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Who Can Spot the Sexism?

31 May

I WAS walking through LaGuardia last night, anxious to return home after a long weekend visiting friends, when I saw this HSBC advert by the escalator.

HSBC advertisement

You’ve probably seen different versions of this ad campaign at U.S. airports, cleverly reassuring you that the banking behemoth will be sensitive to your culture/point of view/whatever. But this one stunned me with its message: for a child, it is an accomplishment to tie shoelaces, for a man, it’s a voyage in outer space, but for a woman, all it takes is a prize at a beauty pageant!!

Not to mention the accompanying text at the right, which says, “The more you look at the world, the more you recognise what really matters to people.” Way to insult all the women in the world, HSBC.

If I were compiling a list of offensive ad campaigns, this one would be featured prominently. Right next to this Dos Equis one I wrote about here.

Four on Friday: The Injustice to Women Edition

27 May

OK, now I’m really mad. The universe is conspiring to give women around the world a really bad deal. (Though it did find fugitive from justice Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb general infamous for orchestrating the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica in which some 8,000 Muslim men and boys were murdered, among other war crimes. But other than this late-week bit of good news, it’s been pretty depressing.)

1. A Lancet study came out this Tuesday on the selective abortion of girls in India. The preliminary census numbers released by the government in April already showed that the number of girls aged 0-6 had declined overall from 927 girls to 1000 boys in 2001, to 914 girls in 2011—the lowest it has been since India won its independence in 1947. The Lancet study found:

The conditional sex ratio for second-order births when the firstborn was a girl fell from 906 per 1000 boys…in 1990 to 836…in 2005; an annual decline of 0·52%… Declines were much greater in mothers with 10 or more years of education than in mothers with no education, and in wealthier households compared with poorer households.

It added:

After adjusting for excess mortality rates in girls, our estimates of number of selective abortions of girls rose from 0—2·0 million in the 1980s, to 1·2—4·1 million in the 1990s, and to 3·1—6·0 million in the 2000s… Selective abortions of girls totalled about 4·2—12·1 million from 1980—2010, with a greater rate of increase in the 1990s than in the 2000s.

Despite making it illegal for Indian parents to learn the sex of the foetus through the 1994 Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act(PDF), followed by a Supreme Court directive to the worst offending states to enforce the Act, there is little to no punishment for breaking the law, and female foeticide is a common occurrence. The practice is worse in educated and affluent families, and even the states that didn’t display a trend of sex-selective abortion are now starting to kill their unborn daughters. Plus, this phenomenon knows no borders: not only are Indians skewing the sex ratio in India, they are also carrying this abhorrent practice with them when they emigrate to other countries. Continue reading

Four on Friday: The Second Edition

20 May

CONTINUING with this blog post format (see the inaugural post here), here are the four things I think you should know about the world from the past week.

1. Roseanne Barr’s kick-ass piece in New York magazine about sexism in television. For those of you who don’t remember, she was the star of the ABC sitcom Roseanne about a working-class family in Illinois. It was one of the most-watched shows on television in the nineties, and often dealt with taboo subjects such as pornography, abortion, domestic violence and gay rights. It was ahead of its time when it aired, and remains pretty radical now. When’s the last time you saw a blue-collar, woman-centric show with nary a platinum blond or a pair of stilettos in sight?

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How The Pakistani Legal System Subverted Justice

28 Apr Protests against the Pakistani Supreme Court Ruling on the Mukhtar Mai Case

IN a previous blog post, I provided an account of the gang rape of Mukhtar Mai by four Mastoi clan members in Meerwala village in Pakistan. Here is a brief explanation of how her case was treated in the courts.

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Hello, world! Or, What Really Happened in the Mukhtar Mai Case

28 Apr Mukhtaran Mai

HI everyone. Rather than getting bogged down in an introductory post telling you all about myself, I would like to plunge right in. (Besides, you can read about me here.)

Last weekend, the Supreme Court in Pakistan upheld the ruling of the Lahore High Court and acquitted five of the six men previously convicted of gang raping Mukhtaran Mai. With this judgment, they took away hope from all the women in Pakistan who have been raped—and there are many—that one day their rapists will face justice.

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