Information and news about discrimination

Life_After_Mandela
Nelson Mandela’s legacy looms large over South Africa. Everyone agrees that his death will mean something significant to the country, but few agree on what that will be. Mandela’s death on December 5 left behind a country still rife with painful inequalities, an African National Congress no longer bolstered by their famed leader and a new generation of “born frees” who have never known the pain of apartheid though they live its aftermath every day.

South Africa’s Persistent Inequalities

Though it has made huge strides since the end of apartheid, South Africa continues to be plagued by massive racial inequalities.

Between 2001 and 2011, the annual income of black households nearly tripled while percentages of the adult black population who have completed high school have grown and are continuing to do so. There has even been an increasing, if only by a tiny amount, segment of the black population going to college. These numbers seem to represent real progress, until they are compared to the statistics for whites. In 2001, white households earned an average of $17,000 more than black households, a disparity that grew to $30,000 by 2011. And while a national increase in high school education for blacks certainly represents some positive change, this is a barrier most whites, who have also attended college at higher rates than blacks since apartheid ended, will never face. Unemployment among young black people is, furthermore, at an all time high. Such statistics make it clear that there is much more work to be done.

ANC at the Polls

With the loss of its most beloved leader, the ANC may be facing its most competitive election yet. The party, which came to power in 1994 with Mandela’s election, has lost its “biggest link to its glorious past,” says William Gumede, the author of numerous articles and a book concerning the ANC.

Despite his retirement from politics, many believed Mandela to still be involved in the decision-making of the party which allowed the ANC to enjoy the electoral bump that the legend provided for many years. Now, without him, the party is forced to confront the staggering economic and social inequalities that they have done little to eradicate. Not only are allegations of corruption abound, but the party has been unable to both alleviate unemployment and reduce crime rates.

Moreover, it is likely than many disillusioned ANC supporters will accept how far the party has fallen from its revolutionist ideals now that Mandela has died. Some predict that the weakened party will splinter and fall out of favor. As the ANC is proving, in many ways, to be an inadequate leader of South African democracy, perhaps a change is necessary.

Born Frees: The Next Generation of South Africans

The “born frees,” as the generation born at the end or after apartheid are called, make up about 40% of South Africa’s population according to census data. As one of the largest population segments, their views on the future of the country have the potential to change much of it.

Many born frees feel that the best way to honor Mandela is to focus on the future of South Africa instead of dwelling in the past. They often resent the frequent references to apartheid from their elders, wanting instead to address the problems currently facing the country. Such focus tends to cause tension with older generations, who often feel born frees are too distanced from the harsh realities of apartheid to fully understand the importance of political involvement.

“It’s not a matter of not understanding apartheid; it’s just a matter of us having different challenges,” Akhumzi Jezile, a 24-year-old producer, television personality and speaker, told the New York Times. Jezile cited youth-run efforts to reduce drug use, crime and HIV rates as evidence of changing priorities.

A 2012 Reconciliation Barometer report revealed changes in the born free generation that may hint at a changing social and political landscape for South Africa. The report found that born frees were more likely than older generations to be friends and socialize with people of a different race. The report also found that they were less likely to trust political leaders.

– Sarah Morrison

Sources: The Guardian, New York Times: A Test at the Polls, New York Times, New York Times,Real Truth

mongolia
It is no secret that the concerns and rights of ethnic minorities in China fall to the wayside in favor of the Han, the ethnicity with the majority in the country. Inner Mongolia serves as an example of the cultural and economic strife caused by marginalizing one group over another. The result is what the Mongol minority believes is outright economic exclusion and the watering down of their culture.

One of the key issues within the region is the migration of the indigenous nomads from their native grasslands to the cities. The Chinese government waves off the migration as a move into modernity for the nomads. A removal from what Chinese authorities refer to as a “backward” culture, but as Nick Holdstock of the U.K. Independent points out, the natives have no say whatsoever when it comes to moving to the cities. This outflow of ethnic Mongolians to urban centers has raised fears among Mongolians that their culture, language and lifestyle are being threatened.

Another point of tension lies in the regional mining of rare-earth metals. Various mining companies have entered the region to take advantage of the lucrative prospects, especially since the value of these metals is demonstrated in their ubiquity among high-tech electronics. However, the mining has been accompanied by a degradation of the surrounding environment as well as the health of the nomads.

For example, the town of Baotou, a major mining hub, has seen its groundwater polluted to toxic levels, their crops ruined and much of their livestock destroyed. Moreover, the use of underground water sources, essential to the removal of impurities from the coal, has lessened the water available to crops and livestock. Many farmers, unable to deal with destruction of their livelihood, have moved away. The Guardian points out that the population within the surrounding villages of the Baotou plants has decreased dramatically. Those that have remained in the area are plagued by severe illness.

All of these factors have coalesced, creating serious economic problems for the ethnic minority. Environmental devastation of their grasslands has degraded some of the main forms of their economic livelihood; the mining industry in the region tends to hire workers from other provinces, excluding the nomads from many of the economic benefits the industry might bring.  Furthermore, those who have migrated to urban areas have discovered cultural barriers to finding gainful employment, namely an inability to speak passable Mandarin.

Tensions have, moreover, reached the point of violence in some instances. In 2011, a herder was killed by a passing coal truck when he attempted to prevent coal trucks from crossing into his land during his protest against the mining industry. Several days later another protester was killed by a forklift driver. Tensions finally boiled over and several thousand Mongolians went out to voice their opposition toward the mining activities.

Unfortunately, the case of Inner Mongolia is a harsh reminder among ethnic minorities in China of their second-class citizen status. Perhaps in time, the Chinese government will listen to the voices of protest among the disenfranchised minority groups that populate many rural areas throughout China. Until then, Mongolians and other ethnicities face major economic and cultural challenges.

Zack Lindberg

Sources: The Independent, The Guardian
Fabio Ghioni

lebanon_homophobia_protest
In 2006, The Pew Global Attitudes Project poll revealed that 79 percent of Lebanese people thought that homosexuality “should be rejected.” Such a high percentage can be considered as quite high by some western and more liberal regional standards (Israel and Turkey were in the 50 percent rejection range.) Compared to more conservative Middle Eastern countries, however, Lebanon is considered to be more progressive concerning the treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens.

In Egypt’s Pew research poll only one percent of people said that homosexuality should be accepted. On the other hand, however, in other countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, a gay person can be jailed, lashed, or put to death.

More liberal attitudes on homosexuality are largely associated with Beirut, Lebanon’s capital, where there is an underground, but lively gay culture.

It is in Beirut that Helem became the Arab world’s first LGBT advocacy group in 2001 and continues to this day, to be a powerful force against homophobia and abuse. Their stated primary goal is to rid Lebanon of Article 534, which outlaws “unnatural sexual intercourse.”

Though the law is not commonly used against homosexuals (a landmark 2009 ruling stated that Article 534 did not pertain to them), the wording of the law still provides justification for action to be taken against LGBT individuals within the safety of a vague legal framework.

Police took such action in July 2012, raiding a movie theater after a television show called it a “gay house.” They arrested 36 people, who were subsequently subjected to anal exams to allegedly confirm or deny their homosexuality. Even a doctor who performed the exams bluntly stated, “These tests prove absolutely nothing.”

Following the 2012 cinema raid, Lebanon’s Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi told the British Broadcasting Corporation, “From a humanitarian point of view, this is totally unacceptable.” He said he asked the Prosecutor General for clarification on laws concerning homosexuality and anal tests. All that resulted, however, was a memorandum calling for “restraint.”

In April 2013, the police force raided a LGBT bar in Dekwaneh, a conservative town near Beirut, and arrested several patrons. Those taken into custody were stripped and photographed, reportedly so the police could accurately identify their sex.

The Interior Minister of Lebanon’s interim government lauded the 2013 bar raid, and reiterated, “Lebanon is opposed to homosexuality.”

Calling anal exams “acts of shame,” Human Rights Watch reported the story of “Nadim,” who was initially arrested for suspicion that his brother sold drugs. However, when officers found phone numbers of known gay men in his phone, they physically and emotionally tortured him, forced him to sign a confession of his homosexuality, and subjected him to an anal exam.

At the same time, the Lebanese Psychological Association was the first in the Arab world to declare in July 2013 that homosexuality is not a disease. It stated, “Homosexuality in itself does not cause any defect in judgment, stability, reliability or social and professional abilities.” The association also criticized the practice of gay conversion therapy as scientifically baseless.

The Lebanese Broadcast Company reported a scathing criticism of the 2012 cinema raid, calling Lebanon “the republic of shame.” Citizens also took to social media to express their outrage—on both sides—about a topic not typically discussed openly.

With reports from October 2013, concerning the Beirut International Film Festival, banned the French gay love story “Stranger by the Lake” due to “obscene scenes of kissing between gay men…naked men, and sexual intercourse between men,” it is unclear what the future is for LGBT rights in Lebanon.

When asked by the BBC about Article 534, Justice Minister Qortbawi stated, “The law is a mirror of a society. And I think we need a lot of time before we get that far.”

– Kaylie Cordingley

Sources: Bekhsoos, Irin, BBC: End to Anal Exams, Huffington Post, The Daily Star, Y Net News, Raw Story, Reuters, BBC: Gay-Friendly Reputation Challenged, The Guardian

linda_tirado
On an average blog, an average post managed to make headlines. With over 3 million views, Linda Tirado’s blog post, “Why I Make Terrible Decisions, or, poverty thoughts,” has shed new light on poverty in America. Tirado is a wife, mother, student and employee. Her family lives below the poverty line and faces daily struggles to make ends meet.

Tirado articulates a widespread feeling that persists among families in poverty. She explains that stress, uncertainty and depression come along with financial woes. Tired of being misunderstood, Tirado took to her blog to respond to society’s misconceptions about poverty.

With cuts to food stamps occurring at the beginning of November, the welfare debate in the U.S. has recently been a hot topic. Many assume that people who are in poverty are responsible for their own bleak situation. The reality is, and Tirado makes sure to point this out, that those living in poverty were born into it and are never given the resources or the tools to get out.

Tirado’s post is written as a slightly unorganized stream of thoughts which she explains are constantly occurring in the back of her mind. She describes her average day of school, two jobs, and domestic responsibilities, while trying to keep her depression and exhaustion from getting in the way of her duties. Without knowing what will happen tomorrow, Tirado smokes a cigarette, puts her children to bed and fights on.

Tirado has received a lot of backlash because of this post. Anonymous commenters have urged her to stop having children, to not smoke cigarettes which are destroying her health, and to get a real job. It is because of these insensitive and uninformed responses that Tirado wrote her post in the first place. She explains that she had children because she had no access to affordable birth control, she smokes because she cannot afford depression and anxiety medication, and she is often turned down from jobs because she does not fit the company’s image.

There have also been positive responses to Tirado’s post. She has started a “go fund me” site and has received more than her annual salary in donations. Her post has opened doors for her to write a book and be a professional speaker. All this positive reinforcement has encouraged Tirado, and other families living in poverty, to continue searching for a light in the face of hopelessness.

The importance of Tirado’s post goes beyond her newfound opportunities. Her raw words have opened the public’s eye to the true nature of poverty. Often misconstrued as the plight of lazy and uneducated people, poverty is the result of systemic and social failure. Tirado has granted other families in poverty a platform on which they can be heard.

Alessandra Luppi

Sources: KillerMartinis, The Huffington Post, Huff Post Live
Photo: The Equity Factor