UN Women Ad Campaign Shows Pervasive Sexism
Recently, UN Women has launched an ad campaign, created by Memac Ogilvy and Mather Dubai, which shows the extent of worldwide sexism and discrimination against women. Using the Google search bar, UN Women inputted the beginning of sentences such as “women shouldn’t”, and put the drop down options over women’s mouths. While shocking, a quick check of Google shows that these are in fact true. Arwa Mahdawi, writing for the Guardian, warns us against taking the campaign too literally and notes that “autocomplete isn’t always an entirely accurate reflection of the collective psyche”. Whilst this may be true, and no doubt Google does come up with some questionable autocomplete answers at times, it is undeniably disturbing to see these searches from a world widely used search engine. Whilst perhaps the searches are not reflective of all of humanity, the adverts are definitely thought provoking and lead us to question how far equality between the genders has actually progressed.
Texan Voter ID changes target women
Whilst many assume that the women’s right to vote is a battle that, for most parts of the world, has been won, a worrying new trend suggests that although the voting option remains in place there have been practical hurdles established which may prevent women from being able to do so. Texas provides a key example of these new restrictions which will not only affect women but the elderly and working classes too. From now on, to be able to vote you must provide documents which display your legal name and, if that has been changed (for example, on marriage), documents which report this change. Obtaining the original documents may be expensive and many people may no longer have access to original birth certificates causing further complications which, combined with lengthy waiting times, can be discouraging.
A spread of such new laws will have a detrimental effect on the amount of women’s votes as those who have full-time work, childcare responsibilities and other financial burdens may not be in the position to go to such lengths – regardless of whether they want to vote or not, for some it will be infeasible. Fewer men encounter such issues as they tend not to change their names and, as such, it can be seen as a way to exclude women from voting, reinstating a stereotype that many thought had passed generations ago – an educated, middle-class man being seen as the key voter and thus towards whom politicians aim their election ideas.
Fiji’s New Constitution: A Feminist Issue?
The recent debates and consequent ratification in relation to Fiji’s new Constitution have sparked debate and concern amongst feminists worldwide. The Constitution has not only failed to address the importance of women in politics but more worryingly bypasses the integral need for certainty and clarity around the discrimination laws, challenging the claims by some that it is a ‘stepping stone to democracy’. It should not be overlooked that there appears to be some positive development from the Constitution in the areas of greater accountability for domestic violence.
The Constitution only relates to ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ as discrimination grounds but has removed reference to specific women’s rights seen in the previous draft. Why has the Fijian government chosen to exclude explicit discrimination laws for women? To complicate matters further, the Constitution uses ‘unfair’ – a term not known in international law. This lack of transparency and precision may be seen as a deliberate attempt to weaken the protection for women, and may fall short of international human rights obligations. With the current uncertainty and inadequate state of the Constitution, it comes as no surprise that campaign groups are rallying together to ensure amendments are made. But will the government respond?
Germany Changes Law to Allow ‘Undetermined’ Sex
Germany has become the first country in Europe to allow for babies with undetermined sex to be registered as neither male nor female, by allowing the ‘sex’ box to be left blank on birth registration forms. As one in 2000 babies have undeterminable sex characteristics, this change is significant in a high number of births. The change will mean that parents are not rushed into making decisions about sex assignment surgery for newborns. However, the new law will not stop the medicalisation of intersex people or the sex assignment surgeries, which have been shown to cause trauma to children and adults who have gone through them. The move has been criticised by LGBTI groups for not going far enough in this regard.