportional voting systems, yet an increase in women councillors has not materialised. In fact, female Scottish councillors overall have fared worse; as of 2012, women make up only 24.3 percent of Scottish councillors. In comparison, the 2010 National Census of Local Authority Councillors found that women made up 30.6 percent of English councillors, despite English councils holding elections under FPTP. And Scotland’s figure of 24.3 percent was only achieved following a determined positive action campaign by Scottish Labour, under which 50 percent of vacant seats were required to be filled by women. Had this not been the case, female representation on Scottish councils would likely have remained at around 22 percent, where it had plateaued for almost 20 years. Locally, then, STV has not changed much in terms of female representation;
instead, positive action within Labour has been more influential. Were List-PR used, as in the European Parliament, the result may well be different, though. But no UK council uses it, so comparing FPTP to STV is the best we can do. So, does the voting system used actually matter? I think it does – generally, on a parliamentary level at least, PR does lead to increased female representation. It is worth noting that, internationally, only two countries have ever been able to achieve the 50 percent target, Andorra and Rwanda: both achieved this under List -PR. But it is not the most important element; internal party measures are. Consider female representation within the three main parties at Westminster:
“(…) increased female representation invariably centre on the need for Parliament to be more representative of the country it governs. But should this come at the cost of ignoring the opinion of that country?” The Liberal Democrats’ female representation is, quite bluntly, dire. Of their 57 MPs, just seven are women; five of these are seated within the party’s twelve most marginal constituencies, likely to lose office at the next election. Unsurprisingly, the Lib Dems are also the only one of the three main parties with no internal measures in place to increase female representation. Their conference has repeatedly blocked attempts to introduce all-women shortlists, and their local branches are far more reluctant than Labour or the Conservatives to accept women as candidates on the basis of gender. As such, while many women come forward, most end up in unwinnable seats and never make it to parliament. Labour, though, who use all-women shortlists, have fared far better. In fact, they have more women MPs than all other parties put together – 81 (over 31 percent of Labour MPs). The Conservatives don’t use all-women shortlists, but David Cameron made female representation a key aspect of his 2010 A-list; as a result the number of female Tory MPs leapt from 17 to 49 (and percentage-wise, from single figures – less than 9 percent – to almost 20 percent). So the parties which make the most internal effort to increase women’s representation generally succeed in doing so, while those who refuse remain heavily male-dominated. I cannot see how one can argue, then, that these measures don’t work. The ethics of such policies, however, are a valid area for debate. Is it right to champion them even if the majority of the public are opposed to such measures? Arguments in favour of increased female representation invariably centre on the need for Parliament to be more representative of the country it governs. But should this come at the cost of ignoring the opinion of that country? PR may improve female representation, but as recently as
2011 the public comprehensively voted, by more than two to one, to retain FPTP. The voters seem quite content with it. And what do they think about internal party attempts to increase female representation? You might expect that an electorate who overwhelmingly agrees that men and women should be equal in society – and that women are underrepresented in key positions of power, and that this is societally damaging – would look positively upon them. However, electoral evidence suggests otherwise. Of the A-list candidates elected for the Conservatives, almost all won with a smaller swing than the national average. Furthermore they have not been particularly good at keeping the seats they’ve won; when A-lister Louise Mensch resigned from Parliament in 2012, her Corby constituency immediately swung back to Labour. As for all-women shortlists, their reception has not exactly been wholly positive. In 2005 Labour lost one of its safest seats, Blaenau Gwent; a Labour majority of 19,313 became a 9,121 majority for an independent, Peter Law. That independent was a former local Labour councillor, banned from seeking election within the party by an all-woman shortlist. So he stood anyway, beating the Labour candidate, Maggie Jones. When asked why they rejected Labour, several voters reported anger that a candidate from outside the constituency was forced on them, rather than them being allowed to vote for a local candidate. Interestingly, though, Jones’s non-local status was the source of most constituents’ anger, not the all-woman shortlist. So perhaps rather than rejecting measures such as all-women shortlists and risking declining female representation, or continuing to impose them without change and risking voter anger, parties should seek a middle way instead. A policy whereby female candidates would be given priority in selections as long as they were active in the local community, for example, might work quite well, and solve both issues. That way, not only would parliament be more representative of the country, but each MP would be truly representative of their constituency. To combine these measures with PR would work even better, perhaps with multiple-member constituencies – that way, as well as a healthier gender balance, a wider range of constituents’ views would be represented. Any such change, though, would have to be contingent on public support, or it could not call itself democratic. JONATHAN ANDREWS is a second year English Literature and Language BA student at King’s College London.
By Tamara Juburi
eminism is often portrayed as a problem of diminishing imA growing interdependence of countries in political, ecoportance. Although women are yet to receive equal pay as nomic and social dimensions has created a sense of responsibility men, the subordination of women is far less grave than it used to for the West; the idea of human rights has become a concept that be within the comforts of the is far bigger than the nation-state Western world. The develop- â€œWhat the revolutions have failed to project is through its acceptance as a uniments made in the West, howevversal goal. Yet, it is astounding that at the core of democracy lies equality â€“ er, do not go far in proving the how often this does not take into liberation of women. The idea of account the role of women in something they have yet to achieve.â€? feminism maintains its relevance particular. For example, the US as long as women continue to be oppressed, irrelevant of where continues to penetrate the Middle East in the name of freedom, this oppression is taking place. All across the globe, women conequality and democracy, however, all of these efforts are undertinue to be treated as second-class citizens in both the public and mined by their utter disregard for the fate of a woman within their private spheres. own country.
In particular, there is a deep sense of hypocrisy in the US' special relationship with Saudi Arabia – a major ally in the region. The US claims to strive for these freedoms, yet they are constantly contradicted by Saudi Arabia's violation of women’s rights. It is no secret that it is illegal for a woman to drive and to vote in the country, and child marriage remains a norm. Egyptian feminist Mona Eltahway confirms this in saying that women are perpetually minors regardless of their age or education.
“To view culture as an evolving force rather than a static one would empower individuals of both genders to abolish patriarchal expectations (…)” Unfortunately, this level of inequality is not specific to Saudi Arabia. Misogyny manifests itself in a variety of ways that is not consistent from country to country in the region. The degrees to which women are oppressed varies greatly, yet is infinitely present in each country. The mistake lies in seeing women as property. The level of sexual harassment to which women are subjected to emphasises this. In Kuwait, there is not a single law that prohibits domestic violence or marital rape, while in Egypt, a man cannot be punished for beating his wife if he had “good intentions” for doing so. With the inception of the Arab Spring in 2010, a sense of hope was created. The people have taken to the streets in a bid to end spineless – and often Western-backed – dictatorships in exchange for a just and democratic future. Women were active agents in such revolutions, however, the issue of their rights was very rarely tackled. This is proof that without a social revolution, the effectiveness of a political revolution and the creation of a more just and equal society is limited. Oppression is not a problem exclusive to the Arab region, but it is too prominent to exclude from public debate. Mona Eltahaway captures this perspective in saying that there is a hierarchy of oppression within the region, whereby a dictator oppresses the people as a whole, who in turn oppress women. The idea here is that the subordinate role of a woman is too deeply ingrained within the Arab society to tackle from above. What the revolutions have failed to project is that at the core of democracy lies equality – something they have yet to achieve. In order for this to become a reality, education is pivotal. As Frederick Douglass said, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” By robbing women of this tool, governments in the region have ensured that the role of women is confined. Women's literacy rates remain a major concern, stalling their activism in the political arena. In Yemen there is only one woman in a parliament made up of 301 individuals. Therefore, the structure of their society and the oppression it results in has been successful in creating a
vacuum where female representation should be. This calls for a need for women's rights to be institutionalised rather than held hostage in the hands of political leadership. In spite of popular belief, the region has historically been one of development and innovation; what we now call the Middle East is one of the oldest centres of settled life. So how is it that they are infamous for their extreme gender inequality? Why is it that not a single Arab country ranks in the Global Gender Gap report? Westerners and many Muslims attribute this division of gender roles to Islam. This is too simplistic; the patriarchal system can be traced back to pre-Islamic culture. It is not the religion itself, but its lack of ability to modernise that has contributed to this deep divide. In this way, religion is often an instrument used by governments and the people to uphold outdated traditions, therefore consolidating their own power. For example, under Sharia Law the testimony of a woman is worth half that of a man. In addition to this, a man inherits double as much as a woman in the case of death. Consequently, a man’s rise in status in society is facilitated for at the expense of a woman’s. It is not the first time religious discourse has been manipulated, yet, this is significant in that it highlights how toxic the marriage between politics and religion can be for a society. In order for there to be a substantial change, attitudes towards culture – and therefore religion – must be reformed and adapted to allow for more modern conceptions of equality. To view culture as an evolving force rather than a static one would empower individuals of both genders to abolish patriarchal expectations and re-shape the ways they are seen within society. Therefore, for there to be a change, it is of paramount importance that the need for reform is actively voiced through a bottom-up approach. Additionally, such demands for change shouldn’t just use consequential societal issues as ammunition for political reform, but also address the inherent problems of society’s structure as another means of solving political problems. This revolution will take time, but the Arab Spring marked the beginning of political and social reconstruction in the Middle East. We can only hope that such a movement – and any it may inspire in the future – continues if society is to address the issue of women’s rights in the Middle East. TAMARA JUBURI is a second year International Politics BA student at King’s College London.
By Michelle Szarazova
n October 18 2013, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 2122, another crucial document proving the importance of gender issues on the international agenda. This document reflects many previous efforts taken by the United Nations, NGOs and other relevant actors to eradicate gender inequalities. However, do all the recent endeavours automatically bring about more equality in the daily life of women? The tremendous rate of sexual violence against women and girls in India implies a rather negative answer. In response to the widespread sexual abuses in India, a self-defence female group, called Red Brigade, has launched an original way to stop sexual harassment – beating and ridiculing male perpetrators in public. Despite strong criticism from some Indian leaders, this article points out how the Brigade’s response could be justifiable in conditions where state authorities fail to protect women from abuses and crimes.
engaged with the progress in science and technology, producing the phenomenon of female foeticide – the aborting of a foetus because it is female.
Women around the world nowadays continue to be discriminated in many aspects of their everyday life. The range of gender inequalities is widespread. Ownership, professional and educational discriminations, domestic and sexual violence or higher mortality rate are just few examples among many. Besides these ‘traditional’ instances, gender inequalities also seem to have
Why does India appear to be such a ‘suitable environment’ for the spread of sexual aggression against women? One possible explanation suggests that the rape situation in India is caused by the patriarchal social set-up, composed of conservative male-dominated thinking and weak laws. Cultural factors also play a fundamental role. The patriarchal honour and
As the example of India – having recently been ‘nominated’ as the world’s fourth most dangerous country for a woman – shows, these inequalities are especially deeply-rooted in traditionally patriarchal societies. Though many practices sustaining gender discriminations have been formally outlawed in India, they persist. For example, despite being illegal, 300,000 to 600,000 female foetuses are aborted every year because girls are seen as a financial liability and boys are preferred. Moreover, from birth to death, many Indian women live in a vicious circle of inequalities and face crimes perpetrated against them at home, as well as outside of the households, one of them being sexual violence, which takes on many forms.
societal stigma associated with admitting this sort of violence drive many women towards choosing to suffer in silence, instead of reporting the crime or actively campaigning against abuse. Usha Vishwakarma, a young teacher from Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh in India, appears to be one of the very few exceptions. After escaping a sexual attack from her colleague at school, the assault led to her stigma and exclusion at work. Nonetheless, unlike many other women, she refused to respond passively to her experience and other instances of sexual violence that go regularly unpunished in her community. This turned out to be the breaking point in her life, as she realised she could help other girls to protect themselves through self-defence classes. As a result of Usha’s efforts, Red Brigade emerged. Most members of this self-defence women group are girls aged 16 to 25 that are victims of sexual assault, harassment and attempted rape. Majority joined out of frustration about the failure of Indian authorities to effectively address persistent sexual violence against women. Originally made of 15 members, the group has recently accepted more than 100 new recruits that now proudly wear the official uniform – ‘red kurta pyjama tops, baggy black trousers and dupatta scarves’. Why does Red Brigade particularly stand out when considering reactions to sexual violence? The answer is the originality of their approach towards men harassing women and girls in their community – publicly humiliating and beating them. The process is simple. First, the Brigade pays the man a visit at home to give him a warning – if this is ineffective, he is then publicly mocked. Even though the police are informed, they often fail to act. That is why the Brigade finds the perpetrator again, surrounds him in public, lifts him in the air and starts beating him with fists and shoes. This is a radical, even revolutionary, response to harassment in a country where females are expected to suffer in silence, in order not to shame their family by admitting and talking about sexual violence. Despite being criticized, there are several reasons why this approach, in absence of effective protection by authorities, may be justifiable when tackling sexual violence at local level. First of all, the Brigade’s aim is not to take justice into their own hands by punishing and hurting men who harass or assault women, but rather, it is to teach them a lesson. As Usha explains: ‘‘The whole idea is to humiliate them. We are well within our rights – this is self-defence. The police are not supportive so we have to defend ourselves.’’ This has been proved on several occasions, when women started nursing their wounds once the ‘attack’ was over. A second reason why this type of response to sexual violence should not be automatically condemned is its relative effectiveness. Red Brigade has, in its short existence, managed to save more than 15 girls from attempted rapes, in contrast to the new laws that appear to fail in providing protection for women.
Other successful outcomes of their activities included an offender running away promising never to bother a girl again and an expression of thanks from the parents of another man for their actions. The Brigade also brings about less visible, but fundamental changes by leading self-defence classes and workshops that result in making many girls feel empowered, safe, self-confident and able to defend themselves when attacked or harassed. Additionally, some men are scared and look away as the group walk in the area, and the community - instead of ridiculing them - treat them with respect. This reflects the Brigade’s success in showing men that they will no longer tolerate abuse.
“This is a radical, even revolutionary, response to harassment in a country where females are expected to suffer in silence (…)” The third suggestion is that many Indian leaders are as frustrated as the Brigade about how little the situation has changed for women despite all the recent public involvement and the introduction of new rape laws. On the other hand, some leaders are rather critical about these activities. For example Ranjana Kumara, one of India’s leading women’s rights campaigners warns: ‘‘For a village girl to take on these rapists and molesters is definitely an act of courage, but they should avoid vigilante justice. While we all criticise the law, we need to work hard to strengthen it otherwise there will be chaos.’’ Nonetheless, the new laws, passed in March 2013, continue to be ineffective, especially since the police refuses to register rape complaints. To conclude, the chronic inability of society to protect women may lead to other similar responses. More groups like the Red Brigade have already emerged in other local Indian communities. These approaches could eventually become more radical and law-breaking as the number and shocking brutality of rape cases continuously increase. However, the activities of groups like Red Brigade should not be uncritically dismissed. Ultimately, they send a clear message to men, society and the world: Indian women are no longer willing to put up with endemic rape and gender inequalities. MICHELLE SZARAZOVA is a International Peace and Security MA student at King's College London.
By Anisha Hira
ince December 2012 there has been a drastic increase in media coverage of the â€œwidespread problem of sexual violence,â€? in India (Zeldin). Subsequent to the reported gang rape, and resulting death, of a 23-year-old medical student in the capital, New Delhi, a large portion of the Indian population has called for severe reformation. There are a multitude of facets that need to be addressed in order for India to advance socially as well as politically. Although, there has been some attempt to rectify the constitutional, legislative and judicial perspective on the protection and enhancement of women's rights, the fundamental patriarchal nature of Indian society remains relatively untouched. In 1950 the first Indian Constitution was implemented, in light of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Constitution confers fundamental rights upon the citizens of India, among other essential rights to equality and access to the political institutions of democracy. Despite only having experienced 66 years of independence, the Indian Constitution is particularly forward thinking and confronts a number of historical social factors, such as non-discrimination on the grounds of caste and sex.
The preamble of the Indian Constitution contains the basic principles that should, ideally, be upheld by the State, which includes, justice, liberty, equality and fraternity. Nonetheless, the recent discourse regarding rape has brought to the forefront discrepancies in the applicability and desired effect of national fundamental values. The prevalence of rape in India is indicative of a breach of constitutional rights on several accounts. Primarily, the Indian State has not upheld "non-discrimination" against women and has not adopted any form of "positive discrimination in favour of women," under Article 15. Furthermore, there has been a deficiency in the adherence to and protection of "social justice," and "exploitation," and limited effort has been made to "renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women." Additionally, this points towards non-compliance with the UN Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which India ratified in 1993, but has been a signatory State since 1980. In signing and ratifying the Convention, India agreed to conform to Article 5(a), in so far as particular communities consented to government interference. The
Article contends the modification of “social and cultural patterns of conduct” and “elimination of prejudices” based on the notion of “inferiority” of one gender. However, the atmosphere of suppression of women and conduct of various public officers contradicts the very nature of the CEDAW. The Criminal Law Bill 2013 was officially enacted, in April of last year, to implement "anti-rape" laws. To some extent, the Bill, which was drafted by a committee headed by Chief Justice J.S. Verma, is directed towards enforcing the rights already conferred upon citizens. The required reform was aimed at the Indian Penal Code of 1860, the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Indian Evidence Act of 1872 and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act of 2012.
“(…) legislative measures do not attack the essential patriarchal notions in Indian culture. Fundamentally, it does not challenge the ways in which women are viewed or the position they hold in society. ” Substantively, the Bill sought to cover up holes in Criminal Law, regarding rape and protect victims after the outrage and outburst of protest seen by people across India. The Amendment distinctively defines rape in "specific physical terminology" and increases the severity of punishment that can be granted to convicted rapists, such as capital punishment when a woman is placed in a "permanent vegetative state" or the crime results in her death. The Bill does not discuss martial or same sex rape, and raises the age of consent from 16 to 18 permitting potential allegations of rape, regardless of consent. Voyeurism, stalking and acid throwing against women, in particular, have been introduced as criminal offences. The Bill also commissions special courts to efficiently and expediently deal, specifically with sexual assault cases (Bhalla). Finally, public servants and hospitals could be punished with prison time and/or fines where evidence might be tampered with or the victim is not attended to. Although, the Criminal Law Act 2013, conveys a recognition of the deficiency of the criminal procedure and protection of women's rights, such legislative measures do not attack the essential patriarchal notions in Indian culture. Fundamentally, it does not challenge the ways in which women are viewed or the position they hold in society. Considering the fact that India has had both a female President and Prime Minister, as well as the worship of female Gods within Hinduism, women are not held in high regard in many areas of India today. Several female members of the Indian government have publicly claimed that rape victims are inviting attacks because they dress provocatively or go out at night. The expectations placed upon women to maintain their "modesty" are of a higher standard than that of men in India. These public proclamations contradict the positive legislative steps that the government is trying to take.
In order to completely address the prevalence of rape as a significant crime there needs to be a reformation of women's rights, overall. The procedure of legal redress and enforcement should be further regulated to ensure women are not vulnerable to an attack. There have been reported instances of public servants failing to file a report for a rape victim or even raping women in custody. Moreover, certain men on trial for rape have been acquitted on the grounds that the women were deserving of the attack. In more recent events, there have been incidents of public figures and officials committing acts of rape. The Amendment Bill might represent a show of support for women and a step towards greater protection of rights, but it does not represent the reality. Furthermore, the final draft of the Bill did not take into account all the suggestions of the Verma report and allocated harsher punishments, like capital punishment, even though this can only be invoked in rare circumstances in the Indian judicial system. In essence, the potential to deter rape is negated by the fact that the death penalty is unlikely to be employed. The Act does not efficiently break down the patriarchy in any way because such punishments do not transform the legal process. The inclusion of capital punishment and stringent punishments, such as life imprisonment, do not necessarily deter criminals. For example, the five men who gang raped the young woman in New Delhi in 2012 were sentenced to the death penalty, yet more horrendous crimes continue to emerge in the media. Conversely, the Criminal Law Act 2013 has brought rape to the forefront of debate. Women in India have been able to speak up about the atrocities that are committed against them and could garner support from activists and other women who have had similar experiences. The Indian government and other advocates have managed to make rape a dominant topic of discussion after the years of silence past victims have had to endure. ANISHA HIRA is a first year Politics, Philosophy and Law LLB student at King’s College London.
By Claire Dale
rmatya Sen was the first, in the year of 1990, to make the ground-breaking claim that 100 million of women were “missing” in Asia. Demographers have observed that, for as long as can be traced back and across the globe, the sex ratio at birth is approximately of 105 male babies for every 100 female babies. This small inequality is a natural remedy to the fact that male individuals are less resistant to diseases, which results in higher numbers of early childhood deaths than for females. However, in some parts of Asia, especially in China, India and until recently South Korea, the sex ratios at birth are greatly distorted. In some rural parts of China, the imbalance is as dramatic as 130 male babies for every 100 females. The missing women are the women who would have lived had sex ratios not been tampered with and their absence is quantified by looking at the gap between the natural sex ratio and the observed one. Since Sen’s first study, the number of “missing” women has dramatically increased, reaching a record 160 million. The imbalance is such that, according to a 2010 report by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, within the next 10 years, one in five Chinese young men will be unable to find a bride because of the dearth of young women.
Those diversions from the natural ratio are deeply rooted and have complex explanations. As Sen reminds us, purely economic factors are insufficient to explain why women are missing in Asia and not, for instance in Sub-Saharan Africa. The dearth of young women is the product of multiple causes. Firstly, there is a strong and ancient cultural preference for sons who represent an important economic asset for their parents in societies where pensions and other social safety nets are inexistent. Parents rely heavily on their sons in their old age and see the son as a pillar in the family bringing economic stability, while raising a daughter is simply costly. Furthermore, with economic development in the region came the modern desire for smaller families. While female infanti-
cide and neglect have always existed in China and India, the crucial development that allowed for the tampering of sex ratios was the advent of ultrasound scanning in the 1980s. The technology was initially developed to identify diseases in the womb but was rapidly turned into a device for determining the sex of the foetus. Such technologies made it possible for families to turn to sex-selective abortions. First the practice was limited to the wealthiest families. It has now spread throughout society. While today sex selection is severely condemned by government officials, the issue has only recently appeared on the agenda. Worse, until recently, it was encouraged. While in China, the Family Planning Commission only tacitly condoned the abortion of female foetuses; in India the encouragement was flagrant. Slogans such as “invest 500 rupees now, save 50 000 later” were used to incentivise parents to avoid the encumbrance of having to pay a dowry for their daughters and go for a comparatively cheap investment: a sex selective abortion. Sex-selective abortions are also the by-product of attempts at controlling population growth. In China, the famous one child policy, while neutral in form, had disastrous consequences for women. The pro-male bias in society led families subjected to the policy to ensure that, if they were only going to have one child, it would be a boy. Western demographers and policy makers also have their share of responsibility. Many advocated sex-selective abortions as a temporary measure for population growth control. The logic was that thanks to new scanning technologies, parents would be able to ensure that they had a son straight away, instead of repeatedly “trying” for one. The ethical question of encouraging birth rates of one sex at the expense of the other was discarded, as demographers believed that the discrimination against women would only be temporary. It was thought that as women became scarce, they would be more valued and hence couples would be prompted to have daughters again. But discrimination against women did not fade away; rather it became deeply anchored in society. And, in their dearth, women were made worse off than ever before. Gender-related and domestic violence increased dramatically alongside soaring demands for sexually related work and the development of trafficking networks. Sex ratio imbalances have widespread ramifications. Not only are
women made worse off but also the depletion of the demographic pool of women is likely to initiate a dwindling of the population of Asia. Furthermore, considering the importance of getting married and having children in Asia as a source of respect and social status, it is crucial for men to find a mate. Skewed sex ratios cause prolonged or permanent bachelorhood, which in turn poses a threat to the whole of the marriage and family structure. More broadly, scholars have also identified a strong negative correlation between the number of women and crime rates. The more skewed the sex ratio, the more violent the society. While causation is difficult to identify here (a relationship between testosterone levels in society and crime would be difficult to quantify, it is important to note that researchers across the board have found a stronger correlation between the number of women in society and crime rates, than between poverty levels and crime. Uttar Pradesh, one of the wealthiest states in India has one of the most skewed sex ratios at birth. Recently, its rape, domestic violence and "honour crimes’" rates have been soaring up. The picture need not remain so bleak. South Korea had the most skewed sex ratio at birth in the region. This has now been brought back a normal 106. The country has managed to reverse the trend through government initiatives to promote the value of women and make the son preference seem outdated and irrelevant. Programmes of female education, equal rights rulings and economic measures to decrease the dependency of ageing parents on sons have allowed for a redressing of the imbalance. Governments have a key role to play in the tackling of discrimination against female foetuses. Sex-determination was rendered illegal in India in 1994 and in China, initiatives such as the Care for Girls Programme launched in 2003 that provide monetary incentives to parents for them to have daughters and awareness-raising programmes seem to indicate a positive move forward. Nonetheless, greater enforcement of the laws is very much needed in both countries, alongside a change in the laws on property ownership and inheritance that still discriminate against women. The economic value and prospects of women need to be enhanced so as to both decrease the reliance of parents on sons and encourage women to have baby girls that they know can have equal status and opportunities as baby boys would. More than ever, as we strive for gender equality, the issue of the “missing women of Asia” must be tackled. Discriminated against from their very birth and facing the devastating ramifications of their death, the women of Asia are facing a plight that should be out-dated. And has to be. CLAIRE DALE is a second year International Politics BA student at King’s College London.
By Mayara Faria
“I speak to you with a feminine voice. It’s the voice of democracy, of equality, I am certain, ladies and gentlemen, that this will be the women's century.”
uch inspiring words came from Dilma Roussef, Brazil’s President since 2010, the first woman to achieve the head of State’s office and the second most powerful woman in the world in 2013, according to Forbes Magazine. While Dilma was stating that this would be the women’s century she was also making history by being the first woman to open debate in the United Nations Assembly in New York City.
(ECLAC), women in the economically active population in urban areas in Brazil, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic have at least one more year of study than men. In general, both in urban and rural areas, women are finishing school better or as well prepared as men, sometimes with more years of studies. Moreover, women’s entry into the labour market has also increased, 52 percent were declared to be in the urban labour market in 2008, a number 10 percentage points higher than in 1990.
Dilma, Kirchner, Bachelet, Chinchilla – all important Latin American names of women who have ruled or are ruling their country. The region has positively shown the world an important increase of women’s participation in politics. According to the 2012 Women in Politics survey by the United Nations for Women, the Latin America and Caribbean region holds 22.7 percent of female members of parliament, representing the second highest number in the world, only behind Northern Europe.
However, how is it possible that the number of women in poverty is still higher than men in the region? Why is the feminization of poverty, a phenomenon that was first studied in the US by Diane Pearce in the 1970s, still strongly present in the developing world? Wasn’t having the legal framework and the political initiative for gender equality enough to achieve parity between women and men?
Besides that, especially since the Beijing’s Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, most numbers concerning gender equality have seemed to have positively increased during the last decade in Latin America. For example, according to data from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean
For starters, as many may misunderstand, feminization of poverty in Latin America and in other parts of the world is not directly linked with the fact that there has been an increase in the number of women in poverty and in the number of women headed households, that is to say, women who are now heads of their
family and don’t depend on men’s incomes. The feminization of poverty is a process through which women still suffer from gender discrimination and inequality with men.
informal sector and wage gaps in relation to men in the formal labour market. Such economic differences are still holding women back from achieving gender equality with men.
In the Latin America-Caribbean region specifically, the The biggest issue, from my point of view, is and will number of women headed households has been increasing. In remain in cultural changes. As I have shown for Latin America 2007, according to ECLAC, 86 percent of single-parent families and the Caribbean, numbers concerning women’s rights and were headed by a woman, and in the lower income sector, the equality are being improved. However, gender equality goes same data increased from 13.8 percent in 1990 to 18.8 percent in beyond state actions. In order to fully achieve it, social and 2008. The reasons for such increase may vary according to the cultural changes have to occur, and changing people’s mentalitities country and even according to certain areas inside the different is never an easy task. countries, whether it’s For such urban or rural areas or “Latin American women deal with sexist or machista matter, the fight of low income regions attitudes in all environments, from households to in the women in Latin for instance. However, as Sylvia workplace. Their struggle is not only to change the opinions America and the Caribbean must start Chant has pointed out of men, but also how they view themselves(...)” against the machismo in her studies on present in their society. This phenomenon is a complex social Mexico, an important factor is the increase of households headed construction in Latin America that dates back from its colony by women. This has allowed women to escape from undesirable years and the introduction of both Spanish and Portuguese deeply relationships with men,which can lead to domestic violence and patriarchal culture, structured on the primacy of the male “honor” abuse. Even though they are not present in most cases, these and inferiority of women. As defined by Oxford dictionaries, it issues have been extensively observed. This breach from the may represent “strong or aggressive male pride.” culturally established patriarchial family unit is an important step towards gender equality. Latin American women deal with sexist or machista attitudes in all environments, from households to in the Nonetheless, the question remains of how come after workplace. Their struggle is not only to change the opinions of many changes and improvements in gender equality issues, men, but also how they view themselves given their tendency to women are still significantly poorer than men, and why women headed households are also less wealthy in the Latin America- believe in stereotypical pictures of women being less capable, more emotional and more concerned with housework. Caribbean region - hence the importance of analyzing the complex process of the feminization of poverty. Finally, I believe that it is not before a change in the machista mentality of both men and women in Latin America that As mentioned above, feminization of poverty incorporates equality promoting policy change will be effective. It is for Latin a variety of factors and reasons that go beyond a larger number of American women, as for women in the rest of the world, not a women in poverty. Rather, our attention should be drawn to the matter of leaving the housework or their children, but a matter of fact that households led by females are still poorer than those led choice and a matter of equality. It is about being given the same by males. Thus, despite the legal framework and the general opportunities and freedom to choose their own way of living. political conscience for women’s rights, women have not yet achieved economic parity with men, although numbers in Latin America and the Caribbean show that they seem to perform more MAYARA FARIA daily hours of work than men. is a third year Political Sciences and Latin American Studies BA student at Sciences Po Paris. The problem appears especially in the time spent in unpaid work. Cultural and social changes have not yet sufficiently occurred in order to make men offer a greater participation in household work, leaving women with the burden of carrying not only her paid job, if she has one, but also more daily hours performing the unpaid housework. Moreover, even when having their own income, key elements such as having to divide their time with housework, discrimination in the formal labour market regarding gender bias and often, women’s own lack of belief in themselves to achieve the same work positions as men, make Latin American women still face greater participation in the
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