Outlining a Progressive Future

Sexual Rights Under Serious Threat

Two recent news stories have seriously troubled me. The first is a law recently passed in Afghanistan that states that women must have sex with their husband at least once every four days (if the husband so chooses) and cannot leave the house without him.

The second is that of a recent spate of violence in Iraq where at least six gay men have been shot in a region that is a popular ‘gay area’. This area was also set on fire. 

There is not much I am going to say on these two stories apart from that this proves that we need to continue the fight for sexual rights all around the world. Whilst some might say that having the world ‘impose’ their views on these issues is just a form of neo-colonialism, I argue that we must stand up for human rights, no matter where in the world they are being violated. 

How can we make things better?

Before I start on these questions I would like to note that it is often difficult to talk about issues such as this without sounding like I am talking about ‘others’ who are ‘backwards’. I therefore write this acknowledging this problem and trying as much as possible to mitigate it, whilst realising that it isn’t completely possible. Although I can’t provide all the answers on these issues I see two ways that things could be made better in these areas.

International Pressure:

There is no doubt that considerable international pressure would be an effective tool to enforce changes in these two areas, especially in regards to the laws in Afghanistan. Whilst a significant amount of pressure has been put on Hamid Karzai to repeal these laws the majority of this pressure has generally lacked any teeth (apart from threats from Italy). This could easily lead to a situation where the Afghani Government simply rides out the storm until the rest of the world forgets about it and moves on, leaving the laws in place. If government’s however backed up their pressure with actual threats (i.e. removing political aid/support (as I don’t believe removing economic aid is ever a fair or justified response)) then we could easily see these laws repealed. However, for this to genuinely occur, serious pressure needs to be applied in nations for their states to apply this pressure, which can only occur through a mobilisation of the human rights movement (through currently occurring campaigns).

Supporting Organisations within countries

I think it is a worldwide myth that there are no women’s or queer organisations in ‘third world’ countries, which is based around the view the rest of the world has of the people in these nations as being ‘backwards’. However, when looking deeper one can see thriving organisations fighting for human and sexual rights. If we are to believe that change can only occur from within a country (as many neo-colonialist theorists will tell us), then we must assume that providing support (monetary, personnel, political etc.) would be a good way of helping create serious change in these areas. This support could not only occur through nation states, but also through NGOs, international pressure groups (i.e. Avaaz.com) and private donors. It is this measure that would probably be more successful in the cases in Iraq, which do not (that I know of) involves any legislative matters, but is more about community discrimination and stigma. 

Through these two measures I believe we can start implementing change. As wealthy nations, I think the first world needs to avoid neo-colonialism as much as possible and should at all avoid enforcing policies upon other nations. However at some time we need to recognise when fundamental human rights are being violated and simply not stand up for that. This is what is occurring in Iraq, Afghanistan and many other places around the world (I note here that this isn’t limited to third world countries) and we as citizens of the world should not stand up to it. 


April 6, 2009 Posted by | Human Rights, Options for a Progressive Future | | Leave a comment

The Politics of Population

As an environmentalist I find myself regularly concerned with the way the environment movement, through organisations such as ‘Sustainable Population Australia’, is framing the discussion on population policies. As climate change and environmental degradation are becoming more real, environmentalists are increasingly turning towards population control as a method of saving the environment. Often discussed policy initiatives include lessening migration intake and even implementing policies such as the ‘one child policy’ that exists in China today. The logic here is pretty simple; by creating policies that aim to directly reduce population we reduce the amount of people who have the ability to degrade the environment and in turn reduce the impact humans have on the environment. From that sort of logic it seems like a pretty benign act. Unfortunately however, such policies can create terrible consequences through creating an insular society that ignores the problems of the rest of the world and restricts the rights of its own population.

Framed in a ‘Western’, ‘First World’ perspective populations policies such as those from, ‘Sustainable Population Australia’ tend to fall into two categories; (1) migration and (2) aiming for lower birth rates. I will have a look at both of these policy issues, within the framework of ‘first world’ and discuss some of the serious problems with such policy prescriptions.

Migration: Populations organisations often target lowered migration intakes as a desirable policy, as it provides an easy target that is measurable and somewhat politically favourable. However, such policies don’t create any beneficial environmental circumstances and simply causes serious social problems through inflicting harm on some of those who deserve it least. There are two real problems with policies of reducing migration. First, there is the obvious social problems that occur when a people reject a call for help from another group of people. Living in a society where people care and help for each other no matter where someone comes from or who they are is the sort of society I desire to live in and reducing migration intake fully rejects this ideal. Instead it creates a mantra that states:  ‘Because I was born here and was lucky enough to gain ‘citizenship’ from this nation, I deserve these resources and you don’t’. It is a simply fact that resources are spread unfairly throughout this world and rejecting migration simply says that this is something we are happy to continue to happen, which I cannot stand for.

Second however, and more interestingly for the environment movement, is that the reduction of migration simply doesn’t achieve anything, except social harm. No matter where we  live, we are all people who use resources. Whether I live in Africa, or Australia or anywhere else I live in a state that is based on a carbon intensive energy sector and moving to a different country will not change this. Therefore targeting migration doesn’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but simply changes where they occur. Therefore, a focus on migration simply doesn’t work and we would be better off targeting the production and consumption of resources on a worldwide basis to create a sustainable world population, rather than creating an insular society that focuses entirely on its own impact. 

The second policy provision that is often touted is one that is aimed at the current population of an area; birth control. There are two real problems with birth control policies. First, is the very obvious social issue of the right of a state to control ones sexuality and desires to have children. I strongly believe in the right for one to practice their desired sexual experiences as they wish (as long as consent is provided by all parties) and believe that having children is a part of this experience. I therefore have serious problems with stopping people from having children as I see it as a fundamental removal of one’s sexual rights.

Second, and again more interestingly for the environment movement, is the simple fact that stopping people from having children is a terrible policy idea. Whether we want to believe it or not, breeding and creating a future generation is somewhat important for continuation of human kind and given the extremely low birth rates in the majority of Western countries is seems somewhat ridiculous to claim that we need to drop births rates even lower. The simple fact is that if we do it, we won’t be producing enough children to support the current population when we grow old, which will create serious problems. This still ignores the serious social problems that can arise through the implementation of birth control measures, as seen in China, which are often hard to predict and difficult to solve. 

So what is the answer? There are obvious reasons to have concerns about the world’s growing population. We are now living in a world that holds 6 billion people and it is estimated by the UN that this population will continue to grow to 9 billion before we even have a chance of it dropping. We must look at how we can help curb this growth in population, but targeting migration and forcing people to stop having children is not the answer. Most studies will show that one of the most effective birth control measures is proper family planning facilities and the proper provision of methods of safer sex, especially in poorer areas. If we wish to have an impact on populations we would be much wiser to target these issues in our aid provision, not only helping population issues but also providing great social benefits for those who need them most. We cannot continue down the path that many wish for us to do as it will only lead us to a society that not only refuses to help others, but also neglects to help the environment in the meantime. 

March 22, 2009 Posted by | Analysing the Left, Climate Change and the Environment, Human Rights | , , , , | 6 Comments