The French Revolution Got Me Started – Charles Tilly R.I.P.

Charles TillyI just like the quote above. But the discipline of sociology lost a prominent member today, with the death of Charles Tilly (1929-2008). He wrote a lot on social movements, social change, state formation and contentious politics. When asked what got him started, he answered the quote I used as title for this post.

Referring to his book on social movements, he stated his views on the impact of the Internet:

Book“As your reading of my book suggests, I worry that it allows people to substitute finger work for legwork, and promotes quick, slick solutions to problems of mobilization (e.g. petitioning) that over the long run would work better through face to face contact. Both Theda Skocpol and Dana Fisher have voiced parallel worries about the professionalization and outsourcing of advocacy.

Nevertheless, the Internet and electronic communication at large greatly lower the cost of getting information out, which can be a boon for democracy if it doesn’t substitute for direct participation.”

And referring to his book, Democracy, referring to the War in Iraq:

Democracy“Are trust networks thriving? Are they integrated into public politics? Iraqis depend even more heavily than before the war on trust networks defined by kinship, ethnicity, and religion to get their consequential work done. But those trust networks have separated massively from public politics and the state since the US invasion. The dis-connection of trust networks poses even greater long-run obstacles to democracy than did Saddam Hussein’s tyranny.”

On Information and Communication Technologies (ICT),

“you have to balance two contradictory effect

(1) the wider availability of information and communication, which on balance favor democratization, and

(2) the attenuation of person-to-person solidarity within politics, which menaces democracy.

In recent years, my intuition is that (2) has increased faster than (1), and that ICT expansion has therefore weakened democracy. But I’d like to see a lot more evidence.”

His message to future sociologists:

“Don’t get blindsided by neuroscience, which is going to make individualistic, brain-centered accounts of human behavior even more popular for the next ten years or so. Anticipate the following phase, when even the neuroscientists will begin to recognize the importance of social interaction in the formation of individuals.

(…) Figure out how to do relational analyses that provide valid explanations of individual behavior and are accessible (at least in simplified form) to readers outside of social science.”

Let’s take that as our marching orders.

More of Tilly’s writings

Patriarchy in All Shapes and Forms – Only Old Men Count

Considering my previous post, this is both sexist, stupid and enraging:

“A Chilean mayor is to hand out free potency pills to older people in his municipality near the capital Santiago. Mayor Gonzalo Navarette Munoz says he wants to improve their quality of life by giving them free access to Viagra. He will give men aged 60 or over in the working-class suburb of Lo Prado the chance to get their potency pills courtesy of the taxpayer. He says he was inspired by complaints from older patients about their poor sex lives while working as a doctor. “This is about giving our elderly population a better quality of life,” he told Chile’s national press. Mr Navarette says that within the next few days physicians will start dispensing the drugs at their surgeries and his office will pick up the bill. (…) He intends to hand out Viagra four times a month to every man who asks for it and passes a medical.”

Note how “older people” and “patients” and “elderly population” actually means older men. Because, obviously, the good mayor has no good ideas to improve the quality of life of older women. They are simply non-existent in this scheme.

This is a common device through which dominant group maintain their privileged position: by being treated not as a specific category with specific categorical interests (as older men, whose supposed interest is to increase their sexual potency, because, apparently, their quality of life depends on it), but as a generic category (“our elderly population”), representative of everybody in the category. So, doing what is in the interest of a specific group (older men) becomes synonymous with doing what is in the interest of the entire population (“older people”).

I’m betting no one has bothered to ask what older women want to improve their quality of life. And I’m not sure that a bunch of geezers with permanent boners would be the answer.

Patriarchy in All Shapes and Forms – House of Horrors Edition

This story is, of course, all over the news and the Internet, and by now, the facts are pretty well known, as summarized by the BBC,

“A 73-year-old Austrian man has confessed to imprisoning his daughter in a cellar for 24 years and fathering her seven children, police have said. Police said Josef Fritzl also admitted burning the body of a baby that died at the house in Amstetten, Lower Austria. Mr Fritzl has been taken to court while authorities are caring for the woman, now 42, and her six surviving children.

Photos of the man’s basement show a concealed network of tiny windowless chambers which were soundproofed. Prosecutors say Mr Fritzl is expected to be taken into protective custody after appearing before a magistrate. The woman, Elisabeth, disappeared aged 18 on 28 August 1984 when, according to her testimony to police, her father lured her into the cellar, drugging and handcuffing her before locking her up. She is reported to have been made to write a letter which made it look as if she had run away.”

House of Horrors

Floor plan via the BBC.

And that’s not all. The man was still married with six other children (now adults), but apparently, neither his wife nor children knew anything about the abomination taking place in the cellar. For 24 years. How is this even possible? There is more:

“Three of the children were kept in the cellar with their mother and had never seen daylight, police told a news conference. The other three children were adopted or fostered by the suspect, after he forced Elisabeth to write a letter saying she could not look after the baby, according to police.”

This case was not discovered by the police. When the oldest daughter became seriously ill, she had to be taken to the hospital where the medical personnel could not figure out what was wrong with her. They pleaded on television for her mother to come to the hospital and help them. Fritzl allowed her daughter to go to the hospital. And that’s how the whole story was discovered. The hospitalized girl is now in a coma. The other lock-up children, who have never been outside and have never seen sunlight are very page and stunted. They are all very weak, and growing up in this environment, never conceived of trying to escape.

There is a lot of soul-searching going now in Austria. How could this happen? How could something like this be permitted to happen in the 21st century, in the heart of Europe? And of course, all the news sources are bringing up the case of another sequestered Austrian girl, Natascha Kampusch, now 18, who was kidnapped and sexually abused by a deranged man for 8 years and who managed to escape. Ms Kampusch has offered to help in the rehabilitation of the children.

So, we have the facts but where is the explanation? As Petra Stuiber wrote in a commentary in the Austrian liberal daily Der Standard, via the Guardian,

“There are pressing questions raised by this monstrous crime which need to be put to a rich, self-satisfied society in which during a quarter of a century what was happening in the immediate vicinity went apparently unnoticed. How is it possible that no one ever heard or saw anything, how can it be that no one ever asked questions?. What does it say about neighbours, relations, acquaintances and not least about authorities who had anything to do with the family, that the perpetrator succeeded in ‘deceiving’ everybody?”

I blame the patriarchy. Because of this (via Der Spiegel):

“Josef Fritzl apparently sexually abused Elisabeth for the first time when she was 11 years old. The girl twice tried to escape from her ordeal by running away, first at the age of 16 and then when she was 18. When she returned, Josef Fritzl lured his daughter into the basement, put her in handcuffs and locked her up — apparently out of fear that she would report his abuse.”

In introduction to sociology classes, patriarchy is often defined as male dominance. This is not exact. Patriarchy literally means “the rule of the father.” As such, the Fundamentalist Church of the Latter Day Saints, which has been in the news a lot as well lately, is a patriarchal society where fathers rule over women and sons. And, of course, the similarities between the institutionalized FLDS and this individual case are striking. It is truly a textbook case of patriarchal dominance exercised through sex and procreation where the rule of the father is absolute, hence the passivity (at best) of the wife and children and the father’s ability to duplicate his family structure with his daughter (with the same number of children in each unit).

Encyclopedia Britannica Fights Back Against Wikipedia

Via Liberation, the Encyclopedia Britannica still has prestige but it has lost a lot of users for its online version since the rise of Wikipedia. In order to regain traffic and links, Encyclopedia Britannica has decided to offer one year free subscription to bloggers and other writers for the Web via WebShare.

Complete the short form and submit it. If accepted, bloggers get free access to all the Encyclopedia Britannica content. Then, such content can either be reproduced in blogs or linked to. The point, of course, is to generate traffic and links as well as Google impact.

Will this unseat Wikipedia’s dominance? Hardly. Wikipedia has a larger offering of articles and is putting more and more emphasis on quality sourcing. Moreover, links from blogs will lead readers to Encyclopedia Britannica articles with pop-up windows offering a seven-day free trial and other commercial content. Moreover, Encyclopedia Britannica is copyrighted whereas Wikipedia largely operates under Commons licensing. And Wikipedia a much more hip and cool than old stuffy Encyclopedia Britannica, especially on contemporary topics.

Slum Diary

Do not miss this BBC series “Diary: Sierra Leone Slum Medic

“Medical staff at a clinic in the coastal slum of Kroo Bay, in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, have been keeping a diary of their working lives for the BBC News website.”

The diaries and the accompanying photos are incredible. A must-read and bookmark.

Sexism in All Shapes and Forms – Honor Killings Edition

[Updated below] The Independent calls it what it is: barbaric.

“At first glance Shawbo Ali Rauf appears to be slumbering on the grass, her pale brown curls framing her face, her summer skirt spread about her. But the awkward position of her limbs and the splattered blood reveal the true horror of the scene.

The 19-year-old Iraqi was, according to her father, murdered by her own in-laws, who took her to a picnic area in Dokan and shot her seven times. Her crime was to have an unknown number on her mobile phone. Her “honour killing” is just one in a grotesque series emerging from Iraq, where activists speak of a “genocide” against women in the name of religion.

In the latest such case, it was reported yesterday that a 17-year-old girl, Rand Abdel-Qader, was stabbed to death last month by her father for becoming infatuated with a British soldier serving in southern Iraq.

In Basra alone, police acknowledge that 15 women a month are murdered for breaching Islamic dress codes. Campaigners insist it is a conservative figure.

Violence against women is rampant, rising every day with the power of the militias. Beheadings, rapes, beatings, suicides through self-immolation, genital mutilation, trafficking and child abuse masquerading as marriage of girls as young as nine are all on the increase.

Du’a Khalil Aswad, 17, from Nineveh, was executed by stoning in front of mob of 2,000 men for falling in love with a boy outside her Yazidi tribe.”

I guess this war is money well spent, isn’t it? Congratulations, coalition of the willing, you have liberated the women of Iraq of the horrible oppression of Saddam Hussein’s regime, only to throw them into the worse, yes, worse, oppression of religious zealots who have been unleashed in this society because of your inability to see reality for what it is. And please, can we be spared the Rumsfeldian “freedom is messy”, the ethnocentric “some people don’t know how to be free” or the always popular cultural relativist argument. And yes, this is the real face of Islam: misogynistic, barbaric and murderous.

And don’t count on the Iraqi government to do anything about it. A recent attempt by a Kurdish woman MP to outlaw honor killings was defeated by religious fundamentalists. Another woman activist has a fatwa on her head for protesting the introduction of Sharia law in Iraqi Kurdistan. Being a woman in the public sphere, whether it is government or civil society, has become a very risky proposition for the women of Iraq. As she puts it,

“If before there was one dictator persecuting people, now almost everyone is persecuting women.

In the past five years it is has got [much] worse. It is difficult to described how terrible it is, how badly we have been pushed back to the dark ages. Women are being beheaded for taking their veil off. Self immolation is rising – women are left with no choice. There is no government body or institution to provide any sort of support. Sharia law is being used to underpin government rule, denying women their most basic human rights.”

And there are many more horrific stories reported in the Independent article. And of course, let’s not forget the contradictions present in the Iraqi Constitution that the Bush administration rushed through to claim some political success. This Constitution states that men and women are equal, but also mandates observance of Sharia law. Guess which interpretation religious fundamentalists will pick?

This will be the lasting legacy of this war: to transform Iraq into a hellhole for women.

And if that weren’t enough, we get this item from Amnesty International:

“Amnesty International has written to the Jordanian authorities expressing its concern over what appear to be disproportionately lenient sentences received in March by two men convicted of killing close female relatives. In separate cases the men were sentenced to six months’ and three months’ imprisonment by the Jordanian Criminal Court after the court accepted that they had killed their female relatives in “a fit of fury” in the name of family honour. Taking into account article 98 of the Penal Code, the court ruled in each case that the crime should be considered a misdemeanour and so would merit a much reduced sentence compared to the penalty for murder, which is 15 years’ imprisonment.”

Article 98 is always used in cases of violence against women by men, which, of course, flies in the face of the international standard of equality under the law. In one of the cases, the man shot his married sister because of her immoral behavior: leaving the house without her husband’s permission and talking on her cell phone with other men.

The Jordanian government has taken steps to protect women and Queen Rania has spoken up against honor killings. However, no one is willing to touch article 98.

Update: since Ellen Sheeley was kind enough to leave a comment, let me give a shout out to her book on the subject of honor killings: Reclaiming Honor in Jordan: A National Public Opinion Survey on “Honor” Killings.

Pirates of the 21st Century

Via the Guardian,

“It has become the most dangerous strip of sea in the world with weekly attacks on European ships. Off the Somalian coast brutal pirates are hijacking luxury yachts, vast cruise liners and even food aid ships and demanding – and getting – huge ransoms.”

With 31 attacks last year, and 23 so far this year, there is no question that piracy is making a big comeback. And now, ships are advised to stay farther and farther away from the coast of Somalia as the pirates become more daring and skilled in their attacks. And with their capacity to collect huge ransoms (sometimes in millions of dollars), they are able to buy the latest models of speedboats and GPS systems.

Of course, the rise of these pirate teams is also related to the long-predicted collapse of Somalia, the most notorious example of a failed state. In Somalia, there is no government to speak of, and therefore, no one really to enforce law and order, on or off-shore. Without a functioning government, Islamist militias, other insurgent groups and warlords are fighting invading Ethiopian troops (with the blessing of the United States, committing a few atrocities along the way, I guess it’s now par for the course). In that context, who cares about pirates? And, as is typical of failing states, boundaries are blurry: there are five major pirate groups, all related to warlords that are part of the transitional government. So, there is no point expecting any proactive strategy from this side of things.

But let’s not forget the major motive for the rise in piracy: it is profitable, as are most activities engaged in by organized criminal as well as paramilitary groups (new wars are profitable as well).

“A gunman on a pirate ship typically earns between $10,000 and $30,000 for a year’s work – a fortune in Somalia. Those bankrolling the attacks from bases in the United Arab Emirates or Kenya, and sometimes as far afield as Canada, London or Hong Kong, can net several million dollars from a single strike, depending on the nationality of the shipowner, the origins and gender of the crew, the cargo and the age of the boat.”

And there are varieties of targets. Thanks to the Internet, the leaders of these groups can figure out which liners will be off the Somali coast and how much ransom money they’ll be able to extort, based on nationality and numbers of passengers. But they also target older trawlers, not for money but for temporary use. And of course, Food aid shipments for Somalia from the World Food Program have also been targeted, and the food re-sold at a major profit.

Of course, western countries partially benefit from the lawlessness that prevails in Somalia’s territorial waters as European and Asian ships illegally fish there, respectively for tuna and shark fins.

The Gold Slaves of Mozambique

From Der Spiegel,

“Nightfall brings welcome cooler temperatures to the foothills of the Chimanimani Mountains in western Mozambique. But it also brings the malaria-carrying Anopheles mosquito from the nearby swamps. The mosquitoes come in thick swarms. The young men in the mining camps use fire in a vain attempt to protect themselves against the deadly insects. When their firewood is too damp they burn plastic, and soon campfires blaze throughout the camp, filling the air with endless plumes of acrid smoke. The soft, green hills surrounding the provincial capital Manica have been transformed into giant, squalid camps. Small settlements have sprung up along the Revue River, collections of huts made of plastic tarps, corrugated metal and bamboo. But many people simply sleep on the ground, wrapped in rags and covered with moth-eaten blankets. Their diet consists of roots, grass and insects. During the day, they crawl across the loamy ground, digging with their bare hands. A few have spades and pickaxes. Many begin work at four in the morning. Some just lose their minds here, others lose their lives.”

ChimanimaniSo opens the article depicting the desperate masses coming from Zimbabwe in hopes of digging gold, which would make them rich. The conditions in Chimanimani are horrific, between malaria and other disease, absolute poverty and desperation, malnutrition and overcrowding. Der Spiegel has an incredible slideshow of photos taken by Toby Selander, such as the one on the left, which shows a man digging eight meters below the surface, with the constant risk of collapse that might kill him. And as the situation gets worse in Zimbabwe (how worse can it possibly get?) with 80% unemployment and political chaos, the numbers of migrants are swelling. The situation is so bad that Mozambique, helpless to deal with the influx, has simply given up and waived visa requirements.

In this context, it is not difficult to imagine that rumors of gold finding right across the border would attract desperate people. Instead, what these migrants find is slave labor, never-ending toiling in dreadful conditions and not much to show for their efforts. But, as in many parts of Africa, once people have left for better economic conditions, it would be too shameful to go home empty-handed. So they stay, and keep hoping that somehow, luck will strike. The land itself belongs to Mozambicans who divide it into claims leased to Zimbabwans who dig and promise them a share of their find in exchange. If that weren’t bad enough, add violence and corruption to the mix:

“Lawlessness and naked violence prevail along the Revue River. Troublemakers are driven out. Sometimes policemen or soldiers raid the camps, beating the inhabitants and demanding their share. Alec Pot’s partner, Widson Muchehuwa, is bent over with pain. He was recently roughed up during one of these raids. His tormentors screamed that he brought bad luck and should go back to Zimbabwe — otherwise, they said, they would kill him. The hunt for gold is, of course, illegal. In theory, the precious metal belongs to the Mozambican government. But the police and military are apparently unable to control the gold rush.”

What of the lucky ones, those who find gold, what then? Most of them sell their find to Mozambican dealers for $20 per gram. In turn, these guys sell them to Lebanese, Israelis and Europeans buyers for $27 per gram. The gold then finds its way to Europe where it is sold for a very high price. This trade is illegal but, obviously, who cares? Business is good and will remain so as long as there are people in the world desperate enough to do the heavy lifting for a penance.

Other trades also flourish around the digging camps… with a lot of men without their wives and families, can you guess which trade? That’s right, prostitution, mostly from women from Zimbabwe (everybody needs cash there). Desperate men dig for gold, desperate women sell their bodies.

And then, of course, there is the environmental damage done by such unregulated mining:

“The Mozambican authorities have mounting reservations about the illegal mining. Because the gold-bearing earth is washed in the rivers, causing them to silt up, drinking water is already becoming scarce in the region.The barren, pockmarked landscapes that have developed in the Chimanimani Mountains also pose problems. The prospectors sometimes dig shafts that are 10 to 20 meters (33 to 66 feet) deep and are connected by an elaborate tunnel system. Once a mine has been exploited it is simply left open. This leads to recurring mudslides during the rainy season, sometimes burying prospectors.”

The few dollars that prospectors might make in a day are often spent on prostitutes and will not solve anybody’s poverty problem. This is a trade in very high need for global regulation because it is humanly, socially and environmentally disastrous, as a Spiegel interview with mining expert Keith Slack shows:

“There are no proper environmental standards, there are not enough laws which could protect the rights of the local residents. Take Guatemala, for example, where the rights of the indigenous people, who live in mining areas, are not taken into consideration. The mines spread over vast areas, also over the sacred sites of these people. They can be up to two kilometers wide and one kilometer long, and one can even see them from space. But once the land is gone, it has been destroyed forever. (…) Enormous quantities of poisonous chemicals are used, particularly cyanide, which separates the gold from the stone. It is estimated that gold mines worldwide use 182,000 tons of cyanide each year — a gigantic amount. (…)It gets into rivers as well as groundwater and can kill fish. The water is no longer drinkable or usable for agricultural irrigation. Sometimes even minimal standards are lacking. In Indonesia, the toxic mining waste is simply dumped into the ocean.”

But but but… poor people need to pollute the environment because it gives them jobs, allows them to get more control over their lives and helps their countries participate into the global economic system through the exercise of their comparative advantage… right?? right?? Nonsense, says Slack:

“The modern large mines are mostly on the surface and employ only a few people. The mines can be highly profitable, but the locals very seldom see any benefits. And, of course, there are also problems with working conditions and low wages in the mines. (…) We are particularly concerned because there are clearly double standards. In Europe and the United States the companies would never exhibit the behavior they get away with in developing countries.”

There are no standards in the gold trade, labor or environmental. It is the law of the jungle (also known as savage capitalism). We need global fair trade standards. As Slack’s interview shows, governments and companies are not exactly willing to do anything about the situation, so, it has to be a convergence from above (global institutions) and below (global civil society).

Terrorism – A Primer

Note: developments on Al Qaeda network structure can be found here. This post will also be listed as conceptual sheet.

Defining Terrorism

Any discussion of terrorism always starts with the difficulties in providing a clear and universally-accepted definition of this phenomenon. Why is it that a phenomenon so obvious is so hard to grasp? Terrorism is hard to define because it means different things to different groups of people. As the saying goes, one’s man terrorism is another man’s freedom fighter. As soon as terrorism gets discussed, in-group/out-group characterizations come into play: we tend to not define people fighting for a cause we find just as terrorists; on the other hand, if we find a particular cause offensive or despicable, we are more likely to apply the terrorist label to its proponents. In other words, terrorism is a tactical choice whose characteristics Bruce Hoffman (1998) defines as follows:

  • Terrorism is political;
  • Terrorism is about the pursuit, acquisition and use of power;
  • Terrorism is about violence or the threat of violence to instill fear beyond the immediate victims;
  • Terrorism targets military, government representatives as well as civilians;
  • Terrorist acts are calculated and planned by organizations with specific structures (cells or networks).

However, terrorist is also a label applied to certain groups using such tactics. Rarely do groups claim the label terrorist for their actions since the label carries negative connotations. Different political groups and governments tend to label terrorist groups whose objectives and views they disagree with. Who gets or does not get defined as terrorist often depends on the distribution of power in a given society. Terrorism is also used to accomplish a wide range of political ideologies and goals:

Continue reading

Three Worrisome Headlines

Two from Le Monde, one from the Guardian. The first one:

Selon l’ONU, près de 300 000 personnes seraient mortes au Darfour
LEMONDE.FR | 22.04.08

© Le Monde.fr

You read that right, the UN estimates that 300,000 have died in Darfur (as opposed to the already horrific previous estimate of 200,000). For its part, the Sudanese government has updated its own death tally in Darfur from 1,000 to 10,000… How generous and open of them. The worst part of it is that there is no end in sight.

The second headline:

Le gouvernement pakistanais négocie un accord de paix avec les talibans
LEMONDE.FR | 23.04.08

© Le Monde.fr

Oh yes, please, let’s rejoice: the Pakistani government gets chummy with the Talibans so they’ll stop killing people. In exchange, the Pakistani military would in effect withdraw from the region close to the Afghani border.

That’s good, that way, the Taliban can concentrate their efforts on reconquering Afghanistan, although they might not have to, as the Guardian informs us:

“The Afghan parliament is considering a law to ban makeup, men’s jeans, long hair and couples talking in public, amid fears that the country is sliding back to Taliban-style rules and conservative power. The proposal is seen as part of a wider push for Islamic values by Afghanistan’s ruling religious elite. It follows government attempts to ban hugely popular Indian soap operas and a recent decision by the high court to confirm the death sentences of nearly 100 people.”

Great, just great.

 

Parents and Witch Doctors can be Deadly

Malaria

buttonApril 25th 2008 is World Malaria Day. So, to mark the occasion, we have this little gem from the Independent:

“The treasures hidden deep in the jungles of Sierra Leone are powerful. Potions cooked up from bits of bark in bubbling vats genuinely have healing properties. But they can also kill, and this is why medical charities are going into battle with the witch doctors of the west African country. Take malaria, which kills more than a million people every year – more than 90 per cent of them in Africa. Today, World Malaria Day, nearly 3,000 children will die. On average, the impact of the illness slows economic growth rates by more than a percentage point: another thing that Sierra Leone, the world’s least-developed country, could do without.”

The problem is that malaria medications can be expensive and sometimes useless (because of drug resistance) and that health clinics in Africa are few and far between. So what do you do when you or your children get it? My new age colleagues (as in “people used to be able to cure everything with natural remedies before the pharmaceutical industry ruined everything” kind of people) notwithstanding, these herbal bush remedies can be deadly.

“MSF is training villagers to give speedy, free malaria tests and treatment in 200 villages across the south of the country. Even in the hot, hilly capital Freetown, there are painted sheets stretched across roadsides depicting a range of illnesses that native doctors can “treat”– from malaria to being attacked by a winged gremlin. Their pharmacies include potions, leaves, bits of bark and tree. “We have so many of these quacks and they don’t know the job properly,” said one villager volunteering with the MSF scheme.”

How about everybody coughs up some money for bed nets to poor people? That would be a good idea. It is cheap and it eliminates 90% of cases of malaria when used properly.

Ok, we’re done with quacks, now, let me get to the deadly stupidity of parents, this time, via the BBC,

“A new vaccine for girls to prevent cervical cancer was rejected by 20% of parents during a trial, a study says. The jab, being rolled out in the UK this year, has proved controversial as it works by making girls immune to a sexually transmitted infection. Most parents did not give reasons for refusing, although a tiny number cited fears about promoting sexual behaviour. The Manchester University researchers said increased publicity about the benefits would allay fears.”

And here I thought that kind of stupidity was limited to religious nuts and conservatives here. At least we were spared the anti-vaccination argument, that’s something. When hundreds of lives could be saved every year, there is no discussion. Vaccination should be mandatory, no discussion, no exceptions.

The Missing Children of Great Britain

First via the German Spiegel,

“A new study has found that the practice of forced marriage among immigrants in Britain is much more common than previously assumed. Thousands of young girls — and boys — have gone missing, many of whom might have been abducted by their own parents.”

This study was conducted by sociologist Nazia Khanum. What the study shows is that hundreds of British children disappear every year without a trace. Actually, Khanum estimates that approximately 4,000 children and young adults are taken out of the country every year and forced to marry.

“The sociologist has found girls living like prisoners in their own families. Even girls who do extremely well in school and are preparing for university — are forced into marriage, some at 16 or younger. Khanum has examples of children who were promised enticing vacations in the countres their families came from. And then, right after they arrive, they are suddenly told that there will be no trip back because the groom is already waiting.

According to Khanum, the girls are usually cowed into submission by threats. They are warned that if they refuse to wed their arranged partner, the dishonor will force her parents to divorce, for example. Or that the mother will commit suicide. They are bribed with gifts and penalized with rape. Moreover, not all of the disappearing children are girls. In fact, 15 percent of all cases concern young boys forced into marriage.”

Yeah, that still makes it a very gendered phenomenon (it is actually a common but dumb phenomenon that if a small number of male cases show up in phenomena that disproportionately affect women, then it shows it’s not a women’s problem… that is of course, nonsense and it is a way of de-gendering said phenomenon and therefore to not address its specifically gendered causes and consequences).

And of course, girls are threatened with honorable murders should they decide to have a mind of their own when it comes to their destiny. Other types of emotional and physical blackmail are used but they all point in the same direction: a girl is only as valuable as her potential to NOT damage the family’s honor. A girl or woman can never improve her family’s honor, she can only not damage it or diminish it.

And if that weren’t bad enough, the Guardian reports on the estimated 400 children being trafficked every year into Britain from Asia, Africa or Europe, only to disappear once they have been rescued by the authorities and placed in foster care or in state houses.

“Anti-trafficking campaigners believe the missing children are often taken from care by their trafficker and then exploited for prostitution, domestic servitude and other illegal activities. Other children escape out of fear of being found by the trafficker and without money or identity papers fall prey to further abuse and exploitation.”

Geebus, come on people, we’re not talking about British Airways losing people’s luggages at its new Heathrow terminal from hell here. Don’t the authorities exercise special surveillance over these kids. Even I know that traffickers do not like to lose their workforce / investments. Once the traffickers get the kids back, they usually send them to another European country through these global trafficking networks.

Ghastly.