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Let girls be girls, not brides

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Child marriage is very common menace in Pakistan and is deeply ingrained in traditional, societal, and customary norms. Yet it indicates a severe abuse of the human rights of girls. One in three girls in Pakistan get married before becoming 18 years old (Demographic and Health Survey 2012-13).

A girl’s access to a sound and secure childhood, a good education that can lead to better employability, civic and political empowerment are all violated through early marriages. With 1821 child brides in 2020, Pakistan was placed sixth among nations with the highest number of child brides. Girls lose their childhood and future opportunities when they are married as minors. Girls who marry are less likely to complete their education and are more vulnerable to abuse, marital rape, and health problems. Furthermore, child marriage puts girls at risk for unsafe births, ulceration, STDs, and maybe even death. Also, teenage girls are more likely than women in their 20s to pass away due to difficulties during pregnancy. Firstborn children of women who were 16 years old, 17 years old, and 18-19 years old at the time of birth experienced death rates that were, respectively, 2-4 times, and 1.2-1.5 times higher than those of mothers who were 23 to 25 years old. This is an unfortunate truth, that while the humankind has reached the moon and mars, our women are still dying from unsafe births.

This threat has also been documented in a number of previous articles. However, the latest event of the forced marriage of a young girl from Balochistan, who was just five years old, has shaken me from the core. The girl’s father filed a FIR with the Khuzdar Police Station alleging that his daughter was forced into marriage as a result of regional and tribal beliefs. After the FIR was filed, the Federal Shariah Court Chief Justice took suo-motu notice of the situation and stated that the act appeared to be against both the 1973 Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and Islam.

Factors behind forced marriages in Pakistan

There are several factors why early age marriages are prevalent in Pakistan. The majority of these causes include: permissive legislation; a failure to enforce existing laws; the treatment of children as slaves; a primitive feudal class fabric; lack of public awareness of the negative effects of child marriages; widespread poverty; Watta Satta (Weddings between the children of siblings or the exchange of girls in marriage between two households.) underlying trafficking; Concept of Vani (Another harmful tradition is the offering of girls, frequently minors, in marriage or enslavement to a family who has wronged them as payment to settle disputes) and a lack of political will on the part of the government. The inadequacy of birth registration system and lack of responsiveness is a major contributor to forced marriages. The age of the child or children at the time of marriage can be falsified because birth registration for minors, especially girls, is hardly given priority here. Moreover, there is no unified, impartial, or robust child rights associations that might keep an eye on violations of children’s rights, specially female teens.

Legislations

The Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Act 2011, which has “reinforced protections for women against discrimination and abuse,” was passed in Pakistan in 2012, according to the country’s National UPR report to the HRC. Forced marriages, child marriages, and other social customs that are harmful to women are being made illegal.

The following headings represent how the Committee on the Rights of the Child addressed the problem of child or early marriages in its Final Report and Recommendations (2009): the child’s definition, Non-discrimination, respecting the child’s opinions, teenagers’ health, harmful societal customs, Trafficking and selling

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, whose Article 16 affirms that every woman has the right to get into matrimony “just with her free and unconditional approval,” have both been signed and ratified by Pakistan.

Pakistan has joined the Child Rights Convention, which requires state parties to uphold children’s rights to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion in Article 14.

The Sindh Provisional Assembly unanimously approved the Bill on November 2016 to put an end to forced marriages and conversions. The bill was compellingly prevented by the agitation of the Islamist groups and parties, and was never enacted into law.

Recommendations

First, it seems that nobody in Pakistan, including a lot of women, cares about the precarious status of women. In reality, some educated working women are subjected to so much harassment from men, their families, and society at large that they lack the strength to fight back against their critics. Therefore, the small group of women representatives campaigning for the rights of marginalised women in Pakistan deserve special recognition for their bravery in standing up for and promoting women’s rights despite the fact that doing so would subject them to harassment from males and society.

The government should spend on education particularly in marginalized areas of Pakistan where majority girls have no access to even primary education. Instead of just being a consequence of financial adversity, social conservatism may also contribute to the educational disparity between boys and girls. Long-term policy considerations need to be taken. Lack of maternal education would have a detrimental impact on future generations and is, therefore, just as important as boys’ education because it is believed that mothers’ education plays a significant part in children’s overall development and a complete generation.

Forced marriage victims are also denied access to their most basic yet important right, good education. Here, I want to share a story of a 17 year old advocate fighting child marriages from Swat. Given that it was customary in her household for girls to enter into marriage when they are old enough to fetch water, she was getting married to a taxi driver just at tender age of 11. In an interview, she stated:

“I bravely told my family that if they get me married to that person, I will file a case against them in law. Firstly, them and my community didn’t support me, even denigrated me. But now they do. One human being with conviction can bring the change”

Moreover, police need to be given the capacity to look into the culprits and take appropriate action. I definitely do not mean “Freedom From Law” or “No Accountability” when I talk about empowerment. To ensure that the complaints filed get noticed and are addressed, rigorous policies regarding the institution of police must be devised and put into effect along with increase in the severity of punishments for such activities.

All those engaged in a child marriage, including the parents of the bride and groom as well as the person who solemnises the marriage; the NikahKhwan shall face serious punishment.

The legal age for marriage should be the same for both sexes, which is 18 years. However, the system for registering births needs to be improved. Nadra needs to implement a digital birth registration system that is systematic and reliable.

I am an undergraduate student of Government and Public Policy from National Defence University. I have been working as a copy and content writer. I have also worked as a research intern at SDPI.

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New Social Compact

International Relations Degree: Jobs You Can Pursue with It

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If you are interested in working in an international environment or company, you have probably thought about pursuing an international relations degree. Doing this opens many career doors, not only in world affairs or government. There are many rewarding careers you can pursue with an international relations degree, as you study a lot of distinct fields.

As a student, you are probably already looking for career opportunities, as you want to know what jobs you can apply to with this degree. Well, you should know that there are many and you have plenty of opportunities to choose from, depending on your goals, values, and what you like. So, what are the jobs you can pursue with an international relations degree? Find out below.

Political Consultant

If you love politics and want to be active in this field, then maybe you could consider a job as a political consultant. What would be your responsibilities and tasks? Well, you are responsible for the image of a politician. This means you run campaigns to promote them and do press releases that endorse the image of the candidate. You have a lot of work, especially during campaign time that precedes the voting. You are kind of a PR, but for a politician. And this means you will interact with a lot of people and organizations, but companies too that can support your campaign and legislative changes.

If you decide to get an international relations degree, you will get the education you need to be an excellent political consultant. You will be introduced to a wide diversity of fields that prepare you for this, such as business, sales, public relations, and of course, politics. As a college student, you will learn about foreign policy, human rights, international finance, global democratization, and many more. And, of course, you will have to complete many assignments and write essays on these topics too. Studying international relations might feel challenging at times so you can use an essay maker to polish your writing skills and expand your knowledge. Writing skills are crucial, no matter the job you choose to pursue with your international relations degree.

Intelligence Specialist

With an international relations degree, you can get a job in the federal government as an intelligence specialist. This is a great opportunity to work for a state security agency, especially if you have always dreamed of doing this. National security is crucial for every country and these agencies, whether they are federal or military, are always searching for the best professionals to take this job. Your main duties would be collecting and analyzing information that is crucial for national security.

This means that you will work and take care of highly classified documents and files. But you also need to keep an eye on everything, as identifying the threats to national security is the main job. Getting an education and earning your international relations degree is not enough for being an intelligence specialist. You will need to undergo highly specialized training that will prepare you for handling sensitive documents and situations.

International Marketing Specialist

The world is changing at a fast pace and we need to adapt to it. Companies and businesses around the world are looking to increase their revenue and profits and many of them extend to other countries too. International organizations should always adapt to the culture of every country they are present in but promote a unified business model and view across the whole organization too. So, with an international relations degree, you can take a job as an international marketing specialist. Your responsibilities would be to take care of the marketing strategy, but also identify the main points and tactics you can use in every country.

You might focus on a specific country, but your main duty would be to find effective ways to increase the brand awareness of the company you work for. You will need to predict changes in marketing trends, identify risks, and, of course, find innovative and creative ways to promote the organization’s products and services among its target audience.

Final Thoughts

An international relations degree opens a lot of career doors and it comes with so many opportunities of working in the government or international environment. Depending on what you like doing and what your career goals are, you can work for a federal institution, international company or organization, or politician, but also in the economics and law domain. Keep an open mind for the opportunities that lie ahead.

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New Social Compact

Today is the day when we are officially 8 billion people living on Earth

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Authors: Petra Nahmias. Tanja Sejersen,  Thomas Spoorenberg, Vanessa Steinmayer*

The world is due to reach 8 billion people today, November 15! This very precise date hides an uncomfortable truth – we don’t really know exactly how many people there are in the world. This is especially true in lower-income countries; those where population growth is increasingly concentrated. While these milestones such as reaching 8 billion people are important in raising public awareness of population issues – such as unmet needs for family planning or changing population-age-structures – they can give a somewhat misleading impression of the certainty of our knowledge on population.

The population in Asia and the Pacific reached 4.67 billion in 2021, accounting for 59 per cent of the world’s population. The region is projected to be home to 5.17 billion people by 2050. But for both the regional and global population, there is actually a large degree of uncertainty over the exact number.

So how do we know when the world will reach 8 billion?

The day on which the world reaches 8 billion is determined by experts in the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and is based on estimates and projections for each country.

In order to determine the population size, we need to know the population at a particular point in time and consider changes as a result of births, deaths and cross-border migration, with migration being the most difficult to estimate.

The figure of 8 billion for the global population comes from the aggregation of the populations of all countries and areas of the world. Every two years, the Population Division releases a set of revised and updated population estimates, the World Population Prospects, starting from 1950 to 2021, and projections, from 2022 to 2100, for all the 237 countries and areas of the world. The population of each country or area is calculated by applying separately trends and levels of births by sex, and deaths and migration for each age and sex group of the known population of a specific earlier year. The national population is then projected forward by age and sex to come up with an estimate or a projection for each year, disaggregated by age and sex.

However, the production of quality population estimates and projections is dependent on the collection of reliable and timely demographic data from civil registration and vital statistics systems, population censuses, population registers and household sample surveys. Even today, in 2022, this collection of basic demographic information remains a challenge.

Many countries in Asia and the Pacific are far from achieving universal registration of births and deaths, which means they use surveys and censuses to calculate vital statistics and population estimates. While these sources can provide very important data of the situation at a particular time, they cannot provide continuous and timely data. The preferred source of vital statistics is a comprehensive civil registration system that collects information soon after the birth or death occurs. Because civil registration should be compulsory and universal, the resulting vital statistics are comprehensive and accurate and not subject to response or sampling errors that arise when vital statistics are estimated using household surveys or censuses.

An additional challenge is presented by the lack of census data and other survey data. Some countries have not conducted a population census in decades, while many countries postponed the most recent census due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the census of India, accounting for some one-sixth of humanity, was delayed to 2023.

Will we know when we reach 9 billion?

Current projections suggest that we will reach 9 billion people in 15 years. We hope that by then we will have significantly improved the quality and availability of population data. We probably still won’t know the exact date but countries, the UN and development partners are working to make sure that we can determine it more accurately than we can now.

One example is how, in recognition of the importance of CRVS systems, governments in Asia and the Pacific are collectively working to achieve their common goals as listed in the Ministerial Declarations to “Get Every One in the Picture” and “Building a More Resilient Future with Inclusive Civil Registration and Vital Statistics”. Accordingly, participating governments developed the Regional Action Framework on CRVS in Asia and the Pacific, which includes goals on universal birth and death registration and the production and dissemination of accurate, complete and timely statistics, including basic population estimates. We have seen progress since the beginning of the Decade and we hope to accelerate it. Another example is work to improve the use of administrative data for censuses in the region.

Countries have also committed to improving data collection in the Ministerial Declaration of the Sixth Asia-Pacific Population and Development and ESCAP supports endeavours in that regard. Furthermore, the Population Division works to strengthen national capacities to estimate and analyse population levels and trends and other demographic indicators.

With these efforts and many more to come, we will hopefully be able to say with a bit more certainty when we really do reach 9 billion.

*Petra Nahmias Chief, Population and Social Statistics Section,  Tanja Sejersen Statistician,  Thomas Spoorenberg Population Affairs Officer, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Vanessa Steinmayer Population Affairs Officer

UN ESCAP

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New Social Compact

Gender Equality Within the First Nations

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Gender has always played an important role in Canadian politics. In Sarah Nickel’s book, Assembling Unity: Indigenous Politics, Gender and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, she focused on the influences on Indigenous movements in British Columbia from various perspectives, including gendered political expressions, reinterpretations of constitutions, and struggles for sovereignty. The author draws heavily on the struggle of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), which was formed to fight against the 1969 White Paper Proposal. This essay argues that gendered norms played a critical role in Indigenous political movements, in that while they initially determined the structure of roles in the UBCIC and Indigenous society, women’s liberation movement worldwide encouraged Indigenous women to challenge this gendered structure both within and outside organization. Nickel’s illustration of global feminist ideological currents is a good exploration.

For Nickel, gender roles influenced the formation of Indigenous organizations by initially foregrounding men’s roles. Taking UBCIC as an example, men dominated the leadership roles. When the organization was advocating for its political agendas such as sovereignty and freedom, it was mainly men who debated them on behalf of the association.[1] Alternatively, women had minor roles in the UBCIC, even if they did, they were only supportive workers.[2] Hence, indigenous women had to defend a native nationalism that discriminated them.[3]This phenomenon was ironic as UBCIC was responsible to strive for the rights and freedoms of Indigenous people, but the leaders of the group failed to tackle the social hierarchy within the organization. The social dynamics at that time did not focus much on gender equality, which can be seen from Indigenous women’s acceptance on taking up relatively unimportant duties. As Nickel mentions, some women still remain distanced with feminist ideologies.[4]

However, the unfairness did not last long, as this male-dominant narrative in UBCIC was challenged by the uprising of feminist ideologies. Starting from the late 1960s, feminist consciousness became popular, and it began to influence women worldwide through recognizing that gendered social structures had to change.[5] This consciousness can be reflected in the sudden and proactive change of women’s struggles in UBCIC. They no longer accepted their secondary roles due to gender stereotypes, and they were willing to take the initiative to fight for their own rights. For instance, First Nations women participated in conferences like the 1967 Royal Commission on the Status of Women.[6] These actions had increased the Indigenous women’s political voices, and the UBCIC gendered operations were inevitably challenged. When feminism gained more and more supporters, organizations like BCIHA (British Columbia Indian Homemakers’ Association) and BCNWS (British Columbia Native Women’s Society) used the popularity to force the UBCIC to open their membership doors for women.[7] As American scholar Renya Ramirez recognizes, sovereignty “no longer means Indigenous men have the right to control women’s lives”, but “involves engagement with indigenous women’s rights and claims”.[8] In particular, Nickel mentions many Indigenous women had pressured the UBCIC to recognize that Indigenous sovereignty included gender inequality.[9] Thus, gendered norms began to deteriorate in First Nation’s social movements, while equality between both genders started to occupy a heavier role.

This unequal gender power relationship went beyond specific organizations to broaden Canadian society. Analysing discourses in feminist movements is critical, because samples of language in use illustrate the contestations between genders.[10] The 1876 Indian Act greatly contributed to racialized discourses by devaluating Indigenous women, such as men with Indian status could pass on but women could not. [11] This laid structural racialised languages in both the provincial government and within the Indigenous community. For instance, Indigenous women’s “natural” inclinations made them being coded as mothers and community caretakers.[12]This serious gender inequality narrative was influential as it unconsciously shaped women to cope with these racialized languages, consequently demotivating them from fighting for fairness and rights.

Inspired by the feminist discourses in the late 1960s, First Nation women attempted to confront this social narrative. The increasing discussions of Indigenous’s feminism reflected the progressivity of gender equality. Their resistance such as the 1971 New Mexico’s international conference of Indigenous women redefined the grounds of Indigenous struggles to a global perspective.[13] Further, women’s challenges against the Canadian government were also recorded, such as calling upon members to pressure councillors and officials to put BCIHA’s objectives into action.[14] Although these pressures and redefinition did not guarantee the immediate increase in women’s political participation, they successfully influenced the public to rethink gender inequality. For example, leaders of BCIHA like Rose Charlie would openly discuss sexism in media articles and interviews, and their voices forced some male leaders to admit women’s exclusion in Indigenous politics.[15] What is more, feminist discourses had encouraged more women to involve in equality movements. In 1973, Indigenous women’s efforts led to the creation of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), which was a national feminist association formed by thirteen women associations.[16] With more platforms for female political voices, the role of gender was getting attention from the public in First Nation’s struggles.

Indigenous women’s social struggle extended to broader feminist politics when they began considering the gendered roles of political activists. Apart from the two perspectives above, gendered norms were also inserted into political goals as “male goals” and “female goals”. Within those indigenous organizations, various kinds of goals were promoted and advocated. However, deeply influenced by the gendered environment, those organizations’ leaders tended to think men were the only ones to fight for larger socio-political goals.[17] This shows that gendered stereotypes not only discriminated against the participation of women, but also despised what they were contributing to the Indigenous community. Undoubtedly, Indigenous women had resisted these distinctions, because they would not want to be inferior during the process of First Nation’s struggles. BCHIA did resist through cooperating with other mainstream feminist organizations to express how fragmented it was, especially on double identities–an Indian and a woman.[18] It gained support from non-Indigenous women, since they had no experience of being subjugated from sovereignty discussions within their own community. Those support had made Indigenous women strive for more political representation and involvement.

As Nickel mentioned, the definition of sovereignty had changed over time, particularly when there were increasing demands to include women in those discussions. It was not only about what roles they were carrying within those Indigenous organizations, but also how their concerns became the pillar of Indigenous movements. The distinction of “male goals” and “women goals” no longer exist, as gendered norms were abandoned as the criteria to pursue a goal or not. For instance, child welfare was usually treated as a “woman goal”, and was undermined by male Indigenous leaders, but had later became a critical part of the UBCIC’s sovereignty platform.[19] This shows the pursuit of Indigenous sovereignty was reframed into a broader context of pan-Indigenous unity, instead of only uniting a part of the community. In short, gender inequality has always been a serious problem in the Indigenous movements. When we traced back to the 1876 Indian Act, it empowered Indian men with all the rights and privileges to overcome Indian women.[20] From the perspectives of indigenous organizations’ formation, public discourses and political goals, they show how influential gendered norms were, and how the Indigenous women were awakened by the global feminist ideological currents. Ultimately, a more progressive gender equality has to be achieved to reach a broad Indigenous unity.


[1] Nickel 2020, 68

[2] Nickel 2020, 65

[3] Ramirez 2007, 25

[4] Nickel 2019, 112

[5] Klatch 2001, 792

[6] Nickel 2019, 63

[7] Nickel 2019, 65

[8] Nickel 2019, 157

[9] Nickel 2019, 154

[10] Cameron 1998, 948

[11] Barker 2008, 261

[12] Nickel 2019, 80

[13] Nickel 2017, 315

[14] Nickel 2019, 108

[15] Nickel 2019, 156

[16] Nickel 2019, 158

[17] Nickel 2019, 110

[18] Nickel 2019, 158

[19] Nickel 2017, 321

[20] Barker 2008, 259

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