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Citizens push back on Palau’s plan to open marine sanctuary to commercial fishing and exploration

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 12/04/2022 - 7:38pm in

The move is meant to aid pandemic-related economic loss

Originally published on Global Voices


The “Milky Way” cove in Palau seen from the air. Photo from Flickr page of LuxTonnerre, (CC BY 2.0)

Palau's Olbiil Era Kelulau (Congress) is considering a bill that will open their expansive marine sanctuary, the Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS), to commercial fishing and oil exploration. In response, citizens are circulating an online petition opposing the proposal.

Palau is a small archipelago of more than 500 islands located on the western side of the Pacific. In 2015, the Palau government established the PNMS which designated 80 percent of the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as a conservation area with no international or domestic fishing, while 20 percent was set aside as a domestic fishing zone. This marine protected area became one of the largest in the world and was hailed as a model for countries that want to conserve their marine resources. After five years of planning, the PNMS became fully operational in 2020.

But two years later, the government is already considering reopening 50 percent of Palau’s EEZ to foreign fishing fleets in order to generate revenue and stimulate the economy. House Bill No. 11-30-2S proposes temporarily reopening the PNMS and allowing commercial fishing and even oil exploration as the nation grapples with dwindling resources caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Palau’s tourism sector, which employs 20 percent of the population, was severely affected by the pandemic.

As of 2021, Palau's GDP had contracted 17. percent due to pandemic-related losses, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The bill says that “foreign fishing agreements brought significant revenue to the Republic,” adding:

By temporarily permitting fishing pursuant to foreign fishing agreements within EEZ, the Republic will bring much-needed revenue for the national and state governments, as well as local vendors and will have a significant positive impact on the economy.

Before the closure, the government received around USD 700,000 per year from fishing licenses through its vessel day scheme (VSD), equaling about USD 40,000 per state. The VSD is an agreement between some Pacific island nations that sets limits on the number of days a fishing vessel can fish in each nation's economic zones and is considered one of the most complex, yet successful, fishing regulations in the world.

Palau receives an average of USD 8 million per year from the VSD.

However, other estimates show that between international conservation and development grants — both money and supplies — Palau has received over USD 70 million so far as a result of the PNMS. This year alone, Palau received USD 1.8 million from the United Nations Development Project (UNDP) to help implement the PNMS over a four-year period, according to reporting from the Mariana Variety, Micronesia's leading news outlet.

Environmental cost

The bill was criticized by Palau environmentalists, community elders, and concerned citizens alike. Environment group Ebiil Society initiated an online petition against the bill. The petitioners have a reminder for Palau authorities:

…While it is understood that there is a need to seek ways to bolster our revenue earning capacity, short-term solutions should not jeopardize well thought out long-term policy objectives established for our Republic by the Palauan people.

…We believe there is a multitude of unexplored alternatives resulting in sustainable revenues that return social and environmental gains, that reflects our deep wisdom and connection to the ocean, which has cradled our lives and sustained our culture for many generations.

Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr. acknowledged the petition and responded that the government is offering a solution. He said this to the media:

We want to come up with a solution. So I don’t know if they’re opposing the solution or they’re opposing something else. What we’re doing is providing a solution. So I hope we can all work together to solution that benefits everyone. That’s really the goal. So I think a lot of times we do petitions or we run around doing things being misinformed.

During a public hearing for the bill, House Speaker Sabino Anastacio pointed out that the funds that Palau is entitled to receive from international environment donors are not being used to finance the country’s needs. He added that the state is not aware about how some of the grants given to Palau are being spent by non-profit organizations.

When the money comes, these are non-profit so we don’t see the paperwork. We don’t know how much goes to the [salaries] and where the rest of the money goes.

During the same hearing, some stakeholders asserted that Palau stands to benefit more if the PNMS is maintained.

The hashtag #SaveMySanctuary is used to mobilize online support against the bill.

The Friends of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary Facebook page has uploaded several videos featuring Palau residents who want to preserve the PNMS.

Ngatpang Chief and Chairman of Belau Offshore Fisheries, Inc. Rideb Okada Techitong explained how the PNMS was conceived as an application of the indigenous Palau practice of “bul” which prescribes a moratorium on the use of resources to prevent the destruction of a habitat or species.


A screenshot from the Friends of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary Facebook video

Dora Benhart, Department of Conservation and Law Enforcement Outreach Officer, warned about how reopening the PNMS will negatively affect the Palau way of life.


A screenshot from the Friends of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary Facebook video

Fisherman and Friends of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary board member Adolph Demei recalled how overfishing has caused a decline in Palau’s fisheries which prompted elders to declare a “bul” and led to the establishment of the PNMS.


A screenshot from the Friends of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary Facebook video

Ironically, Palau will host the 7th annual “Our Ocean Conference” on April 13–14 as representatives of governments and civil society organizations from around the world will meet and discuss new and significant measures to protect the ocean.

Media roundup: what has the radicalized GOP been up to?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 09/04/2022 - 2:01am in

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A non-exhaustive list of cruel, corrupt, and extreme actions taken by Republicans of late.

With so many overlapping global crises happening at once, and Democrats in charge of the Presidency and Congress, it’s especially hard to keep track of all the ways the US GOP continues to radicalize. This is partly by design. The cascade of oppressive laws and disinformation from Republican legislators and media is meant confuse and overwhelm. The following is a list of GOP and related far right news worth your attention.

  • Jamelle Bouie, Ezra Klein, Jane Coaston and Lulu Garcia-Navarro discuss how the GOP fringe took over American politics for the New York Times.
  • Gabriel Rosenberg, Duke Professor of Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies, wrote a Twitter thread about how the latest “groomer” panic is categorically different and more violent than what we’ve seen before.
  • Writer Jude Doyle does a deep dive into the growing connections between anti-trans feminists and the far right. “It’s a grim irony that, by insisting on a ‘feminism’ without any trans women in it, TERFs have wound up constructing the tool by which fascists aim to destroy feminism altogether.”
  • Roxanna Asgarian writes in NY Mag about how Texas became the most virulently anti-trans state in America, including directing the state’s child-welfare agency to conduct abuse investigations of parents who provide their children gender-affirming care.
  • For the Editorial Board, Mia Brett writes about how Republicans are close to legalizing child marriage in Tennessee. 
  • Also in the Editorial Board, John Stoehr speaks with NYU Law Professor Melissa Murray about Ginni and Clarence Thomas and how their relationship affects perceptions about the Supreme Court’s legitimacy. 
  • The editorial board of the Boston Globe wants the January 6 Committee to subpoena Ginni Thomas already.
  • Elie Mystal argues in The Nation that post-Roe, Republicans are coming for marriage equality next.
  • Gerren Keith Gaynor interviews Preston Mitchum about the harm to Black LGBTQ youth of the “Don’t Say Gay” Laws.
  • The Oregon GOP is running three QAnon and Proud Boy candidates. 
  • Trump admitted to speaking to key Republican figures at the time of the riot on 1/6. Greg Sargent argues that Merrick Garland should use this admission to launch a full investigation into Trump’s communications that day.
  • Speaking of which, there are 7 hours missing from Trump’s phone records that day. Historian Tim Naftali writes in The Atlantic that Trump can’t just erase history like Nixon did.
  • On the bright side, the DOJ plans to investigate the boxes of records Trump illegally brought with him to Mar a Lago.
  • The Child Tax Credit expiring is pushing voters towards the GOP. Meanwhile the GOP plus Joe Manchin are why it expired in the first place.

The post Media roundup: what has the radicalized GOP been up to? appeared first on The Conversationalist.

Media Roundup: Ketanji Brown Jackson’s road to the Supreme Court

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 02/04/2022 - 3:01am in

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Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson performed admirably before the Senate Judiciary Committee, despite attacks on her historic nomination to the Supreme Court by Republican conspiracies, racism and sexism.

Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings on the appointment of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to be the first Black female justice to sit on the Supreme Court. The hearings were a circus of QAnon conspiracies and racist dog whistles, with little pushback on Republicans from Democrats. This week Executive Director Anna Lind-Guzik highlights recurring themes in the commentary on Jackson’s nomination: Republican abuses and complicity, Jackson’s unwavering composure and respectability politics, Democrats’ abandonment of their nominee, rampant misogynoir (misogyny specifically targeting Black women), and in spite of everything, pride at Jackson’s historic nomination, both as a Black woman and a former public defender.

Republican misbehavior, politicization and complicity

So far the only one Republican, Susan Collins, has said she will vote to confirm Judge Jackson. Longtime Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse writes for the New York Times: “every Republican who votes against her confirmation will be complicit in the abuse that the Republican members of the Judiciary Committee heaped on her.” She concludes, “the Republicans’ role in the Jackson hearing was not remotely about Ketanji Brown Jackson. It was about concocting a scary version of a Black woman to serve up to their base.”

Also in the New York Times, Emily Bazelon refutes Republican attacks on Judge Jackson for her sentencing decisions in child pornography cases, even citing the National Review for calling Senator Hawley’s line of questioning ​​“meritless to the point of demagoguery.”

Democrats failure to support Judge Jackson

Dahlia Lithwick wrote in Slate about how Democrats stranded Ketanji Brown Jackson at her hearings. “Jackson looked alone fending off the QAnon smear brigade for much of these hearings because she was alone, at least until Sen. Cory Booker took it upon himself in his last colloquy to offer up a powerful corrective to the hatred being leveled at her.” 

Here is a video of Cory Booker telling Judge Jackson that no one will “steal his joy” at her nomination. When Black women were asked how they felt watching the hearings, many expressed a range from pride and hope, to pain and disgust. 

Racism, misogyny, and misogynoir

In Teen Vogue, Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman and Katie Camacho Orona argue that the attacks against Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson mirror those used against Justice Sonia Sotomayor. They compare the disingenuous critical race theory attacks on Judge Jackson to accusations of “reverse discrimination” made against Sotomayor. 

In Oprah Daily, legal scholars Madiba Dennie and Kate Kelly speak to the misogynoir Judge Jackson faced at the hearings. ​​”Misogynoir is a term coined by queer feminist scholar Professor Moya Bailey that encapsulates the specific hatred directed toward Black women, who face discrimination on the basis of both race and gender.” 

In Ms. Magazine, Bonnie Stabile writes about misogyny’s gatekeeping role at the hearings.

Composure and respectability in predominantly white spaces

Coming on the heels of Will Smith and Chris Rock’s dust-up at the Oscars, Roxane Gay wrote an essay “In defense of thin skin” where she describes her pain watching Judge Jackson’s hearing. She notes, “the Senate Judiciary Committee apparently valued decorum over Judge Jackson’s dignity.”

For The Nation, Elie Mystal delves into Judge Jackson’s pause after Ted Cruz rudely asked her, “Do you agree…that babies are racist?” He writes, “In that pregnant moment, everybody in the whole country who was watching got to see whiteness at work. Everybody knew that Ted Cruz got to stand up there and call Ketanji Brown Jackson whatever he wanted to, and nobody would stop him. Everybody knew that Jackson could not respond in kind if she wanted the job. And everybody knew that, in the same situation, Kavanaugh could and did sneer at his questioners, threaten the Senate with political retribution, and declare his undying love for beer, without hurting his chances at unaccountable lifetime power. Power he now holds.”

Celebrating Ketanji Brown Jackson’s accomplishments and experience

In the New York Times, Erica Green reports on how Ketanji Brown Jackson reacted to Confederate flag displays in her time at Harvard. 

For Teen Vogue, public defender Alexzandria Poole writes about her excitement at seeing a former public defender represented on the Supreme Court.

In Grid News, Chris Geidner writes that Jackson’s history of acknowledging people’s humanity is precisely what Republicans don’t like about her.

Finally, check out Madiba Dennie and Elizabeth Hira’s discussion of what Judge Jackson’s nomination means to women of color in the legal profession.

The post Media Roundup: Ketanji Brown Jackson’s road to the Supreme Court appeared first on The Conversationalist.

Media roundup: what you should know about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 25/03/2022 - 2:58am in

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One month into Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, amid rampant disinformation, the fog of war, and rapidly shifting geopolitics, The Conversationalist‘s Executive Director has put together an overview of the latest reporting and analysis.

Despite being at war with Ukraine in Donbas since 2014, Russia’s invasion of its neighbor on February 24 took many by surprise, including experts on and from both countries. It’s not that people disregarded Putin’s threats, but many couldn’t stomach the thought of another land war in Europe, nor what that rupture would mean for two such interconnected peoples, not to mention the world order. As both the daughter of a Ukrainian Jew from Odessa, and a historian of the Soviet Union, I’ve been unable to look away. For The Conversationalist, I’ve gathered some of the best reporting and analysis from inside Ukraine and Russia on war crimes, sanctions, repressions, Nazis, refugees and racism.

Reporting from Ukrainian cities under bombardment. 

The most harrowing accounts of the war have come from cities in eastern Ukraine, especially the port city Mariupol, which has been flattened in the space of a few weeks. For 20 days, AP journalists Mstyslav Chernov and Evgeniy Maloletka documented the siege of Mariupol, including mass graves and the now famous photo of a pregnant woman being carried through rubble on a stretcher after Russia targeted Mariupol’s maternity hospital. They later escaped Mariupol to avoid capture by Russian forces

Meduza has published accounts and photos from Kharkiv and Volnovakha, including the story of Boris Romanchenko, 96, who survived four Nazi concentration camps only to die after a Russian shell hit his building in Kharkiv. Meanwhile in Kyiv, journalist Kristina Berdynskykh shelters in the metro and questions whether she was right to stay

What’s the deal with “de-Nazification”? 

Russian propaganda would like you to think this war is about “de-Nazifying Ukraine,” which includes attempts to assassinate its Jewish president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, bombs next to Holocaust memorials, and the retraumatization of WWII survivors. In the New Yorker, Philip Gourevitch questions whether Putin’s war is genocidal. The sad irony is that the invasion has led to the rearming of Ukraine’s far-right militias.

Who is being sent to fight this war? 

Russia says it is liberating Russian-speaking Ukrainians from imagined oppression. But who is doing the actual fighting? Historian Robert Crews writes in the Washington Post about Muslims fighting on both sides of the war, and how these divisions threaten stability in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Recent reports of Syrian mercenaries being recruited by Russia triggered righteous anger in many already distressed at the disparate treatment of Syrian refugees by the international community. 

The Moscow Times reports that Central Asian migrant laborers are being targeted for conscription: ​​“I think the Russian government is using labor migrants as cannon fodder in Ukraine.” Near the Ukrainian border in Belarus, morgues full of Russian soldiers suggest much higher casualty rates than are being reported. As for Ukraine’s conscription efforts, some question why men have not been allowed to seek refuge with their families, especially considering the number of women in the military and the overwhelming volunteer response. 

What’s happening inside Russia? 

Putin has initiated an intense domestic crackdown. Alexey Navalny was sentenced yesterday to nine more years in prison. It’s now a 15-year prison sentence for calling the war a war. Historian Sergey Radchenko argues that Putin has revived the cruelty of the Soviet Union. Across the country, people are being arrested for speaking or posting or being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Still, in St. Petersburg survivors of the Nazi blockade are speaking out against the war. Marina Ovsyannikova, who waved antiwar signs during a live broadcast on Russian state television, says “the cognitive dissonance became unbearable.” 

Are sanctions having an impact? 

In cities across Russia, people have begun lining up to buy sugar. Meanwhile, the West still has yet to reckon with its own complicity in enabling Russia and the fact that kleptocracy isn’t just a Russian problem. In the EU, Hungary is standing in the way of further sanctions on Russian gas shipments. OCCRP has set up a Russian oligarch asset tracker

What do The Conversationalist contributors have to say? 

The Conversationalist is proud to have published standout scholars and journalists covering Ukraine and surrounding countries. 

Natalia Antonova has been covering Russia, Ukraine, and Putin for The Conversationalist since our founding. Her December 2021 analysis in Foreign Policy on the Russian delusions motivating the invasion anticipated current events better than most. For The Conversationalist she wrote a compelling piece on sanctioning Putin’s inner circle, and warning of the destabilizing effects of a Russian invasion.

Hanna Liubakova is a Belarusian journalist and fellow at the Atlantic Council, who previously wrote for The Conversationalist about how Belarus’s protests against Lukashenko were fueled by an unprecedented civil society movement. She has since left Belarus for safety reasons, and was recently interviewed by Al Jazeera about antiwar sentiment among Belarusians.

Kimberly St. Julian Varnon has risen to deserved prominence on Twitter and cable news since the invasion began for her analysis, her historical expertise on Ukraine, Russian imperialism, and race in the Soviet Union, and for her advocacy on behalf of Ukrainian refugees, especially BIPOC students suffering additional discrimination. She recently wrote on what the progressive caucus gets wrong about Ukraine. Previously for The Conversationalist, she wrote about Russia as a mirror for American racism.

Terrell Jermaine Starr has been reporting from inside Ukraine since before the war began. Starr was recently profiled in Politico about what racism taught him about covering the war and Russian aggression. He first wrote for The Conversationalist about how US foreign policy is undermined by the dominance of white men.

Final thoughts: 

Read Fiona Hill’s interview on nuclear weapons and Putin’s war with the West. Hill is always a must-read on Russia, and has advised successive US administrations on Putin. 

Don’t miss Talia Lavin’s interview with poet Ilya Kaminsky on memory, viral poetry, and Odessa.

David Remnick interviewed historian Stephen Kotkin for The New Yorker. The result is a mixed bag. Kotkin’s sharp insights and depth of knowledge are undermined by essentialist characterizations of East and West. 

Here’s a Twitter thread that shows Russia winning the information war in the southern hemisphere.

Watch Arnold Schwarzenegger’s appeal to the Russian people. It was floated on Twitter that Fiona Hill had proposed Schwarzenegger as US Ambassador to Russia, and from this video, it’s evident why.

The post Media roundup: what you should know about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine appeared first on The Conversationalist.

Representation matters: South Asians in American pop culture since 9/11

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 18/03/2022 - 12:00am in

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We need narratives that explore our shared problems and point the way toward collective liberation, but South Asian stories in U.S. popular culture haven’t kept pace with our new political realities. 

Until 9/11, I didn’t feel a strong need to see my ethnicity represented in American pop culture. Growing up in the U.S. as South Asian was an experience in cultural invisibility, but not one that was necessarily undesirable. GenXers and older Millennials came after the hippie era, which convinced mainstream American culture that Indian culture could be summarized with yoga, incense, and kirtans, and there was little in the 1980s and 1990s to dispel those lingering narratives, or to ground South Asians authentically in popular culture. What we did see, whether it was Amy Irving in brownface playing an Indian princess, or Apu in The Simpsons, was often problematic and unrepresentative. 

This situation changed over the last two decades. The first film I saw in theaters after 9/11 was Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding, which played at New York City’s storied Paris Theater, right outside the Plaza Hotel. Steeped in joyous chaos and vitality, the film, which is set in New Delhi, portrays an exuberant, extended upper middle class family gathered at the home of the bride’s family to celebrate her arranged marriage to a suitably handsome Indian doctor. Tinged with a hint of tragedy and immersed in love for both family and the kind of colorful Desi spectacle Pico Iyer calls a “marigold tapestry,” the film was an escape, a connection, and a salve in the recovering-but-still-desolate city. I hadn’t realized how much I needed it. 

The only previous occasion on which I’d had an inkling of this need was while watching Nair’s 1991 film Mississippi Masala. This bittersweet and boundary-breaking love story stars Denzel Washington as Demetrius, a Black American man from a working class background, and Sarita Choudhary as Mina,  an Indian woman born in Uganda. After Idi Amin expelled all the “foreigners” in 1972, Mina, who at one point in the film says she has never been to India, lives with her family in a small-town Mississippi motel owned by relatives who represent the great wave of migration from Gujarat to the U.S. during the 1980s and 1990s. The film pulsates with the same vibrancy that would be seen in Monsoon Wedding 10 years later. 

But while Monsoon Wedding tells a deeply Indian story, Mississippi Masala tells a deeply American one. As Durba Mitra writes in an essay celebrating the film’s 30th anniversary, Mississippi Masala is a “love story wrapped in histories of postcolonial displacement, settler colonialism, and the shadows of Jim Crow, offer[ing] an account of the cruel circuitous routes of displacement and migration to the American South.” The film is one of the first mainstream American artworks to show both the discrimination experienced by the Indian-American diaspora, and the anti-Black racism the community directs at the Black people amongst whom they now live. Even 30 years later, it stands out as a political inquiry that interrogates what it means to seek liberation through young, urgent love across race, class, and culture. 


A scene from ‘Mississippi Masala,’ Mira Nair’s 1991 film starring Sarita Choudhury and Denzel Washington.

 

Mitra notes in her essay, “The Indian diaspora in the U.S. has always been imagined in the American political landscape as a people neither here nor there.” South Asians who were either born in the U.S. or came as children following the 1965 Immigration Act were so few in number—even today there are only 5.4 million—that, Mississippi Masala aside, the microculture of American-born GenX Desis made little more than a blip in popular culture. On the one hand, this environment provided a kind of freedom in which we could try to shape culture and community without a spotlight. We could try to form bonds of solidarity in the face of entrenched political, cultural, religious, national, and caste lines that separated our peers on the subcontinent and were embraced by diaspora members who clung to their xenophobic, racist, or communal ideologies. On the other hand, the community could be insular and, existing in what Shilpa Davé calls “ambiguous racialized space,” both the victim and the perpetrator of discrimination.

Events in post 9/11 America made clear the need for South Asian stories with political and cultural specificity in mainstream culture. The months immediately after that terrible day were a period of intense discrimination, surveillance, violence, and Islamophobic and anti-immigrant policies. As Representative Pramila Jayapal said, “9/11 changed what it meant to be Arab, Muslim, or South Asian in this country.” Jayapal delivered her remarks during the first ever Congressional hearing on Discrimination and Civil Liberties of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities, held over twenty years after 9/11. Finally.

Representation in this political context matters. Rashad Robinson, the prominent civil rights activist, rightly warns us not to mistake presence for power: Being in a room doesn’t necessarily establish a direct line to decision making. None of us relates to the experience of being South Asian in the same way, and none of us should have to represent any or all of the rest of us. But one of the adverse effects of underrepresentation is to convince members of a minority community that they lack power within the dominant culture—that access and opportunity are limited, and their own stories will be unheard or filtered through stereotypes. In an essay about Lisa Ling’s food docuseries on Asian food in the U.S., Marina Fang writes: “Asian Americans often start from the default position of being “the other.” We have to explain ourselves, usually to a white audience.” In this kind of cultural environment, the need to present perfect or one dimensional characters—a pillar of the toxic “model minority” myth—takes root, and division and misunderstanding flourish. 

Presence and visibility may not be the entire solution to these problems. They are nevertheless crucial levers toward power. And the years between 9/11 and the 2016 U.S. election—marked by cross-MENASA community organizing to fight discrimination and state violence —gave rise to a mini renaissance of South Asian content that explored and played with the place South Asians occupy in the U.S. cultural landscape. 

Rampant xenophobia in the post-2016 world makes the need for solidarity, representation, and narrative shift even stronger. But the South Asian diaspora community has splintered over the past few years. Rising authoritarianism—from Trump to Brexit to Modi—emboldened Hindu nationalists in India and around the world, greatly exacerbating existing caste and religious discrimination. On the international stage, South Asians have been slow to rise in defense of our common humanity. It feels like a fraught time to embrace South Asian identity and a deeply precarious time around the world. We desperately need narratives that explore our shared problems and point the way toward collective liberation, but South Asian stories in U.S. popular culture haven’t kept pace with our new political realities.

I’ll admit to some satisfaction these days at seeing so much South Asian content made by people in front of and behind the camera. South Asian actors are playing a variety of dynamic, complicated, and sexy (but not exoticized) characters in content ranging from the color-blind casting of Bridgerton and The Green Knight, to the coming-of-age stories in Never Have I Ever and Spin, to superheros (that most American of genres) as seen in Eternals and Ms Marvel

In this landscape, the character that most closely represents me, at least demographically, is Seema in …And Just Like That. Played by Sarita Choudhary (who also played Mina in Mississippi Masala), Seema is a GenX New Yorker, unapologetically sexual, self-made, fabulous, and untethered to familial or cultural expectations. She is refreshing. I understand why the show disappointed many viewers with its portrayals of aging, race, class, consumerism, gender, and sexuality, but a small part of me enjoyed watching a glamorous brown woman of a certain age chewing up the scenery. 

But reality these days always creeps in. It’s hard to get past what is happening politically in the South Asian community and watch even escapist content with unadulterated joy. As I watched her, I couldn’t help but wonder: Is Seema enough? 

Her character comes from what appears to be an upper caste Hindu background and lives the life of a one percenter in Manhattan, with a private driver and a luxurious wardrobe of exceedingly expensive designer clothes, shoes, and handbags. She sits in privilege and has origins in what is now the oppressor class in India. As do I. Not all South Asians are privileged—far from it, especially in terms of race, class, or caste. But for a community that is small in numbers, we have a relatively high level of power and privilege. This is what Seema, as fabulous as she is in some ways, also represents. 

In the current state of our world, confronting society from our perspective as South Asians should require us to interrogate where we sit along the spectrum of power. What is our collective responsibility? Where do we have social power, and where do we use it for good? We need rich, complex stories that explore these questions. We need more than a few of these stories every decade. 

I want to know what Demetrius and Mina would do in our world. That’s the story I’m looking for now. We are living in monstrous, devastating times. We need lightness, escape, and joy—and a more inclusive roster of characters that will shape the way people perceive one another.  Even more so, we need to tell stories of solidarity. 

The post Representation matters: South Asians in American pop culture since 9/11 appeared first on The Conversationalist.

A beginner’s guide to reproductive justice

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 14/03/2022 - 11:14pm in

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Reproductive justice combines tenets of human rights, social justice, and reproductive rights.

What is reproductive justice?

For decades, Black feminists in the U.S. have been pushing a women’s movement too often dominated by the concerns of middle-class white women to expand its horizons. In June 1994 a caucus of Black feminists pioneered the concept of “reproductive justice,” hoping to spur their fellow advocates to broaden their definition of reproductive freedom by taking into account most women’s daily lives and experiences.

Part of what they objected to was the reduction of women’s rights to a simple, one-time choice. They knew, often firsthand, that many women who become unexpectedly pregnant do not have easy access to comprehensive health care, including abortion and other reproductive services. Because many white, middle-class feminists took stable housing, decent health care, and safe neighborhoods for granted, they did not always see that a range of other rights related to women’s bodily autonomy were also in need of defending. As Dorothy E. Roberts, author and professor of law, sociology, and civil rights at the University of Pennsylvania, explained in Dissent in 2015, “The language of choice has proved useless for claiming public resources that most women need in order to maintain control over their bodies and their lives…giving women ‘choices’ has eroded the argument for state support, because women without sufficient resources are simply held responsible for making ‘bad’ choices.”

Roberts and other champions of reproductive justice believe all women have the right to opt out of parenthood entirely, to end some pregnancies and continue others, and to have as many children as they want and raise those children in safe, healthy, and nurturing environments. Loretta Ross of SisterSong, the largest multiracial reproductive justice collective in the U.S., has described reproductive justice as “the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, social, and economic well-being of women and girls, based on the full achievement and protection of women’s human rights.” In Ross’s view, the reproductive justice framework “analyzes how the ability of any woman to determine her own reproductive destiny is linked directly to the conditions in her community.”

Those conditions are “not just a matter of individual choice and access” but include social realities like unstable housing, poverty, racial discrimination, and lack of proximity to health care facilities that provide abortions and/or prenatal care. A 2017 study found that one in five U.S. women would need to travel at least 43 miles (69 kilometers) to reach the nearest abortion clinic. Pregnant women’s and newborns’ lack of access to health care is just as crucial to address as lack of access to abortion. Pregnant women in rural areas often receive inadequate prenatal care; some rural communities do not have even one practicing obstetrician/gynecologist. Around one in four Wyoming women receive less-than-adequate prenatal care, meaning that, on average, they begin prenatal care after the fourth month of pregnancy or attend less than 79 percent of recommended checkups.

The U.S. also has a shameful record of letting women die during or around childbirth, a particularly shocking fact in such a wealthy nation. Maternal health outcomes are even worse for women of color and low-income women. The maternal mortality ratio more than doubled in the U.S. between 1999 and 2014, and Black women are approximately three times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. Stress caused by racial discrimination plays a significant role in maternal mortality rates, as does lack of proximity to hospitals providing high-quality care. Reproductive justice means ensuring that every woman has not only the right and ability to end a pregnancy, but control of her fertility, freedom from coerced or forced sterilization, adequate health care, and the ability to give birth to and raise children in a safe and healthy environment.

For the pro-choice movement to truly represent all women, reproductive justice advocates believe it must significantly broaden its demands for privacy and respect for individual choices to include, in Ross’s words, “the social supports necessary for our individual decisions to be optimally realized.” They also believe that control of one’s reproductive destiny is a human right, and that governments are obligated to protect women’s human rights by fully funding the programs required to keep them and their children healthy and safe.

Rather than focusing solely on the legal right to an abortion, reproductive justice advocates seek to work in coalition with other social justice movements, from the Movement for Black Lives to the movements for economic justice, the rights of people with disabilities, and LGBTQ rights.
Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice (ACRJ) has defined three primary frameworks

for fighting reproductive oppression and furthering reproductive justice:

  • Reproductive Health, which deals with delivery of services
  • Reproductive Rights, which addresses legal issues
  • Reproductive Justice, which focuses on movement building

Reproductive justice goes beyond efforts to safeguard abortion rights. It is not solely dependent on courts, political parties, or sympathetic politicians and physicians. It’s about empowering women and girls to make decisions not just about a particular pregnancy but throughout their entire reproductive lives. Reproductive justice can only be achieved when all women have not just the same rights on paper, but the power, freedom, and resources necessary to exercise them.

What are the principles of reproductive justice?

  • The right to remain child-free
  • The right to end one or multiple pregnancies
  • The right to free health care, including abortion
  • Easy access to every kind of health care, including abortion and other reproductive services
  • The right to raise as many children as one wants
  • The right to raise children in a safe and healthy environment
  • The right of every child to a safe and healthy home
  • The right to support a family
  • The right of all mothers, including those charged with and convicted of crimes, to see and care for their children
  • The right of pregnant women and mothers in prisons and jails to be treated in accordance with international human rights law
  • The right to nonjudgmental and medically sound health care, including abortion, prenatal care, and care for new parents and newborns
  • The right to create a birth plan honored by all health care providers assisting in a birth
  • Respect and support for essential care work performed inside and outside of the home
  • Freedom from food deserts, contaminated water, and state violence
  • Freedom from prosecution for struggling with drug addiction while pregnant
  • Freedom from forced or coerced sterilization
  • Freedom from forced or coerced abortion
  • Freedom from shame and stigma

Who coined the term ‘reproductive justice’?

After organizing an informal Black Women’s Caucus at a national pro-choice conference sponsored by the Illinois Pro-Choice Alliance in Chicago in 1994, a group of Black women social justice advocates came up with the term and defined the framework. They recognized that the mainstream feminist movement of the time, which was led by and represented the interests of middle- and upper-class white women, was not familiar with or equipped to meet the needs of women of color, trans people, and other marginalized women.

These women, who called themselves the “Women of African Descent for Reproductive Justice,” argued for a new and broader conception of reproductive freedom rooted in internationally recognized human rights standards developed by the United Nations. Advocates of reproductive justice seek to unite the struggle for reproductive rights with the fight for social justice. The women who coined the phrase published a full-page statement with over 800 signatures in The Washington Post and Roll Call to announce the birth of a new movement.

When did the reproductive justice movement start? 

Though many of the ideas behind it have existed in some form for decades, it officially began in 1994, when a group of Black reproductive rights advocates who participated in a number of national conferences in the U.S. and the International Conference on Population & Development (ICPD) in Cairo, Egypt, gathered in Chicago to pioneer a new reproductive rights framework. They hoped that framing these rights as a question of “justice” would better address both the full spectrum of women’s reproductive rights and the particular experiences and concerns of Black and/or low-income women. They shared frustrations about the status of Black women’s reproductive health around the globe and the limits of a pro-choice movement rooted in narrow notions of privacy. And they urged the larger movement to contextualize abortion care as one crucial aspect of a broader spectrum of human rights, including bodily autonomy and the full range of reproductive decision-making.

Reproductive justice combines tenets of human rights, social justice, and reproductive rights. “In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda,” which employs a reproductive justice framework, focuses on three key policy areas: abortion rights and access, contraceptive equity, and comprehensive sex education.

How does reproductive justice relate to intersectionality?

The concept of reproductive justice is an outgrowth of intersectionality, which is itself related to the original meaning of identity politics as defined by the Black socialist feminists of the Combahee River Collective. Members of the Collective believed their identities and the various forms of oppression they experienced as members of different but overlapping groups—Black people, women, LGBTQ people, and working-class people—uniquely suited them to fight these  oppressions.

Intersectionality means that all forms of oppression are interconnected, and all people experience oppression and discrimination differently as a result of their particular identities. As the self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” Audre Lorde once said, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” And in the words of SisterSong, “Marginalized women face multiple oppressions and we can only win freedom by addressing how they impact one another.” Reproductive justice is about recognizing, honoring, and easing the lives of all child-bearing people by fighting all forms of oppression—including racism, sexism, able-ism, anti-LGBTQ discrimination, and economic injustice—not only in isolation, but when and where they intersect.

Why does reproductive justice matter? 

Reproductive justice matters because it relates to the lives and experiences of every person capable of giving birth. By significantly broadening the lens through which most people view reproductive rights, it covers a far wider range of human experiences, is relevant to and supported by many more people, and has the potential to transform millions of lives by harnessing the collective power of various social movements—for economic justice, criminal justice reform, and civil rights, among others—that are connected but too often siloed.

Reproductive justice in childbirth

Until the mid-1800s, women in the United States managed their own birth experiences with little oversight and intervention. Abortion was common throughout the nineteenth century. It was only in the latter half of the century, when medicine became a respected profession and the American Medical Association was established, that physicians lobbied to have abortion banned. Their concern was not about the morality of abortion, but the financial and professional implications of being forced to compete with midwives and purveyors of home abortion remedies.

Tensions arose around that time, and persist today, between midwives, many of whom were trained in traditional healing practices, and formally educated and/or state-licensed physicians, nurses, and other medical practitioners. The conflict was partly between an authoritarian and patriarchal medical establishment and the women giving birth and the midwives they trusted to assist them.

Women of color, poor women, and women with disabilities typically had and have fewer choices about where and how to give birth and who may attend them when they do. Reproductive justice advocates seek to eliminate these disparities and ensure that all women can give birth safely, comfortably, in the company of their chosen attendants, and in the setting and manner of their choosing.

Reproductive justice in schools

A key aspect of reproductive justice in schools is comprehensive sex education, which can help students prevent unintended pregnancies and increase their odds of graduating.

Teenagers who are given partial or no medically accurate information about how to prevent pregnancy and/or STIs and explicitly or implicitly taught to be ashamed of their bodies and sexuality are likelier to become pregnant or cause a pregnancy—a circumstance which interrupts their educations more often than not. Students who are pregnant or parenting should not have to choose between raising children and completing their educations. They deserve time to recover after giving birth, permission to make up missed work, child care, transportation, counseling, health care, personalized graduation plans, flexible schedules, and freedom from stigma. As the novelist Toni Morrison said in a 1989 Time interview in response to a leading question (“You don’t feel that these girls will never know whether they could have been teachers, or whatever?”) about teen moms, “They can be teachers. They can be brain surgeons. We have to help them become brain surgeons…That’s the attitude you have to have about human life. But we don’t want to pay for it. I don’t think anybody cares about unwed mothers unless they’re black—or poor. The question is not morality, the question is money.” The U.S. will not achieve reproductive justice until it is willing to invest the necessary resources in all of its children.

Reproductive justice in workplaces

In 2014, then Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois), a woman of color and a veteran of the Iraq war who lost both legs in a 2004 helicopter crash, was 46, pregnant, and in her third trimester. Because her doctor had advised her not to travel at that stage of her pregnancy, she appealed to her fellow Democrats to make a one-time exception to the Democratic caucus’s ban on proxy voting so she could participate in House Democratic caucus leadership and committee member elections.

Nancy Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders denied her request. Far more disturbing than what happened to Duckworth, who went on to become a U.S. senator, is what happens to women in retail and service industry jobs on a regular basis. Employers routinely deny pregnant workers basic accommodations like access to bottled water, the ability to sit down, and extra bathroom breaks. In 2014 Bene’t Holmes, a 25-year-old single mother and Walmart employee who was then four months pregnant, asked her manager for the less physically demanding job duties her doctor had recommended. Her request was denied. The next day she had a miscarriage at work.

Reproductive justice means supporting whatever choices women make about their reproductive lives, not forcing them to choose between supporting their families and following a doctor’s advice. It means fighting to ensure both that every woman who wants to end a pregnancy can do so and that every woman who wants to continue one can do so safely and with dignity. And it means that employers and governments must support workers while they are becoming and once they have become mothers. During World War II President Franklin Roosevelt used funds from a wartime infrastructure bill to establish a national network of child care centers for women who took factory jobs to support the war effort. Despite the best efforts of mothers, social welfare groups, unions, early childhood educators, and social workers to keep them open after the war, President Harry Truman shut them down as soon as Japan surrendered. It shouldn’t take a world war for governments to meet people’s needs.

Reproductive justice in prisons

Women in many countries, including the United States, have been arrested and incarcerated for ending or attempting to end unwanted pregnancies and/or endangering fetuses, which is particularly ironic given how the state often treats incarcerated mothers. It is cruel and illogical to imprison pregnant women for possibly jeopardizing a nonexistent baby by, for example, using drugs while pregnant and to separate mothers convicted of crimes from the living children who need them. The treatment of pregnant and nursing women and/or mothers in prisons and jails, including for pregnancy-related crimes, is clearly connected to poverty, xenophobia, and racism.

In 2017, a U.S. government official denied an abortion to a teenaged immigrant detainee who was pregnant as a result of rape and said she would rather harm herself than continue the pregnancy. In 2014 a Pennsylvania woman named Jennifer Whalen was charged with a felony and three misdemeanors, including endangering the welfare of a child, and sentenced to prison after helping her 16-year-old daughter end an unwanted pregnancy by ordering the abortion pill online. Whelan, a single parent who worked as a nursing home aide, said her daughter did not have health insurance and could not afford a hospital abortion.

In 1989, officials in Charleston, South Carolina, began arresting pregnant women whose prenatal tests showed they were smoking crack. In some cases, Dorothy Roberts wrote in her 1997 book, Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty, RACE, REPRODUCTION, AND THE MEANING OF LIBERTY a team of police officers tracked down expectant mothers in their neighborhoods. In others, officers appeared at hospital maternity wards to haul away women in handcuffs and leg irons hours after giving birth. According to Roberts, one Charleston woman spent the final weeks of her pregnancy in a dingy cell in the Charleston County Jail. When she went into labor, she was taken to the hospital in chains, where she remained shackled to the bed throughout the entire delivery. All but one of the 48 women arrested for prenatal crimes in Charleston that year were Black. And in 1978—five weeks into a 40-year sentence, with no painkillers or sterilized medical equipment of any kind—22-year-old Debbie Sims Africa gave birth to her son Mike in a Pennsylvania prison cell. She cut the baby’s umbilical cord with her teeth, hid him under a sheet, and relied on her fellow incarcerated women to hide the noise by singing or coughing when he cried. She couldn’t keep her baby with her under jail rules and knew it would be difficult to conceal his existence for long. After three days, she told the authorities, who promptly took him away.

Reproductive justice demands that all women terminating or carrying a pregnancy, giving birth, and/or raising a child be treated like human beings in life-altering circumstances. Then President Trump signed a law banning the shackling of pregnant women in 2018. Far more remains to be done to guarantee reproductive justice for incarcerated people.

Who invented intersectional feminism?

Black feminist scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw is often credited with having coined the term in 1989, when she published a paper entitled, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics.” In Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective, a collection of interviews with pioneering Black feminists, Demita Frazier, one of Taylor’s interviewees, questions that narrative. “I have to talk to the young woman—Kimberlé Crenshaw…who says that she coined the term intersectionality,” Frazier says. “I always laugh when I read that because I remember the day we were sitting at the women’s center in Cambridge, drafting our probably third or fourth draft of the [Combahee River Collective] statement, I said, ‘You know, we stand at the intersection where our identities are indivisible.’ There is no separation. We are as Black women truly and completely intact in our paradox, and there’s nothing paradoxical about oppression [laugh]” (How We Get Free, Haymarket Books, p. 123).

In the 1970s, Frazier and her fellow Black socialist feminists conceptualized identity politics as the idea that Black liberation, feminism, and the fight for economic justice didn’t have to and shouldn’t be disparate and conflicting movements; it was only by coming together to fight all forms of oppression that organizers could truly free all people. In 1977 the Collective issued a statement which proclaimed, among other things, that “work must be organized for the collective benefit of those who do the work…and not for the profit of the bosses,” but added, “We are not convinced, however, that a socialist revolution that is not also a feminist and anti-racist revolution will guarantee our liberation.”

Many of the core concepts of intersectionality can be traced back to nineteenth century figures like the abolitionist and women’s rights crusader Sojourner Truth, who wanted to be recognized for and freed from the specific indignities she had suffered as a Black woman in the United States. Truth is said to have challenged attendees of the 1851 Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio, to include women like her in their conception of women’s rights: “That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man—when I could get it—and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?”

Reproductive Justice Around the World

Defending the rights and dignity of all women often means confronting state power, as Irish women did when they took to the streets to demand the repeal of Ireland’s abortion ban in 2017 and Polish and Mexican women did when they protested their countries’ abortion laws en masse in 2020. Women in Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, and other Latin American countries followed suit in 2021. In the last decade and a half Marea Verde (Green Wave), a Latin American women’s movement, has waged “aggressive campaigns” and led mass popular protests “organized around legal action and legislative demands that center broadly on women’s autonomy and rights” that have helped liberalize abortions laws throughout the region, as reproductive rights litigation expert Ximena Casas recently explained in The New York Times.

Reproductive justice in the United States

Abortion is, for now, legal in the U.S. but heavily restricted. Women, many of whom are poor, immigrants, and/or women of color, have been prosecuted for ending pregnancies and having miscarriages. United Nations human rights monitors harshly criticized the state of Texas for a particularly draconian 2021 anti-abortion law which, they said, violated international law by endangering women’s lives and denying them the basic right to control their bodies. Melissa Upreti, a human rights lawyer tasked by the United Nations Human Rights Council with fighting to end discrimination against women and girls, characterized the law as “sex and gender-based discrimination at its worst,” adding that it has “not only taken Texas backward, but in the eyes of the international community, it has taken the entire country backward.”

The U.S. has the highest maternal death rate among developed nations. In 2018, there were 17 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births in the U.S., which is more than double the ratio of most other high-income countries. It has far more OB/GYNS than midwives and an overall shortage of maternal health care providers of any kind relative to births. The U.S. is the only developed country that does not guarantee access to provider home visits or paid parental leave to women who have just given birth.

Government officials have sterilized thousands of U.S. women without their full knowledge or consent and required many more to have fewer children than they wanted in exchange for desperately needed financial support. These policies have disproportionately affected Native Americans, Black people, Latinas, low-income people, and people with intellectual disabilities. From 1950 to 1966, Black women in North Carolina were sterilized at over three times the rate of white women and over 12 times the rate of white men.

Reproductive justice in Canada

Inducing an abortion was a crime in Canada until 1988, when the country’s Supreme Court determined its abortion law was unconstitutional and struck it down. Abortion has since been legal at any stage in a woman’s pregnancy and is covered as a publicly funded medical procedure under the Canada Health Act, but provinces such as New Brunswick place limits on these funds. In New Brunswick only hospital abortions are covered by insurance; abortions at private clinics are not insured. As in the United States, access to abortion varies widely throughout the country. Inhabitants of many rural provinces and territories have access to only one or two providers. Canadian officials have a long and ugly history of sterilizing Indigenous women without their knowledge or consent.

Reproductive justice in India

India allows abortion during the first trimester with approval by a medical practitioner and under specific conditions, including when the pregnancy is the result of a rape and when a patient’s life or health is at risk. In cases involving severe fetal anomaly, a three-person medical board composed of a gynecologist, a pediatrician, and a radiologist must confirm the diagnosis in order for a pregnant person to access care, a requirement that is particularly difficult to fulfill outside of major cities.

Activists in India have been seeking to reform the country’s abortion laws for over a decade. In March 2020, a new set of amendments to the 1971 Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act were introduced in parliament. Critics have suggested the proposed amendments were inadequate and not framed “within a rights-based context for a person seeking abortion.”

Reproductive justice in Poland

Poland has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe. The government instituted a near-total ban on abortion in October 2020, triggering the country’s largest protests since the fall of communism. In September 2021 a 30-year-old woman named Izabela died of septic shock after doctors refused to perform a life-saving abortion. “The baby weighs 485 grams. For now, thanks to the abortion law, I have to lie down. And there is nothing they can do,” she wrote in a text message to her mother shortly before her death. “They’ll wait until it dies or something begins, and if not, I can expect sepsis.”

Draconian abortion laws notwithstanding, Poland has one of the world’s lowest maternal mortality rates. Its National Health Fund, for which the vast majority of Polish residents are eligible, covers most of the costs associated with giving birth in a hospital. The government also covers uninsured women during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. Low-income parents receive a government allowance for their first child, and parents of two or more children get around $130 per month per child. Every woman, regardless of insurance status, gets a home visit from a midwife within days of giving birth. The Health Ministry guarantees a woman’s right to choose the place and method of birth, decide who is in the delivery room, and be with her newborn for at least two hours after giving birth.

Reproductive justice in El Salvador

Latin American women, particularly in El Salvador, have served decades-long prison sentences for having miscarriages the authorities claimed were self-induced. El Salvador is one of four countries in Latin America with no-exceptions abortion bans. In 2021, the authorities freed three Salvadoran women who were sentenced to 30 years in prison for what the authorities claimed were self-induced abortions. A fourth woman was released in 2022. In 2021, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights found El Salvador responsible for the death of a Salvadoran woman sentenced to 30 years in prison for aggravated homicide after losing a pregnancy in 2008. The woman, who had two children, died of cancer in prison two years later, partly as a result of inadequate medical care. Among other reforms, the Court ordered El Salvador to tighten regulations governing doctor-patient confidentiality and, in a ruling that applies to countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, ruled that health care providers can no longer report women seeking abortion care and other reproductive services to law enforcement.

Reproductive justice in Ghana

In 2022, Ghana’s national health insurance program expanded to include free long-term contraception with the goal of sparing millions of women already covered by the country’s national health insurance program from paying out-of-pocket costs for effective long-term contraception. Ghana has high maternal mortality rates—its maternal mortality ratio is 308 per 100,000 live births—high rates of sexually transmitted infections, and low levels of contraceptive use. Women in rural communities have a particularly hard time accessing birth control and other reproductive health care services. Abortion is still a criminal offense in Ghana, with exceptions in cases of rape, incest, serious fetal anomaly, and/or risk to the woman’s health. Around 22–30 percent of maternal deaths in Ghana are thought to be the result of unsafe abortions.

A few last words on reproductive justice

In the last 25 years, reproductive justice advocates have worked to broaden the view of an occasionally myopic pro-choice movement overly focused on electing Democrats and pressuring sympathetic administrations to appoint liberal justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. Having a Democrat in the White House and a more liberal Supreme Court does make it likelier that American women will retain certain rights. But it would profoundly improve the lives of all U.S. women, and women and people capable of giving birth around the world, if governments treated control over one’s reproductive and family life as a fundamental human right, rather than a privilege reserved for those with the means to obtain needed services.

“Every child a wanted child” has long been a credo of the pro-choice movement. Reproductive justice seeks to take this laudable goal several steps further by challenging us to build a world in which every child is not only “wanted” by its parents at birth, but well provided for. It offers a path to creating societies that truly honor life by treating all who are capable of creating it, and every person born, as worthy of love, respect, and care—and investing our collective resources accordingly.

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A beginner’s guide to immigration

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/03/2022 - 2:04pm in

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Language around migration can be confusing, and the way it’s used can impact meaning. When is someone an immigrant? When are they a refugee?

Immigration. It’s a topic at the heart of political arguments and family dinner table rows all around the world. It drives tabloid headlines. But it’s an issue that’s poorly understood by many people. What makes someone a refugee, and what’s an economic migrant? Why do people leave their homes? How easy is it to cross a border?

This is your immigration cheat sheet — an introduction to how humankind migrates. It’s the why, how, and where. The emotional toll many have to face, and the opportunities others enjoy. The changing policies that are impacted by the world in which we live.

What is immigration?

Language around migration can be confusing, and the way it’s used can impact meaning. When is someone an immigrant? When are they a refugee? Meanwhile, the word migrant is often used as an umbrella term for everybody moving somewhere new, regardless of the reason — it isn’t specific to refugees. Here’s a breakdown of some key terms.

Immigration vs. emigration

The difference between immigration and emigration is about whether you’re coming or going. People immigrating are moving into a new country to live, where they become immigrants. Whereas emigration relates to those leaving.

People might also talk about net migration. This is a calculation to show whether more people are moving into a country, than out of it, affecting the overall population. If there are more immigrants to a country than people emigrating, it’s known as positive net migration.

Immigration vs. migration

Moving into a new place is known as immigration. Migration, on the other hand, is the actual act of moving. It’s when people (or birds) leave one location and journey towards another. People might cross multiple borders, or they might even stay in the same country and migrate to a different area.

Immigration under duress

Not all migration is through choice. Many people are forced to move away from their countries, leaving behind homes and loved ones. 

  • Refugees

There are 84 million people in the world who have been forcibly displaced, either within their own countries or beyond its borders. People forced to flee their home countries for fear of being persecuted are known as refugees, and they’re often at risk due to their political beliefs, religion, race, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or sexual orientation. They might be facing war or violence in their home countries. Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, people are guaranteed the right to seek asylum in another country. They’re also protected from refoulement, where states must not return refugees to places where their lives or freedom would be under threat.

  • Asylum seekers

Refugees who have made an application to stay in a new country, but have not yet received a decision, are known as asylum seekers. They can only make that application once they’re in the new country. As of 2021, there are 4.4 million people waiting on asylum applications across the world. Some travel through several nations before making an application — there is no obligation for people to seek asylum in the first country in which they arrive. Asylum procedures can be complicated, involving interviews, lengthy legal processes, and even detention-like accommodation.

  • Trafficked people

Human traffickers take advantage of people’s vulnerabilities. Those escaping risky situations, or deceived into believing strangers can find themselves in disastrous situations. Victims of human trafficking can be forced into sexual exploitation, slavery, marriage, or crime. It happens both across borders and within people’s home countries.

Immigration: a brief history

People have migrated throughout the whole of history, from early human movement out of Africa to periods of colonialism. It’s nothing new. But the ways migrants are treated and the factors that drive movement are ever shifting. Climate change is forcing more people to leave their homes, and technological advances mean those who want to work from anywhere often can. The Coronavirus pandemic forced countries to close their borders, and some governments used it as an excuse to turn away people.

Immigration laws

Here’s a snapshot of how immigration laws have changed in recent history, and the moments that made big impacts:

  • United Kingdom
    • During World War II, the UK took in around 70,000 Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany. British children from cities and towns, known as evacuees, were sent to live in the British countryside, or even in other nations, away from the threat of bombs.
    • After World War II, the country needed help rebuilding cities and staffing the healthcare system, and invited people from the Commonwealth to move to the UK. Those arriving from the Caribbean were known as the Windrush generation. They were automatically British subjects. However, in 2017, it became clear that the Home Office had wrongly deported commonwealth citizens, after destroying documentation which would have proved their right to live and work in the UK.
    • The introduction of the Immigration Act in 1971 put an end to Commonwealth citizens enjoying more rights in the UK than those from other nations.
    • In 2016, the UK voted to leave the European Union. On 31 January 2020, Brexit came into force, putting an end to freedom of movement for British citizens in the EU.
  • The European Union and Schengen area
    • In 1951, six European countries joined together with the key aim of preventing further war and furthering economic growth. Through the European Economic Community, workers were eventually given the right of free movement in 1968.
    • In 1992, the European Union (EU) was created. Freedom of movement for all EU nationals was enshrined in law. Two years later, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Sweden were also included in free movement measures.
    • The creation of the Schengen Agreement means that citizens can now travel across 26 European countries (four of which are non-EU) without facing border controls. It is a passport-free zone.
  • United States
    • The United States has long been known as a country of immigrants. In 1892, the country’s first immigration station opened — Ellis Island.
    • The Immigration Act of 1924 brought big changes. Fears of communism were spreading, and many Americans wanted to separate themselves from other nations after the horrors of the First World War. Racism and discrimination increased and the new law limited migration based on nationality. In the same year, the US border patrol was established to stop illegal immigrants crossing into the country.
    • In 1965, the nationality-based quota system finally came to an end with the Immigration and Nationality Act.
    • During the Trump administration, the environment for refugees became more hostile. People were forced to wait in Mexico, and anyone traveling through other countries before arriving in the US was denied the right to claim asylum. Some refugees are sent to Guatemala in a “safe third country” agreement.
  • Japan
    • Japan has a reputation for strict immigration controls. For much of history, the country has been fairly isolated, with little mix of other ethnicities.
    • Between 1905 and 1945, a large number of people from Japanese territories migrated to the mainland – they were Korean, Chinese, and Taiwanese. After World War II, controls tightened.
    • The 1952 Immigration Control and Refugee Act made it difficult for foreigners who wanted to live and work long-term in Japan.
    • By the 1990s the aging population was causing labor shortages, and some unskilled workers were given opportunities to move to Japan. Many other visa controls were tightened. 
    • In 2021, the government shelved a bill which would have allowed asylum seekers to be pushed back to their home countries when their applications were under appeal.
  • Uganda
    • During World War II, Uganda hosted around 7,000 Polish refugees. From this point, the country continued to welcome groups of people in need of refuge.
    • Uganda now has the largest number of refugees across the whole of Africa. It has an open-door policy, and people from neighboring East African countries arrive to seek safety. Refugees are given plots of land on arrival, access to healthcare and education, and the right to work – it’s known as a self-reliance model. This isn’t the whole story, and there are many challenges, but Uganda’s refugee policies are largely considered progressive. Nearly 1.5 million refugees now live in Uganda.

Immigration visas

Variations of passports and visas have existed throughout history, but up until World War I people could move fairly freely — although the opportunities might not have been as numerous. Following the war years and subsequent security fears, passports as we know them now came into being. 

In 1920, the League of Nations set a global standard for the documents. While Western countries were keen for these identity documents, many other countries were against the idea and saw them as restrictive. With the introduction of passports, came entry visas, with the same goal of national security. Just a year after the League of Nations meeting, the US introduced an act that put a quota on the number of immigrants allowed into the country.

How different nations approach immigration visas is constantly in flux. EU citizens don’t require visas to move to other EU states, while nations like New Zealand, Australia, and Canada are pickier in who they welcome into their countries. There’s a large expat population in Singapore, and depending on which country you come from, getting a visa could be fairly straightforward.

World events impact visa restrictions. The coronavirus pandemic means some countries require anyone entering to be vaccinated. Technological advancements and a rise in working from home have created changes too. Estonia, Cape Verde, and Barbados are just some of the countries offering digital nomad passports, allowing people to enjoy residency in a new place, while their career continues from a laptop.

What immigration is like today

  • United Kingdom
    • Immigration laws are in a state of flux in the United Kingdom. Since Brexit, this island nation no longer allows people from the EU to live, study, or work in the country visa-free, as was the case before. In the rest of the EU, citizens can move freely. 
    • Following Brexit, the UK has a points-based immigration system. 
    • The government wants to change the asylum laws and push back people arriving via irregular routes. Many are forced to cross the English Channel on dangerous boats or stowed in lorries, for a lack of a safe alternative.
    • The UK granted British citizenship to 146,483 people in 2021 and gave residence documents to 10,135 people from EEA (European Economic Area) countries. The nation gave protection to ​​13,210 asylum seekers in the same year.
  • United States
    • People who want to call the United States home must first get an immigrant visa. When they land on US soil, they become a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), allowing them to apply for jobs and live in the country. After five years, they can apply for US citizenship.
    • There are different rules for immediate family members of US citizens, who have to meet certain eligibility criteria. Skilled workers can also get special visas on a temporary or permanent basis.
    • Refugees can apply to become LPRs one year after arriving or receiving asylum. They go through a complicated system.
    • 707,362 people received permanent residence status in 2020, a figure likely impacted by the pandemic. Previous years have usually exceeded 1 million.  29,916 people arrived in the US as refugees in 2019.
  • Japan
    • Japan is facing a labor shortage and a shrinking population. For a country long-averse to immigration, things might be about to change. The country plans to start welcoming skilled workers to stay in the country indefinitely. Until now, their visas have only been valid for five years and didn’t extend to family members. Many of the workers come from Vietnam and China.
    • The country operates on a points-based system for foreign professionals. Most people need a Certificate of Eligibility, applied for by their sponsor in Japan.
    • People between 18 and 30 can apply for a working holiday visa, which lasts for a year.
    • Japan has a low rate of accepting asylum seekers, compared to other wealthy countries. 
    • Japan welcomed 115,000 immigrants in 2018, which was around 15 percent more than the previous year.
  • South Africa
    • People who want to emigrate to South Africa can first apply for a temporary residence permit, before looking towards permanent residency. 
    • After working in the country for five years, people can apply for permanent residency. Those partnered with or related to a South African citizen can also apply, as well as some other categories.
    • South Africa has the largest number of immigrants in Africa — in total about 2.9 million, just under 5 percent of the population. 255,200 of them are displaced people.
    • Policies have become less welcoming to refugees in recent years, with 96 percent of all asylum cases rejected in 2019.
  • Sweden
    • Sweden is a member of the EU, which means that anyone within the Schengen area is free to live and work in the country. Non-EU/EEA citizens need an offer of work to apply for residency.
    • Different European countries have different refugee policies. Sweden had a welcoming refugee policy until 2016, and offered permanent residency visas to refugees. Since then, the number of applications being granted has declined. In 2021, the new government replaced the offer of permanent visas with temporary ones. However, the country continues to accept 5,000 quota refugees a year, who are people that UNHCR (the UN’s Refugee Agency) select to be housed in safe countries.
    • Sweden welcomed 82,518 migrants in 2020, which has steadily dropped from double that in 2016. The number is likely to have been impacted further by the Coronavirus pandemic. There were 12,991 new asylum seekers in the same year.
  • Saudi Arabia

Why people migrate

Whether choosing to set up home in a new country or forced to make journeys across borders, there are many reasons people migrate. Economic need or opportunity is a huge driver, while war and violence displace millions every year. People move to join family, study abroad, or retire. And throughout history and today, Indigenous communities have been forced from their native lands.

Migrating for economic reasons

Money is a huge driver of migration. Many people are forced to move, because of a complete lack of opportunity to earn a living in their region. Economic migration is often viewed as a choice, but poverty, dangerous working conditions, or food insecurity can mean some people have little choice but to leave their homes. For these people, migration is a case of survival. 

Others choose to migrate because they can earn higher wages in other countries, find more opportunities, or follow particular career paths. Professionals from all over the world take opportunities to make homes in new countries. 

Some migrant workers face economic insecurity in their own nations. For these people, the jobs on offer when they migrate are often the ones that nationals don’t want to take on. These industries can be unregulated and migrant workers are at risk of exploitation.

Demographic changes also impact migration. Aging populations come hand-in-hand with labor shortages, leaving a need for young workers. As of 2018, Japan is facing the greatest skills shortage in the world, followed by Turkey, Greece and India.

According to the World Migration Report 2020, there are 164 million migrant workers. They make up 70 percent of all migrants.

Migrating for safety reasons

There are 26.6 million refugees worldwide, with a further 48 million people displaced within their own countries, according to UNHCR. More than two thirds of these people have traveled from Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Myanmar. In these countries and others, people face war, violence, and persecution. Syrians have witnessed executions in the street and had their towns and villages bombed. Politically-driven violence and food insecurity in Venezuela forces people to leave. The recent fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban has put people in serious danger.

In Ethiopia, the Oromo people face violence and persecution, as do other specific groups of people across the world. LGBTQIA+ people are often forced to leave countries that outlaw homosexuality, or face prison, violence, or even death. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, unrest and fighting between different groups means people are forced to flee. In some nations, citizens face mandatory military service. In Eritrea, that service sometimes becomes indefinite

In North Korea, human rights barely exist. There is no access to media from outside the country, famine is rife, and citizens are conditioned to devote themselves to the ‘Great Leader.’ Defectors have little choice but to put themselves in the hands of smugglers. If they are caught escaping, they face forced labor camps. China does not recognize North Koreans as refugees, and so those who are caught are returned.

Many people who become refugees for safety reasons are forced to choose between leaving family behind in dangerous situations, or putting their loved ones at more risk on perilous journeys. It is an impossible decision. For those making the journey alone, they may have to wait years for an asylum decision before accessing family reunification channels, where some can be reunited with their families.

Migrating for family reasons

Many people cross oceans to be closer to their families. Some refugees aim for specific countries because they already have family connections, which they hope will make integration easier. Others are the partners or children of migrant workers. Then there are people who have been apart from their families, and choose to reconnect with them: they might be caring for elderly parents, seeking comfort after changes of circumstance, or moving in with different family members. Some have new family ties — through marriage, long-term relationships, or adoption.

Depending on which country they’re applying from, some people with refugee status can go through family reunification channels to bring their loved ones into their new home country.

In 2018, around 1.9 million people moved to OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation) countries for family reasons. Around 40 percent of family migrants live in the US.

Climate migration

The climate crisis is a growing concern. So too is climate migration. As our planet heats up, geography and weather patterns are disrupted. Island nations like Tuvalu are witnessing rising sea levels before their very eyes and people are reluctantly making migration plans. Storms, droughts, and floods are battering communities across the world, forcing people to relocate. To adapt to climate change, people are moving. Most people are displaced within their own countries, others are crossing borders.

Papua New Guinea is one nation under threat from climate change. Between 2008 and 2013, 151,000 people were displaced in the country, and two thirds of those were due to environmental hazards.

In Peru, people’s livelihoods are impacted by climate change. Glacial melting and temperature extremes mean fishers and farmers are facing new challenges — as are the people relying on these food sources. People are forced from rural areas into cities. Many face floods, landslides, cold, and drought.

Australia was hit by bush fires in both 2019 and 2020, forcing thousands of people from their homes and causing huge destruction to the environment.

In 2020, 30.7 million people around the world had to migrate because of disasters. 98 percent of those disasters were caused by weather and climate.

Barriers to immigration

Immigration isn’t easy. Once geographical and emotional barriers have been navigated, there are those conditions imposed by governments. And when people are accepted into countries, they might face new challenges  — language and cultural barriers, racism, and finding work. The coronavirus pandemic has put another barrier in the way, causing backlogs and closing borders.

Government paperwork

For people who’ve been forcibly displaced, one of the first barriers to immigration can be a lack of passport. People who’ve fled their homes with nothing have difficulty proving their identity or crossing borders safely. When it comes to accessing jobs and education, it can be hard to prove education levels without physical certificates. Once people have applied for asylum, complicated processes, technicalities, or a lack of support can leave people with rejected claims or facing deportation.

Migrants who have relocated willingly are still at the hands of bureaucracy. Lengthy forms or restrictive visas can dissuade people from migrating, or they might be rejected for visas. For people on temporary visas in certain countries, accessing permanent residency can be a stressful process that takes years. I could mean staying in unpleasant jobs just to hold on to a sponsor, or paying out vast sums of money.

There are other pieces in the paperwork puzzle. Criminal record checks, medical reports, and vaccination certificates, to begin with. Couples and families might need to prove that they’re in genuine relationships.

Language

People applying for citizenship in some countries have to prove their knowledge of language and culture.

Asylum seekers can be acutely affected by language barriers. A lack of suitable translators leads to some claims being misinterpreted. People can be, and are, returned to unsafe countries due to being misunderstood or not being given enough opportunity to represent themselves. Accessing services and assimilating into wider society can also prove tough when people are learning a new language from scratch, all whilst dealing with the impact of trauma.

Financial requirements

Immigration can come with a huge price tag. Aside from the usual costs of moving home (along with flights and international haulage), there might be expensive visa fees.

Beyond this, some countries impose further financial requirements, like the salary that migrant workers need to earn. Those applying for family visas in countries like the UK and Canada might have to prove that they can financially support the people they want to bring over. In Australia, those applying for student visas need to prove that they can financially support themselves. In South Africa, anyone who wants a retired person’s visa needs to prove that they earn at least R37,000 (nearly $2,500 US) per month.

Restrictions on migrants

Migrants don’t always have the same rights as nationals. Asylum seekers in many countries are prohibited from working or studying while their applications are being assessed, which can make supporting themselves difficult, as well as impacting their wellbeing. Even though many have been through traumatic experiences, some asylum seekers are held in detention centers. They can be unsanitary and crowded.

In some countries, immigrants are required to pass a language test, undergo medical tests for things like Tuberculosis, or pay extra to access healthcare systems.

People arriving on some visas might be advised not to leave the country again — for example fiancé(e)s arriving on a family visa before the wedding takes place — or risk having to reapply. 

The Future of immigration

The climate crisis, a health pandemic, and political tensions are all playing into how migration is changing. People stayed put as borders closed to stop the spread of a virus, while others were forced to flee their homes regardless. Technological advances offer greater opportunities for global citizens, while far right politics threaten freedom of movement. How countries respond to refugees is in constant flux, and there are at the same time both positive and worrying trends.

According to Move by founder of FutureMap, Parag Khanna, throughout history we humans have been driven to migrate by five forces: climate change, demographics, politics, economics, and technology. Climate change, now more so than in recent centuries, is going to have a huge impact on migration. It is already happening.

As the US moves further away from the Trump administration, which was famously hostile towards migrants, the UK closes its borders to many. The effects of Brexit are coming into being. Tension in Russia casts a shadow over Europe and beyond. And people left at risk in Afghanistan are still awaiting the refuge that so many countries have promised. 

Whether the world chooses to build more bridges, or more walls, is yet to be seen.

 

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Critical Race Theory, Native communities, and American education

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 08/03/2022 - 4:11am in

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Critical Race Theory has become a Trojan horse for discussions about privilege, gender, race, and inequity, and serves as a rally point for conservative politics.

As the debate over Critical Race Theory, also known as CRT, rages across the United States, the foundational principles, values, and aims of the American education system are called into question. The war over CRT amplifies these essential questions: Who gets to tell the stories of this country, whose stories are worth telling, and how do these stories inform our lives today? It is ironic, of course, that these heated controversies are playing out across historic and contemporary Indigenous homelands.

There is a manufactured nature to the controversy surrounding Critical Race Theory. Far from an attempt to make white children feel guilty about atrocities that took place before they were born, or shame for their skin color, as CRT detractors have argued, the scholars who pioneered and practice the theory use it as a tool for understanding systemic oppression.

Academics recognized CRT in 1989, but its roots go back to the 1960s and 1970s, when legal scholars developed critical legal theory as a means of interrogating how the legal system served the interests of the rich and powerful at the cost of the poor and marginalized. Today, teachers use CRT to inform their age-appropriate lessons about discrimination, history, and oppression. Political pundits who claim that teaching the perspective of the marginalized is the same as teaching CRT are simply wrong.

It’s easy to see how the sudden outrage from right-wing politicians over CRT has deflected attention from this moment of racial reckoning in the post-George Floyd era. Virginia’s Governor Glenn Youngkin, for instance, made opposition to Critical Race Theory a centerpiece of his election campaign; on this platform, he successfully secured his place as Virginia’s first Republican governor in more than a decade. On his first day in office Youngkin made good on his campaign promise by passing an executive order to “end the use of inherent divisive concepts, including Critical Race Theory, and restore excellence in K-12 public education in the commonwealth. Put simply, Critical Race Theory has become a Trojan horse for discussions about privilege, gender, race, and inequity, and serves as a rally point for conservative politics.

To understand the implications of this political development for Native communities, it is important to consider the larger context of Indigenous peoples within existing school curricula. Long before Critical Race Theory was ever formulated, schools in the U.S. failed abysmally in teaching about Indigenous histories, cultures, and contemporary politics. The effect of this failure is painfully obvious among the college students who sit in lecture halls like the ones in which I teach.

As a university faculty member who teaches both American Studies and Native American and Indigenous Studies at a predominately white institution, I often poll students about their knowledge of Native American history and culture, in order to teach effectively. In most cases, their exposure to Native histories is limited to a sanitized version of Columbus’ “discovery” of America, the Thanksgiving myth, and a little bit about the Cherokee Trail of Tears. My students from California often report on their fourth-grade experience of learning about the Spanish mission system—a system of mass death, forced labor, disease, and starvation—by building miniature replicas of the missions out of popsicle sticks and sugarcoating the historical narrative with actual sugar cubes, which they fashioned into mission fixtures.

One of the most striking and disturbing trends I have noticed throughout my years in the classroom and as a public advocate for Indigenous issues is that non-Natives tend to be woefully unaware of the fact that, in addition to the local, state, and federal government levels, there is also the tribal government level. My students are often dismayed to learn that these tribal governments are not marginal, but numerous and powerful—that there are, in fact, 574 sovereign nations with a government-to-government relationship with the federal U.S. governing institutions. The syllabus of my public high school’s civics and government course did not include any lessons about tribal nationhood, self-governance, citizenship, and sovereignty, and this is clearly the case for the vast majority of public schools.

I am deeply concerned to see that our nation’s rising college-educated youth could potentially embark on careers in government without learning that more than 56.2 million acres of this country—for context, only 11 of the  50 states are larger than 56.2 million acres—are under the jurisdiction of tribal governments. Nor are they aware that the largest tribal reservation, governed by the Navajo Nation, is larger than one-fifth of all states, including West Virginia, Maryland, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island.

This ignorance is not the fault of the students. The responsibility for ensuring that our youth—our next generation of leaders—receive a historically accurate education and are prepared to go out into the world with a toolbox of knowledge that will carry us all through to the next day falls upon parents, teachers, administrators, and policymakers. At a time when Native students are still subjected to racial slurs, nonconsensual haircutting, Indian-themed mascots, and screeching, headdressed mockeries in their schools, the idea that states are passing legislation that will result in teaching even less essential information about Indigenous peoples and our roles in this nation is extremely difficult to accept or understand.

Given the pitiful state of existing education regarding the First Americans, it seems that  Critical Race Theory has become the Right’s latest desperate effort to perpetrate a colorblind national narrative. For Native peoples, colorblindness—although not conceptualized as such at the time—can be seen in the pedagogical philosophy of Richard Henry Pratt, the former military officer who, after the Civil War, established residential schools for Native Americans where the guiding pedagogical theory was “kill the Indian, save the man”—i.e., strip Native children forcibly of their culture and language and force them to assimilate into white society.

Pratt ushered in a new policy era that shifted the country’s policies regarding Indigenous populations away from military warfare and physical death, to the new goal of achieving Indigenous cultural and political death through assimilation. Pratt’s Carlisle Indian Industrial School, and hundreds of others that copied his pedagogical model, achieved this aim by separating Indian children from their families and enrolling them in institutions where the children’s hair was cut, their languages and religions forbidden, and all forms of Indigenous community connections disallowed. These are now the sites where hundreds of Native children’s bodies are being discovered in unmarked graves. They are a stain on our national history, an example of the failures of colorblind and assimilationist ideologies, and, indeed, a testament to soundness of the concept of structural racism.

When it comes to the intersection of the current Critical Race Theory debate and Indigenous populations, these continued attempts to silence discussions about the violence endured by Native communities, our strength and resilience in overcoming attempts to wholly eradicate us, and ongoing injustices facing Native peoples today can all be understood within the framework of the attempted erasure our people. But these efforts are not new; various political attempts to “solve” the “Indian problem” have changed and evolved since the founding of the United States.

Those who oppose teaching accurate, representative lessons about Indigenous peoples overlook a fundamental truth that must be reckoned with if we are to continue to grow as a society: Native peoples did not vanish, we are not extinct, and we remain an important part of America’s history and present day. The same is true for Black and other people of color, members of the LGBTQ2S+ community, folks of differing abilities, women, and gender nonconforming individuals, all of whom are represented within the Native population and with whom Indigenous communities are allied in this shared struggle. The very fact that a sizable portion of this nation supports the imposition of legal restrictions on teaching students about race, identity, and history demonstrates the importance of this type of educational instruction.

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Why period poverty is everyone’s problem

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 04/03/2022 - 11:34am in

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Menstrual inequity is not unique to developing nations. It affects all low-income girls and women.

What if someone’s circumstances forced them to experience their period without access to sanitary napkins or tampons? Would they go to school or to work worrying every minute about blood soaking through their underwear, whether the makeshift pad they made with a fistful of toilet paper, a dirty rag, or even cow dung or leaves stayed in place, whether it increased their risk of bacterial infection?

Would you?

Millions of young girls and women experience their monthly periods under these undignified and unhygienic circumstances. They miss school, they miss work, and as a result their earning potential and opportunities for social and financial advancement in their lives are irrevocably affected. In some extreme situations, young women even exchange sex for money to buy menstrual supplies. This is referred to as period poverty.

Period poverty creates poverty

“Imagine not being able to sit through class,” says Jessica Williams, Chief Communications Officer for Days for Girls, a U.S.-based non-profit organization that aims to improve educational and livelihood outcomes for women and girls by “turning periods into pathways.”

“You can’t work, you end up staying home, all these missed opportunities to contribute and make money. Period poverty literally creates poverty.”

The World Bank estimates 500 million women and girls globally lack access to adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management. That means access to basic needs like sanitary napkins, tampons, toilet paper, separate bathrooms with a door that can safely close behind them and running water to wash their hands and underwear. Half the world’s population in developing and poor countries lacks the fundamental necessities a woman needs to deal safely and with dignity with a bodily function that recurs monthly for 40 years of their lives.

Operating in over 144 countries in six continents, Days for Girls creates washable and reusable menstrual health products and kits that include carry pouches, underwear, soap and washcloths, and a menstrual cup alternative. These products are manufactured and sold locally by women, providing them with a dependable stream of revenue.

Period inequity is our problem, too

While menstrual inequity is far more pervasive in developing nations, it is not unique to far-away countries. Low-income girls and women, women in Indigenous communities, and women experiencing homelessness in western countries—where supermarket and pharmacy aisles are brimming with all brands, colours, sizes, and shapes of sanitary products—are still not able to afford basic menstrual products.

Many countries are now having long-overdue conversations about making sanitary products free or at the very least tax-free and affordable—finally seeing them as medical necessities women don’t have a choice about purchasing. Scotland was the first country in the world to make period products free. It’s perhaps no accident the bill was first introduced by a woman and passed by a government that has a woman at the helm. Countries like Canada and Australia have removed the GST from period products, New Zealand and a handful of U.S. States have already mandated free period products in schools. Recent U.S. studies have shown that about a quarter of menstruating students struggle to access period products, with both anxiety, stigma, and educational barriers cited as the direct result.

Breaking the stigma

Period poverty goes beyond a lack of access to period products. It also refers to taboos attached to menstruation.

“In some cultures, women on their period are considered unclean,” says Williams. “Our job is to help people overcome this, educate them on the subject, teach young boys, their brothers, fathers, husbands, about female bodies so they can be more understanding and supportive of what is essentially a basic human right.”

Nepali schoolgirls holding bags of washable menstrual products.

In Nepal, one of the countries Days for Girls operates in, menstruating women are considered bad luck. The stigma forces them into isolated menstruating huts every month, which makes them vulnerable to rape, animal attacks, and bad weather. Many young girls have died while alone. Aside from the physical dangers involved in forced isolation, superstitions like these also degrade women and position them as inferior in a society that should see them as equals.

The scent of solidarity

Barb Stegemann, founder and CEO of The 7 Virtues, a perfume company, decided to help the Nepali women who are shunted into menstruating huts.

On March 8, International Women’s Day, she’s launching Lotus Pear, a scent that uses sustainably sourced geranium from Egypt, with part of the proceeds helping to advance menstrual equity for 700 young women in Nepal.

“It’s about women and power, the loss of it, and getting it back,” Stegemann says. “Each of us is a potential agent of change.” The entrepreneur says she prefers empowerment over charity because it creates self-sufficiency and confidence in one’s abilities. As a young teenager, she saw first-hand how poverty can undermine one’s potential and self-esteem.

“We fell on hard times when I was a young,” she says. “My mom started having health issues and all of sudden… record scratch. We’re living in a trailer on welfare and mom is in the hospital all the time.”

Stegemann says she knows what period poverty feels like.

“Not to get gross,” she says, “but we were poor, I would often use toilet paper.”

Period kits that Day for Girls distributes.

Women lifting other women

Women helping empower other women is a running theme through Stegemann’s career and overall philosophy. When she launched her business 12 years ago, she worked out of her garage and bankrolled the venture with her credit card. She aspired to support families in war-torn nations by flexing women’s buying power to reverse issues of war and poverty.

Her fragrance collection is made with natural essential oils purchased and often manufactured in countries rebuilding after war or strife, from Haiti to Afghanistan and Rwanda, what Stegemann refers to as “retail activism.”

Impact partners like her are essential to the work non-profits like Days for Girls do.

“Without impact partners like The 7 Virtues, we wouldn’t be able to do our work because they essentially fund the work that we do,” says Williams.

Like Stegemann, the founder of Days for Girls is also a woman whose actions have been shaped by difficult personal experiences.

Celeste Mergens was born in Oklahoma, to a family that faced poverty, spent time living in a car and often went without food. At the age of seven she was raped. When she heard that some North American men were travelling to poor countries with suitcases full of menstrual products these women needed just so they could sexually assault them, she knew she had to do something. Since 2008, her organization’s two-pronged approach to period poverty—the sale and manufacture of menstrual pads and the education to eliminate taboos—has changed countless of lives.

“I was told over 400 women immediately came forward for the program in Nepal,” says Stegemann. “The organization has invested for so long in the community there’s now trust, and I think that’s what’s so exciting, it’s a movement.”

The invisible problem

The global pandemic has only exacerbated the challenges women and girls face. A recent report indicates almost 10 million children worldwide might never return to school. It predicts girls will have a harder time than boys, because many will be forced into early marriage or the labor market as families struggle with extreme poverty. With these obstacles in mind, efforts to tackle period poverty and the limitations it imposes on women worldwide can only be encouraged.

“I think the issue of period poverty should be part of everyone’s political platform,” says Stegemann. “It would be refreshing to hear a candidate say, ‘These are the things that advance a community,’ and find a way for companies to provide them for free.”

Stegemann says she was shocked to learn that a lack of sanitary products in the north of Canada, where a box of tampons can run from $16 to more than $45, remains a huge problem among Indigenous communities.

“Was I living around a rock?” she asks. “Why don’t more people know about these things?”

 

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Afghanistan’s female judges lost everything when the Taliban took over

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 02/03/2022 - 12:30am in

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Fired from their jobs, their bank accounts frozen, facing death threats, the country’s 270 female judges are in exile or in hiding.

Only six months ago Tayeba Parsa, 34, a female judge in Afghanistan, was determined to keep advancing women’s rights despite threats that Kabul would soon fall to the Taliban.

“There were times when I was really scared, but I always went to work,” Parsa tells me by phone from Warsaw. She has been living there with her elderly father and husband since last August, when the Taliban took over Kabul, waiting for news of a student visa from a country willing to take her in. “It was my profession, I loved my job, I studied for years to become a judge. I didn’t want to give it up.”

In the six months since the Taliban took over, the rights of women in Afghanistan have been all but eliminated. Girls older than 12 have few opportunities to obtain an education, while women fighting to hold on to any progress made over the last two decades face threats, prison, and often death. In this reality, women who not only have a higher education than most, but also practiced law in a position of authority over men, run the risk of execution without trial. In January 2021, unknown assailants on a motorcycle gunned down two Afghan women judges who were on their way to work.

When Parsa fled Afghanistan she gave up not only her career, but her entire life as she knew it.

“I was at home for three days when we heard news that the Taliban were at all checkpoints,” she says. “I collected all my documents and started destroying case notes to hide my identity.”

A former judge in the commercial division of the appeals court of Kabul province, Parsa is a member of the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ) and volunteered to act as communications officer for the local branch. This association automatically placed her at higher risk. 

“The Taliban consider every Afghan who collaborates with foreigners an infidel, a traitor,” she says. “When I was a judge, I was receiving constant anonymous death threats.” To avoid being targeted by the Taliban, Parsa and her fellow judges hid their identities when going to work and avoided riding in officially marked cars. She says she knew the dangers and accepted them. 

“You never knew if you were going to come home,” she said.

In Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, all women and girls are at risk. But no one is more in danger than women lawyers, judges, journalists, and police officers. Women in key positions of power were especially targeted by this regressive militant group, which seeks to enforce an extremist interpretation of Islam. As soon as the Taliban took over, the women lost their jobs and saw their bank accounts frozen. They knew their lives were in imminent danger. 

Afghan women judges were instrumental in challenging their deeply patriarchal society by demonstrating that violence against women and girls is not only wrong, but a punishable criminal offence. Putting aside fears for their own safety, they convicted and sentenced the men who stood trial in their courtrooms for rape, kidnapping, murder, forced marriage, or preventing women from going to school. 

The new Taliban government has released criminals whom Parsa, and approximately 270 other female judges, had sentenced to prison after they were convicted of crimes. With these men now free to take revenge, the women were in grave danger.

Nabila, who requested that her last name be withheld, was a family court judge who granted divorce petitions to many women. 

“Afghan law stipulates that a wife can request a divorce if her husband has been jailed for more than five years,” she tells me. “Some of these men were dangerous criminals who had committed serious crimes like murder and kidnapping. I granted these divorces according to the rule of law, but when the Taliban arrived, they released many of these criminals who came looking for me. I was no longer safe.”

Nabila is one of 26 female Afghan judges and lawyers who, along with their families, arrived in Athens from Afghanistan via Georgia this past September. While she, her husband, and their three children were eligible for evacuation, their immediate families remain behind. They fear reprisals against them and worry about their day-to-day living conditions, with a worsening humanitarian crisis on the ground.

“We’re always calling them, always checking up on them,” she said, adding that her relatives have had to change homes frequently for their safety. 

International sisterhood 

The International Association of Women Judges, which represents more than 6,500 judges in over 100 countries, has been instrumental in helping their Afghan colleagues get out of the country and in amplifying their message. 

Mona Lynch, a Supreme Court judge in Nova Scotia and regional director of the International Association of Women, emphasized the urgency of getting those women out of Afghanistan. 

“We have been trying to assist them in any way we can over the past few months,” she says. “These brave women have contributed for 20 years to maintaining the rule of law and stable governance in Afghanistan.” 

“None of them wanted to leave their country, they simply had no choice,” said Judge Lynch. “And the ones still left behind are getting more and more desperate as the circumstances deteriorate. They need help and we need to be their voice.”

Education is everything 

While waiting in Poland, Parsa has been using her free time to improve her English. After applying for scholarships at German, French, and American universities she obtained a visa for the UK, which she accepted—but at a cost. 

“I’m happy because it’s an English-speaking country, and I can’t imagine the additional hurdle of learning another language right now, but the visas are only for me and my husband. I would have to leave my father behind. I don’t know what to do.” 

She hopes to return to Afghanistan one day and help rebuild the country, but right now it’s only a vague dream, fueled by cautious optimism.

“The situation as it is right now won’t stand,” she says. “It’s intolerable, there’s no rule of law. Trials are being conducted by illiterate people. I want to be the voice of all Afghan women judges, those who are still there, still in hiding, still in danger, and those who have been evacuated but haven’t been offered visas,” she said, making a plea for the international community to help extricate the women still in hiding in Afghanistan, and to help settle permanently the women who got out but are still waiting for visas.

Nabila’s husband Asadullah, who is a construction engineer, has been translating parts of the conversation in his fluent English. In answer to the interviewer’s question, he described Afghanistan’s immediate future as “dark,” adding that this was the case “especially for women.”

“I believe in women’s rights, they’re half of society,” he says. “I have three daughters and I saw a dark future for them there. My girls would not have been able to attend school. The Taliban may have promised that they can go, but I don’t believe them.”

Life in Limbo in Athens

Some 200 female Afghan judges, Nabila among them, are hoping Canada will fast-track their arrival, since they qualify under a resettlement program for Afghan refugees in danger for having held leadership or human-rights positions. 

Greece has welcomed more women fleeing Afghanistan than any other country so far. Amed Khan, an American philanthropist who was instrumental in helping many Afghan judges find a temporary home in Greece, said in an article for The Greek Reporter that it reflected an openness he saw from smaller governments that was missing from the world’s biggest economic powers.

“The only political leadership I’ve seen is from smaller countries like Greece, Albania, Qatar, North Macedonia; it’s not the G7,” said Khan. “A lot of countries made a lot of money in Afghanistan and now they want to wash their hands and look for the next opportunity.”

Despite her gratitude, Nabila wants to put down permanent roots and is waiting eagerly for news of permanent resettlement. She is worried about the children being unable to attend school in Greece, because they are in the country on temporary visas.

A painfully slow process 

Few countries have provided easy pathways for these women. They are scattered with their families in more than 17 countries around the world, and only a small number have been resettled permanently in their final destinations. 

The American Bar Association has created the Afghanistan Response Project and the International Association of Women Judges has launched a fundraising campaign, but these efforts rely more on individual goodwill than government assistance.

The Canadian government has expanded its special immigration program to include women leaders and human rights defenders, as well as persecuted minorities, but advocates say the process is too slow. Immigration Minister Sean Fraser recently suggested that it could take up to two years for the government to meet its promise of resettling 40,000 Afghan refugees. Fewer than 7,000 have arrived in Canada so far. 

And so these women wait, stuck in limbo. They can’t dream or plant roots in a temporary home. They worry about their future.

“These are professional, talented, brave women,” Parsa tells me. “They fought for the rule of law in Afghanistan. They stood strong against threats and political pressure. They’re educated and driven, they deserve to be offered scholarships and a new life, they are the future of Afghanistan.”

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