Opinion

The views and opinions expressed in our “Opinion” section of the website are not representative of the views of Voice For Human Rights. These pieces are written independently and submitted by the public.

 

An Alternative Paradigm: Nonviolent Resistance

WRITTEN BY: Serena Clark

Nonviolence has been used throughout history to effect positive change.  Mohandas Gandhi led national movements in South Africa and India; Martin Luther King fought for equality in the United States; and numerous scholars have influenced peaceful movements throughout the world.  Although some nonviolent movements are given exposure, frequently these instances go largely unnoticed to the public eye.  Media coverage of violence is often reported disproportionately to nonviolent actions.  The visibility of violence obscures the reality of nonviolent resistance.  The purpose of this article is to look at the Palestinian first Intifada, a conflict mainly portrayed as violent, to analyze if a nonviolent paradigm was constructed within the Intifada in attempts at resolving the tensions that eventually broke out into violence between Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

The events leading up to the Intifada created a self-reliant sentiment among Palestinians as an apathetic world forgot their plight.  There were attempts to reconcile the situation such as the Arafat-King Hussein accord.  These attempts failed, however.  By 1987 the Iran-Iraq war replaced the Palestinian issue on the Arab agenda.  Because external third party interest and intervention dissipated, Palestinians realized that internal resources would have to bring political change.  In 1986, Israeli policy focused on two goals: end Palestinian resistance and encourage the Jordanian option (merging Jordon and portions of the Palestinian territories).  The next year, a divided Palestinian base reconciled at the eighteenth Palestinian National Council in Algeria, unifying Palestinian leadership.[i]

The “Palestinian popular movement” can be traced back to the 1970’s and early 1980’s.  It is imperative to note this historical period because during the 1970’s and early 1980’s alternative nonviolent structures were developed in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.  For instance, institutions focusing on health, women, and agriculture were established among others.  Specific organizations include the Patriot Front, National Volunteering Committee, Palestinian National Front, and the National Guidance Committee.  In the first decade of the occupation the focus was on establishing charitable organizations.  However, a shift occurred during the second and beginning of the third decade to focus on labor unions, women empowerment and student organizations.  These institutions and organizations mobilized, unified and created a collective consciousness among the different sectors of Palestinian society.[ii]

A small scale nonviolent campaign was launched prior to the Intifada by the Center for the Study of Nonviolence in Jerusalem and the Committee against the Iron Fist Policy (conducted by both Palestinian and Israeli activists).  This center translated into Arabic the texts of Gene Sharp[iii], Mahatma Gandhi[iv], and Martin Luther King Jr.[v]  The center distributed and promoted the nonviolent teachings.  Activities were organized in Jerusalem and the West Bank to encourage debate on these teachings and educate Palestinians about nonviolent methods of resistance.  Nonviolent mechanisms, especially those of Gene Sharp, were used prior to and during the Intifada.  These methods included demonstrations, boycotts, rejection of Israeli policies of occupation, and civil disobedience.  According to Phyllis Bennis, the Intifada was a result of a continued nonviolent resistance.  The Intifada itself surprised the world.  It is argued that the reason for this surprise was the “lack of understanding of how the quiet work of nonviolent resistance goes on in a non-revolutionary setting.”[vi]

The trigger events of the Intifada were the truck accident in Gaza that killed nine Palestinians and the attacks on Palestinian demonstrators in the Balata refugee camp.  These events led to mass protests and stone throwing (a method that is debated as to whether it is a violent or nonviolent approach).  The Israeli response was massive and included such tactics as the “free defense policy” (in which Israeli citizens were given the freedom to kill Palestinians), breaking demonstrators’ limbs and allowing the use of plastic bullets on protestors.  This resulted in the coordination of a massive underground movement that advocated nonviolent methods including weekly communiqués. The Unified National Leadership of the Uprising (UNLU) used such tactics to coordinate national strike days and other activities.  In 1988 the UNLU gave an official statement announcing the nonviolent Palestinian resistance.  Simultaneously, the Islamic Jihad Brigade denounced the use of force in support of the unified leadership.  One political faction that would not denounce violence was Hamas, although they cooperated on issues of health and education.[vii] 

As time progressed and the tone of the Intifada transitioned, nonviolent methods became controversial among Palestinians.  Many Palestinians’ became disillusioned with the global apathy toward their plight and legitimized limited violence.  However, Palestinian unity remained vital to the uprising.  In an effort to maintain unity, violent actions perpetrated by key actors such as Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) were not condemned.   The nonviolent campaign was sacrificed for the sake of unity.[viii]

Furthermore, international law affirmed the use of Palestinian limited violence to resist the occupation.  For instance, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

It is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.[ix]

The recognition of the acceptance of certain circumstance of violence in international law is important in analyzing the Intifada (or any liberation movement).  If the Palestinian Intifada remained completely nonviolent it is argued the Palestinians would have willingly given up their recognized right to self-determination.  Applying this logic, the nonviolence (specifically in the first two years of the Intifada) should be recognized by the international community as Palestinians voluntarily “relinquishing an international right.”  For these reasons, it would have been difficult for the Palestinians to exclude limited violence from the struggle.

Now that the construction of nonviolence within the Intifada has been outlined, nonviolent patterns of the Intifada can be more closely examined.  The first two years of the Intifada were dominated with youth marches, the burning of tires, displaying the illegal Palestinian flag, supporting the PLO, and denouncing the occupation.  Applying Gene Sharp’s categories of nonviolent actions is an important tool to understanding nonviolence in the Intifada.  Of Sharp’s 198 categories of nonviolent actions, 168 are relevant to the Palestinian resistance, and 87 strategies were operational during the Intifada.[x]  This is exemplified in the UNLU’s distribution on leaflets to mobilize the Palestinians.  Leaflets eighteen through thirty-nine express portions of the nonviolent categories.  The largest percentage (twenty percent) of leaflets advocated strikes.  The second most popular type asked Palestinians to support communities afflicted by violence by visiting families and grave sites of fallen victims, visiting prisoners, paying visits to hospitalized fighters, and helping work the land of those killed, imprisoned, or injured. And lastly, the leaflets called for demonstrations, prayer, and fasting.  Other nonviolent directives were given such as withholding taxes, holding symbolic funerals, breaking curfew, defying Israeli school closures, barricading roads into settlements, organizing sit-ins, and exposing conditions of the occupation to international media.  Through these leaflets the UNLU expressed sentiments of peace and justice.  The initiative for justice is further illustrated in the UNLU’s openness to negotiating with the State of Israel and its recognition of Israel as a legitimate state.[xi]   Although there were instances of violence during the Intifada, it is the opinion of the author that a nonviolent paradigm was in fact constructed.

 


[i] Muhammed Abu-Nimer, Nonviolence and Peace Building in Islam: Theory and Practice (Florida: University Press of Florida, 2003, 131.

[ii] Abu-Nimer, 131-132.

[iii] For further reading on Gene Sharp’s nonviolent theories refer his teachings: “The Technique of Nonviolent Action,” “The Politics of Nonviolent Action,” and “The Methods of Nonviolent Protests and Persuasions.”

[iv] For further reading on Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent theories refer to his teachings: “My Faith in Nonviolence,” “Love,” and The Doctrine of the Sword.”

[v] For further reading on Martin Luther King’s nonviolent theories refer to his teachings: “Pilgrimage to Nonviolence,” and “Loving Your Enemies,”

[vi] Abu-Nimer, 133.

[vii] Abu-Nimer, 134.

[viii] Abu-Nimer, 135.

[ix] The United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, http://www.unhchr.ch/udhr/lang/eng.htm.

[x] For further reading on Gene Sharp’s categories of nonviolence refer to his teachings: “The Methods of nonviolence action.”

[xi] Abu-Nimer, 134.

 

Biographical note:

Serena Clark graduated from San Diego State University (SDSU) in 2007 with a degree in International Security and Conflict Resolution.  From 2005 to 2006 she studied in Florence, Italy.  Most recently, she btained my Master degree in Peace and Justice Studies from the University of San Diego. Her main focus in her Master’s research was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The time she spent researching in not only in the US but abroad in the Middle East inspired her to write this article. She is currently in the process of applying to PhD Programs focusing on peace studies.

Pakistan: A Pollutant Dualistic Society Where Rights Are Violated As a Matter of Right 

WRITTEN BY: Syed Muhammad Modassar Shahid


This article is written by Syed Muhammad Modassar Shahid, the only intention behind writing and publishing is to highlight and visualize the real social structure of the on-board culture of Pakistan, its political parties, policy both internal and external, popular and population opinion and general life style and institutions.

I have started writing this article on the return of mine from Pearl Continental Hotel, where I have been invited as a member of the Pakistan Youth Parliamentarian, and ended the same with drawing my name from the rolls of membership register of Pakistan Debate Council. Once again I am affirming that whatever I am writing is true and correct as per the best of my knowledge, information and experience.

My day started before the first ray of sun, it was a dark ending of night but still the sun is taking time to show its colors on the people of Pakistan, particularly the residents of Karachi, the ray of hope, the beginning of the dusk, the start of the day…..

I saw two boys of same age as mine, carrying bags (not of books but of garbage) on their shoulders, I slowed down the speed of my bike and started realizing the gravity and cruelty of the situation that is all is designed by the God, where he makes one man rich and the other one poor. It is the beginning of the holy month of Muslim Calendar, Ramadan, in which Muslims offer their fasting and prayers as per written scriptures they avoid abusing, prostitution, cult, cruelty and keep them selves away from all other illegal acts and deeds even for this month or during the fast.

I kept suspiciously watching them trying my best to take their photos on spot with my cell phone camera but due to poor image quality and darkness, I started my bike again and moved on with a mind full of questions.

After a cross street, I had to gear down my bike due to the huge traffic, it’s still dark but now where I am standing is a lavish society of Karachi that is famous for its night life and day death.

Two girls above my age group were sitting in the Prado, they were with their friends for shopping last night but due to excessive shipping they passed the whole night outside, purchasing their new branded cloths, jewelry and accessories and at the end of that moment they were waiting for the rider of KFC / Mcdonald or Pizzahut for their Sehri Deal. I got to know this when the delivery rider asked me my name and order and the father/uncle of both ladies shouted that it was them who had ordered.

Giving the said story as a preamble is only to justify the point of view that two people of the same age group and same location are enjoying quite different ways of living. I seek for the reason of opening eyes in a rich or in poor family. One became the master by birth and the other has no option except accepting and serving as a tendered servant of servants.

I being of Pakistan, having my roots in Pakistan it is truly a shameful situation for me, but if I do not share my voice the children of mine and the coming generation will ask me about my deeds, what I have done, what I am giving them and what I have given to the society that belongs to me. I also feel my self accountable to portray the facts and truth.

Pakistan is a society where only two sort of people can survive, the one is a reckless, speedy expansionist (Ruling Class) and the other one is dumb, deaf, blind and incarnated, slow and shabby following class.

Furthermore, the Pakistani Society is divided into two parts, i.e. the rural area and the urban area. The owner of the rural area is called land Lord and the owner of the urban area are divided into industrialists, bureaucrats, civil service man, media person and the political out-fits and their militant mafia gangs. A common man is ideal in the society of Pakistan, if one is willing to live freely here, he has to accept subjugation.

The urban areas are further described by religious and political gangs affiliations as well, where the other sects and party man are not allowed to move freely, if one wants to move from that area, he must have first to disguise his appearance in order to save his life and property.

I have not touched on any of idea on where the corruption and exploitation started here in the society, what is the point of saturation, but I have understood that the virus of exploitation has spread, and it is spreading and spreading and prevailing and prevailing from this point to that point, and if we join the dots and dashes the real polluted picture of Pakistani society is seen.

Starting from early leadership and creation it is controversial and suspected of what where the aims and objective behind the division. The killing and extra judicial murders of top leaders from the very beginning makes the picture quite doubtful. What is the real agenda behind all the drama, who is the director and who is hero of all the play?

We have lost a lot of leaders and keep loosing, because the political culture here is impatient and acceptance and tolerance is damn rare here. Pakistanis hardly accept truth and change.

There are just few lines to introduce Pakistan, what I have experienced from the birth to this date when I am writing this article. Now I am going to discuss few main aspects of Pakistani Society.

Education:

Education is the building block behind the creation and making of any nation but unfortunately Pakistan until now do not possess any concrete sort of compatible world class education policy. The education system is the main bank of corruption and the system is divided into several groups. I am addressing as comes in Priority List :

1.      Cambridge and A/O level System: This system is reachable to the upper elite class of the Pakistani Society. It is recognized by Pakistani employers the most.

2.      Private Schooling System: This System is reachable to upper-lower elite class and to the upper middle class as well.

3.      Government Schooling System: This System is accessible to all but this System is accepted or only this System accepts only the lower middle and the upper lower class there is no worth of this system.

4.      Madarsa Education: This system today accepts only the lower-lower class and the people who are by birth rashly emotional, this system reforms their emotional temperament religiously, this system intensifies their inclination and pushes toward rashness. This system is the main cause behind impatience and Religious fundamentalism and Extremism.

Society:

Pakistani society as a whole is a dualistic society. We only accept a thing by virtue of force and pressure and on ground of material interests and motives. For instance, the deeds of the rich are termed as exemplary but if a poor starts thinking to be rich and starts acting and working to be rich this will become a sin not only for him but for his family as well. The rich makes all necessary events to mentally demoralize the thinking capacity of the poor, by all necessary means.

Employment:

There is no job placement security and the consideration of merit is prohibited in the society where I have opened my eyes. A position in governmental as well as private and multinational corporation are given on the basis of bribe, references, family relations and political affiliations. This is the main cause behind the least development in all sectors and that is only the main reason behind the increasing gap between poor and rich.

Youth:

Youth of Pakistani Society is also divided as the educational systems are widely separated, there is no such positive social activity except for the riches using facebook and social networking sites for making friends with the unknowns as a mean of passtime and movies and bars, for poor chewing tobacco, and using the night call/sms packages.

The youth of today’s Pakistan is divided into several groups but the main outfits are as:

*.      One group, that have no concern with Pakistan, they come to Pakistan during Holidays just to meet their parents and family mates.

*.      Second group, those have no option to stay in Pakistan because of their selfish motives.

*.      Third group, the members of this group is very limited in numbers, they have emotional and traditional terms with the roots of Pakistan and they try up to their capacity to build and reform Pakistan. Their lives and death are attached with Pakistan without any sort of selfish intentions.

Civil Status – National Temperament:

The civil status of the society of ours is culminated as a whole, there are two different faces and actions of the peoples. Recently Amir Liaqat, Sana Bucha, Mubashir Luqman and other Pakistani intellectuals and media personals behind the camera recording have touched the highest steeples of duality, other examples are as

*.      According to the foundation and constitution the country of Pakistan is a Islamic Republic and according to constitution all the laws should be legislated with the code of Islamic jurisdiction and no one will be against the Injunctions of Islam and Quran or Sunnah but in reality no single article is there to justify this act, at the same time we have statutory Islamic Courts.

*.      There is no law and order agency and law binding force, Human Right care takers and security in Pakistan, for instance even during the month of Ramadan last year two boys were butchered by the peoples and the police and other law enforcing agencies helps them to do this. The event is known as Sialkot Incident and each and every one is able to watch the video and true Pictures of this on youtube and image viewers. Very recently this year and in this month during Ramadhan again the police officials have organized a Naked Parade. These are all very few instances and I have a lot more to share but the time of yours and the width of article is limited.

*.      Cheating, fraud and prostitution all the main ingredients that makes the society different from all,  and that is the main causes behind the reckless downward economy and social status of the society.

I am not only crying about the situation and worst human dignity in the society where I belongs to, but I have concrete solutions that can change the situation if they are effectively implemented.

I have not a great list, I have two main subjects if we make them correct all the issues will be removed this is real and truly workable if there the law makers, the social personals, the media and Judiciary have the will to make the society livable for all.

  1. Education:

By adopting these recommendations we can achieve the desired goals, but for implementation again we need a great soul with firm and fully developed will power.

  1. All the educational institutions should be nationalized and they have to overhaul from top to bottom level.
  2. One and only one education policy for the residents and one educational system for all.
  3. Education should be treated as most important and the top priority, only merit is the criteria for appointment of a Peon or Principle and only aptitude should be criteria for enrolling a student.
  4. All the teachers should be treated as public servants and be given and entitle of equal salaries as per their qualification and expertise.
  5. All the political youth wings should be suspended, there should be national youth volunteer and scout programs and participant will be given extra marks.
  6. Quota system should be discarded only merit and true merit will be the criteria for Peace, Progress and Placement.
  7. Priority should be given to the national qualified alumni over the foreign degree holder and whatso ever.
  8. After education there should be compulsory paid internship with in the county and after successful internship on contract there should be the placement on merit.
  1. Pre & Post Maternal Care and Counseling:

The term Mother is never to be explainable, she is the creator of the creators, the designer of designers, she formulates the future policy in her womb and bring up for a great period and cherish the same from her mil. What a man is doing today all he have learnt from her mother’s feelings, teachings and actions. The government, if willing to change the worst situation, have to give vital importance to Mother and Infant.

  1. All the Private Maternity homes and distinguished big names should be nationalized; all women from top to the rising bottom ones should be treated under the flag of mother during and so on after pregnancy.
  2. There should be governmental Maternity homes where all the Up coming mothers should be treated equally.
  3. There should be a separate male and female pre and post health test before marriage.
  4. The infant should be treated as state property and should be taken cared by the government till he attains the age of three and will be provided free education till the age of eighteen.
  5. There should be compulsory gap / interval in birth of new baby of more than one year from post pregnancy.
  6. Number of Children should be decided on the basis of family income.

I am very much sure if we or our government are able to implement the recommendations just in these two departments as a matter of start up, soon we will achieve the road map towards progress and start progressing like developed world, and very much soon we are able to be exemplary all walk of life including human dignity and rights, as we are today in corruption, illiteracy, least development, killings, extremism, duality and political and judicial agony.

Note: The author is the member Youth Parliament Pakistan as well as a director at Vote World Parliament, Member Chapters Committees at International Youth Council, and Correspondent at Voice for Human Rights and has affiliations with many national and international Human Rights and Youth Empowerment Organizations. The pictures are for instances and clarity of the subject. All opinions and criticisms are welcomed.

On Indigenous Rights in Canada. When Will Their Voices be Heard?

WRITTEN BY: Anna Malinovskaya

On January 24, 2012, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Governor General David Johnston, and 12 Cabinet members held a historic Crown– First Nations Gathering with indigenous leaders in Ottawa. This high-level meeting has revealed many problems that indigenous peoples in Canada are facing.

Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, the current national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said the aim of the meeting was to “reset the relationship” between the Crown and First Nations, a relationship that stalled six years ago when the current conservative government abandoned the Kelowna accord, a five-year, $5-billion plan to improve the lives of First Nations negotiated by the Liberal government of Paul Martin.

John Duncan, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, stated that the meeting accomplished its goal to reestablish and strengthen the Crown-First Nations relationship, but some members of Parliament present at the event and aboriginal TV network APFN expressed severe criticism over the situation of many indigenous peoples in the country. Guelph MP Frank Valeriote’s stressed the urgent need to address what are not political but human rights issues.

Ryerson professor and lawyer Pam Palmater emphasized on APFN that there was nothing in anybody’s speech about addressing the serious issues in Attawapiskat and similar communities. The Attawapiskat First Nation is a remote community in northern Ontario comprised of about 1,800 members. Many of its members lived in the fall of2011 inunheated shacks or trailers, with no running water. The situation became even more serious as winter was approaching the area. The Attawapiskat crisis stirred many Canadians and became a reason for deep concern of James Anaya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.

According to the UN News, in December 2011, Mr. Anaya asked Canada to clarify what it is doing to address the “dire” socio-economic conditions of the Attawapiskat aboriginal community, noting that “The social and economic situation of the Attawapiskat seems to represent the condition of many First Nation communities living on reserves throughout Canada, which is allegedly akin to Third World conditions.” He also noticed that “Yet, this situation is not representative of non-aboriginal communities in Canada, a country with overall human rights indicators scoring among the top of all countries of the world.”

Another issue raised at the summit is the problematic legislature that governs the relationship between the federal government and First Nations people. The primary legislative act guiding this relationship is the colonial-era Indian Act of 1876, which according to the Ontario daily newspaper Guelph Mercury, has been viewed by some as extremely paternalistic because it has regulated every aspect of indigenous peoples’ lives. University of Toronto professor Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux referred to the paternalistic benevolence of the federal government as a form of social violence that fails to build capacity and self-reliance.

This acute problem became evident when one of the aboriginal communities, the Algonquins of Barriere Lake (ABL), gathered outside the Old City Hall to rally against what they say is an unwanted and illegitimate council imposed on their community by the Canada government. The ABL have been protesting since August 2010, when the Canadian government’s Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, the ministry that oversees indigenous issues, announced that a new chief and council had been elected by “acclamation” according to Section 74 of Indian Act.

Indian Country Today, a Native Americans and indigenous peoples’ network, reports that “The federal government-run ‘election’ in 2010 yielded fewer than a dozen ballots, but it announced nonetheless that a new chief and council were elected. A overwhelming majority of the community members had boycotted the so-called election. Of Barriere Lake’s total population of about 500 people, including children, nearly 200 members signed a resolution rejecting the entire process.” However, the illegitimate council still remains in place.

The ABL community website explains that “Up until August 2010, when Section 74 was imposed, the Algonquins of Barriere Lake governed themselves by their ancestral constitution, the Mitchikanibikok Anishnabe Onakinakewin – a customary code that connects them to the land, to the animals, to each other, and to everything that grows. They have been using this code of governance since time immemorial.”

Indian Country Today points out that “the ABL are among just two dozen First Nation bands that follow a customary leadership selection process”. It refers to the community members who say that “their inherent right to do so is protected not only by Canada’s Constitution, but also by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [that was adopted by Canada in 2010].” These people, according to Indian Country Today, “attribute the strength of their community, language, knowledge and protection of the land to the endurance of their customary governance system and say losing it will have devastating consequences on their way of life.”

The Crown-First Nations Gathering official website has published a comprehensive agenda. But will the outdated Indian Act remain as a primary legal guide on the relationship between First Nation peoples and the Canada government? Will any concrete actions be taken to address the socio-economic and political problems that indigenous peoples in Canada currently face? Will the voices of indigenous peoples be heard?

Sources:

UN expert concerned at poor living conditions of Canada’s indigenous

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=40804&Cr=indegenous&Cr1=

Crown-First Nations summit didn’t address many crisis issues

http://www.guelphmercury.com/opinion/columns/article/664149–crown-first-nations-summit-didn-t-address-many-crisis-issues

website of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake community

http://www.barrierelakesolidarity.org/

Algonquins of Barriere Lake Continue Protest Against Imposed Council
http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2012/02/27/algonquins-of-barriere-lake-continue-protest-against-imposed-council-100065

First Nations to raise ‘bread and butter issues’ with Crown

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2012/01/15/f-first-nations-meeting.html

 

 

The Marriage And Divorce Bill 2009- What It Means for Women In Uganda

 

WRITTEN BY: Yossa Immaculate Daisy

First tabled on the floor of parliament in 2009, the bill was shelved citing “time constraints” and “controversial” clauses in the bill by sections of the public who said it needed re-examination. However, many women will have something to smile about when this bill is finally passed into law. Currently retabled in parliament, the bill intends to reform and consolidate the law relating to marriage, separation and divorce; to provide for the types of recognized marriages inUganda, marital rights and duties, recognition of cohabitation in relation to property rights, grounds for breakdown of marriage, rights of parties on dissolution of marriage and related matters. The intention is to address the gender issues therein that affect family and married women lives. Other key issues the bill highlights are:

  • Abolition of widow inheritance which had become an acceptable practice among many tribes in the country. Yet, this practice not only abused the freedom of such women to choose freely the person of their choice with whom to relate but also put their lives at risk of acquiring diseases especially HIV/AIDS.
  • Bride price made optional. In a society where almost all cultures and tribes value and require a payment of bride price set by the family of the woman. The practice has over the years become a source of domestic violence in families in which women are beaten and treated with no respect because of the belief and idea that she is “property” of the man because she was “bought”. Making it optional therefore and its purpose reviewed would contribute to reducing on the incidences of violence against women brought about by payment of this bride price.

When publicized in 2009, it was received with widespread approval as well as criticism at the same time by different people. For the latter, moral and cultural issues needed to be protected while the former viewed the bill as the best thing that could save the Ugandan woman from oppression in marriage and go along way to promote and protect her rights as a woman. There were also those sections of the population who just needed to be sensitized about the bill, its provisions and overall intentions.

In a patriarchical society that Uganda still is, protection of women continues to be a necessity for their own advancement and their families. The bill would go along way to curb and subsequently prevent domestic violence against women. This bill once made law would also complement the already existing domestic violence act, in a country where over 60% of women have been subjected to domestic physical abuse and over 30% suffered from sexual abuse according to research by the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey. The bill I believe therefore intends to protect women and their rights, build stronger families and facilitate peaceful co-existence between women and men.

 

 

 Fighting Female Genital Mutilation In Uganda

WRITTEN BY: Yossa Immaculate Daisy

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a cultural ritual practiced in a number of countriesUgandainclusive. In this part of the world, it is practiced in three main tribes of the Pokot, Sabiny and Tepeth all found in the eastern part of the country. It is one of those rituals “believed” to initiate all girls from childhood to adulthood. The practice is a form of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment that young girls undergo without their will and consent which puts their lives at risk.

Girls as young as 12 years once circumcised are married off to older men. Additionally, because of the way it is done, the practice is said to reduce or   worse still permanently terminate a woman’s sexual feelings during intercourse. Situations where girls die have also been brought to light from this process. These often times are through infections due to the rudimentary way of doing it and the unclean knives/blades used. Other causes of death have been instances where the victims loose too much blood and yet not given the necessary medical care. Unfortunately, this practice has persisted because of the cultural attitude of the people that does not value education for the women and therefore girls are unable to continue with school. The high levels of illiteracy among women and their poor economic status doesn’t make matters any better.

Uganda joined the rest of the world to celebrate the International Day of zero tolerance to FGM on February 6th.2012. The theme was “community approach, community involvement in the elimination of Female Genital Mutilation”. Through community involvement it is envisaged that peoples attitudes will change towards a culture that is supportive of the social and economic empowerment of girls and women, remarked the UNFPA country representative inUganda. It is similarly hoped that communities and leaders would realize that it is education not genital cutting that should be the new alternative for measuring the value of girls and young women. Once girls choose to go to school where they are able to get more information, in the long run they are in a better position to resist this practice. They become exposed to the realities and realize that FGM is harmful and ends their educational life.

Through dialogue by means of educating the very people who practice it to teach against it, some milestones are being reached in these communities inUganda. They make use of the very people who are part of such societies but have snubbed such archaic practices to talk about the dangers of FGM. Sensitization has also been another avenue through which the communities are reached. Through partnerships like the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Devolvement in Uganda and UNICEF, UNFPA as cases in point, support is given for community activism to accelerate FGM abandonment. Media campaigns and workshops with key stakeholders like community leaders, religious leaders, influential elderly women and former mutilators has seen much change in the practice through these people. Personal testimonies from those who opted not to undergo FGM have also worked to avert those who would have embraced this practice.

FGM is a practice that needs to be wiped out. It not only degrades a woman but restricts her from enjoying other rights that she is entitled to as a woman.

 

Buying Your Way To An A! Corruption Within the Russian School System

WRITTEN BY: Anna Malinovskaya

A recent series of articles on corruption in Russia’s education system has attracted my attention. Most of the articles try to estimate the bribes annual turnover or quote officials from the Ministry of Education on the measures they take to combat corruption. For example, according to the Russian online newspaper Nezavisimaya (“Independent”), “Experts estimate the capacity of the bribes market in the education system at 500 million dollars.” However, it may be interesting to learn about the issue from the students’ perspective.

I have collected a few students’ accounts of their experiences in Russian institutions of higher education:

“A few days before the exam I realized that a few people from my group (In Russian universities students attend classes with a group of other students majoring in the same discipline) are planning to pay the professor a certain amount of money to get good grades without taking the exam. I asked them how they were going to do this. They said they came up to the professor after class one at a time, and asked her “if it was possible to not take the exam.” The professor, from their words, replied that “it will cost correspondingly.” So excellent was worth 5 thousand rubles, or about 170 USD, and good was estimated at 4 thousand rubles, or about 135 USD. Short after the exam was over and the professor was grading the group’s exams, they, one by one, went to her office and returned with excellent and good.”

“After I had been admitted to my university, on the day of signing the agreement at the dean’s office, my parents and I had a conversation with the dean. I was granted a merit-based scholarship covering the cost of tuition. The dean asked if my family could make a “small donation” to the university and named the sum of 50,000 rubles, or a little less than 2,000 USD. My family couldn’t afford such a donation: 50,000 rubles is the cost of a year’s tuition at my university, and I applied for the merit scholarship precisely because my family wouldn’t be able to pay my tuition (Russian universities do not offer need-based financial aid, only orphans are guaranteed financial aid). When we said we can’t afford that much, she started bargaining with us. We clearly felt the pressure to make this “voluntary” donation and ended up paying 15,000 rubles, or about 500 USD. I know we could refuse to pay anything, but I have heard a lot of stories from college students that if your family doesn’t make a donation to the university at the time of admission, it will reflect on your grades later. My parents did not want me to experience anything like that so they paid.”

“In one of my classes my group took a final exam. Professor came to class and said that everyone in my group got an F and would probably get an F as a final grade. We were surprised that everyone got the same grade, so we asked the professor to show us our exams. She refused. She gave us a list of books and said that if we bought those books “for the department” she would not take the final exam into account when giving final grades for the course. The books were expensive and some of us did not have money, but she insisted that we buy them. So we divided into smaller groups and shared the costs.”

“In my university professors do not take bribes, they only do at the time of admission. Merit-based scholarships are very limited for students applying to some departments. For example, when I applied, there were 7 scholarships available in my department. But applicants who take tutoring sessions with the Department Chair are silently guaranteed admission. So I took tutoring sessions with the professor. She tried to talk my parents into paying for my application essay because, as she said, no one gets a high grade for the composition if they write it themselves.”

“I lived in a village. In my high school I started thinking about applying to a university in the nearby big city. Once I went to the career fair in that city, where professors from different universities, including the one I had selected, offered tutoring to prospective students. I attended tutoring sessions with one of the professors I met there for about half a year. Then she introduced me to another professor from the same university who replaced her. When it was time to apply, that professor told me that if I paid him 20,000 rubles he would give me the admission test before the exam so that I could prepare in advance. I paid him for the test, got a high score on my admission exam and was admitted. I think everyone did the same.”

Although these personal experiences of students from different Russian cities reveal the fact that corruption inRussia’s education system is still an issue, some of the students I interviewed said they had never faced corruption in their universities. In fact, most of the students replied that they had never dealt with it. So corruption is not something that happens in every Russian college and to every Russian student, but it does happen in many educational institutions.

An interesting question about corruption inRussia’s higher education is who is more to blame for it – professors or students? In some situations, professors or representatives of a university demand that students give bribes, while in other situations students themselves offer bribes to faculty or admission committees’ officials. To say that Russian professors are underpaid would be to see only one root of the problem. The other one is the decaying morality of students and their parents. Of course there are cases when students give bribes out of fear, but the cases when students bribe professors because they are too lazy to study for an exam are also prevalent. So improving the morality of all – students, their families, and professors, as well as making teaching profession more respectable and well-paid are probably the only two ways Russia can curb corruption in its universities and raise the value of its education.

 

Human Rights and State Obligations. Should Boundaries Be Drawn?

 

WRITTEN BY : Yossa Immaculate Daisy

Human rights are well regarded as those absolute fundamental freedoms to which a person is inherently entitled simply because one is a human being. The right to a peaceful assembly and association and right to freedom of movement are just a few of those rights as stipulated in Article 20 and 13 respectively of the UDHR.

Uganda is one of the countries state party to the UDHR and the binding treaties of the ICCPR and ICESCR. To this effect, the 1995Ugandaconstitution carefully tackles within all the chapters and specifically chapter four is devoted to human rights.  These cover the civil political as well as social economic and cultural rights.

While this earns the government a plus, the comprehension among Ugandans of their human rights let alone what human rights are is another subject altogether. While the elite may probably prove otherwise, the illiterate who make up over 50% of the population may show otherwise. The few translations of the constitution in the local languages hasn not made matters any better. How then can the general population hold the government in the respect of human rights accountable remains a paradox? It’s thus left to a few individuals who include lawyers, members of academia and other elite. Institutions like the Uganda Human Rights Commission and other International Agencies like Amnesty International and Human Rights watch come in to play a number of roles which range from supervisory, advisory, oversight and monitoring state obligations to human rights promotion and protection among other duties.

In the face of the hard financial times as we came to the close of 2011, characterized by skyrocketing prices of essential commodities especially fuel in Uganda, pressure group-organization Activists for Change emerged. The purpose was to mobilize the masses for collective action as a signal to the government to act. This was pushed by the government’s apparent laxity to get a solution to the high increase in fuel prices which affected almost every other sector of the economy and livelihood of the general population. A pressure group, comprised of members from different political parties mainly from the opposition, they launched the walk to work campaign. Through this drive, they urged citizens from all parts of the country to peacefully walk to work as opposed to using commuter taxis or their personal vehicles because of high fuel prices. The mass following the activists received during this campaign was seen as a security threat and an attempt to “overthrow the government”. Critics wondered how civilians walking to work unarmed would overthrow a government but more perplexing was how walking to work became a crime, as people were arrested for this act of walking to work. We wondered then what had happened to freedom of movement (Article 13 of the UDHR) especially in ones own country.

Then came 2012- the economic situation hasn’t changed much. A4C which stands for Activists for Change as they are now popularly known thought of other means of educating the masses about the government’s role in the face of hard economic times. Through their networks, this time round they mobilized the masses to convene at different venues/locations for a peaceful talk and to dialogue about the issues affecting majority of them including corruption, inflation among other issues. As has been the case, the police first came out strongly to condemn the gatherings stating that they had not been notified. Even upon receiving written notifications, they said it was not enough as approval it was later learnt needed to be sought before they could go ahead. With knowledge of their rights, the activists did not give up as they continually stated it was their right to peacefully assemble and to associate.

After a long rigorous process to convene as planned, the green light was finally signaled and a couple of the meetings organized were held successfully under tight security of the police. Critics then wondered what was wrong after all if all went on well. This was until, they were warned about the information that they pass across during the gathering which if not revised, the “associations” and “assemblies” would be stopped or even worse they would be held accountable. All these events have served to question the role of the state-in this case Uganda in promoting its citizens human rights, the rights to free movement and free association as well as protecting these same  rights.  Shouldn’t there be a meaningful system in place to guarantee citizens rights without being pessimistic and wiry of the opposition? InUganda’s case, the system may be in place but its role is yet to be feasible especially when seen through the lens of young multi-party politics.

 

Strike Ends in Nigeria, But Victims Still Seek Justice

WRITTEN BY: Sule Mohammed Lawwal

January 20, 2012

The week long strike by the Nigerian Labour Union ended on Monday 15th
January, 2012. Exactly one week after the strike started the negotiation between the labour union and the government ended with N97 as the new price for P.M.S.

The leader of the labour union Adulwaheed Omar announced the suspension of the strike, also requesting the release of those detained as a result of their involvement in the protest.

The week has come and gone but the memory will remain indelible in the minds of many.

Those who lost a family member and those injured will not hurriedly
forget it.

Some families of those lost in the protest had already declared they are
leaving justice for God, while the D.P.O who was involved in the killing of
Ademola Adetirin in Lagos is said to be in detention already.

Technological advancement has really helped to improve the safety of human
rights as several abuses were captured on phones and cameras by bystanders.
It’s a great development in the report of human rights abuse around here.

The creation of awareness by local media in native dialects will go a long way to
also encourage non-violent protest and the training of the police in community
relation and social involvement.

 

Stop Dangerous Paid Kidney Donations by Nigerian Youths

 

WRITTEN BY: Sule Muhammed Lawwal

January 14, 2012

Something urgent needs to be done about the rising trend in kidney sales by Nigerian youths. The situation has risen to the extent that agents are now openly asking donors if they are ready to donate. Edo and Lagos have been considered to be most exposed to the activities of those involved in this trade. Malaysia has been alleged to be the principal location where Nigerian youths are lured for these paid donations.

On 17th September, 2011, Daily Trust Newspaper published a story on 31 year-old Eghosa whose teenage years were spent engaging in criminal activities. After gathering some money Eghosa travelled to Italy in search of a new life but upon reaching there found himself in another harsh reality; he had very little money and had to do menial jobs just to survive. While living in Italy someone sold to him the idea of selling his kidney for income. The agreed price was a meager $10,000. Eghosa was taken to a decrepit medical Centre and the operation was performed. A few weeks passed and Eghosa was not recovering properly. Eghosa complained of his wound still being opened and chronic weakness. During the procedure Eghosa had half the money sent back home through an uncle who later took off with it.

Specials International Magazine published a report on a youth in Ojodu Berger in Lagos who died from complications after donating his kidney for money. Another individual named Segun travelled to Malaysia and sold his kidney for N10, 000,000, an equivalent of about $64,000. Segun returned against medical advice to wait for a complete recovery, only to be found in the club consuming liquor on one kidney. Shortly afterward, Segun died of trauma to the internal wound from the removed kidney.

Kidney donation should be and has been known to be done on humanitarian grounds and under safe medical conditions. Authorities and concerned bodies must call on institutions and governments to address this pressing concern.

 

Nigerian Labour Commences Strike and Continue Protests for Rights as Killings of Protesters By the Police Continues

WRITTEN BY: Sule Muhammed Lawwal

January 14, 2012

The Nigerian Labour Congress (N.L.C) commenced its proposed strike against the government removal of fuel subsidy, 9th January, 2012. The strike is dominated by general protests for rights in the capital city and the entire nation of Nigeria. The protesters are not the poor masses alone but musicians, writers, ex-government officials and law makers.

The subsidy is said to be ill timed even if its intention is for the growth and development of the country.  The labour leader, Abdulwaheed Omar announced that six persons were killed in Maiduguri and three in Lagos totaling nine in total. Abdulwaheed Omar stated that it is wrong for things like this to occur in a democratic nation. In an earlier protest, two persons were killed in Kwara state including Muyideen, a student who just concluded secondary school at Command Secondary School, Maitama and Abuja. Arrests and detention of activists and the masses have been continuing as the protests rage.

The subsidy removal should have come when the refineries in the country were working. Domestic refining of crude oil is at a maximum and proposed private refineries are near completion to reduce its impact on the masses. Many Nigerians view this newly enacted policy as cruel and against their right as citizens of Nigeria and an oil producing country.

 

The Nigerian Subsidy Removal: The Plight of Millions

WRITTEN BY: Sule Muhammed Lawwal

The news of petroleum subsidy removal came like flashing lightning at the ending of the year 2011. It came when the people never expected it and were unprepared for its attached consequences. It is having a devastating impact on millions of Nigerians for the year ahead as budgets and earnings will no longer be enough for expenses. Several parts of the country have already felt the cuts, the price of petrol has increased from N65 to N140 and the fair of bus transport normally N30 has increased to N70; food stuffs prices have doubled from their previous prices.
Several meetings, consultations, protests and demonstrations from labour leaders and the masses have called for the subsidy removal to be reversed as against the government’s pledge to channel it towards the provision of other amenities to enhance development; stating that in the year 2011 alone, N1.3 trillion was expended on subsidy and the impact was rarely felt as the fuel were always smuggled and diverted to neighbouring countries. Doubts, fear and feeling of insecurity loom as Nigerians regard the government with total distrust, expressing doubt that the fund used previously for subsidies will be used for the stated goals. Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, MallamSanusiLamidoSanusi, Dr.Ngozi OkonjoIweala and Mrs. Diezani Alison; the president, Central Bank of Nigeria’s governor, the minister of finance and the minister of petroleum respectively spent weeks answering questions at forums and interviews trying to convey convincing messages to the Nigerian masses, aiming to douse the fire of doubts, fears and distrust. In the act, promising that the subsidy removal will not take effect until April 1st, 2012.

However, as Nigerians try to plan a way forward, the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (P.P.P.R.A) announced that the subsidy removal should commence on the  January 1st, 2012 instead of the earlier promised April. Hardship has already begun and will last a long time if this issue is not addressed. This harsh reform has incited protests across the country. Several people have been arrested including Honourable Dhino Melaye, a former law maker in the House of Representive who opened a protest register at the national stadium, hoping to submit the register to the president. The demonstrations also resulted in the killing of two persons by policemen in Kwara state, young man named Muyideen Mustapha and another individual.
The subsidy removal came just days after Ghana removed its own on Thursday, 29 December, 2011. REUTERS’s claimed that the International Monetary Fund (I.M.F) is the pressure behind the subsidy’s removal. Other countries which the report said were under similar pressure are Cameroon, Guinea and Chad. The majority of Nigerians are impoverished and they are urging the government and I.M.F to fashion out a better plan for subsidy reform. The Nigerian masses have always being very patient and tolerant of their leaders’ shortcomings as several administrations have come and gone with each imposing one form of hardship or the other on the masses. Every year begins with financial obligations. School fees, rents and other expenditures are paid for at the beginning of the year and subsidy removal is a major blow for many families. It is not good news to anyone except the politicians who may have access to huge amount of funds wrongfully allocated to them for spending.
The future of the youths who will handle the years ahead is now under great threat with this action as some youth may now have to drop out of school due to the lack of funds. Those in government should rethink their current actions and proposals; I implore them to take the plight of the masses into consideration before making decisions.

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