Category Archives: Women

The Impact of Soviet Labour Camps on Society: The Legacy of the Gulag

The Gulag played an important role throughout Soviet Russia and is a major point that is brought up when discussing the history of Russia from 1919 to 1960. To this date when one talks about Russia or its most infamous Soviet era leader Joseph Stalin, one recalls the Gulag even if one has only the basic knowledge about it. The system is renowned because through it, various individuals inflicted harm on millions of people. The Gulag was a part of the Soviet Russian System of governance and touched every person who lived in that era. Even today, in modern day Russia people recall the Gulag and its perpetrators with dread and horror. The Nazi concentration camp system and various other concentration camps that were similar mainly existed to exterminate their prisoners and had a brief lifespan. The Gulag however, lasted over decades and played a huge role in the industrialisation brought in by Stalin. It was a system that embedded itself in the penal system and the culture and society of the people in Russia and its effects can be seen to this day. 

It is a vital exponent of Russian history that cannot be ignored if one wants to understand the culture, society and politics of that nation. GULAG is the Russian acronym for The Chief Administration of Corrective Labour Camps and Colonies of the Soviet Secret Police and has come to signify and represent the soviet slave labour in all forms and varieties as well as the repressive system and tyranny of the Stalin Era. The system was first established under Vladimir Lenin as an alternative to prison during the years immediately following the Bolshevik Revolution. Although it functioned from 1919 to 1960, the Gulag generally denoted the entire penal labour system in the USSR. It served as the Soviet Union’s main penal system for robbers, rapists, murderers, and thieves. Vast numbers of camps of all forms and varieties (labour camps, punishment camps, criminal and political camps, women’s camps, children’s camps, transit camps) were located mainly in the remote regions of Siberia and the Far North. Continue reading

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Filed under Criminal Justice, Discussion, Genocide, Human Rights, Russia, Women

Reportage on PIIA’s Peace in South Asia Conference 2017

“The current policies of the United States of America for South Asia can disrupt peace in the region” – President Mamnoon Hussain at the 70th Anniversary Conference of the PIIA.

Donald J Trump’s election to the White House demonstrates the extremely vulgar nature of American society. And it is difficult to disagree with the assessment that the American president really is a “deranged dotard”. Heaven knows, despite the tyrannical nature of his own country, North Korea’s insane “little rocket man” might even be making a valid point when he calls Trump’s sanity into question. Trump’s totally crazy brinkmanship with Pyongyang shows that he is willing to put the safety of billions of people at risk by his recklessness. But perhaps it is all just a charade to deliberately divert attention far away from emerging domestic problems connected to Robert Mueller’s investigation, the Sword of Damocles hanging over Trump and his cronies’ heads, about the Trump campaign’s collusion with the Kremlin to rig the election. Overall Trump is a sexist and a racist. He never tells the truth and serially dismisses all accusations of sexual misconduct/offending against him. Against American and British interests, he retweets from Britain First – a racist and neo-Nazi organisation.

His hatred of Muslims is so severe that he has even declared Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital. Clearly, he is deliberately destabilising the Middle East. Trump is a danger to the world and it is hard to disagree with the soft speaking figure of president Mamnoon Hussain that the present American administration is a threat to peace in South Asia (and indeed the rest of the world). The reckless and inflammatory rhetoric manifested by Trump can only bolster Hindus’ hatred for Muslims in India where killing Muslims for “love jihad” (or having a Hindu girlfriend or boyfriend) is seen as a force for good. In such testing times, The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) organised a regional conference which was held last month in Karachi. Esteemed speakers from all walks of life addressed the lively audience. Continue reading

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Filed under Accountability, Climate Change, Cyber Warfare, Disarmament, Discussion, Human Rights, India, Islamophobia, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Palestine, PIIA, Politics, Racism, UK, United States, Women

Muslim Law: The Need For Reform

‘There is nothing in the Quran which says that a man should marry a young girl … It is not in the best interests of a girl to be married off early. Early marriage robs a girl of her childhood,’ argues Dr Reeza Hameed.

The All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU) is opposed to making any changes to the existing Muslim family law. Mufti Rizwi, who is a member of the Saleem Marsoof Committee appointed to look into reforms to the Muslims Marriages and Divorces Act (MMDA) of 1951, has made the oracular pronouncement that the law is ‘perfect in its present state’ and required no reform. Mufti Rizwi also presides over the ACJU. Regrettably, the views expressed by the Mufti and his outfit are anachronistic and obscurantist. Matters relating to Islam and Muslim law ought not to be the sole concern of the ulema. In this comment I have touched upon some issues in the hope that it will contribute to the debate on the need for reform. In Muslim law marriage is not a sacrament but a civil contract. Neither religious ritual nor having it done in a mosque is essential to confer validity to a marriage. A Muslim marriage is contract like any other in Islamic law. Parties to a marriage should have legal capacity to enter into the contract.

There has to be an offer and an acceptance of that offer with the intention of establishing a marital relationship. There must be consideration given to the wife known as mehr. All the schools of law recognise that a person has freedom of choice to enter into a marriage and that he or she cannot be forced into one. The age at which a young Muslim acquires legal capacity to marry has been a contentious issue. The traditionalist view adumbrated by classical jurists is that a person acquires the legal capacity to marry on attaining puberty. In the Hedaya, the manual on Hanafi law, the earliest age at which puberty is attained by a girl is 9 and by a boy at 12. A similar view is adopted by the Shafi School, which is followed by a majority of Sri Lankan Muslims. The presumption of Muslim law as applied in India and Sri Lanka is that a person attained puberty at 15. Continue reading

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Filed under Courts, Discussion, Dr Reeza Hameed, Human Rights, Islam, Pakistan, Politics, Sri Lanka, The Middle East, Women

Why Hillary Clinton Lost

‘Hillary’s rise to fame as a presidential candidate was paved by the struggle of many women before her’ argues Dr Masuma Hasan.

Hillary Clinton lost the US presidential election on 8 November against the prediction of so many experienced political pundits. She said all the right things and raised all the right issues during her campaign: unity in diversity, inclusiveness for all races and communities, building bridges instead of walls, health care and social security, equal opportunities for women, tolerance for all faiths, especially for the endangered Muslim community, reaching out for the marginalized and the poor, protection for women’s reproductive rights and the rights of gay and lesbian groups. Donald Trump, her adversary, scandalized with his crude references to women, his attacks on Muslims whom he promised to debar from entering the United States, on Mexicans to prevent whose entry he would build a wall along the Mexico-US border, calling them rapists, his determination to dismantle Barack Obama’s health care scheme, cut taxes for the rich, which would lead to more investment and jobs, protect ownership of weapons, and thereby make America great again.

Trump became the subject of disgust as one woman after another came forward to accuse him of sexual assault. He had no experience whatever of public office or governance, he had never been a member of either house of Congress. He surprised his fellow Americans by lack of knowledge of world affairs, and by praising Vladimir Putin. On the campaign trail his vocabulary was so limited that he could not string three consecutive sentences coherently. Continue reading

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Filed under Aurat Foundation, Discussion, Iran, Pakistan Horizon, The Middle East, United States, Women

Dr Bärbel Kofler: Transferring the UN Guidelines on Business and Human Rights into Practice in Germany

Human rights must not be ignored when doing business overseas …

Speaking at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA, Watch Video), Dr Bärbel Kofler – member of the German Bundestag – said that because of high levels of exploitation of labour in the developing world, consumers in the west are willing to pay more for products which are produced using labour inputs under a system where people are fairly treated and paid for work. In interesting times when both internally and externally Angela Merkel is on the back foot for letting in a flood of refugees – who are usually dubbed “economic migrants” by right-wingers – Dr Kofler argued human rights in business are heavily debated in Europe and Germany, especially after unfortunate incidents in recent past, which include the Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh and in Karachi’s Baldia Town fire factory incident. Germany’s National Action Plan (NAP) for economic cooperation is based on UN guidelines on Business in Human Rights.

In an era of globalization, the UN guidelines oblige states to protect the human rights of every citizen and they equally oblige business entities to respect those human rights. This post gathers the details of the event from the Internet and Farhan Khan’s excellent coverage is reproduced from the LiveRostrum news agency. Dr Kofler said that the UN guidelines have three pillars. First, states are obliged to protect citizens from human rights violations. Second, it is also the obligation of the business Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Europe, Human Rights, Immigration, PIIA, Politics, Women

Dr Subir Sinha: Why Development Defines India’s Elections Today

‘India is being ruled by a Hindu Taliban’ and ‘Narendra Modi is clamping down on tolerance and freedom of expression’ wrote Anish Kapoor last month as the Indian premier visited London.

Narendra Modi is certainly an enemy of the ideals of the true socialist democracy envisioned by great Indian politicians such as Ambedkar, Gandhi, Nehru and Rajagopalachari. Irrespective of whatever else may have divided these leaders, India’s founding fathers would agree that Modi is an extremist – someone whose crusade to cleanse India of its minorities is at least as dangerous as the jihadi campaign to murder innocents in the name of Islam. The difference, of course, is that Modi, whose politics represents the antithesis of secularism, is the premier of the world’s largest democracy. In this post, after our short preface, our comrade Dr Subir Sinha argues that Modi’s grandiose promises of bullet trains and world leadership are proving less attractive to Indians than the alternative politics of redistribution via subsidies, social programmes, transparency and participation in governance and zero tolerance on corruption.

If anything, in terms of Indian constitutionalism, Modi and his fellow fanatics represent the worst possible ideological outcome that the architects of Indian secularism could possibly have imagined. After all, within the meaning of the constitution, India is a “sovereign socialist secular democratic republic” which guarantees for all its citizens justice (social, economic and political), liberty (thought, expression, belief, faith and worship) and equality Continue reading

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Filed under AAP, Bihar, BJP, Congress, Discussion, Europe, Human Rights, India, Islam, Politics, Women

New Framework for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment

The EU is stretched to its outer limits in tackling issues thrown up by the economy, migration and terrorism. Tory politicians such as British prime minister David Cameron – who has been accused of extreme debauchery and profane and illegal behaviour by his former friend Michael Ashcroft in the upcoming biography Call Me Dave – are hell bent on “renegotiating” their country’s relationship with Europe. As we are already aware, the controversial and impending “in-out” referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU is a hotly debated matter. It is also very interesting to observe that the UK’s Electoral Commission, which is required by the Political Parties, Referendums and Elections Act 2000 to consider the precise wording of the referendum question and publish a statement of its views as to its intelligibility, has said that the question needs to be changed. Notably, in the European Union Referendum Bill as introduced into the UK parliament the proposed referendum question is: Should the UK remain a member of the EU?

The Electoral Commission suggests that the questions should be changed to: Should the UK remain a member of the EU or leave the EU? Answers: Remain a member of the EU – Leave the EU. But as we see in this post on the EU’s vision for gender equality and women’s empowerment, as an institution the Union is a very positive thing and it would be fair comment that people such as the European Commission’s president Jean-Claude Juncker and his colleagues do not like the Tory party’s stance on Europe. On 21 September 2015, the European Commission and the European External Action Service adopted a new framework for the EU’s activities on gender equality and women’s empowerment in EU’s external relations. The New framework for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: Transforming the Lives of Girls and Women through EU External Relations (2016-2020) (see press release and see here) aims to Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Europe, Pakistan, Politics, Water, Women