Monthly Archives: April 2011

S. Korea court upholds military ban on gay behavior

The following is the newspaper content I quoted from the Yahoo! News.

SEOUL (AFP) – South Korea’s Constitutional Court on Thursday upheld a military law banning homosexual behaviour, saying the need to maintain discipline takes precedence over individual sexual freedom.

In a 5-4 split decision, the court ruled that the military criminal code which punishes homosexual behaviour with up to one year in prison is constitutional.

“The legal code cannot be seen as discrimination against gays because such behaviour, if left unchecked, might result in subordinates being harassed by superiors in military barracks,” it said in a statement.

The law’s purpose was to ensure discipline within the whole military organisation, the court said.

The ruling came after an army military court filed a petition with the Constitutional Court. It asked whether the military criminal code, written in 1962, was discriminatory against gay soldiers and thus unconstitutional.

Homosexuality is not illegal under the civil legal code.

Still, we have long ways to go.

Hyun Woo

Violence against School Girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan

By Jessica Anderson

From 1996 through 2001, the Taliban banned education for girls in Afghanistan.  Afterward, remnants of the Taliban continued to attack and destroy girls’ schools.  Violence against schoolgirls is so extreme that 80% of schools in southern Afghanistan have been closed. In many ways, the situation is improving today. Girls in Afghanistan may now attend school in previously controlled fundamentalist states with 1.14 million girls currently listed as enrolled. In other areas  however, as few as three percent of the student population is female, As more opportunities have become available for girls and women in Afghanistan and Pakistan,  the dangers of pursuing those opportunities have also increased, and those girls who do attempt to attend school, face many dangers and horrors.. Recent news reports document campaigns of violence and terror where girls are psychologically and physically tortured in an effort keep them from being educated in order to maintain the social hierarchy.  Fundamentalists have resorted to gas attacks on the girls, destroying the schools by bombing or burning, and throwing of sulfuric acid into the schoolgirls’ faces.  Though the majority of such incidents are reported from Afghanistan and Pakistan, similar issues occur in other states dominated by conservative governments. Sadly, the world is largely ignorant of the trials these girls face; they need help in their fight for the right to education.

Gas attacks on girls’ schools are becoming more common.  Poison gas is a low investment/ high yield method, meaning small amounts of inexpensive gas can be used to severely sicken tens of girls.  In 2009 in Afghanistan, over one hundred female students were sickened with five girls so ill they slipped into comas. Others suffered dizziness, vomiting, and loss of consciousness. Taliban insurgents were blamed.  Psychologically, girls in schools are on edge and quick to react to threats.  At Totia High School, hundreds of Afghani girls were injured during a gas scare.  Terrified girls ran from classrooms and jumped from windows in an attempt to evacuate the building.  Forty-six girls were treated for gas poisoning; twenty-six were unconscious for over two hours.  Perhaps the most physically and psychologically traumatic assault on girls in education is the acid attack.  Sulfuric acid, usually thrown in the face, causes skin to melt, and sometimes dissolves the bones the melting skin uncovers.  An attack of this nature takes a tremendous amount of time to physically heal.  Indeed, the disfigurement, itself, can destroy a victim psychologically.    Most women do not report an attack because they fear ostracism or further assault.  Acid attacks were first noted in the 1990s when multiple women were assaulted in a short time span.  In Afghanistan in 2008, fifteen girls on their way home from school were squirted with acid by assailants on motorbikes. At the Mirwais School for Girls in Afghanistan, acid thrown in one girl’s face caused such severe damage that she was sent to a clinic outside the country for treatment.

The gunmen are not crazy men off the street; they are soldiers, policemen, and warlords.  Many answer directly to high-level government officials.  If these are the perpetrators, who can the girls turn to for help?   The first step to change is public awareness on the nature and scope of this problem.  International attention often creates the pressure needed to make a government acknowledge a problem and begin making changes needed to protect and help victims.   Small local activist organizations can make their voices heard to a government that is not listening by contacting larger human rights organization, such as UNICEF.  Governments must make it clear that violence against women is unacceptable. These acts of brutality cannot be ignored; nations that have laws against such attacks must enforce them.  Nations that have no laws protecting the victims and punishing the attackers must make them.  Girls have the right to education regardless of religion or cultural beliefs. For the victims it is too late for, safe houses or institutions that can assist with the trauma of such violence helping to rehabilitate the survivors.

Jessica Anderson is an MA student in Anthropology at East Carolina University. She is also the Director of the Twilight Program in the Carteret County Schools.

Gendering the Immigration Debate

In today’s New York Times, there are two pieces regarding immigration and Latinos — unrelated articles, but developments to pay attention to.

First is the announcement that Obama is going to recruit Latina actresses to help promote his ideas for immigration reform.

Second is a piece asking for a discussion over whether the U.S. needs a museum on the national mall to the history and culture of Latinos. Many of the bloggers are positive about the need for this, but at least one predictable comment was posted:
“What have latinos done to contribute anything to the US. I’ll tell you. Nothing, nada. Why should we spend dollars we don’t have for a museum for latinos?
They pour over our borders, pump their women full of new born babies who instantly become US citizens just because they were born here. The 15 to 20 million illegals contribute no tax dollars, but somehow manage to get welfare money and free medical care. When they stop committing international crime of illegally entering our country, then maybe one day they may deserve something like this. And for the US government to even consider it, in the face of the worst economic times since the 1930’s, Is a slap in the face to every American who at least tries to get work, pay taxes, and obey the laws of the country. Latinos do none of these. Instead they should use this money to shore up the borders. We cannot afford any more free rides.”

Let’s connect the dots here. Obama has selected three individuals (noticeably, they are women) who contribute to our national culture and economy; this is the tip of the iceberg — the examples can be found in any city across the country these days. One does not need to look far to find them. Contributions to this country date back to the Spanish colonists. Secondly, in this blogger’s comment, xenophobic fear of the foreign “other” is taking on a gendered frame. Equally present in such commentaries are the masculinized frames–such as the unemployed Mexican hanging in a parking lot to take jobs from Americans. The “anchor baby” construction is the latest example of the “welfare queen” myth that African American women have suffered. It turns out that Latinos (which includes millions of native-born Latinos/Latinas) pay plenty of taxes and Social Security, as do immigrants of all nationalities. The “crime” mentioned here is a violation of civil law, not criminal law, but today’s climate treats our immigrants as presumed criminals. (Witness our own class member who was racially profiled in a recent police stop for doing nothing wrong.)
There is much to discuss about the broader societal context of these issues, including flawed or failed policies such as NAFTA and CAFTA, a history of courting Mexicans for manual labor legally and then closing the doors, a restricted visa policy that doesn’t allow enough visas for the number of jobs needing to be filled, and the coyotes and traffickers who exploit the situation. Closing the border has not worked — it has promoted more, not less, criminal activity. See Lee Maril’s new book, The Fence. Women are among the most vulnerable to these practices. Further, research has consistently found no correlation between immigration and crime; immigrant neighborhoods usually have lower crime rates than other neighborhoods.
How can we see our foreign-born neighbors, teachers, bosses, assistants, farmworkers in more textured ways that recognize the diversity between them, the contributions they make to the country, and the problems that arise from a broken system, not from individuals? Part and parcel are the contributions of immigrant women. As my co-authors, Elizabeth Clifford and Reena Tandon, and I describe in our new book Immigration and Women: Understanding the American Experience, the women usually disappear in the popular imagination of the immigrant, with the exception of the “anchor baby” scenario. But the majority of the housecleaning and home child care work is now performed by women from such countries as the Philippines, there are many Caribbean and Filipino nurses in our health care system, small local businesses and large architectural and law firms are run by immigrant women, and the special vision of these women is enriching our art world. The front lines of immigration-rights activism are boldly led by women. Further, if our country, as our colleague Mona Russell has written, justifies colonialism by judging how other countries treat women, would not this logic be used to welcome “oppressed” women through a gender-sensitive asylum and refugee policy?
I am reminded of the question asked by the United Nations report that our class just read, “Who Answers to Women?” and we might add, “Why is this question almost never asked?”
Susan C. Pearce is Assistant Professor of Sociology at East Carolina University


Claire Fletcher

Consider the story of Angela, a young woman from an extremely poor area of rural Moldova, who was sold into sex slavery at the age of 20.  Angela had hoped to get a waitressing job in Italy via her cousin, who resides there.  Eager to find cheap fare to Italy, she contacted the wrong people in the Moldovan capital of Chisinau.  As a result, traffickers abducted her, transporting her illegally to the United Arab Emirates, where she was forced to have sex with multiple men a day.  Speaking to Eugen Tomiuc of Radio Free Europe, she recounts,

I did not want to go to work as a prostitute. I started crying and said I wanted to go back home, and I did not want to work. They told me, ‘If you don’t work, you’ll end up dead and buried in sand in the desert.’ I got scared, and I went with them. From 9 p.m. to 3 a.m., we had to work in a disco. All day long, we were locked up in a house. When we would not have enough clients, they would beat us up and lock us up until 9. When I did not want to work, they kept me locked up for a week and beat me. I got really scared, and I tried to swallow pills to make them get me out of the house [to a hospital]. But they simply sold me in another city.

As stated by the United States Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report, sex trafficking in Moldova and Russia is the worst in Europe.  Worldwide, conservative numbers estimate that around 4 million women a year are trafficked into sex slavery, with one third of these women coming from Eastern Europe.  To put that in perspective, the number of women trafficked from Eastern Europe per year is equal to the entire population of San Diego, California.  What are the conditions in Moldova and Russia like so that women from these two nations are abducted by the thousands and sold into sex slavery throughout the world?

Moldova is the poorest nation in Europe, with the average estimated yearly wage for an adult being around $2,000.00.  Moldova’s economy is so depressed that women are desperate to find any employment possible so that they and their families do not starve.  In a cruel twist of fate, Moldovan girls report knowing they run a high risk of being sold into sex slavery if they attempt to travel to the capital or to seek employment outside of the country, yet they are so desperate that they often do so anyway.  Similarly, the Russian economy is also flagging terribly due to a prolonged period of financial depression which began in 1998.  This economic slump, coupled with gender inequality and a wage disparity that has left women earning as little as 40% as much as their male counterparts, has forced many Russian women into dire financial straits.  Western men are notorious for flocking to Russia’s western cities for sex tourism, so it is important to note that we, as Americans, participate in sex slavery.  There are so few economic opportunities in Russia that when polled about what occupation they hope to pursue, Russian girls often answer that they want to be prostitutes, as that is one of the few ways they know they can make a living. 

What can be done to combat the abuses of human rights occurring in Russia and Moldova?  The governments of both nations are notoriously corrupt, yet they are feeling strong international pressure to combat sex slavery from the UN and other agencies.  Recent high-level arrests of officials complicit in sex trafficking in both nations suggest that Russian and Moldovan politicians are taking the plague of sex trafficking more seriously.  The United States has funded a coalition to fight human trafficking in Moldova, while Russia recently adopted a law guaranteeing a prison sentence for those found to be collaborating with traffickers, and has entered into a partnership with the International Organization for Migration to provide rehabilitation and a new beginning for each woman rescued from the hellish existence into which they were forced. 

For those of us who are not directly involved in the fight against sex slavery among Eastern Europeans, there are still myriad ways in which we can do our part to help.  Many human rights scholars agree that the best way those of us in the West can help advocate is to donate to local grassroots organizations that intimately understand their area’s problems and best know the ways in which they can be overcome.  For example, one such organization is the Angel Coalition in Russia.  A non-governmental organization that is dedicated solely to combating sex trafficking in Russia, the Angel Coalition has established regional women’s shelters across Russia, Moldova, and the rest of Eastern Europe, works closely with legislators to further women’s rights, and produces public service announcements and information designed to alert young women to the dangers they face from sex traffickers.  As with many non-governmental organizations, the Angel Coalition accepts donations, which makes it possible for people outside of Eastern Europe to help directly fight sex slavery.

Sex slavery has been called the human rights issue of the millennium, and we must do our part to end this travesty.  Millions of Moldovan and Russian women face the threat of sex slavery daily, and for us to sit idly by while they struggle to survive would be participating directly in their oppression.  Remember Angela, the young Moldovan woman sold into sex slavery, and know that it is possible to directly fight sex slavery so that innocent women like her do not have to endure the torments she faced.  Though sex slavery in Russia and Moldova may seem like a distant problem to those of us in the West, through our action we may still save women from Angela’s fate. 

Claire Fletcher is an MA student in the Department of Sociology at East Carolina University.

Transgender fired from a job specifically for men

This article is about a transgendered (female to male) individual who was fired from their job because they found out that the individual was born a woman.  The job was specifically for men and that is why the employers say they fired the man.  The transgender has sued and the case is the beginning stages.  What does everyone think of this?  The transgender has completed all the appropriate documents to legally change his sex.  Here is the article:

-Kelly Thompson-

Man as the “default” human

See this example in the link below. We often discuss this in our gender classes — the continued reference to humans or people if they are male, and identification of their gender if they are female. Just review a few news articles and you can notice this. How does this affect us all psychologically? It is an example of what called the social psychologist Alfred Schutz called the “natural attitude,” and what Pierre Bourdieu might include in his idea of “habitus,” which is the set of dispositions that we carry around with us daily. This is more subtle (and perhaps….more powerful?) than direct discriminatory action. Can we reference Foucault’s idea of the internalization of disciplinary regimes?

Gender in U.S. Media Images

Susan Pearce

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