Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Malaysia update

Malaysia is only for straight people, jack, and don't you forget it.
Malaysian authorities have sent 66 Muslim schoolboys whom they consider effeminate to a four-day camp where they will receive counseling on masculine behavior.

The education director of a northeastern state in this Muslim-majority country says the measure is meant to help prevent the teens from potentially becoming gay or transvestites.

The boys, between 13 and 17-years-old, reported on Monday for what is officially being called a “self-development course” after their schoolteachers in Terengganu state identified them as students who displayed effeminate mannerisms, said Razali Daud, the state’s education director.

They will undergo religious and motivational classes and physical guidance, Razali said.

The camp is meant “to guide them back to the right path in life before they reach a point of no return,” Razali said. “Such effeminate behavior is unnatural and will affect their studies and their future.”
Yup, nothing like religion to help you oppress your true feelings in a vain attempt to fit in and please your elders. Much better to end up in a loveless marriage, have children you don't want and resent everyone around you for forcing you into this corner.

Malaysia, as you will recall, is one of those countries where homophobia is enshrined in law. It's all good, though, as the kids in question will now learn how to conform and not question people in positions of power.
A campaigner for sexual rights, Pang Khee Teik, described the camp as outrageous and an example of homophobia.
"All the students will learn from these camps is that they are expected to behave a certain way," said Mr Pang, co-founder of Seksualiti Merdeka. "And in order to avoid further ridicule, perhaps they will learn to pretend better. In the end, we are only teaching them how to be a hypocrite."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Malaysia — Truly Asia?

Boy, I hope not. It would be a shame if Asia — the region that's supposed to lead the world out of the doldrums and into a bright, shiny 21st century — was led by people like this.
Malaysian men have extramarital sex because of “wives who neglect their responsibilities” to their husbands, a Malaysian lawmaker told Parliament on Thursday, outraging women’s groups.

“Husbands driving home after work see things that are sexually arousing and go to their wives to ease their urges,” said independent lawmaker Ibrahim Ali, according to online portal Malaysiakini.

“But when they come home to their wives, they will say, ‘wait, I’m cooking,’ or ‘wait, I’m getting ready to visit relatives’,” Ibrahim said.

“In Islam, wives are supposed to stop everything to fulfill their husband’s demands.”
Let me see if I've got this straight. While unmarried, women are supposed to remain chaste and covered up, preferably from head to toe. When married, they are supposed to tend to the children and household duties but drop everything when The Man of the House is at half-mast because he saw a racy ad (or whatever passes as such in Malaysia) on the way home from work.

If I didn't know any better, I'd say Islam didn't have a high opinion of women.
His strident comments came as he asked about plans by the government’s religious development department to educate wives on their responsibilities.

Wives failing in their duties pushed men to go to “private places to satisfy their urges”, he said.
See? If it wasn't for you stupid women and your "education" and your demands for "equal rights," Malaysia would be a pure, upstanding nation with no need for those unmentionable sex workers. For shame, women!

Lest you think Ibrahim Ali is a lone crackpot, though, Malaysian MPs have previous in the Misogyny Sweepstakes.
Women drivers are “slow” at the wheel and “oblivious” on the roads, a Malaysian ruling party MP told parliament, prompting outrage among women’s groups on Tuesday.

“Some women drivers drive slowly and seem oblivious to traffic,” Bung Mokhtar Radin was quoted as saying by the Star daily, while urging the government to set up a body to monitor new motorists.

“When you honk at them, they get agitated with some even showing hand gestures to other drivers,” he added. An aide to the lawmaker confirmed the remarks but declined further comment.

It is not the first time Bung has made controversial comments about women.

In 2007 he brought up menstruation in a debate about parliament’s leaking roofs, responding to a female opposition MP by stating: “Where is the leak? (She) leaks every month too.” He later apologized.
You stay classy, Kuala Lumpur.

It would be unfair to paint all of Asia with the same brush, though. A number of countries have elected female heads of state, many of whom distinguished themselves as leaders. Look at the likes of Corazon Aquino, Roza Otunbayeva, Benazir Bhutto — why, even Indonesia's own Megawati has had the honor of leading her nation. She was appointed rather than elected, sure, but the point still stands.

Who will be the next Asian nation to elect a female leader? It's probably a safe bet she won't come from the Arab world or Iran. Japan is also unlikely, given how entrenched the old boy network is there, and I don't know enough about Korean politics to speculate. Audrey Eu would be interesting, especially with how she wiped the floor with Donald "The Big Bowtie" Tsang in a televised debate last year, but she's too feisty and opposition-y for Beijing's tastes, I'm sure.

Wherever Asia's next female leader comes from, it won't be a minute too soon.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Rising Asia — but not for everyone

First of all, a warm welcome to all the new readers of my blog. You know who you are.

If your interests extend past the tip of your nose, odds are you've heard reports about the rise of Asia, how the 21st century belongs to Asia, etc., etc. DBS Bank in particular takes this tone, with one ad in regular circulation here giving the not-so-subtle message that the time of WASPy supremacy is over.

Regardless of whether you think it's good or bad, the fact that the majority of economic growth in the foreseeable future will come from Asia is pretty undeniable. You'd think this would be a good thing for most everyone involved, especially the women. A rising tide lifts all boats, after all, and women just about everywhere could do with a lift from their current second-class status.

Unfortunately, some people see gender rights as a zero-sum game that they have no interest in losing.
One person was killed in southwest Bangladesh Sunday as police fired on hundreds of madrassa students protesting at government moves to ensure equal property rights for women, officials said.
Police said the protesters marched through the city chanting slogans against the government's move to ensure equal property rights for women in the Muslim majority country.
Small Islamic groups have been staging sporadic protests since the government announced its plan, arguing that it goes against the Koran, Islam's holy book.
Bangladesh, whose population is 90 percent Muslim, has a secular legal system but in matters related to inheritance and marriage Muslims follow sharia law.
Sharia as practised in Bangladesh's inheritance law generally stipulates that a woman would inherit half of what her brother gets. Women's groups have long protested against the disparity and demanded equal rights.
Islamic groups led by firebrand cleric Mufti Fazlul Haq Amini have called a nationwide strike on Monday to press home their demand.
Because someone wrote something in a book a long time ago and said he was inspired by The One True Divine Entity, we should be allowed to oppress women in perpetuity. Seems perfectly logical to me. I'm sure these men only have women's best interests at heart.

Of course, at least Bangladesh has women to oppress. Indians will apparently only be happy when their country is one big sausage hang.
The problem of India's "missing girls" has been put under a harsh spotlight by new census data showing the ratio of female to male children at its lowest level since independence in 1947.
According to the latest national headcount, there are now just 914 girls for every 1,000 boys under the age of six, down from a ratio of 927 for every 1,000 a decade ago.
Despite India's steady economic rise in the past 10 years, the figures show the social bias against having girls remains as strong as ever, with illegal sex-selective abortions facilitated by cheap ultrasound technology.
"The figures should make us think 100 times before we call ourselves citizens of a progressive nation," said Delhi University social scientist Gitika Vasudev.
It doesn't seem to add up, if you think about it. If everyone gets their wish and has male babies, where will all the little Indians come from? Of course, expecting logical actions from cultures whose social mores come from superstition is foolhardy, especially in a country where astrology is officially a science.
Married women in India face huge pressure to produce male heirs who are seen as breadwinners, family leaders and carers when parents age.
Girls are often viewed as a burden to the family as they require hefty dowries to be married off.
India has a long history of female infanticide -- of girls suffocated, poisoned, drowned or left to die. More common now, thanks to technological advances, is the abortion of female foetuses, or "female foeticide" -- a simple, cheap and difficult to police process with ultrasound tests costing as little as $10.
It's just a problem with the lower classes, though, right? Educated people making a decent living couldn't possibly engage in such a practice, could they?
There had been hopes that the growing affluence produced by India's rapid economic rise would help erode long-held prejudices, but some analysts say it has actually reinforced them.
"It's a misconception that English-speaking, suave, rich Indians do not use sex determination tests," said P.M. Kulkarni, a demography expert at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University.
"Shockingly, some rich Indians believe they have a right to choose whether they want a boy or a girl," Kulkarni said. "Society has to change, mindsets have to change, attitudes need to change to save the girl child."

I've said it before, but I'll keep saying it as long as it's relevant. Given the way things are going, that will be a while.
I am something of a moral relativist; I know that cultures differ, and what is art in one place would be a grave insult in another. That’s OK, because people are different.  
But if you take half your population and relegate it to second class, forbid them from learning, don’t let them participate fully in society, then there is no relativism in my book. You’re wrong, and you’re stupid.