Women’s rights: Turning point in India, triumph in Manila

Dec 28

Women’s rights have been in the forefront of international concern over the last few weeks. Up in arms against rape Making the biggest headlines were the massive demonstrations in New Delhi and other cities in India provoked by the brutal gang-rape by six men of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student in a moving bus in the Indian capital.   The crime, which saw the victim suffer extremely serious wounds in her genitals and intestines, proved to be the trigger for the release of popular anger that had built up over the years over the rise in violence against women. The statistics are horrific.  According to government estimates, almost every 20 minutes, a woman is raped in India.  In New Delhi, dubbed the “rape capital of India,” the incidence of rape rose from 572 in 2011 to 661 so far in 2012.  Of the 256,329 incidents of violent crime reported for 2011, a total of 228,650, or close to 90 percent, were committed against women. What accounts for what one writer describes as the “increasingly predatory sexual culture”?   For some analysts, the rise in sexual aggression is related to male resentment of the erosion of the traditional subordination of women in India’s patriarchal society by women’s increasing role in the work force, their increased mobility, and their growing social and economic empowerment.   Also a major factor has been police laxness in dealing with rape reports and increased impunity by rapists owing to the victims’ feeling that the legal processes are stacked against them and their wish to avoid the stigma associated with being raped or abused.  India is, in this regard, much like other societies, and is little different from, say, the United States, which analyst Shenali Waduge, citing government estimates, says tops the rape chart. Yet the current protests may turn out to be a turning point, for while much of the media reporting has focused on spontaneous demands like the death penalty or chemical castration for rapists and sex offenders, the recent developments may well mark the emergence of a massive militant mass movement in India that will focus on confronting head-on the patriarchal norms propping up the social subordination of women that is at the root of much sexual...

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Why the Philippines cannot afford to be “Like-Minded” in Doha

Dec 01

(This article was co-authored by Richard Javad Heydarian.) Seldom has a global conference been so devoid of positive expectations than the coming United Nations Climate Conference that will take place in Doha, Qatar in late November and early December. People could be forgiven for thinking a joke was being played on them, given that the meeting is being held in Qatar, one of the world’s leading producers of oil—a key reason for the world’s climate woes. But seldom has a meeting been as necessary for the future of the planet as the Doha meeting—also known as “Conference of Parties 18,” or COP 18. It is this massive gap between the planetary emergency and the frustrating realpolitik of climate negotiations that inflames global public opinion, especially against the two top carbon emitters, the United States and China. The Philippine negotiating team in Doha must articulate the interests of developing countries vis a vis these two economic superpowers.  It cannot allow itself to be instrumentalized by either of these intransigent parties, whose carbon waste is a major contributor to the increased frequency of extreme weather events.  The Philippine negotiators, who have not been known for staking out independent positions in the climate negotiations, must be especially wary of China, which is the dominant voice in the core of so-called “Like-minded Countries” in the Group of 77 and China bloc to which our country belongs. The Climate Stalemate The poor prospects for Doha stem, in large part, from the contradictory prescriptions that emerged from last year’s climate summit in Durban, South Africa (COP 17). The meeting approved two instruments. The first enjoins developed or “Annex 1” countries to commit to a second round of cuts under the Kyoto Protocol. The second, the so-called “Durban Platform for Action,” gives both Annex 1 and developing countries until 2015 to make commitments to make greenhouse reductions and until 2020 to begin implementing them. The United States and most other developed countries will go to Doha with little sense of urgency or of responsibility. They prefer to be guided solely by the Durban Platform, which effectively gives them a seven-year “grace period” before taking action on their emissions. Since every year that action is postponed brings...

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