Saturday, October 13, 2007

how young is too young

It is clear to many of us that in many countries throughout the world there are still arranged marriages. I understand that they are typically traditional but it seems that in certain cases they are definitely violating the human rights of those involved. In Afghanistan there are marriages being arranged for girls as young as 3 years old and while in arranged marriages those involved do not really have a say, at 3 years old they can barely speak, let alone say anything about not wanting to get married. Its pretty obvious that the young children (in the case I read about the girl was 3 and the boy was 7) are being treated completely as property and are traded to further the families' interests. In addition, many of these marriages, because they occur at such a young age, end up with various problems, such as abuse and one of the spouses, usually the wife, running away. It was said that despite the minimum legal age for marriage being 16 for a girl and 18 for a boy, nearly 43% of marriages happen before then. Thats nearly HALF. It is also said that some marriages are arranged before birth. The rights of these children are being violated before they are even born. I find this absolutely ridiculous and i am perplexed at the thought of being obligated to marry someone before even leaving the womb. Although it is the tradition in certain countries and tribes to wed the children at a relatively young age.. I personally feel that 3 years old or before birth is a little too young.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Who do sanctions really affect?

Diplomacy has always been the preferred method of dealing with countries that are not following the standards set by international law. The most readily used diplomatic tool is sanctions however some are beginning to question the effectiveness of sanctions. In North Korea, in order to stop the government's creation of nuclear weapons, arms sanctions were used. Also, there has been a call for the use of stricter sanctions against Sudan and Iran. In light of last month's human rights abuses in Myanmar there has been a further call for the use of sanctions. I have a few concerns about who sanctions actually affect. Usually when sanctions are placed on a country, the target is the economic well being of that state. In doing so however the innocent citizens are just as greatly affected as the government. By banning countries from trading with that state, prices of goods will be increased and the people who are supposed to be being helped are actually hurt. There is also a perception that if the situation becomes desperate enough the government will have to stop doing whatever it is it is doing. This is not necessarily true, because it is the people who will be experiencing the desperation, not the government, and in states where the people have no voice, citizens are incapable of demanding change. There has been a concerted effort by countries inflicting sanctions to ensure that to the best of their ability the people are not directly affected. For example, the trade of food and medicine are allowed. However in extremely oppressive states, these goods never get to the general population and once again the citizens are disadvantaged, with only those that are able to afford it, having access to bare necessities. It is about time that the world figures out a more effective method of getting governments to comply with international standards that has less direct effect on the people. If the actual intention is to stop the human's rights abuses, rather than get the country to comply with arbitraty standards, then sanctions cannot be the most effective method.

Hate Crimes Bill: Should "Haters" get more time or less?

Congress has passed a hate crimes bill which gives money to state, local and Indian law enforcement agencies to help prosecute hate crimes. According to the bill, prosecution of a hate crime applies to “Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin of any person.” The bill not only allows more money to be spent on prosecution of hate crimes but also allows for stricter sentences.
However, opponents of the bill point out that it promotes inequality among victims. According to the bill a villain can get more time for murdering a homosexual or an African American than they would get for murdering a heterosexual or a white person. This allows the homosexual or the African American, and all others covered under the bill, more protection under the law. In an attempt to “prevent” hate crimes and combat hate, are we, as a society, spreading inequality and discrimination, which contributes to hate?

Taking it in another direction, Dozier states “Hate is a kind of anger phobia…Today, however, a phobia is treated as a mental health problem if it significantly interferes with normal functioning. Using this comparison, hate should be treated the same way. In fact, it might be wise to expand the concept of phobia to encompass…persistent, irrational hatred.” Later, in his book Dozier mentions, “Hate…can be delusional. In acting out their hatred, people may honestly believe they are doing the right thing.” Examples of this are Hitler and Pol Pot. If this is true, if hate is delusional or a mental health issue, should persons convicted of hate crimes get more time or less? For other defendants with mental insanity or defects the court takes those issues into account. Should “haters” be allowed to plead some sort of insanity?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A Murky Situation: Blackwater's Actions in Iraq

One of the most controversial aspects of the war in Iraq has been the involvement of private American contractors, beginning with Haliburton and now focusing on the private security agency Blackwater. The State Department has awarded Blackwater more than half a billion dollars in contracts since the start of the Iraq war. Their task is to protect diplomatic convoys travelling throughout the country, a job usually reserved for the U.S. military or government. Blackwater employees are to fire only in defensive situations which pose a clear and imminent danger.

Despite these orders, there have been 16 Iraqi civilian deaths at the hands of Blackwater employees, including the death of the Iraqi Vice President's body guard. In a report published by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Blackwater employees are said to have participated in 195 "escalation of force" incidents, initiating fire in over 84%. The full report can be read here:

There are two other private security agencies operating in Iraq who have much better track records. Why is this? The article attached to this blog suggests that Blackwater employees lack training before deployment and have virtually no access to mental health services once they are in Iraq. Could these be contributing factors to the incidents? If so, who is really to blame, individual employees or the Blackwater corporation? Are the actions of Blackwater embedded in the situation? Should we be asking private contractors to perform what many feel is the duty of the government? Is it even ethical for our government to ask a private company to represent our interests overseas when the corporation has no accountability to the American people?

Monday, October 08, 2007

Another More Recent Cause of Maluntrition

In the nothern Bengal Region of India, tea farm workers and their families were left stranded when the proprietors of the tea farms suddenly abandoned the farms when the market price of tea fell. The tea farm workers who lived on the estate had no other means for survival except to sell the unrefined leaves that remained when the proprietors left.

Persons who could leave found jobs nearby, offten obtaining little pay. Those who could not simply had to edure the new economic conditions. Persons who continued to sell tea tree leaves obtained much lower wages than before. Those new wages were and still are unabale to help these persons maintain an adequate standard of living.

This standard of living in northern Bengal is now so deplorable that persons cannot afford food, one of the few basic neccesties. With widespread hunger and malnutrition comes vulnerablitly to opportunist diseases such as anemia and tuberclorosis. Deficiencies of certain essential vitmains and minerals, and the resulting deficiency diseases are common. Because of this, people in the community have become ill. Although there is desire to work, persons are now physically unable.

Government aid which is allocated to help is insufficient and it is not being allocated by currupt local officials who instead keep these vital resources for personal use. Hence the deplorable physical condition of the people does not seem to be coming to an end.

Why is it that tea frmers who once participated in a whorthwhile source of income for their families and for their region are now unable to maintain an adequate standard of living? Why were the proprietors able to leave so freely? Why did the workers not have a representativie group to look out for their intrests?

The tea farmers were labourers who probably did not have the skills or the means to do other jobs. This would cause them to remain in a job that supported them financially but was otherwise lacking, where there may have been poor employee treatment.

Article 23 Part 1 of the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights states that, "Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of emplyment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment." It was unfair for the proprietors to leave the estate without forewarning emplyees.

The situation of the tea farmers is primarily economic, but it does consider basic rights since the persons are unable to obtain nutritious food for themselves. The widespread malnutirition is now affecting the physical well being of persons and further limiting their earning potential. Hence, a cycle is created where persons are unable to work facilitating the lack of food which makes them unable to work in the future.

Although some general consideration has taken place, the amount of aid is inadequate, and there is still a need for this aid to reach the community. The corruption which is occuring violates Article 25 Part 1 of the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights which states, "Everyone has the right to a stndard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing, medical care and neccessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, dissability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

Once proper physical condititon is resotred there are two possible things which the government must do. The reason why the governemt should take responsibility is that these people are unable to change their conditions. Furthermore, lack of proper government regulation allowed the proprietors to simply leave the farms. One of these changes is to train the persons in the community in new worthwhile fields or relocated them to other areas where they can continue tea farming. The other possible change the government must make is to rebuilt the community.

Rape Epidemic in Congo yet no one knows why

With last year's historic election in Congo it was believed that the chaos and violence would be over, as the country would hopefully unify under a nationally elected government. Unfortunately, the election proved to be much less beneficial for the nation as numerous bands of rebel groups still roam free and control large portions of land. What is most frightening about this sudden shift back into chaos is that women are being systematically targeted by both rebels and Congolese government troops as rape victims and are also being kidnapped for ransom.
According to the New York Times article everyday 10 new rape victims show up at one particular hospital, and each of these women and girls have been brutally attacked so that their reproductive and digestive systems have been damaged almost beyond repair, with such things as bayonets and pieces of wood. One doctor reports he performs on average 6 rape- related surgeries a day, and the 350 bed hospital is not even large enough to hold to constant stream of victims so many women are forced to leave before they are completely healed.
Not only are the wounds shown on one's body but these women ranging in age from 3 - 75 years old are full of emotional scars. Because of the vast age range many are not even old enough to understand what has happened to them while others can't even fathom where or how to begin their lives again. Many victims not only suffered through their rape but also had to bear having their husbands forced to watch it happen and then killed. In the case of others who's husbands are alive, they have been divorced because their husbands claim they are now diseased.
This rape epidemic has reached proportions never seen before in any context. The number of victims exceeds those reached in Rwanda during the genocide. What is even more disturbing, however, is that no one seems to know why this attack on women is taking place. While most aid workers insist that rape is not a product of Congolese culture many believe point its origins to the 1990s when many Hutu militiamen fled to Congo following the Rwandan genocide. And even though the Congolese military forces also have raped many women the most brutal attacks are believed to be done by the Hutu militias. Another line of thinking is that it keeps escalating because no one is being punished. But with more UN peacekeeping forces than anywhere else is the world how does this keep happening even despite efforts to provide more protection to women? How can we prevent this from continuing? Will the Hutus ever stop targeting others or are they too far gone from of decades of killing and torturing?