Abusive Treatment of Indigenous Women in Canada
Gita Keshava, Durham University
On January 30, 2014 representatives from Human Rights Watch testified before the Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women in the Canadian House of Commons. They urged the government to set up an independent national inquiry to investigate the current violence experienced by indigenous women and girls, in order to create a system that will ensure greater accountability with regards to police misconduct, and ultimately hold them responsible for their actions or lack thereof. In February 2013, Human Rights Watch published a report specifically investigating the protection of indigenous women and girls in northern British Columbia (BC). It highlighted the fact that police continue to use excessive force, and physical and sexual assault against indigenous women and girls. In order to target these issues, Canada needs to ensure that there is a police complaint mechanism, that oversight procedures are in force, and that there is a requirement for independent civilian investigations into reported incidents of police misconduct. In addition, the government needs to establish a commission to investigate the murders and disappearances of indigenous women and the link that these events have with police mistreatment, especially in relation to the Highway 16, now commonly known as northern BC’s “Highway of Tears.” These concerns, although specifically relevant to Indigenous women and girls, remain a serious issue for all women in British Columbia and in Canada more generally.
Facebook’s New Gender Options are a Small but Significant Step for Trans* Rights
Samantha Grigg, Newcastle University
This week, Facebook has expanded its options under the category of gender in the US, allowing users to more comfortably identify themselves, rather than having to choose from the usual ‘female’ or ‘male’. There are now over fifty choices, which you can select once you choose the custom option, and then choose which pronoun you wish to be identified by, such as ‘he’, ‘her’, or ‘they’. The update will eventually roll out to the rest of the world.
So far, there are 57 labels to choose from, such as Agender, Female to Male, Gender nonconforming, Neither, Transgender female, Transgender male, Transsexual person, as well as the option of leaving the form blank. Additionally, users can now elect to whom this information is available, whether that be to friends only, a certain list of people, or public. Neutral genders can still use male or female pronouns; similarly, male or female labels can still use the neutral pronoun.
In creating this change, Facebook is responding to lobbying from users and petitions for the change and acknowledging the growing acceptance of transgender rights in the US, which demands similar rights to those of the gay community.
However, the issue with target advertising is still not resolved; adverts will be based upon the pronoun the user selects, meaning that for most people, this will continue to be split along binary male/female lines. The minority whose gender choice suggests transition are likely to be targeted by adverts that are tailored products that help this along (for example, wigs).
However, it is hard to argue that this new update is not a good thing. Step by step, if acceptance is acknowledged all around the world, we will soon be living in a time that truly practices equal rights.
Indian woman ordered to be gang-raped by ‘kangaroo court’ for having a relationship with a man
Patricia Oon, Durham University
Sexual violence cases continue to plague India. A 20 year old woman has been gang-raped on the orders of an unofficial court. When her lover visited her home with a marriage proposal- the villagers set up a kangaroo court and fined the woman 25,000 rupees (around £240) for the “crime of falling in love” with a man from a different community. As the woman was unable to pay, the headman of the village, who sources reveal was a distant relative of the victim, ordered the villagers to “go enjoy the girl and have fun”. Locked in a shed and raped overnight by 13 men, 10 of whom were part of the kangaroo court and the village headman himself, the woman and her family were threatened against going to the police and stopped from going to the hospital.