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New Social Compact

I benefitted from migration, let others do so too

Naren Prasad

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I come from a family of migrants. In the early 1900s, the British colonial authorities brought both of my great-grandfathers from Utter Pradesh in India to Fiji as indentured labourers. Life was considerably tougher for them than it ever has been for me. I can’t imagine how they and many thousands of others coped working endless hours in the sugarcane fields.

I’m also a migrant. After finishing high school, I was lucky to receive a French Government scholarship to study in France. Having trod the migration path myself, I’m keen to debunk the myths that have arisen around the topic. I believe it is a win-win that benefits both origin and destination countries, economically and socially.

Every year, thousands of Fijians leave to take up work in other countries, most leave to secure their own futures but their remittances help communities back home stay afloat. Many of those that leave are skilled professionals, doctors and such like but many are not.

Like many migrants, I have been sending money to my parents ever since I left Fiji. I therefore know first-hand how remittances can build human capital and maintain livelihoods back home. In fact, overall, Fiji receives close to USD 300 million a year in remittances, making up about 6 per cent of its total GDP.

My personal story convinces me that a broader framework of effective and coherent evidence-based migration policies are needed to harness these benefits. This is why Goal 10 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals focuses on the facilitation of “orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies”.

At the ILO I train policymakers on how to use evidence for policy-making, including on migration. We are fully committed to increasing the capacity of workers, employers and governments to develop fair and effective, evidence-based labour migration frameworks. This is done through better governance of migration, which is promoted through international labour standards, bilateral labour agreements, skills training and social protection.

Planned and well-managed migration policies mean that – as in my case – migration does not have to be a negative story.

ILO

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New Social Compact

Contextualizing the causes of rape: Battle of ‘wrong’ perceptions

Wardah Irum

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The recent sexual assault committed at the outskirts of Lahore motorway has sparked tremendous outrage in Pakistan, from highlighting CCPO’s misogynist remarks, defending him, demanding public hanging, justice for the victim and overall security for women to spreading gender awareness in the society. However, to my utter surprise, the discourse rarely mentioned the perpetrators the way they should have been mentioned. The predominant yet absolutely fallacious focus remained on how ‘rape’ stems out of some ‘sexual deprivation’ or ‘uncontrollable sexual urges’. In other words, rapists seek ‘sexual gratification’ through rape. The problem with this statement is that it minimizes the legal responsibility of rapists and attributes the causes of rape to something beyond their control. Once the legal responsibility of rapists is removed or reduced, then either the circumstances or the victims themselves are blamed for creating situations in which the criminal lose control of themselves for sexual fulfilment. How can one consider and accept this supposed ‘uncontrollability’ of men, when this very society ‘informs’ us that men are more ‘rational’, ‘sound’ and ‘prudent’ while women are ‘emotional’ and ‘sentimental’. In religion and in wider social discourse, majority of leadership and managerial positions are reserved for men because they are considered logical and mentally more stable than us females. How can someone who is allegedly more rational, more reasonable and sensible have no control over their sexual behavior? Have no sense of individual dignity and self-restraint, personal responsibility and moral accountability? If we accept this wrong perception about men’s incapability to control their sexual desires, then, we should immediately overhaul the society and put men into the confines of their homes and must restrict their exposure to public space, because they have no power over themselves. Do you see where this argument may lead if we keep thinking that men cannot control their sexual urges and rape just happens out of lust and sexual desires?

The truth is both genders have equal sexual needs and desires, the only difference between them is that society has ‘normalized’ male sexuality and stigmatized ‘female sexuality’. And yes, both genders have equal control over their sexual urges. Rape never happens randomly and just out of extreme sexual urges, remember, it is an act carried out by the rapists intentionally. Moreover, majority of rapists (as various researches shows) have multiple venues to fulfil their sexual needs through extra-material ‘consensual sex’ and prostitutes. Paradoxically, a lot of rapists are married men, and men in powerful positions who have unlimited access to free but ‘consensual sex’. Therefore, we need to reject widespread notions that perhaps sexual impulses are uncontrollable, and because they cannot be controlled, they will ultimately lead to sexual crimes or rapists are essentially some ‘sex-deprived individuals’. The wrong emphasis will lead to wrong solutions to eradicate this social evil.

In this context, it is extremely necessary to understand the reasons and motives behind rape and sexual harassment. Various researches on this subject indicates that majority of rapists are motivated by an impulses of aggression incorporating power, acceptance of violence, revenge and anger. They are also encouraged by a combination of aggression and sexual expression emerging directly from the traditional male sex-role which is why when rapists are asked about motivations, ‘they often indicated that rape most commonly stemmed from a sense of sexual entitlement, and it was often an act of bored men… seeking entertainment’ (Rachel Jewkes, 2010)

Also, Rape is often ‘used’ as a weapon by the rapist to control, violate, and belittle the victim or to compensate for his perceived inadequacies such as lack of power, control, identity, and authority through the act of rape. There are extensive interviews of rapists available, in which, the perpetrators have elaborated how the act of rape was not really about ‘sexual pleasure’ but rather how it satisfied their wish to attain control, spread violence, and seek punishment and domination. Susan Brown miller, a feminist scholar, famously proclaimed that: “Rape is not a crime of irrational, impulsive, uncontrollable lust, but is a deliberate, hostile, violent act of degradation and possession on the part of a would-be conqueror, designed to intimidate and inspire fear…’Moreover, another feminist researcher MacKinnon found out that ‘aggression against those with less power is often experienced as sexual pleasure, an entitlement of masculinity that creates and maintains a sexual/gender hierarchy’. This has been demonstrated through Sanday’s Study on rape that distinguished between ‘‘rape-prone’’ and ‘rape-free’’ societies. Her cross-cultural study found that rape-prone societies were associated with interpersonal violence, male social dominance, and the subordination of women. In contrast, rape-free societies were characterized by respect for female authority and decision making and the near absence of interpersonal violence.

Besides, if we look at the history we will realize that rape has been used as aweapon of war and oppression throughout history. It has been used to degrade women and weak, vulnerable- unprivileged man and their communities and for ethnic cleansing and genocide. In jails all over the world, male rape is pervasive and never even highlighted through ‘breaking news’. In the famous rape case of Mukhtar Mai, the focus almost entirely diverted towards her, whereas her 14 years old brother was, also, a victim of repeated gang-rape by the three Baloch Mastoi men. And let’s never forget that it was the local Jirga who ordered the rape of Mukhtar Mai. How sick is this society where men are not punished for their criminal acts but rather their sisters, daughters, wives and mothers are punished. If a man sexually assault a woman, that man should be punished not woman belonging to his family. There are hundreds of examples where woman and man were sexually assaulted to humiliate or dominate and take revenge or inflict pain and injury either directly on the victim and their family or to disgrace one gender as a whole. Therefore, It can be established that rape has numerous motives as Beverly McPhail, renowned feminist scholar who has done extensive research on causes of rape, asserted that rape is both “a political, aggregate act whereby men as a group dominate and control women as a group,” and “a very personal, intimate act in which the body of a singular person is violated by another person(s).” She asserts further that “Rape occurs due to multiple motives rather than the single motivation… The multiple motivations include, but are not limited to revenge, power/control, and attempts to achieve or perform masculinity recreation or sexual gratification (of violent ‘nonconsensual sex).” 

However, the common misperception in the society is that rape occurs because of ‘uncontrollable sexual urges’, ‘late marriages, ‘broken families’, ‘women not wearing veil’ and the like. The whole notion that the rapists might have felt ‘out of control’ is a gross rejection of the fact that rapists ‘intentionally’ commit assault to ‘control’ the victim. This line of thinking perpetuate the false notion that perhaps man are some desperate beasts and therefore cannot control their sexual urges. Unfortunately, there is a subtle acknowledgment of such wrong, delusionary and misplaced perception in the tone of so many people, who, perhaps think our society is ‘sex starved’. In fact, our society is obsessed with sex and the daily news of sexual assaults are emblematic of this. Men in our society have raped ‘dead females after exhuming’, minors, (both boys and girls) and animals. If this is not obsession then what it is? This doesn’t sound like ‘starvation’.

The major problem emerges with patriarchy and how ‘sexual violence’ has been normalized and accepted. Yes, our society has stealthily ‘accepted’ sexual violence when majority of populace of Islamic republic chants in unison the notions of ‘chadar and char devari’ to ‘save’ women from sexual harassments. Ironically women are not even safe in their homes or in some cases in their graves, and don’t forget a huge number of girls and minors are raped by family members. Such mentality forgets to look at the causes of rape, ending rape culture, and correcting male behavior, instead it just loves to assume as if ‘chadar and char devari’ has saved and protected women. Our society has accepted and normalize sexual harassment when films and media is blamed for spreading vulgarity and spoiling the young generation, as if before the advent of social media and films, rape cases were non-existent. Our society has normalized sexual harassment when male children are brought up differently than females and when the family and educational institutes do not inculcate gender sensitization in students. This very ‘Islamic republic’ tolerate sexual violence when women are routinely given rape threats but law enforcement agencies rarely take actions; when rapists are not punished and roam freely. When criminals committing domestic violence, acid attacks, honor killings go unpunished. Every time when women is stared at by men in streets (even if she is wearing burqa) , when she is groped or touched in public, in schools, universities, offices and she remains silent out of fear of retaliation and humiliation and cannot hold the culprit responsible, this ‘rape culture’ is nourished and strengthened by ourselves. Moreover, the extent of hypocrisy that is maintained through this rape cultureis such that perpetrators are virtually ‘morally acquitted’ of their heinous crime. For the most part, there is a little reference towards them being ‘real culprits’. Our society has attached no stigma no disgrace towards the offenders of sexual violence, staring, catcalling, eve teasing and the like. Instead, it dearly devotes all its energy towards ‘disgracing’ and ‘dishonoring’ the victims and their family. We never shout out and label the perpetrators as ‘disgraceful’, ‘dishonorable’, ‘criminals’ and of course ‘sinners’ as well. This society tell victims that how they are ‘disgraced’ or have ‘lost their honor’ by the sexual assault whereas in reality the victim is innocent and mazloom. The victim’s human rights are violated and s/he is oppressed, and who is oppressed cannot be ‘dishonored’. It is only the oppressor, the criminal who is disgraced and dishonored by his crimes and sins.  But have we ever, collectively and vocally, renounced and stigmatized the rapists in particular and perpetrators of other acts of sexual harassment in general? Would it be wrong to say that staring, catcalling, abusing, eve teasing etc. by Pakistani men have actually become our ‘national character’ and majority of man are not even sorry for these shameful and inhumane acts. The day when sexual harassment is removed in all these forms at grassroots level, heinous crimes like rape will tremendously reduce as well.

To add insult to injury, the clergy (the Mullahs, the Allamas) has all the time in the world to ‘preach’ and perform their ‘religious duties’ during Ramzan and Moharram, and who, vociferously condemn ‘bad behavior’ in women, suddenly disappear from the scene when incidents of sexual harassment occurs. No ‘jaloos’ or ‘rallies’ by these religious leaders are organized to denounce the crime committed largely by individuals from their gender. Of course they can’t come out and condemn such crimes as most of these religious figures are themselves involved in such crimes and the others simply do not bother about the societal problems because their sole responsibility is to strengthen and disseminate their respective sectarian believes through Mosques, Iman bargahs, jammatkhanas and madrassahs. Because, they are very part and parcel of patriarchal society and all the notions of male superiority and domination have given them tremendous advantages in their personal and professional lives.

Nonetheless, it is their moral responsibility to ‘educate’ the masses (particularly males) that how grave a ‘sin’ rape is (and a crime against humanity in both national and international law), that how God has ordered men to ‘lower their eyes’ and guard their modesty. In the common discourse all the notions of modesty and chastity are only confined to women, as if God has given men the ‘freedom’ to do as he pleases. The truth is modesty (sharm-o-haya) is compulsory for both men and women as God has ordained in verse 24:30 ‘Tell the believing men to lower their gaze, and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts, etc.). That is purer for them. Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what they do’. Have you ever noticed that most of the time no one talks about this, people only talk about how only women need to veil and act modestly, and if they don’t ‘behave’ this way, it is the God given right to men to sexually harass them.

Sorry to disappoint you, God has not bestowed any such right to men, He has, explicitly, ordered men to guard their chastity, but majority of the men in our society have ‘completely’ forgotten and neglected to safeguard their modesty (Sharm-o-haya). In fact, if society had taught this sharm-o-haya to our men, sexual violence would not have become endemic and gender equality would not have become so hard to achieve. Therefore, if we really want to become a civilized and progressive society we need to inculcate this fundamental principal in our men with the same emphasis, because they are fully accountable and responsible for their actions. It is about time that we change our focus from ‘victim blaming’ (or women blaming) to ‘reeducate’ men in our society. To achieve this, we have to break the cycle of patriarchic values and advocate the absolute inviolability of individual dignity and equality of human beings. Don’t wait for the society to miraculously change, start with the person in the mirror.

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New Social Compact

Women Lead More Humanely During Times of Pandemic

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Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway. Photo: Wikimedia

As insignificant as it may seem to apologists of patriarchal social structures, it is evident that at least during the first phase of the pandemic, nations governed by women have witnessed a lesser number of deaths. This is not to suggest that women inevitably become better leaders in situations of crisis. The challenge ranges from reforming labour markets to waging wars, but the observation is still worth contemplating over, nevertheless.

There is surely a risk in devising these kinds of conclusion even though they sound feminist, for they perpetuate the gender-stereotype that kindness is inherently a feminine trait, which goes on to strengthen the socially enforced gender-based roles that have more to do with our mindsets than biology, but in an age when presidents such as Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro have gone berserk with their politics of toxic machismo, women seem to be treading the path during times of crisis with a lot more calmness and precision.

While Trump and Bolsonaro might be indulging in faux masculinity and denying the severity of the issue, Jessica Ardern, prime minister of New Zealand, has been addressing people of her country via social media in a tone that is informal and yet reassuring and convincing.

Erna Solberg, prime minister of Norway, which has reported 264 deaths, told her country’s children that it is alright to feel scared during unprecedented times such as these. Such a response takes a person’s vulnerability into account while retaining their confidence and faith in the ability to tide through difficult times.

Perhaps more leaders should wield such empathetic approaches that acknowledge people’s apprehensions, fears and vulnerabilities and infuse faith in them without making them feel as if their pain is rendered unseen. Such an approach is more sensitive from the perspective of mental health too.

In a new global analysis, Supriya Garikipati at the University of Liverpool and Uma Kambhampati at the University of Reading have compared the 19 countries being led by women with their neighbours considering a cluster of influencers such as population, economy, gender equality, openness to travel, health expenditures and proportion of elderly people. They had to exclude Taiwan, a country run by a woman, from the research as it is not a member of the United Nations.

They reached an unequivocal conclusion. Countries governed by women literally suffered half as many deaths in comparison to the countries suffered by men. This is partly because female leaders ordered lockdowns much earlier, and “flattened the curves” of outbreaks in their countries. Ardern for instance, implemented a second round of lockdown in her country after a new cluster of cases had emerged following 100 days of no local transmission at all.

One possible reason, as many studies corroborate, is surely that women tend to be more risk-averse during such situations of crisis. But it is not simply a choice between more or less risk. It is also a choice between what to risk and what not to, and up to what extent. So the difference in the approaches of male and female leaders, as observed by the authors of this study, was that women took less number of risks with lives and more with the economy, and men took more number of risks with lives and less with the economy.

Of course, there comes a time when death and economic losses get intertwined together.

Women also, as per the observations, tend to communicate with people differently. For long, it has been hypothesized that men in positions of leadership tend to be more autocratic and directive, while women more often adopt democratic and participatory approaches to leadership. This conjecture has been hard to prove, but researchers are still examining the supposition that women bring more empathy in their decision-making process and accord due importance to emotional information while arriving at a conclusion.

Clearly, an interpersonal, empathetic, and participatory approach does more to heal distress and steer forth a nation during the trying times of a pandemic. This requires a leader to build and maintain a consensus that the threat anticipated or observed is indeed real, that sacrifice is vital to protect others, and that public health considerations deserve to be accorded a greater priority over individual liberties and privileges during times that are anything but normal.

Men who are still attracted to traditionally masculine approaches towards situations of crisis that seem to heighten anxiety with their unflinching narrative of heroism and do little to bring relief on the ground; might find such approaches built on empathy and consensus building difficult to imbibe.

Meanwhile, other more tolerant and progressive leaders, both female and male, could surely learn from such lessons and infuse more empathy in their approach. While individuality and talent trumps gender, and it is not to be assumed that all women leaders would be embodiments of sensitivity and temperance, a lesson could surely be taken from observations such as the ones evident during the first phase of this pandemic.

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New Social Compact

Why Control of social media becomes necessary?

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With the growing internet communication and reduced friction time between the thought and reaction, social media is burgeoning with cognitive bias. Such bias results in the increase in ethnic clashes, social vagaries, and have the capacity to bring political instability. It is a grave concern for the societal security to which countries are giving relatively less heed. One such example is this incident, happened in India. On the night of August 11, 2020, violence broke in Bengaluru’s locality, D J Halli as a result of an inflammatory post by P Naveen, nephew of legislative assembly member, R. Akhanda Srinivas Murthy of the Congress Party. The violence erupted to such an extent that the police had to fire their seldom-used guns to bring down the alarming situation. This resulted in the killing of 3 and injuring 15 civilians, while the rioters injured almost 75 police personnel. Also, there was a property loss including the damage done to the police stations and vehicles. In an unexpected turn of events, all this mayhem is alleged to be pre-planned violence! Naveen says that his account was hacked and he is unaware of the post which created such rucks. Verifying such claims is not difficult as it is the issue of law and order. Yet, there is not such a probe. Even though we have a little knowledge about the causes of violence, such incidents will probably be frequent if the social media content grows with its cognitive bias. Internet and social media create an information bubble group because of cognitive bias. They form around the available biased information. Dormant fissures within the society will be strengthened because of the cognitive bias of social media. They will likely become active fissures of society because of the increasing bias.

Social media giants, even with public policy departments, seem to neglect their role in curbing hate-speech and misinformation. The Wall Street Journal report accuses, Ms. Ankhi Das, head of public policy at Facebook India, to favor India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It also quoted Facebook’s former chief security officer, Alex Stamos on how Facebook keeps the ruling government happy. These allegations show that Facebook is least bothered about public normalcy and social order.

In response to the Wall Street Journal report, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information and Technology summoned Facebook representatives in India on September 2. According to a report by a national print media Indian Express, Ajit Mohan, Facebook India head, was asked to provide answers, to approximately 100 questions within a week following the meeting with the parliamentary committee. By the time of writing this article (11 September), it has been over a week and there is no media coverage and information regarding the answers to be provided. While this was happening, Derek O’Brien of Trinamool Congress, a regional party and union IT minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad penned letters to Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, alleging their biased behavior towards selective parties. It appears that even this incident is being used to gain political benefits but not to arrive at a solution.

Elsewhere, the Delhi assembly’s committee on peace and harmony found Facebook to be ‘prima facie guilty of a role in Delhi’s violence.’ After probing the WSJ report and examining the witnesses, journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and digital rights activist Nikhil Pahwa, it has decided to issue summons to Facebook representatives to record their statements. Now it appears that Facebook has to repeat its defense, on its capacity to handle the misinformation, hate-speech as it has done with the US congress. Such a defense might address the current imbroglio by ensuring an unbiased approach in controlling the miss-information and hate-speech. Yet, it appears that they would not concentrate on the fundamental concern of cognitive bias.

Dangers of Cognitive bias

The Internet is a revolution that removed all the restrictions empowering free speech. But, it appears to have pushed the hidden cognitive bias open into society. Cognitive bias is usually controlled by empowering many individuals to voice their perceptions and having a thorough investigation to respond to any action. But, today, the internet has no such provision. An individual conferred with rigid ideas about the society will most definitely get all the information confirming her ideas and pre-conceptions even though they are not true. The open social media platforms removed the delay in reaction among the public, encouraged them to react to any speech which opposes their beliefs. Such bias is not only with the people but also with the algorithms governing social media. The biased social data is being used to train the algorithms making them biased at the stage of development. Researchers at Indiana University termed it as homogeneity bias.

Albeit all the initiatives taken by the social media giants, without any legislation to govern social media, India would become a victim of confirmation bias if not, perception control. Jamie Susskind in his book, ‘Future Politics’ has established that the internet platforms over-regulated would become ripe for the state’s control over the public perception. Internet in its current form builds the narratives which only increase the confirmation bias already existing in the society. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon has also seconded this opinion on internet technology during an interview at the Wired 25 conference in San Francisco.

What can be a probable solution?

Interestingly, the same technology of biased AI algorithms can be used to regulate the hate-speech in social media. Langdon Winner, who is one of the pioneers in Science and Technology Studies (STS) pointed out in his much-acclaimed academic text ( Autonomous Technology) that – technology seems to be the solution to the problems created by technology. In a ubiquitous era of digital technology, Journalism has to adopt AI technologies. It reduces reporter’s efforts in transcribing and other similar jobs while allowing them to get involved fact-checking and analysis. Even though the usage of AI would be one of the solutions in filtering the hate-speech, the inherent bias in the social data should be taken into account during the AI development. Even in the Media houses, reporters have to be trained in data journalism to weed out the bias.

With such technological solutions being in the sight, it is hoped that the parliamentary committee after receiving the written response its 100 questions, would move ahead and anchor themselves to take technology initiatives in reducing the hate-speech. This has to happen even after the current parliamentary committee ends its tenure on September 12. Such methods would also accommodate Social media giants. They provide an incentive to invest in developing algorithms that protect the social order rather than focusing on the ad campaigns. With the increasing interconnectedness and information bubbles, securitizing this aspect of society should be one of the top priorities of governments across the world – especially the democracies.

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