Thursday, 16 October 2014

No Human Rights = Inequality

A glance at Amnesty's webpage is enough evidence in itself  of how people's lives are degraded by a lack of human rights. In the UK we go about our lives with a sufficient level of a feeling of personal security because of laws and norms that give us freedom of speech, movement and sexuality. Gone are the days when being gay meant that The Sun outed you on the front page (if you were reasonably famous) or that you would be sacked from your job.

Amnesty is campaigning actively on anti-gay draconian laws and for freedom of speech in African, among other campaigns. Both could result in spells in jail if a person is found 'guilty'. We take so many things for granted in our Western world and quite often our experiences are divided by a 'them and us' mentality. What happens across the world does not affect us and, therefore, why bother then? We need to bother for the simple reason that what happens across the globe does affect us.

If people in Uganda aren't allowed to speak their mind about wanting free and fair elections then there is a high risk that without transparency the elections may not be carried out according to fair rules. At a human level when people are killed for speaking out, being gay, or female or disabled then it affects the collective pool of rights that we draw our human rights from. A destabilizing effect in one part of the world could have repercussions for others elsewhere. 

What is 'Hidden Hunger'?

Women and children eating

Today is World Food Day and Blog Action Day and it is a paradox that in a world where people waste food and/or consume food in quantities that exceed nutrition needs there are people suffering from hunger. This dilemma is further compounded by the fact that inequality in food availability and distribution can occur in countries not suffering from famine or some other disaster.

A report titled, 'Hidden Hunger in South Africa' provides for a disconcerting read because while South Africa is considered a food secure nation, one in four of the inhabitants suffers hunger on a regular basis. The numbers stack up at 1.3 million in total.

One of the causes of hidden hunger is gender inequality. According to the report women face hunger more often than men due to differences in income, limited access to employment or means of production and cultural practices that either puts women last in the pecking order or expects them to have smaller portions when food is in short supply.

Capitalism is claimed by free marketeers to have an inbuilt efficient resource allocation system but the market structure of the food industry plays a pivotal part in enabling hidden hunger. This is because the food industry has a huge influence on the accessibility to food and the pricing of food. Five large food retailers in South Africa control 60% of the market and retail stores are located in towns and cities which people cannot always afford to travel to. Imagine this problem being compounded if you are a woman with children and you have nowhere to leave them while you make this journey to buy food?

While the world is transfixed on South Africa at the moment because of the Oscar Pistorius case let us not forget that not everyone there lives in big houses and drives fast cars.

The reality of inequality is often the story behind the headlines.


Friday, 10 October 2014

When cultural beliefs are unhelpful in furthering women's rights- Microsoft

I write this blog post as an Indian feminist who believes in inter-sectional feminism i.e we are not homogeneous and are multi-faceted. The logic behind inter-sectionalism lies in recognizing the dimensions of prejudice that women face so that the remit of female discrimination can be expanded as a means of finding solutions. Race and cultural beliefs are challenges to the one-size fits all feminist theories of past years.

 BUT, while I think that references to race and cultural beliefs are extremely imperative to understanding how women across the world live, dress and advocate I do object to the Indian belief system of 'karma' being used as a method of settling the dispute over a woman's right to equal pay. As an Indian feminist I am sick of 'karma' being used all the time as a reason, excuse, explanation, call it what you will, for glossing over bad behaviour by men who really ought to know better.

The CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, is causing waves today by stating that it was not 'good karma' for women to ask for a pay rise and that they should trust the system to grant them good wages. Hidden in his message is the same old Asian way of telling women to be subordinates, obedient, while their fate is decided for them by some mystical force. Scratch deeper and you will find that that force is not being operated by some divine being but by human beings on this earth who have all the power to make the work place a better environment for women but will not do so.